As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder

Mink and Wolf

So the next one I’m going to do is story about the Wolf. The Wolf was a great hunter. He was always out lookin’, gathering food. And he lived with his mother, but he would go out for days on end hunting, whereas qɑyχ, in his community, was so lazy. Everybody knew he was lazy. And he was always envious of the Wolf. He was jealous of the Wolf, ’cause everybody praised the Wolf: “Oh, he’s so good. He’s such a great hunter. He’s respectable.” And he’s always thinkin’, “Oh, what can I do to get even with him?” So one day Wolf was out hunting. Then he’d been gone longer than usual. He’d been gone for days. People started to worry in his little community: “Why hasn’t he come back? He’s been gone forever.” And this went on for several days. One day, qɑyχ is out there again, he’s out jiggin’, trying to catch a fish or a cod. And he’s quite a little ways from his community around a bay, or few miles away. And Wolf comes down the beach. He finally found his way down to the beach. He was so very tired. He’d been hunting for days. And he sat down to rest. He reached the beach, and he was glad to be there. And it was a long walk for him, still, to walk home. So he sees this boat out here and he recognizes, “Oh, it’s qɑyχ is out there. He’s jiggin’. He’s fishing. I’ll ask him for a ride. I’ll ask him to come pick me up.” So he hollers at him, and qɑyχ heard him, he seen him, but he pretended that he didn’t hear him, or he didn’t see him. And again, the Wolf would holler, “qɑyχ! Come and get me!” And again he wouldn’t look. Still there fishing, ignoring the Wolf. And the Wolf got angry and said to qɑyχ, “qɑyχ! If you don’t come and get me – I know you hear me – if you don’t come and get me, I’m going to shoot you.” And qɑyχ turns around, “What? What? Who said that? Who said that?” He looks in the water. “Who’s talking?” And he looks, “Oh! There you are! I heard you from the bottom of the ocean,” he says – looks down there. He always had a smart remark. But Wolf knew that he was lying. So he came ashore, got him onto the boat, and he’s so very tired. Wolf is so tired. “Well, I see that you’re really tired,” he says to Wolf. “Why don’t you just lay down there at the bow of the boat. Just put your head back and go to sleep. We’re a long ways from home.” So the Wolf went to lay down, and he was kind of slumped over, slouched over. And qɑyχ says, “Make yourself comfortable. Put your head way back. Just relax! I’ll wake you when we get there.” So qɑyχ is paddling away, paddling away. Pretty soon Wolf is nodding off, he’s falling asleep. And qɑyχ says, “I’m gonna test to see if he’s really sleeping.” So he shakes the boat – deliberately shakes the boat. And the Wolf wakes up: “What’s that?” “Oh, don’t worry. Go back to sleep! It was just a ripple in the water. Just go to sleep.” The Wolf falls asleep. Pretty soon he wasn’t waking up when he would shake the boat. So qɑyχ got his knife, and he went, snuck up on him, and he slit his throat. He killed the Wolf. He was mad at the Wolf because the Wolf had threatened to shoot him. So he goes home, he skins the Wolf, he takes the head of the Wolf and he hangs it above his doorway facing down, and he takes the fur, the hide, and he makes himself an outfit. Makes himself a jacket, and a tie. He’s going to show the community that he’s a better man than the Wolf.

So the Wolf’s mother used to go around the community. She’d be selling things – dried salmon or dried meat, or dried clams, whatever. And she comes to his door and she’s saying, “Oh, you wanna buy something here?” qɑyχ comes to the door and looks at her. “Oh! Saleslady. Why don’t you look up above? Look above you.” And she looks up and she sees her son, his head there, over the door. Well, she just wailed and she cried as she screamed. And she fell to the ground, and she was just wailing. And qɑyχ says, “Get out of here, old lady! Get out of here, salesperson. Go do your wailing somewhere else,” adding insult to injury. So off she went, wailin’ and cryin’, and told the community what had happened. Well, the whole community knew qɑyχ for what he was. Everybody was so angry. And they said, “We’re gonna get him for this. We’re gonna kill him. We’re going to capture him. How can we do this?” So they had a big meeting – all the community came together – and they made plans: “How are we going to do this? Well, qɑyχ likes to eat. If we put on a potlatch, and we invite the whole community, he will come. But we’ll trap him. We’ll have two guys standing by each side of the doorway, and when he comes into the building, we’ll grab him.” Well, they all gathered one day. Invitation was out. So everybody was in this building, except qɑyχ. He took his sweet time. They finally sent a little boy, “Go and call him. What is he doing? He’s the only one that hasn’t arrived.” So, little guy goes running over there, “We’re waiting for you! You’re the only one that’s not there. So they sent me to call you.” “Oh,” he says. “Oh, okay. Well, I’m still getting dressed. I’m still gettin’ ready. I’m still putting on the Wolf’s regalia.” Little boy went running back, told the people. They got more mad. They were so upset. He was doing this to aggravate them further. And he still didn’t come for a while. Then the little boy got sent again. “Oh yeah, I’m just about ready. I’m just putting on the Wolf’s tie,” he said. So the little boy went back. Well, people were fuming. They’re gonna get him this time for sure. So he finally goes strutting over there, all dressed in Wolf’s regalia. He knew they were out to get him. So he didn’t just walk through that door. He leapt from right outside the door and right into the middle of the floor. And they couldn’t catch him. They chased him all over this big house. And qɑyχ’s grandmother was many things. She could be a knothole on the board. And he goes up to this knothole and he says, “Expand, knothole! Expand!” That’s his grandmother. And the knothole expanded. And qɑyχ went through that knothole and he escaped. So he’s gone. They missed him. He escaped.

So he’s out and about again, and they’re thinkin’, “How are we going to get him? We have to get him.” They eventually caught him, and they tied his hands. They tied his hands with a cedar rope. And tied his hands behind his back. And what they’re going to do is, they’re gonna take him out on this canoe, and they’re gonna take him way out there, and they’re gonna drown him. Once and for all, they’re going to take care of him. So they tied him, but he says, “You know what, you guys? That’s not very strong, that rope.” He says, “You know, the sea grass is really a lot tougher, stronger. You just braid it and you’ll have this rope. And when I go like this and try to rip it apart, it’s not going to rip it all. But with that rope you’re making, when I go like this it’ll just break.” And these people said, “Okay. We’ll do that.” So they braided the sea grass and made a rope. And then he made another request: “When we’re going out there,” he says, “I want two canoes, side by side. And then we’ll do this chant as we’re going out there. I will have one foot on one boat, and the other on the other. And the boat will be going. We’ll go out there like that.” That was his final request. So they’re heading out there, and before they got too far out there, he dove into the water and broke the ties on his hands. And down he went. They could see him, his little feet – see them going way down the bottom. And they’re all looking. They’ve got a long pole. And they started stabbing where he had gone under a big rock, or by a big rock. Then he takes a sea urchin, and he puts it out there. And this pole was hitting the sea urchin, broke the sea urchin apart. And, “Oh good! Good. Look at all that stuff,” you know, with all blood and gore. “Yeah! We finally got him. He’s dead. We finally got him.” So they went back to shore. In the meantime, he went under water. He swam. He got to the other side of the bay. And he climbed up the bluffs, and he sat there and he’s watching what’s going on. All the men came back to the beach and they’re really happy. They finally got him. And someone hollers from across the bay, “Is that qɑyχ?” he says, “Is that qɑyχ?” They all look over there. Sure enough, he’s over there. He’s mocking them. He’s up in the bluffs. So they didn’t get him after all. He got away again. And on and on it goes. That was the story of his life, that he always got away with these things that he did. A terrible little character. So that’s the end of that.

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