Lutshootseed Culture -- myths














pp. 15-7 geographical locations of the Lushooseed tribes



its location



Black River



Squaxton I. (but formerly "between the southern sound and Hood Canal")



Kitsap Paeninsula

p. 17 close congeners of the Lushootseed


its location, relative to the Lushooseed




west ("at the elbow of the Hood Canal")





p. 23 similarity of antient chattel-slavery to modern wage-slavery

"Freeborn people had ... whatever a place could bestow, while ...

slaves could benefit only via their masters.

This contrast suggests ... present role as "wage slaves," this ... expresses a native sense that the ultimate benefits ... belong to a people other than themselves."

p. 24 war & peace

"fierce ("black paint") warrior partnerships were uniquely saltwater, while

gentle ("red paint") power partnerships were symbolically associated with mountains and deep lakes."

p. 25 river-goddesses

"after severe flooding by the Skagit River, an elder specifically said it had acted like an angry woman. ...

In a Fraser River epic (... Khaals ...), a sister was placed at the head of this river ... .

{A water-spring named (after a Dana:id) Amumone "is the source of the river" (GM 60.g); Amumone "may have been the name for the goddess" (GM 16.5) of this river.} {With the "sleep" of the disturbed satyr (GM 60.g), or of Amumone herself (CDCM, s.v. "Amymone"), cf. the spirit-as-dream (supra, p. 22).}

Further north, on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), natives believe that a Creek Woman lives at the head of every stream".

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

CDCM = Pierre Grimal : A Concise Dictionary of Classical Mythology. 1990.

p. 52 aftermath of the deluge : Robe-Boy

"After the flood, ... a body was abandoned by his family ... . Starving, he ... made contact with God, who instructed the body to make a special blanket from the skins of many small animals (Sampson 1938, 14-16, Matson 1968, 28-38). Then he ... wave the blanket ..., creating an abundance of food. People too were revived, but they had no sense, so the boy made brains for them ... . When he waved his blanket over them, these people ... spoke many languages".

Sampson 1938 = Martin Sampson : The Swinomish Totem Pole. Bellingham (WA).

Matson 1968 = Emerson Matson : Longhouse Legends. Camden (NJ) : Thomas Nelson.

pp. 52-3 Skagit myth of Grizzly-Bear goddess : origin of Death-spectre

p. 52

"two sisters, a Grizzly and a Black Bear, were married to Eagle ... . ... Coyote was Eagle’s father and he grew intolerant of Grizzly, so he arranged for some worms to chew through the log she used as the seat of her latrine. In consequence, when she sat on it, the log broke ... . ...

{"In the very old myth of Mahu and Haereatautu mention is made of Noke, the Worm of Death. This Haere was one of the rainbow-gods of the Maori. He was taken by Mahu to a paepae (latrine), where Noke entered his body and caused his death." ("ME", p. 156)}

p. 53

Black Bear and her children hid in a tiny hole in a rock, holding a supply of red paint and oil. ... Everyone in the house instantly changed into modern species ... . Coyote ... changed himself into maggots ... . ... Grizzly’s two children ... decided to marry. The brother-husband ... met Grizzly and ... he laid his head in her lap, went to sleep, and was killed. Then Grizzly went looking for her daughter, who ... used a spell to make Grizzly very thirsty. ... When Grizzly bent over to drink, the daughter shoved her in and Grizzly drowned. ... Just before bed, however, the woman grabbed her baby and jumped into the fire, where they were consumed. This woman (or her spirit) now exists as a specter of death who visits certain families just before a member dies."

"ME" = Elsdon Best : "Maori Eschatlogy". TRANSACTIONS OF THE NEW ZEALAND INSTITUTE, vol. 38 (1905), pp. 148-239.

pp. 54-6 myth of Star-Child

p. 54

[Upper Skagits] "a hill with banded rock is called ye:dwaste: (heart) because it marks the place where their escape rope from the sky fell to earth and coiled up."


[Snoqualmi] "a small hill near Mount Si also marks the place where their own rope ladder fell down. In this version, the rope hung in the air for some time and the Animal People used it as a swing until Rat ... chewed through the rope and it fell to earth."


[Chehalis] "Two sisters of high rank ... awoke in the sky next to their husbands. The older sister was married to an old man ...; the younger sister was married to a handsome man. ... The older sister ... Digging ... broke through the sky and looked at her home below. She convinced her sister to ... make a cedar bough rope to lower herself down. Her sister stayed in the sky when she escaped. On earth, she was ... to change a log into an old woman to babysit her newborn baby, Star Child, and to build ... a fish weir ... . ... Meanwhile near the Chehalis River, a lone changer made a weir ...

p. 55

until a salmon was finally caught and eaten by the changer. ...

The salmon’s milt (or eggs) was ... prayed over, and ... became two girls. ... . ... these girls ... came to the grandmother swinging Star Child and stole him upriver ... . Eventually, both married him, one sister producing all the trees and shrubs and the other all the fishes. Rushing home, the mother kicked the grandmother back into a log. [p. 153, n. 3:11 : "by kicking the grandmother back into a log, the older sister thereby kept everyone {some persons} from reaching ripe old age."] ... she took a soiled diaper left behind ... and discovered Diaper Body ..., cross-eyed, bald, and twisted ... .Raven took the defenseless mother and babe to be his slaves ... . This enslavement was punishment for abandoning her husband in the sky. ... Star Child came to the town with an elk in his canoe; the girl who lifted it out would become his wife. Dainty Green Frog won and ... Raven ... transformed into the bird of today. At the wedding, the brothers decided to finish the modern world ... -- tools, clothes, baskets, bowls ... . ... As they re-created the world, the brothers named all of its aspects with special words (instituting the "enchantments"), which were only learned in the most important chiefly families. These words controlled the world ... . Animals were summoned and killed, people’s moods shifted, and catastrophes were averted with this power. ...

p. 56

Star Child attempted to be the sun. but as he rose into the sky, the earth became very hot and people jumped into the water to cool off. ... Instead, Diaper Boy became the sun {and spots of faeces on the diapers became sunspots?} and Star Child became the moon, going into the sky with his wife, who became the Frog on the back of the moon. She ... also kept track of the months until a baby was born. ... Mink claimed to be a son of Moon and went along through the sky. Moon took along a cane to vault over the river in the sky, which was the Milky Way. A few days later, Mink decided to go ... , but he forgot the cane. When he came to the river, he tried to jump but missed, fell into the Milky Way, and drowned, causing the first eclipse."

pp. 59-60 deity providing wealth-power

p. 59

"Among the tribes who lived near the river mouths on the salt water, chiefs were expected to have a wealth power called tiyule:baxad, who lived in a huge cedar plank house deep under the water. Those brave enough to quest for him had to dive from a raft hugging a huge stone. Once a quester was taken into the house and instructed how to use this power, he became very wealthy because this spirit caused neighboring tribes to provide the

p. 60

man with gifts and wives ... . Usually, the power was inherited from father to son."


[Snohomish] "the first man to get this power, ... who fasted for forty days, dove into the salt water holding rock, and landed on the roof of the spirit’s house. Welcoming him inside, the spirit gave him everything in the house and sent him away. When he rose to the surface, ... he floated to Mukilteo, where he slept on the beach for five days. ... When he was better, he made a suspended air net and called his relatives to watch. After he swung a stick carved with an elk hoof on the end, elk herds appeared into the net ... . ... When the Swinomish, Skykomish, Skagit, and Snoqualmi came to visit him, ... they gave him shell money and hides making him wealthy. Every tribe gave him two wives until he had married twenty women."


[Upper Skagit] "this wealth spirit resides in a deep pool in their river near the Dalles".


[Twana] "it lived underwater in a big house under the bluff near Aberdeen, Washington."

pp. 60-1 god Sgwe:dilic^

p. 60

"sgwe:dilich ... came through the Skagit Valley with his three brothers ... . His brothers were Knife, Fire, and Baby ... .

p. 61

Knife taught people the proper way to butcher and prepare game, while Fire taught how to cook it. Baby showed how to fix various family talents and abilities on children. When the other went way, sgwe:dilich became a rock in the river, where he can be heard singing at about 3:00 A.M. ... (Amoss 1978, 66-70).


According to the Snoqualmi and Snohomish, however, this power always remains underwater in a river or Puget Sound. He never travels. He confers on both men and women the ability to catch fish".

Amoss 1978 = Pamela Amoss : Coast Salish Spirit Dancing. Seattle : U of WA Pr.

pp. 64-9 Katzie Halkomelem (in British Columbia) myths

p. 64

"The Lord Above created evergreen trees ... . Khaals created the deciduous trees".

p. 65

"Initially, ... There were no birds, animals or winds. ... The leader at Point Roberts married and had a son, who ... decided to make a sling. Testing it out, he flung four white rocks, three of which landed near Victoria, Sechelt, and Semiahmoo; the fourth went out of sight."

p. 66

The son flang __

to become __


"his mother’s lover"

Eastwind ("beyond the mountains")


his own mother

Southwind ("her tears ... as raindrops")


his own father

Northwind ("vitality into the deep water")





"At Musqueam, ... they gave to humans ... the Sxwayxwey mask ... . The powers for these masks came from Thunder, Raven, Two-headed Snake, and Sawbill Duck." [p. 153, n. 3:22 : "two-headed snakes coincide with ... the Pacific rubber boa, which does indeed taper at both ends ... . Barnett (1955, 158) listed Gulf "swaihwe masks" as beaver, sawbill duck, raven, owl, and spring salmon."]


"At Pitt Lake, the leader ... had ... a son and a daughter ... . Finally, .. the father changed the girl into the first sturgeon. ... Mourning his sister, the son changed into a bird that appears when sturgeon run."


"Swanaset {cf. the name of tbe Swanee river in GA-FL.} ... called everyone to Sheridan Hill to shoot arrows at a hole {caelestial pole?} ... in the sky. After an arrow stuck, others were shot to form a chain.


Swanaset climbed up into the sky,

{cf. prior to Tawhaki’s climbing into the sky (PM, p. 44), his


met two old blind women eating onions, and

meeting the old blind woman Mata-kerepo praeparing taro-root for eating (PM, p., 42), and


restored their sight.

his restoring her eyesight (PM, p. 43).


In gratitude they warned him of coming dangers and covered him with stone armor.

"then by enchantments he disguised himself, and changed his handsome and noble appearance, and assumed the likeness of a very ugly old man" (PM, pp. 44-5).}


After thwarting various traps and tricks, he married the two daughters of the sky leader. In time, he left his elder wife to take care of her own parents and took the younger one, Spider, back to

"One version of the saga says that Tawhaki climbed to the heavens on a spider’s web-thread." (LM, p. 25)

p. 67

earth. Her father gave her as a dowry a partitioned box, one half holding seagulls and the other candlefish (eulachon, hooligans). ... Eventually, Swanaset left his wife ... and ... led a canoe full of men to the south, where he gambled ... . The man who later became Mink won a diving contest by breathing at a knothole in Swanaset’s canoe until long after all the other men had surfaced. The visited Dog Salmon, people whose houses were painted with red stripes ... . Humpbacked Salmon explained that they traveled every other day ... . Finally, the canoe got to the town of Sockeye Salmon, who ... spent their time playing games. There Swanaset married the daughter of the chief ... . Swanaset took his new wife home. ... The Sockeye wife taught ... the first sockeye rite, using the stalks of consumption plants [Lomatium nudicaule] ... . ... Lastly, she taught one man in each tribe the enchantments ... . ...

From the west, Khaals came with two younger brothers and twelve servants. Through the power of his thought, he could transport them anywhere and change anything.


At Boundary Bay, he met a couple and transformed each of them into a boulder after raising his right hand ... . These stone people would give humans fair weather if they were greeted... .

{At Hokianga, "a male and female dog" belonging to Kupe "were at once turned into stone." ("K")

p. 68

At Tsawwassen, he changed a greedy woman into a carved stone image ... .

At Porirua, "Kupe saw a stone which he at once desired as an anchor for the canoe; it was a kowhatu-hukatai (a white stone ...). His daughters also had the same wish" ("K").


Khaals fought with and killed a giant octopus, cut it up ... . Then he joined Tsawwassen to the mainland.

Nigh unto Te Wai-pounamu, "Kupe made a fierce downward blow (paoa) at the head of the monster and smashed in its eyes. And so died this great sea creature, the "Wheke-o-Muturangi."" (‘octopus of Mutu-rangi’) ("K")}


At New Westminster, he petrified a man called "killer," turned a solitary hunter and his family into the first wolves, and made the first ravens from a family of scavengers.


He petrified a deaf warrior at Coquitlam and

{Phegeus’s daughter Arsinoe "stopped her ears" (GM 107.f).}


changed a foolish man on the Coquitalm River into mink.

{"1. Nukutawhiti came hither from ... Wawau. {/wawau/ ‘foolish, inept’ (NgD)}

2. Nukutawhiti met Kupe on the ocean beyond, Kupe told Nukutawhiti, "At Hokianga is Tuputupuwhenua.

3. When Nukutawhiti came in sight of the entrance of Hokianga—Tumutumuwhenua disappeared beneath the land." ("N", p. 225)}


Then he made ... kingfisher, black bear, raccoon, and crane.

{Heraldic animal-emblems were displayed (GM 106.c).}


He sent a baby into a deep pool of water so that it could grant power to future seers.

{A baby boy perished at a water-spring drinking-pool (GM 106.g), thus becoming "the beginner of doom" (GM 106.h).}


... the Coquitlam leader ... Khaals changed ... into the master of the Fraser River, placing him at its mouth. ...

{"along the banks of the river" Ismenos, Amphiaraos "now reigns alive among the dead." (GM 106.k)}


He placed the man’s sister at the headwaters but allowed them to visit back and forth from time to time. {Would it not be implied that their relationship was chaste?}

{heroine Eu-ADNe (GM 106.l) [cf. Kilikian river-name /Kaluk-ADNos/] [but /adno-/ is the Cretan-dialect form of /hagno-/ ‘chaste’]}


At Pitt River, he ... put a one-legged fisherman in charge of the fish runs ..., turning him into a rock at Davis Pool. {"a rock with an eddy" (ShO, p. 26)?} {The description as "one-legged" may refer to the singularity of a whirlpool in that river.}

{"Verse 6. Pipiraueru : the whirlpool or eddy (au-kume) in the Hokianga River where Nuku' met his death, and into which his body disappeared. It was named after a similar place in Hawaiki, into which the bodies of the dead were thrust, and so reputed as an entranceway to the realms of the dead." ("N")}


At Alouette River, Khaals created suckers ... . Siblings ... grabbing feathers out of each other’s headbands were transformed, after feathers were repositioned as tails, into beaver and muskrat.


At Sheridan Hill, Khaals met the Sandhill Crane wives of Swanaset ... and changed them into these shore birds. ... At the base of Sheridan Hill ... all those who had helped Swanaset to reach the sky ... were listening to Bluejay as he prophesied the arrival of Khaals, who changed them into wren, ... eagle, cougar, deer, and swan. As always, he first returned their souls above. He transformed an old woman into a stump ... . ...


At Pitt Lake,, ... Khaals changed ... into seals ... mothers with babies on their backs. ... Khaals next met stingy people who would not share; he changed their box of sturgeon eggs into a stone dish filled with sand."

p. 69

"After Khaals left, a man at Pitt Lake was inspired to invent the deer surround technique. ... When they butchered the kill, the sister age a deer heart ... . ... Then she became the mother of deer, a remote being rarely seen by hunters and described as having the body of a deer and the head of a girl."

PM = George Grey : Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race. Auckland, 1885.

LM = James Cowan : Legends of the Maori.

O = Roland Burrage Dixon : Oceanic (Volume 9 of The Mythology of All Races). 1916.

"K" = "Kupe" (from :- Dennis Kawaharada: Voyaging Chiefs.)

NgD = Ngata Dictionary

"N" = "Nukutawhiti". J OF THE POLYNESIAN SOC, vol. 49 (1940), pp. 221-234.,_No._194/Nukutawhiti,_by_Geo._Graham,_p_221-234/p1

ShO = Jay Miller : Shamanic Odyssey. 1988.

p. 70 Nuxalk (Bella Coola – in British Columbia) cosmology

"The Nuxalk world was created by a high god known as Alquntam, who made four immortal carpenters and set them to work with crews to manufacture everything in existence. ... Covering the earth was the huge dome of the sky, which was clear to allow the sun to shine through. [p. 154, n. 3:27 : "The first dome that the carpenters constructed collapsed because it had no supports, so the second one was built with pillars, which were later removed." {In Nahua myth, "under the sun called nahui atl, ... the sky collapsed" ("Leyenda de los Soles" – "ADMM", p. 195)} {"the four corners of the sky collapsed ... the sky was mended, its four corners lifted" ("NMM"), according to the Huai-nan-zi (HChM, p. 11)} {"Then the sky moved . . . heaved and billowed and tumbled and tottered." (Peck 1938, p. 202 – "CM-Ts")} {" the sky collapsed into the earth", making Lake Lolwe = Lake Victoria ("MS")}] The top of the dome was another flat land where the creator lived in an enormous house called Nusmatta, which had many rooms. His carved seat rested behind the central fire in this house. He was ... with the sun, which he used like a canoe. When he traveled, he wore a cloak lined with salmon, which, when reversed inside out, caused salmon runs to start in the rivers of earth.

The earth itself was a round, flat island held in place by a being named Sninia, who lived in the icy north holding a rope that kept the world tight against his outstretched feet. {"Cords tied to the earth supposedly prevents it from collapsing." (HChM, p. 94) This "link between the sky and the earth" had been maintained by Z^uan-xu (HChM, p. 245).} Whenever he adjusted this rope, an earthquake resulted. The undersea was controlled by a leader called Qomoqwa, who lived in a huge house with all other marine beings. This wealthy chief always wore a large hat to shield his face, which was painted black and covered with eagle down. Humans visited him in the past to receive power, and he himself sometimes visited Nusmatta."

"ADMM" = Fernando Horcasitas : "An Analysis of the Deluge Myth in Mesoamerica". In :- Alan Dundes : The Flood Myth. U of CA Pr, 1988. pp. 183-220.

"NMM" = "Nuwa makes men and mends the sky"

HChM = Handbook of Chinese Mythology. Oxford U Pr, 2005.

Peck 1938 = Charles William Peck : Australian Legends. Melbourne : Lothian.

"CM-Ts" = "Cosmogenic Mega-Tsunami in the Australia region"

"MS" =

pp. 100-1 potlatching

p. 100

"Sometimes, for the fun of it, a joking potlatch was held, the men against the women, each gender trying to embarrass and amuse the other (Collins 1974, 141)." {cf. public repartee between groups of men and groups of women in Miao performances}

p. 101

"A potlatch was held to mark ... the removal of a stigma (such as when a daughter was sent home by her divorcing husband or a captive was ransomed)".

Collins 1974= June Collins : Valley of the Spirits. Seattle : U of WA Pr.

pp. 101-2 Growling Cult

p. 101

"This "growling cult," a ... secret society, was an intertribal organization that existed solely to initiate new members from wealthy families ... .

p. 102

... anyone except shamans could join the growling cult ... . ... The cult’s patron spirit was available only by initiation into membership and was variously described as a huge black man or a baby covered with blood {not as yet washed after being newly born?}, who lived in the air and traveled north with ducks." {so, would he be aequivalent to Nauplios, whose action attracted "a flock of purple-striped ducks" (GM 160.d)?}


[initiation caerimony :] During the first night, ducklike wooden rattles were sent flying around the house from one group to another as proof of the cult’s powers ... . Klallam members wore carved masks to represent their powers. Some members were so frenzied that they had to be restrained by ropes tied around the waist. Others acted fierce and brandished knives, spears, axes, and clubs. At Suquamish, ... the cult was known as Dog Eaters. ... If they encountered a dog, they seized it and tore it to pieces ... . Then they ate it".

Jay Miller : Lutshootseed Culture and the Shamanic Odyssey : an anchored radiance. U of NE Pr, Lincoln, 1999.