Okanogan - Fox and Coyote and Whale
Fox had a beautiful wife. He was very much in love with her, but she had stopped
caring for him. Fox was a great hunter, and every day he brought home food and fine skins for his wife to make into robes
and clothing. He did not know that, while he was away hunting, his wife would sit beside the Swah-netk'-qhu and sing love
songs to the water. Painting her face with bright colors, she would pour out her love thoughts in song.
Coyote came to visit his twin brother, and he soon noticed the strange actions of his sister-in-law. He spoke to
Fox. Why-ay'-looh," he said, "I think your wife is in love with somebody else." But Fox could not believe she loved anyone
but him. He was blinded by his love for her. Then, one sun, he and Coyote returned from a hunt and she was not in the lodge.
So Fox started to look for her. He walked down toward the river and there he saw his wife. She was sitting on the river bank,
singing a love song. She did not see Fox. He watched her.
As Fox watched, the water began to
rise. Slowly it rose, higher and higher, and soon, out in the middle of the river, appeared a big monster of the fish-kind.
The monster was En-hah-et'-qhu, the Spirit of the Water--Whale. It swam to the shore. As it touched dry land, it changed into
a tall handsome man with long braided hair. This monster-man made love to the wife of Fox.
at heart, Fox turned away. He went to his lodge. He said nothing, but he wondered how he could win back his wife's love. He
worried about her as the suns passed. She grew pale and thin. Nothing that Fox could do pleased her.
Her thoughts always were with the man who was not a man but a monster. One day when Fox and Coyote came home from
hunting, she was gone, and the fire in the lodge was cold. Fox called and called. He got no answer. His heart was heavy.
A few suns later Fox looked up the river and saw an odd-shaped canoe coming. It was only half of a canoe. Two Water
Maidens were standing in it, rocking it from side to side. They were singing:
We come for food,
Food for the Chief's stolen wife.
The water-food does not suit her.
That is why we come! We come!
As the Water Maidens approached, Fox and Coyote hid in the tepee.
The maidens beached the half-canoe and entered the lodge. They began to pick up dried meat to take to the stolen wife. Coyote
and Fox sprang from their hiding places and caught the maidens, and Fox asked about his wife--where she was and how to get
to her. The maidens were silent. Then the brothers threatened to kill them unless they answered, and the maidens said:
"To find the person who stole her, you must go over the Big Falls and under the water. His lodge is under the falls,
under the water--a dangerous trip for Land People. Every trail is watched. Even if you get there, the mighty Whale chief will
kill you. He is bad."
The Water Maidens had told all they knew, so Fox broke their necks. He
and Coyote dressed in the maidens' robes and started down the river in the half-canoe. Standing on the sides of the strange
craft, they rocked it as they had seen the maidens do, and rode it down the river and over the roaring falls. "Let me do all
the talking," Fox warned Coyote. "I know better what to say." Down through the pouring, flashing waters they shot with the
half-canoe. The thunder of the falls hurt their ears. And then, suddenly, they were landing at a great encampment of Mater
People, a strange kind of people to them. All of the people were strange except Gou-kouh-whay'-na--Mouse. She was there. She
knew them and they knew her. Fox jumped ashore. Coyote, following, tripped and touched the water, and Mouse, the Sly One,
"Ha-ha!" said Mouse, "Coyote nearly fell into the water."
not speak," Fox whispered to Mouse. "Say nothing. I will pay you well."
But some of the Water
People had heard. "What, Gou-kouh-whay'-na, did you say?" they inquired.
"Nothing," Mouse answered.
"Nothing of importance. I was just joking."
"Yes, you did say something," said a Water Person.
"You said that Coyote nearly fell into the water. You cannot fool me."
Mouse insisted that
she had not said that, and the other Water People believed her. They knew she was a fickle person and giddy, and they did
not think much of her because she went everywhere to steal. She went everywhere, and that s why she understood all the different
Carrying packs of dried meat and berries they had brought with them, Coyote and
Fox made their way to the lodge of Whale, the chief. He and the stolen wife sat side by side in the lodge. The wife was glad
to get the meat and berries, her kind of food.
Fox and Coyote kept their robes over their faces
until everyone else was asleep. Then, when everything was quiet, Fox slipped up to Whale and cut off the monster's head with
a flint knife. At the same time Coyote picked up the stolen wife and ran for the broken canoe. The noise they made awoke the
camp, and the people rushed out of their lodges to see Coyote carrying off Fox's wife and Fox close behind, carrying the head
of their chief. The people chased them, but the three got into the broken canoe, and Fox quickly put Coyote and the woman
into his shoo'-mesh pipe. Then Fox pushed the half-canoe into the water and it shot up to the river's surface below the falls.
There Fox landed. He took Coyote and his twice-stolen wife out of the medicine-pipe, and the head of the Whale Monster he
threw toward the setting sun.
"In the Big Salt Water (ocean) shall Whale Monster stay," said
Fox. "No longer shall he live in the smaller waters, in the rivers, where he can make love to the wives of men, where he can
lure wives from their husbands."
As Fox and his wife and brother walked up the bank to their
tepee, the headless body of Whale Monster turned over and over in the depths of the river, making the Big Falls of the Swah-netk'-qhu
more fearful and thunderous, the way they are today, spilling with such force over the great rocks.
wife of Fox became contented and happy again, glad to be back in her husband's lodge. But since that day Whale Monster was
vanquished the Land People and the Water People have not loved each other. Fox made it so.