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Salish Sea Sentinel | October 18, 2017

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Yakima Territory

Told by Celestine Aleck (Sahiltiniye) of Snuneymuxw First Nation

My grandfather Ronald Aleck told me this story at the age of four, and he said this is the reason Yakima is so rich with land. He also showed me a beautiful beaded bag, I can still remember the smell of the buckskin and listening to him tell me story after story and names I needed to remember. He said that we had traded with Yakima people; that our people would bring smoked fish and dried clams and they would get beaded saddle bags and buckskin clothes in the trade. This beautiful beaded saddlebag has been handed four generations, and one day I will hand this beautiful treasure down to my son.

I apologize should this story not be told the exact proper way, if I had messed up even a word or two, please forgive me my dear Yakima relatives.

Long ago, a white general built a fort in Yakima and told his runner to go to all the chiefs in Yakima territory and to tell them there would be a meeting in two days. On the day of the meeting, the general goes to his cook and says: “I want you kill that Indian kid over there, cut him up and put him in the soup, were going feed him to the Indians.” Before the cook could reply, the general says: “If you don’t do it I will kill you and get someone else to do it.” So, the cook had to do it.

The tables were set and as some of the chiefs came in they were told to sit down and eat, some of them knew that something was wrong when they had tried the soup. They had pushed it aside and didn’t touch it. It was still busy and loud and the cook pulled one chief aside to somewhere quiet and told the chief: “I see some of you can’t eat the soup. The general made me kill one of your children cut him up and put him in the soup. He’s going to kill you all and take your land.” The chief thanked the cook and said: “Tonight, when everyone is asleep I want you to wake up and run, run as far as you can, even if you get tired keep going.”

beaded saddle bag

Beaded saddle bag from Yakima.

The cook thanked him and that night when everyone was asleep, the cook woke up and ran, and kept running. The chiefs came in and killed everyone except one solider. They told that solider: “You go and tell your white chief he can’t come here and kill our children and try and feed him to us, he can’t kill us and take our land.” The solider had said: “They will just come back with more soldiers.” The chief said: “No, you go tell your white chief.”

They had heard that 700 soldiers were making their way to Yakima and all the Yakima warriors were lined up and there were four shamans standing in front of them. They had turned around and told all the warriors they didn’t need to fight today, and that they would take care of it. The four shamans had been fasting, bathing and preparing for this day. The four shamans began to sing a song in unison and went towards all the 700 soldiers and all the soldiers were shooting at them. The bullets had hit them and fell off like pebbles. If they had stuck in, the bullets would only stick a little bit into their leather and fall out.

The four shamans killed all but one solider and they had told the solider: “You go back to your white chief and tell him that we are all like this and that they can’t come back and try and steal our land.”

Celestine is a published writer/illustrator who considers herself very fortunate to have learned some of the rich stories of Coast Salish territory from her elders. She can be contacted at celestinea@snuneymuxw.ca.

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