Coast Salish Stories: Englishman River Story
Told by Celestine Aleck (Sahiltiniye) of Snuneymuxw First Nation
I recall hearing this story in the early 1990s from a friend of the family who hadn’t, at the time, believed in this story, but they had learned that this was a true story by suffering a great loss and made sure to share it. In the mid 90s Englishman River was cleansed out by the two nations because it was a great location for youth groups, day camps and families to go swimming.
Long ago there was a time when there was a woman who couldn’t have any children. She had tried time and time again only to lose her baby to a miscarriage. All she had ever wanted was to be a mother, and to have a first born.
One day, she had again become pregnant and had thought she was doing well throughout her pregnancy. But one morning she awakened with such pain and had lost her baby. Once her body had healed she had gone to Englishman River to wash away her tears, she went into the water, crying and praying. She had cried out: “All I want is a first born,” then went underwater and came up. She went under a second time praying and crying. She had come up a third time crying, and on the fourth dunk she had cried so hard she must have taken in water and drowned wanting a first born.
It was said that our people could not swim at Englishman River because her spirit was stuck in the water and anyone that had gone swimming there would lose their first born. It had taken Coast Salish and West Coast nations to come together and help cleanse out Englishman River where the woman’s spirit was.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.