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Chinook Salmon Legend

Salmon is a vital food source for the tribes of the Columbia River watershed. It is therefore not surprising that its complicated lifecycle is featured in this Chinook creation story.

In it, Salmon endures attacks and betrayals by human beings and other animals. He survives by shifting his form; moving back and forth between youth and old age, and from an egg to a man to a fish. The story teaches the importance of generosity: the people who help Salmon, prosper; those who hurt him, suffer.

A Clatsop man, Charles Cultee, told anthropologist Franz Boas (1858–1942) this story in 1891. Cultee’s kinsmen had met the Lewis and Clark expedition along the Columbia in 1805.

Franz Boas. “The Salmon Myth,” in Chinook Texts, 1894.

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