Salish - The Girl Who Married the Crow
A girl belonging to a village of four underground lodges near Lytton refused all suitors who had come from Spences Bridge, Nicola, Kamloops, and Lillooet, although they brought as marriage gifts robes, dentalia, and other valuables. Her parents and the chief of the village were angry with her for refusing so many good suitors. Therefore she became sad, and would have committed suicide had not her brothers talked kindly with her.
One morning, when she had gone to the river to bathe and to draw water for the house, she thought, "I wish a man from far away would come and take me!" Crow-Man, who lived at the mouth of the river, heard her. He said, "A pretty girl far away wants a husband. I wish I could go to her!" At once a man appeared to him and said, "I will help you, if you will do as I direct you. You must shut your eyes and pray to me, and I shall grant your desire. Now begin!"
Crow-Man knelt down and prayed that he might be enabled to go to the girl. His eyes closed while he was praying. Then his helper told him to open his eyes and look at himself. He saw that he had been transformed into a crow, with wings and with black feathers all over his body. He was afraid, and remained silent.
His helper told him that he would not be a crow always, but only for the journey to the girl. He said, "Now, fly up the river! And early in the morning you will see a girl bathing near four underground lodges. She is the wife that you desire!"
It was springtime, when crows come up the river. Three mornings the girl had repeated her supplication for a husband. Early the fourth morning she went to the accustomed place, put down her bark water baskets, took off her clothes, and went to bathe. She had just made her supplication when a crow came up the river and passed close to her head. She called him nasty names and said, "Why do you fly so close to my head, you black ugly bird? You will blind me with the dirt of your feet."
It was Crow-Man, who was acting under the instructions of his helper. He flew past out of sight, alighted on the ground, shut his eyes, and prayed. When he opened his eyes, he was a man again. He walked back to where the girl was washing herself in the water, and sat down on her clothes. Presently she saw him, and asked him to leave. She pleaded with him to go away, but he paid no heed. When she had asked him four times, he replied, "If you will become my wife, I will release your clothes." She assented, saying, "You must be my husband, for you have seen my naked body."
Crow-Man shut his eyes and prayed. When he opened them again, a large beaver skin robe was there, and a dugout cedar canoe. He gave the robe to his wife. They embarked in the canoe and went downstream. As the girl did not return, the people looked for her. They found her clothes and the water baskets, and thought that she had drowned herself.
She lived in her husband's country for a while, and bore a son to him. When the boy was growing up, he wished to see his grandparents. Every day he asked for them. Finally his parents determined to take him to see them.
They went up the river in a canoe loaded with presents of many kinds, and eventually reached Lytton. They moored their canoe at the watering place. The weather was warm, and the woman's parents were living in a mat tent. Her younger sister came down to draw water and discovered them. She went back with the news; and the parents cleaned their house, and made ready to receive their son-in-law. He gave his father-in-law all the presents, and the people danced to welcome them. He made up his mind to live there and became an adopted member of the tribe.
Source: Franz Boas, Folk-Tales of Salishan and Sahaptin Tribes = Memoirs of the American Folk-Lore Society, vol. 11 (Lancaster and New York: American Folk-Lore Society, 1917), pp. 30-32.
This tale was collected by James A. Teit.
The place names mentioned in this legend (Lytton, Spences Bridge, Nicola, Kamloops, and Lillooet) are all in southern British Columbia. Lytton is at the junction of the Thompson and Fraser rivers.
From the Archives of Blue Panther