Sacred Texts  Native American  Northwest 

Chinook woman on the beach, Edward Curtis 1910; [Public domain image]


by Franz Boas

U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin no. 20


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The Chinook tribes inhabited the salmon-rich lower Columbia river area in the Northwest culture region, in what is now upper Oregon and lower Washington state. As is evident from these texts, fishing was at the center of their culture, and they were also avid traders and gamblers. A creole based on their language and several European languages, the 'Chinook Jargon', was widely used as a trade language in the Northwest. The Chinook practised the 'Potlatch'--the charateristic Northwestern ceremony in which wealth was ritually redistributed.

These unfiltered stories, translated with great care by Franz Boas, one of the founders of modern Anthropology, reflect a rich storytelling tradition which shows a deep understanding of the range of human emotions. The central character in many of these is 'Blue-Jay', a rather dim but heroic figure who, in one memorable tale visits the land of the dead, in a story worthy of the Twilight Zone.

--J. B. Hare

Title Page


1. CikLa
2. Okulâ'm
3. AnêktcXô'lEmiX
4. The Salmon
5. Raven and Gull
6. Coyote
7. The Crane
8. Ênts!X
9. The Crow
10. Câ'xaL
11. Stikua'
12. The Skunk
13. Robin and Blue-Jay
18. Blue-Jay and Iô'i
15. Blue-Jay and Iô'i
16. Blue-Jay and Iô'i
17. Ckulkulô'L
18. The Panther

Beliefs, Customs, and Tales

The Soul and the Shamans
How Cultee's Grandfather Acquired a Guardian Spirit
The Four Cousins
The GiLâ'unaLX
The Elk Hunter
Pregnancy and Birth
Elk Hunting
The Potlatch

Historical Tales

War Between Quileute and Clatsop
The First Ship Seen by the Clatsop