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The Thunder Bird Tootooch Legends, by W.L. Webber, [1936], at

p. 47

He’-e-tlik, The Lightning Snake


This legend comes from the West Coast of Vancouver Island: He’-e-tlik was born supernatural. At a tender age he refused to eat the food given him by his mother. When asked by his parents why he did not eat the good things they liked, he replied: "The fragrant smell of the pines at the dawn of day is enough for me."

One day when He’-e-tlik was roaming alone in the forest, he came upon Tootooch (Thunder Bird), who was lonely for a companion. They soon became fast friends, agreeing never to part. He’-e-tlik then assumed the form of the Lightning Snake and entwined himself around the body of Thunder Bird who flew to his abode at the top of a high mountain.

Tootooch lived on the flesh of whales and when in search of this food he would put on his feathered coat, wings and mask. Lightning Snake would attach himself to his master and they would then fly over the sea. When the whale was sighted Thunder Bird would maneuver in such a way as to be able to drop Lightning Snake onto the whale's back so as to pierce the animal's body. The shock of the lightning would kill the whale instantly. Thunder Bird would then seize the prey in his powerful talons and make off home.

The power of Lightning Snake was often felt by mortals of the earth for their evil deeds. Once he visited his wrath upon a whole tribe, punishing them for forgetting Nature's Code of Morals and the rules of hunting and fishing, thereby becoming selfish and aggressive to their neighbors instead of working for themselves. To punish them he cut off their arms and legs. Thunder Bird then appeared among the people and, by sprinkling water on them, he enabled them to get up and put themselves together again. Some, in their hurry, picked up the wrong legs and arms which of course did not fit their bodies. On this account they were ever after known as the Wake delate (deformed people) among the other Indian tribes.

The Indians believed that anything of a material form was at the mercy of the Lightning Spirit and could be worn, broken or destroyed by it. Fish or game could be eaten but still existed elsewhere through its aid as long as they followed the Moral Law of Lightning Snake he would provide all their wants. He is now always spoken of as "One who lived on high." His power is never worshipped but is held in reverence.

Next: Eh-Kolie, The Whale