Chinook Legends

The Chinook creation story centers in Oregon, on Saddle Mountain. That’s where Thunderbird laid its eggs. Chinook oral history says the first men of the tribe came from the sky because they were the offspring of Thunderbird.

An Ogress rolled five of Thunderbird’s eggs down Saddle Mountain, and five men, each of different color, were born. The men then found and plucked women (who were in various stages of development) from the valley floor. This was the first Chinook tribe.

The traditional stories of neghboring tribes like the Nootka and Salish tribes are very similar.

Characters Found in Chinook Legends:

Blue Jay – A trickster hero of the Chinook and southern Salishan tribes. Bluejay is generally a benevolent being who is helpful to humankind, but he is also extremely foolish and careless, and Chinook stories about him are often humorous or even slapstick in nature.

Boqs (Siatco, Sasquatch, or Skookum): Large, hairy wild men of the forest, often known today as Big Foot. These different names come from different languages of the Chinook trade area.

Boqs is the most commonly used one in Chinook folklore (Skookum is also common, but since this word just means “big” or “powerful” in Chinook Jargon, it is used to refer to all sorts of creatures, not just Boqs.)

In most traditional Chinook legends, Boqs are dangerous man-eating monsters, however in others, they are more benign like the Halkomelem Sasquatch. This is another example of the Chinooks absorbing different versions of stories from their neighbors and trade partners.

Ioi – Blue Jay’s long-suffering older sister and the butt of many of his jokes. One of the most common storylines in Chinook legends involves Ioi making reasonable comments to Blue Jay which he then interprets in some ridiculous way. At other times, Ioi gives her brother sensible advice which he tells everyone was his own idea.

Shikla – A Transformer figure, common to the mythology of many Northwest Coast tribes, who brought balance to the world by using his powers to change people, animals, and the landscape into the forms they have today.

Talapus (Coyote) – Another Chinook trickster character. Some of the same stories were told by Chinook people with either Blue Jay or Coyote as the main character. Coyote is the trickster figure of the Interior Salish and Plateau tribes; since the Chinooks were the center of a trade network that included most of the northwestern tribes, it isn’t surprising that their mythology absorbed elements from many different tribes.

Chinook Legends:


Article Index:

Bluejay Finds A Wife

Bluejay was a trickster who enjoyed playing clever tricks on everyone, especially his sister Ioi.  As she was the eldest sister, Bluejay was supposes to obey her. But he deliberately misinterpreted what she said, excusing himself by saying, “Ioi always tells lies.”

Ioi decided that it was high time for Bluejay to quit his playful life of trickery and settle down with a wife.  She told him that he must select a wife from the people of the land of the dead, who were called the “Supernatural People”.  Ioi recommended that Bluejay choose an old woma for a wife and suggested the recently deceased wife of a chief.

Chinook Creation Story

This story explains how the Chinook Indians were created.