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The Canoe Breaker

Source: Thirty Indian Legends

Once in a certain tribe there was a young man who had no name. For it
was the law in that tribe that every youth had to do some deed that
would give to him his name. This young man had tried in many ways to
do something that would make the chief tell him that he was a great
warrior. Several times he had tried to kill a bear, but had failed.
He had gone forth in battle, hoping to kill some powerful enemy, but no
one had fallen under his tomahawk. He had gone on long hunting trips,
hoping to bring home the skin of some wild animal, but had always
returned empty-handed. So his brave, young heart felt very sad, for
the young men of the tribe laughed at him for not having won a name for

One summer day, the tribe left their camp on the lake shore and went
back among the hills on a hunting trip. After they had gone some
distance, the young man left the others and wandered off by himself,
hoping that this time he would kill some animal, and so be no longer
scorned by his companions. He tramped for many hours through the
forest and over the hills, without catching sight of anything. At
length, he climbed one hill which was higher than the others, and from
here he could see the small creek which flowed through the hills down
to the lake. As he was looking at it, he thought he saw some dark
objects along the shore of the creek. They seemed about the size of
canoes. He scanned the hills anxiously, and at length could see a band
of Indians making their way along the trail made by the hunters in the

At once the young man knew there was great danger ahead, for these
Indians, the Shuswaps, were the enemies of his tribe and now were
following their trail, and when they found them, they would kill them.
Quickly the young man made his way down the hill, and through the
forest to the spot where the hunters had camped for their evening meal.
Running up to them, he cried, "Return at once to your lodges. Our
enemies are now on our trail. They are in the forest on the other side
of this hill. I shall return and delay them while you reach your
lodges in safety."

Then, without waiting for a reply, he turned and ran back in the
direction from which he had come, By short cuts through the hills, he
made his way to the creek and found, as he expected, that the Indians
had left their canoes tied at its mouth. Seizing his tomahawk, he
began to break the canoes, and soon had a hole made in all of them
except one. Leaving the creek, he mounted the hill and from there
could see the Shuswaps. He began to wave his arms and call wildly to
attract their chief. At last they noticed him and began to make their
way towards him. The young man was delighted, for now he knew that his
tribe could escape in safety, while their enemies were returning
towards the creek. Soon the Shuswaps neared the top of the hill, and
he knew he must think of some plan to delay them here. Suddenly he
dropped to the ground and lay there as though insensible. With a run
the Shuswaps gained the summit and surrounded him. He lay face
downwards with his arms stretched out. They turned him over on his
back and peered into his face. Not a muscle moved; not even his
eyelids quivered. Then the chief bent over him and felt his heart.
"He has not gone to the Happy Hunting Ground," he said, "but the Great
Spirit has called his spirit to go on a long journey. It may not be
back for many moons. Let us place his body under the pine-trees, there
to await the return of the spirit."

The Indians lifted the body of the young man, carried it to a clump of
pine-trees and laid it down. Then they walked some yards away and held
a council.

As soon as they were a safe distance away, the young man jumped up. He
ran down the hill, and reaching the canoes, jumped into the unbroken
one and began to paddle down the creek.

The Shuswaps turned and saw him. With fierce cries, they began to race
down the hillside, and when they arrived at the spot where they had
left their canoes, and saw what had happened, they filled the air with
their angry yells. The young man was now out on the lake in the canoe,
and they were unable to follow him, as all the other canoes were
wrecked. They ran angrily along the lake shore, thinking he would land
on their side, but instead, he made his way across the lake to the
other side.

When the young man reached the shore, he again seized his tomahawk, and
this time broke the canoe with which he had saved his life. The
defeated Shuswaps, standing on the shore, saw him do this, and again
they filled the air with their angry yells. There was nothing for them
to do but to return to their camp, while the young man made his way
along the lake shore to the village of his tribe. When he reached
there, he found that he was no longer a man without a name. His brave
deed had won for him the name of Kasamoldin,--the canoe breaker,--and
ever afterwards in his tribe, and to others, he was known by this name.

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