The Canoe Breaker

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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