This week’s post is pretty long. I’m starting by posting the story of the man who married Se7etwen. This story has a direct connection to my last blog. The crane in the photo was spotted in the McNeil Ranch fields when took the photo. The story below is as James Teit recorded it and is from Tsq’escen’ territory. There are maps and discussion following the story.
The Man Who Married Se7etwen
A lad was badly treated by the people, who always scolded him, gave him the worst food to eat and old things to wear. He felt much grieved because of his treatment, and left his village. He wandered south along the Fraser River, remained a little while in each village that he passed, and thus reached the Thompson River, where he remained some time. Then he continued his journey, passed beyond Columbia River, and eventually arrived in the country of the Se7etwen. There he came to many houses on a large grassy plain. He entered the first house, which was occupied by a very old man and his grand-daughter. They asked him where he had come from, and what he was doing there. He answered “I am Shuswap. My country is far away to the north. I have wandered south to see the world.” The old man said, “I know your country. We rest there every year going north.” The young woman asked him to be her husband: so he staid with her all winter.
One day in the early spring she said to him, “in ten days all the people will make ready for their journey north. You will go with us and see your own country.” The lad was glad to hear this. One morning the chiefs blew some bone whistles, and all the people put on their crane dresses, and blew their whistles in imitation of the cries of the cranes. They flapped their wings, and then ascended and descended into the air. They they acted for four days, morning and evening. The woman said to her husband,” the people are no practising and making ready for the journey north.” She had done the same as the other people. Then the man said to himself, “this numerous people., who houses cover the plain, are, after all, the cranes that I used to see pass my home every spring. I shall be deserted. They will all soon leave here, my wife among the rest.” His wife knew his thoughts and said, “we shall not leave you. We shall take you along.”
On the following morning all the birds came, and each plucked a feather out of its body and out of one wing, and gave it to him. His wife fastened them to his body, and he was now able to fly. She also gave him a whistle made from the win-bone of the crane. For two days they trained themselves, flying up and down above the houses, an don the next morning they flew away on their northern journey. The man, his wife, and father-in-law followed a little behind the others. This is the reason why three birds are always seen flying behind the others.
When they reached the Shuswap country, the cranes asked the young man where his home was. He named a place near Horse Lake, where his people were living at that time. The crane people alighted and camped near there that night. This is the reason why the cranes always rest there on the passage north or south.
His wife said, “go to your friends’ camp and visit them, but return at daybreak.” He spent the night there, told all his adventures, and heard all the news that they had to tell. At daylight he left, saying “I am now going to join my wife.” The people followed him, and saw him fly away with the cranes, who were going fat north to their breeding grounds.
In the fall of the year, on their way back, they camped again near the people; and the man visited his friends, taking with him his wife and children. On the following morning they all flew away south, to the land of the cranes. Thus the man visited his friends for many years on his passages north and south, until his relatives had all died, when he came no more. He stayed in the land of the Cranes, and became as one of them. He had many children.
The Cranes. I really like this story because it gives a lot of attention to details. The Sandhill cranes nest in many places throughout the Cariboo. The ones in this particular story nest at Horse Lake which is a 3 minute drive from the Village of 100 Mile House. Horse Lake is connected directly to Canim Lake through the Bridge Creek which flows from Bridge Lake and eventually meanders into Canim Lake. There were historically villages at Horse Lake.
The cranes here migrate from as far north as Alaska and the Yukon and spend winters in California’s Central Valley. They can fly as much as 650 km’s in a day. They live up to 33 years. They are the oldest living species of bird on the planet with fossils found in Nebraska dating 10 million years ago! The man in the story went beyond the Columbia River and eventually arrived at a large grassy plain – I imagine this is describing the Central Valley. I think it’s so cool that our people knew about this when the story was recorded over 100 years ago. This also means we have relatives in California, or as our people at Tsq’escen’ knew it, the land of the cranes!
The map above is provided by the Province of British Columbia from a study they did on Sandhill Cranes. It shows the general migration routs of the cranes.
The map below is courtesy of visitcalifornia.com. It outlines California's central valley.
Carl has been actively involved in re-imagining nation building. He has travelled extensively throughout Secwepemc territory and is fluent in Secwepemctsin.