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How People Learned to Fish

Mató was a very small bear when he came into this world. He was born in a cave deep within the earth and was not big enough to harm anybody. His mother called him Mató čhiŋčála (bear cub) in the language of the people.

When his mother awoke from her long sleep, she took Mató čhiŋčála out into the bright sunshine of spring.

“What are these creatures flying high above my head?” asked Mató čhiŋčála.

“Waŋblí,” his mother replied in her low, gruff voice. “It is from Eagle that we learn to live our lives in dignity. Eagle’s eyes are keener than our own, so we always listen to warnings he sends from above.”

Mató čhiŋčála’s mother led him across the sweet-smelling meadow to the edge of a river where she would teach him to drink. He put his nose into the cold, clear water and took a taste. The shock of the rushing water made him instantly alert and watchful.

Many years later, when he had grown into his warrior name, Mató would remember his first drink. Whenever he needed clarity of thought or alertness for hunting, he would plunge himself into the river to prepare himself for the task.

Mató remembered his early days with fondness, for his mother was a great teacher. She always protected him and gave him guidance for living the fullness of life. She taught him how to hunt for grubs inside the rotting trunks of fallen fir trees. She taught him which flowers and grasses were sweetest, which roots would make him strong and which berries would fill out his flesh for his first long winter’s sleep. And she taught him how to catch the redfish as they came crashing up against him in the slippery river. Mató’s mother showed him a special place between two craggy rocks where he could lodge himself.

“Wait quietly and with patience in this place,” she said, “and the great red flashing, thrashing things will jump right into your mouth.”

And so it was that the people learned to fish by watching Mató and his mother. From that time forth, Mató and the people never went hungry, as long as he and his brothers could be seen fishing in the river. And the people sang praises and danced for the gift of Mató and his Mother.


This legend has been edited from historical documents and is believed to be of public domain.