Nimipuu Landscape
along the
Himeqisnime hineq - Clearwater River


Coyote was fishing on the Clearwater for salmon with his fishnet, when Frog came along and began arguing with him, telling him he would catch no salmon where he was located. The arguing continued until Coyote threw Frog across the river, turning him to stone, with his back to the river.  


In another account, when Bear came across Coyote fishing for salmon, he asked Coyote why he had not gone to buffalo country with the other people?  Not wanting Bear to know that he had forgotten Coyote began arguing with Bear, soon the same fate as Frog befell Bear. People are to be reminded of what can happen when you argue. 


But still, Coyote was without luck, so in frustration, he threw his fishnet on to the hill side and went on.  The "V" formed by gullies running down the hillside is the fishnet  (to the left).  In another oral tradition, you can see Rattlesnake and Rabbit just to the right of the Fishnet, and farther down river, Rattlesnake's partner awaits Rabbit. (just to the left of the dark gully)  The fishnet and rabbit ambush are located along the south side of the Clearwater, between Lewiston and Spalding. 


Before the coming of Human Peoples, at a place along the Clearwater River, just down from Lapwai Creek, the Creator called in all the Animal Peoples.  The Creator was to give them their names and abilities, and to ask what each would give to assist those who were about to arrive.  All came - the birds, the fishes, the animals, even the insects.  One animal came forward and said, I'll offer his horns to make arrow points and my skin to fashion a hide for clothing." He was named, "Deer."  And so it went.

When it came to the fishes, two came forward and said, we can offer our flesh to the Human Peoples."  One said, "Well come up the river only are certain times, and before we die, we will offer our bodies to the Human Peoples for food.   And the other added, Ill come in the winter, and also give them something special.  They can use my skin as a glue to make their bows and spears. They were named, "nacox" - "Chinook Salmon" and "he yey" - "Steelhead."  Then another fish came forward  and said, Ill look a lot like the Steelhead, but Ill not go to the ocean.  Ill stay here in the waters year round, in the winter Ill be down in the gravel, and if the Human Peoples need me for food, Ill always offer myself to them.   He was named "Trout."  And then another fish came out and said, I dont want to be like the Salmon, Steelhead and Trout, but long and when I rest, Ill put my mouth on the rocks.  Ill still come up river every year and the Human Peoples can use my flesh for food.  He was given the name "Eel."

And so Deer, Eagle, Salmon and Steelhead, and the other Animal Peoples were given their names and special abilities, each offering their special "gift" to the Human Peoples about to arrive. When Coyote finally arrived, he wanted the name of Eagle or Bear, but they were already taken.  He had to settle for "Coyote," and that is why he is as he is.  And there were some of the "large animals" were really late to the meeting, so the Creator turned them to stone. There can be a price to pay for being late!  You can still see these late arrivals, located just west from Coyote's Fishnet. And hence the creation of "rocks."

You don't want to be a Rock!

At a rock outcropping along the Clearwater River, Ant and Yellowjacket began arguing on which of them had the right to eat dried salmon at this particular place. Each was jealous of the other and each claimed ownership to this place. Coyote came along and told them to stop their arguing, and that they should share this place. But Coyote's words fell on deaf ears, as Ant and Yellowjacketet continued to fight. So Coyote used his powers to turn them both into stone, with their backs arched, each in the grip of the other. And just who does own "the land"? Ant and Yellowjacket are located east from Coyote's Fishnet, near Spalding, along the Clearwater River.


When the Swallowing Monster was gobbling up all the Animal Peoples, Coyote challenged him to a contest to see who could swallow up the other.  The huge Monster thought surely he would win.  Tying himself to the nearby mountains, Coyote inhaled, only to move a single hair on the Monster's back.  When the Monsters inhaled, to his amazement, Coyote was able to hold his ground.  Coyote inhaled again, but again only a hair moved on the back of the Monster. Then the Swallowing Monster inhaled, and this time, Coyote cut his ropes and was swallowed up.  Once inside, Coyote saw and visited with all the Animal Peoples inside.  Coyote takes his knife and cuts the heart of the Monster.  As he falls over, the Animal Peoples escape.  From the parts of the Monster, Coyote throws them to their homelands and thus creates the various Tribes of Human Peoples.  From the blood of the Monster, the Nimiipu People are created at this spot, near Kamiah, along the Clearwater River.  

And the "gift" of "kus" - water itself.

The water of Lapwai Creek.

A prayer of respect and thanks before a meal.


Another view.

Another view of water and the landscape, the Lewiston Orchards:



Attribution:  There are many sources for the above oral traditions.  I have been influenced by the storytelling of elders, Cecil Carter, Allen Pinkham and his son, Josiah BlackEagle Pinkham, and Mari Watters.  I also acknowledge the important published accounts and the voices of the elders conveyed within them:

Aoki, Haruo. Nez Perce Texts. Linguistics vol 104 University of California Press, 1979.

Aoki, Haruo and Deward Walker.  Nez Perce Oral Narratives.  Linguistics vol 104 University of California Press, 1989.

Landeen, Dan and Allen Pinkham.  Salmon and His People: Fish and Fishing in Nez Perce Culture.  Confluence Press, 1999. 

Phinney, Archie.  Nez Perce Texts.  Columbia University Contributions in Anthropology Vol. 25. 1934.


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