Swarak'xn Chaptikwl- The Frog Mountain Story

The Frog Mountain Story by Sinixt Editors Marilyn James, M.Ed. and Cindy Fry, M.Ed

“In storytelling not only does each teller relate the story in his or her own unique way, but also each listener hears and imagines the story in his or her own way. This is the beauty of the oral tradition. “This story of Frog Mountain was told to me many times by my Elder Eva Orr. With her permission, I have written this story in my own words, words that cannot compare to the way in which the story was told to me through the oral tradition of my people. I share the story of our sacred mountain in this non-traditional way to light the path for your understanding about my people, the Sinixt.” Marilyn James

A long, long time ago no rains fell for many years on the lands of the Sinixt People. The Sinixt People suffered greatly as the land dried up during the drought. With no rain, the plants that fed the animals withered and disappeared from the land. Without food, the wildlife could not live. The plants that the people used for food also dried up. The people had very little to eat and knew they could not live in they stayed in the place they had called home for as long as they could remember. Some of the Sinixt people chose to move away from their homes to the

outer parts of their territory where survival seemed more likely. Others chose to leave their Sinixt homeland, hoping their chances of survival in strange lands far away would be better. But many Sinixt families chose to stay in the villages they had always called home. Some lost their lives in the struggle to live in their territory during the drought. The land that had taken care of everyone and everything was not sight. With no rain, every living thing on the land suffered. This story tells you what happened to the Sinixt People in one of their villages during the drought. In the heartland of the Sinixt territory was a village next to a river. The traditional leader and guide for the people of this village was an Elder, an old man who loved and cared for his friends, his family and his fellow villagers, this Elder watched his people suffer as the drought continued. Many lives had already been lost and the people's hearts were heavy with sadness. The Elder encouraged his people to leave their village in order to live while they still had the strength for a journey. The Elder helped the people of his village by making sure that all belongings useful to the travelers were packed for the journey. The people of the village did not now that their Elder had decided to stay behind. The Elder gathered his strength to watch his people leave the village. He knew he could not leave the land of his ancestors, the land of his heart and memories. When the packing was finished, the villagers were prepared to leave. Their leader called them together to bid them farewell and give them words of hope and encouragement. The people who had decided to leave the village pleaded with their Elder to go on the journey with them. The elder refused. He knew he could not leave the place of his ancestors where his heart and memories were still alive. The Elder wanted only to be at this place. If he could no remain at his village by the river then he did not wish to live. The villagers cried for the Elder to journey with them. He was deeply moved by their pleas and their tears but he could not leave his village. The people of the village decided that even though they all wished to stay with their Elder, some must make the journey for the survival of their people and their ways. The decision about who should leave was based on two things: the strength of each member of the village to survive the journey and the gifts of knowledge or skill they possessed. All things of value from the village were given to those who were to male the journey. In this way, the travelers would have goods to trade with others in a faraway place and their ability to survive and make a way for themselves in a new land would be easier. Those who stayed behind bid their fellow villagers farewell not knowing whether they would ever see each other again. The hearts of the villagers were heavy with the parting of family and friends. The Elder knew that survival would be harder now that all the people's hearts were so heavy. The people of the village would begin to question their own decisions about staying in a place where they might not survive. The Elder knew what he must do and he prepared himself. The Elder told his people that he must leave them for awhile to fast, pray, and ask the creator for help. He told them he would return in a few days. And so he, too, left the village. While the Elder was alone, fasting and praying for the land and the people of the land, a visitor came to him in the form of a frog. The frog spoke to the Elder in the language of the people. The frog said, “You and your people must go to the banks of the river. There you must dig caves into the banks along the riverbed. You must spend the winter in these caves. We will come and help you. If you do what I tell you, everything will be fine for your and your people. You will survive.” After delivering this message to the Elder, the frog left. The Elder was alone and thought about the frog's message. The Elder decided to do just as the frog had told him. He would return to the village and ask the people to dig caves in the riverbank. It would be good for his people to work together to dig the caves and feel hopeful. But the Elder had one thought he could not share with his people at this time. Even it his people could not be saved, the caves could be uses as graves for the people who surely could not survive the winter with so little food. The Elder returned to his village and told the people about the visit from the frog. No one questioned the Elder about the visit from the frog. No one asked why the caves had to be dug. The villagers went to the river to begin the work they had been asked to do. It took many days to dig the caves in the bank by the river. Everyone helped in some way. While some were digging the caves, others gathered what little food and wood was left on the land and prepared for the coming winter. The people knew that the supplies they were able to gather would not be enough to help all of them through the season of cold. Even with everyone trying to gather supplies for winter they could not have gathered enough to survive, as there just wasn't enough food to gather. So the people quietly and carefully did as the Elder asked until the caves were finished and ready to use. As winter laid its cold blanket of snow upon earth, the people of the village moved into the caves in the riverbank for warmth and comfort. They survived on the few supplies they had, only eating enough to stay alive so the food would last longer and feed more people. What food they had was always shared fairly with everyone who had chosen to stay behind. The children of the village cried with hunger while the others suffered, knowing they could do nothing to ease the pain of hunger for the little ones. To help pass the time the Elder would tell stories about the Creation to both entertain the children and to light the path of the ancestors. As the food supplies began to run out altogether, the people started to prepare for a final end to their suffering. But instead of death, frogs came into the caves. The frogs offered themselves as food for the people. The people ate the frogs to stay alive. The frogs continued to come into the caves by the river and offer themselves to the people for the rest of the winter. Then one day a frog came into one of the caves and spoke these words: “Do not eat me. You may all leave these caves now. Go onto the land where you will find enough of everything you need to live. Your suffering is now over. The land will change. The land will now be able to give to you for your survival.” The frog continued, “We are small creatures who do not seem to impact life, threaten life, or support life in any way. We have shown through our love and our offering to you that even something believed to be small and unimportant can become a powerful being in both deed and symbol. I will show you how powerful we are. To honour your survival in your homeland we will give to you a gift, a symbol that the Sinixt People should always remember and honour.” With these final words the frog hopped and grew… …hopped and grew. The frog's face rose up and pointed towards the sky as the frog grew and grew and slowly became a mountain, Frog Mountain. This is the land survival story of the Sinixt Peoples.