By Dorthea Calverley
The persistence of tradition for eight to ten thousand years is shown in the Indians’ remembrance or knowledge of the giant prehistoric beavers, buffalo and other animals, now known only as fossilized bones. It is shown in the tradition that there were “little men” in the Arctic in the “older days”. This tradition that has been proved at least possible following the discovery of micro tools in the lowest buried remains of ancient cultures in an Arctic hill. It is shown, too, in the almost universal flood-story.
The Oxford Concise English Dictionary defines a myth as “a purely fictitious narrative, involving supernatural persons and embodying popular ideas on natural phenomena”. A legend, according to the same authority, is a “traditional story popularly regarded as historical”.
Dr. Pliny Earle Goddard and Prof. Robin Ridington have collected and recorded many of the myths and legends of the Northern Beavers.
Interviews with Charlie Yahey of Halfway Reserve, the last of the Beaver prophets, and beaver ex-chief La Glace, of the Horse Lake reserve showed that there are stories as yet unrecorded. Many of these will soon be lost because the only men who know them are very aged. A younger, man, Chief Frank One-Spot, of the Athapaskan-speaking Sarcee near Calgary, welcomed our interviewer Rick Belcourt, a Cree—although the Sarcee are popularly supposed to be unapproachable. Asked why so few of the Sarcee myths and legends are told, Frank One-Spot answers simply. “Because no one asks us”.
Chief James King, a West Coast Indian, nephew of the famous Mungo Martin, told this writer, “I am a Christian, but I still believe that the old stories of my people are true”.
A collection of published old stories of the tribes represented in the Peace River area, in addition to the few Beaver tales is included in this collection, but as a separate article. Perhaps, when reading them, we might find more pleasure in searching them for what may be true or based on truth, instead of dismissing them as superstitions or just stories. We could describe many of these stories as allegories or parables, like those in the Christian Bible, which are accepted for their usefulness in imparting lessons or moral precepts.