"LONG TIME AGO in the beginning of the world, Honne came to earth. No
one knows where he came from. And as the country was new and
strange to him he decided to travel about and see what he could find."
Thus begins the Chehalis Indian legend of Honne, the creator of people and animals,
as related in "Honne: The Spirit of the Chehalis", by Katherine Van Winkle Palmer, W.F.
Humphrey Press, Geneva N.Y. 1925. The various species of salmon and trout were
extremely important to the Chehalis people, and the legends of the tribe tell fascinating
tales of how Honne created these fishes. Honne named the different kinds of salmon
and told each the streams they would inhabit and the seasons of their lives. The
following is an abbreviated account of the creation of the salmon from the legends of
the Chehalis people.
When Honne came to earth he found that the people were living like animals, so he
decided to exchange the lives of people and animals. As Honne travels the banks of
the Chehalis River, he meets several people who have caught a salmon. Honne changes each of these persons into a crane and takes the salmon. After cooking and
eating the first salmon Honne said:
"'Now I will name the salmon.' And he called it Thowsh or Thatssocub.
He threw the salmon backbone in the river and told it to go up the river. Honne said to it 'You will be food for the people. You will go up the river
to the riffles and spawn and raise a thousand fish.'
The backbone of the fish said to Honne 'After we spawn what shall we
Honne replied 'After you spawn, you will go back to the ocean where you
will become fat and bright again. Once every year at a certain time you
will go up the river. That is your work to do for the people.'"
Honne met another fisher with a salmon and after turning him into a crane:
"Honne picked up the salmon which had lain in the gravel. He built a fire
from drift wood, fixed the salmon and cooked it. After it was cooked and
he had eaten all he wanted, he took the backbone of the fish and said
'Your name will be Twahtwat, the black salmon.'
The backbone said 'What time of the year will I come up the river?'
And Honne answered 'You will come up in the fall. You will not stay long
but will work fast while you are here for the other salmon will have come
ahead of you. When you finish you will go back to the ocean and then you
will be young again.'
Black salmon went in the river and Honne traveled on."
Soon Honne took a third salmon from another crane:
"Then Honne built another fire and cooked the salmon which he ate and
as before he took the backbone and said to it 'Your name is Skawitz,
silverside salmon. This is as far as you will come up the river, and you
will work in the creeks and never in the river. When you are thru you will
go back again to the ocean and become young again.' Skawitz said 'How
will I work?'
Honne said 'You will lay eggs and cover them on the gravel.'
The fish asked 'Will any place do?'
Honne answered 'No, you must put them on a riffle because there are
many other fish who will eat them.'
Silverside said 'But won't the other fish eat them on the riffle?' 'No.' Honne said, 'because the other fish do not work on the riffles. They work
up and down the river but they do not stay on the riffles.'
'Won't the eggs float downstream?' asked the fish. 'No.' said Honne,
'because grandmother* will take care of the eggs.' (*Grandmother is a
small creature who is supposed to hold the eggs between the rocks.)
Silverside could not understand how it was done so Honne got down on
the gravel and dove under the water on the riffle. He kicked the gravel
with his feet; each time that he kicked he dropped two or three eggs off
his hands and as he laid the eggs he sang,
"Under the gravel,
Under the sand,
You lay, and
Grandmother will take care of you.'
The eggs went under the gravel and lay there. They were to lie there so
many days before they would become fish. And Honne told the eggs that
they must not leave the fish until they were able to swim. He told them
that when the fish grew up they must come each year to the same place.
After they were hatched they must go up the creeks and stay one year.
In the spring of the year they must go to the ocean but each year they
must come back again. Those that go to the creeks for the first year are akalade, mountain trout. They are one year old, and from three to four
inches in length. After three years they are large and are then bull trout.
The fourth year they are salmon.
Silverside said 'My feet will wear out if I kick the gravel as hard as that.'
Honne answered 'They will grow so long that you will have to wear them
out anyway. And when you go down to the ocean they will grow out
again.' This satisfied Silversides and he started down the river."
Honne obtained the fourth salmon from yet another crane:
"He went further up the river and cooked the salmon which he carried
with him. He ate it and then took the backbone and said to it 'You will be Squawahee, steelhead salmon. You will always go further up the river
than any of the other salmon, and you will have a longer life than the
The fish asked 'What time of year will I come up the river?' Honne told
him that he would come up in the fall of the year and stay all winter and
that he would spawn in the spring of the year. When the pheasant began
to drum then it would be time for the steelhead to spawn.
Honne started down the river. The first creek he came to he fished. In it
he caught silverside salmon, but no other kind. He told the little creek
that hereafter it must give up the silverside salmon. 'But,' said the Creek
'when the fish come up, will they come only here? If they do I will call for
rain and it will raise the waters so that the salmon can not tell one creek
To which Honne said 'I have told them when and where they are to hatch
and that is the way they must do it.'
Honne went on to another creek and fished. There he caught silversides,
blacksalmon, steelhead and chinook. He was satisfied and went on to
another creek. In that he did not catch anything. He went to the head of
the creek and asked it why it did not give him any of the fish. The creek
answered that it did not like to give up the fish because they would be
killed and eaten.
Honne said he would give the creek another chance so he took a dip net
and fished. After some time he caught a silverside, and he said 'That is
all that will ever be in this creek.' So he continued on. He came to a
slough near the river at Choshed* meaning the star that fell (*Grand
Mound) He sat down by the slough and gazed for a long time in the clear
water. After awhile he noticed a fish swimming in the water. He could
not see what it was and tried to get closer but could not make it out. He
then said to it 'Come up I want to see you.' The fish came up to Honne.
Honne said 'Oh yes I know you now. I had forgotten. You will be the chief
of the fish. Your name is Klahwhi, dog salmon. This is as far as you will
go up the river. You will come up the river quickly and go back quickly.
Your life will be short.' And Honne gave the fish a striped blanket, which
was made of cedar bark and dyed with alder. That is the coat of colors
which the fish still wears."
This ends the legend of how Honne came to earth and created the salmon. If you
would like to read more stories about how Honne made the other fishes and animals,
like Halibut, Elk, and Mink, Katherine Van Winkle Palmer's book is available in the
Washington Room of the State Library in Olympia.