Published on January 3, 2014 by Amy
Everyday Bluejay would talk with a certain girl in the Cowichan village, she was very beautiful, kind, and had a very gentle personality; they would spend all day talking, laughing, and having fun together. Bluejay knew that he was falling in love with her, and she was falling in love with him. The two of them were inseparable; Bluejay really wanted this woman to be his wife.
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Bluejay asked her father for her to be his wife, but her father refused. Her father was one of the great Chiefs of Cowichan people, and neither he nor her Mother favoured Bluejay’s suit. Both her parents said to her, “Don’t take him! He’s no good at all; he comes from a very poor family. We want you to find a husband from a rich family”.
Not long after this the girl fell sick, and though many of the best Indian Medicine men tried to cure her none of them could do anything, and she died. Her people mourned for her and placed her body on a scaffolding. Bluejay was very respected as a traditional Medicine man and though no one came to him, when he heard that the girl had died, he felt so sad inside that he was willing to give half of his soul in exchange to bring her back to life.
After five days had passed, he said, “I will go and see what I can do for her.” So he came and saw where she lay on the scaffolding, wrapped in blankets, and mats, and with great quantities of blankets and goods of all sorts around the grave, it clearly showed that her father was indeed a very rich man.
At night, Bluejay came to the grave and sang a whisper song, and called to the girl, “Get up! Get up!” He heard the body move slightly on the scaffolding and then he knew he could bring her back, and he was so happy inside. He took off the blankets and mats in which the body was wrapped and pulled her out.
He carried her to his canoe and started up the river. Whenever he came to a rapid, he stop and sang in a “whisper song” his tam’mut (wishing/craving for something you cannot get), he would wash her body with cedar branches, and then move on up-stream.
By the time he had done this the third time, the smell of death was hardly there at all. At the fourth rapid the girl began to get warm. When they reached the fifth rapid Bluejay shook the canoe and said to the girl, “Get up! Get up! We are almost home.” And the girl sat up. Then Bluejay fixed her eyes and her breath and told her to stand up and walk, and she did so.
“Well, are you awake now? Do you know me?” asked Bluejay. “As soon as we pass these rapids we shall be at my house. I am your husband now for half of my life is inside of you, so please wife don’t ever try to leave me, for if you do you will die, and I will be unable to bring you back, and what I have sacrificed for you will all be for nothing”.
The girl did not know that she had been dead; she thought she had been asleep. When they reached Bluejay’s house the girl was glad to get there, for she was tired. And Bluejay took her in and said, “Now, if your father or mother come to take you away, please don’t go with them, for your soul is connect to mine, and you will surely die if you leave”.
Not long after someone did happen in at Bluejay’s house, and when he saw her he wondered and asked if Bluejay had brought her to life. Bluejay said he had. The girl heard then for the first time that she had been dead and asked Bluejay if it were true, and he answered, “Yes, I loved you so much that I took you from the grave. But unfortunately, for you to remain living you must stay close to me”.
When the news reached her home the girl’s father would not believe it until he went to the grave and saw that it had been disturbed and that the body was gone. Then the people gathered and talked it all over and said, “Let us go to Bluejay’s and get her back.” So they went up to Bluejay’s house and found the girl in bed. Her father said to her, “Come, my daughter, get up and come with us.” Bluejay sat still and never said a word. The girl got up and asked her father, “Did I really die?” “Yes,” he told her, “and now I want you to come back and live with me”.
“But, Bluejay is my husband and I am his wife,” said the girl, and if I go back with you I shall die again.” “Never mind,” replied her father, “come with me.” All this time Bluejay never said a word. So they started for the canoes, the girl leading the way out of the house while Bluejay followed last. As they pushed off, the girl tried to tell her father that she loved Bluejay, and how happy he made her feel, and that he treated her really well. But the father said he was not good enough for her that he was to poor. Bluejay’s feelings were so hurt, he called after her; “Now be sure you get a good man this time, for your father says I am of no use to your family”.
When they got the girl home, they gave her food, but she could not eat. They put her in her old bed and she immediately went to sleep. Next morning her mother called her to get up and wash and get something to eat but the girl did not answer, and when they went over to her they saw that she was dead. Then her family felt worse than ever and wept and mourned. Some of the people were angry at the way her father had acted, and told him he ought to go up and see Bluejay again and get him to cure her.
So he sent a message to Bluejay saying, “We want you to come and doctor my daughter, for she is dead again, and this time if you cure her you can have her for your wife.” But Bluejay said to the messengers, “No. I have sacrificed all that I can. Tell them to get her a good man for I am no good, and I won’t go”.
The messengers went back and told the girl’ s father what Bluejay had said, and someone proposed, “Let’s offer lots of blankets and the girl too, if he will cure her.” So they went up again with lots of blankets. But Bluejay said,
“No, I won’t cure her again, and I’m not interested in your material possessions; life isn’t about material riches, it’s about people. Keep your blankets”.
After that, Bluejay called a gathering for all the medicine men of all the Coast Salish villages, and when they arrived, Bluejay stood up, and he made an announcement that if any medicine man hereafter should shorten their life, and sacrifice their soul as he did, that the people might act the same way. Bluejay then spoke words, in a whisper song from a language long forgotten; after this, the Coast Salish medicine men can doctor the sick, but not the dead. If people are once dead they shall remain so forever, and then Bluejay flew away.
To this day, the Bluejay is very noisy and aggressive as can be, but Bluejays are very secretive during the nesting season, and around the nest the Bluejay abandons its loud calls, and communicates with its mate in a very beautiful Salish “whisper song”.