Speckled Fish People: Turtle and Eagle Race

Change of Heart by Carmen Peone

Storytelling was not only for entertainment, but was a way to teach the youth of the Sinixt or Arrow Lakes People of northeast Washington. This was a way of trudging through the long winter months.
This is the traditional story as it was told by Spupaleena to Elizabeth in my first young adult book: Change of Heart.

One afternoon, Spupaleena giggled. “I have a good story to share today.” Her face lit up like a full moon on a cloudless night. Elizabeth smiled; she loved to see Spupaleena so excited. Spupaleena enjoyed sharing her native stories with her friend.

“Oh, tell me.”

“Okay, this story is about Eagle and Turtle.”

Elizabeth put her mending on the table and poured herself and the storyteller a cup of tea. “I’m listening,” she said eagerly.

“Eagle was the fastest animal around; no one would race him. One night, a dream came to Turtle telling him that he must race Eagle to set the animal people free.”

“That’s your people right?”

“Kewa.” Spupaleena nodded. “So, Muskrat told Turtle that there was no way he could beat Eagle, but Turtle was set to race him the next day.” Spupaleena rubbed her hands together in anticipation. “The next morning, Muskrat took Turtle to Eagle’s camp. Eagle said they would race the next day and that if Turtle won, the animal people would be set free. If he won, Turtle would be his.” Spupaleena giggled.

“What happened next?” Elizabeth laughed. The tale was a nice change.

“Well, no one, not the animal people nor the other animals thought that Turtle could win. They all laughed at him.”

“Aw, poor Turtle.”

“Kewa, the next morning, the two met and Eagle asked where they were to race. Turtle announced that he wanted Eagle to pick him up and carry him into the air.”

Elizabeth gasped.

“I know!” Spupaleena’s face shone with excitement. “So Eagle took Turtle up, he was scared.”

“Me too,” Elizabeth agreed.

“So Turtle yelled let go, and he did.” Spupaleena paused.

“What happened next?”

“Turtle dropped fast. Eagle tried to catch him but couldn’t. All the animals and animal people watched in amazement. Turtle won!” Spupaleena clapped her hands like a small child.

“Turtle won?”

“Kewa, he won. He claimed himself as chief and let the people go.”

“Oh, I love your story,” said Elizabeth. “There’s always a lesson in your tales. I just love them!”

“Kewa, our stories are meant to teach. We tell them all winter when we’re inside. It’s nice to share them when baskets are being made and women are beading and sewing.”

Did you like this story? What is the lesson?

Haiku poem: Roots and Berries

Turtle runs a race
They needed to be set free
Oh, outsmart the enemy

Lakes Language as taught to me by Elder Marguerite Ensminger as seen in The Heart Trilogy by Carmen Peone.

Inpukmeelps Bald Eagle
In- puck- meal-ps

Arrsequa Turtle
Ar (roll the r’s) – sek- wa

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