Ktunaxa Legends

May 15th, 1998 | By | Category: 9-4: Pre- K-12 Education, Media Reviews

Compiled and translated by the Kootenai Culture Committee of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
SKC Press, Pablo, MT
Second edition, 1997, 380 pp.

Review by Woody Kipp    

KTUNAXA LEGENDS GRAPHICIf you haven’t introduced your children to Coyote, this is a good time to make the acquaintance. A new book of Coyote stories from the Kootenai people, profusely illustrated with drawings on every page, shows Coyote in myriad guises as trickster and tricked, as hero and fool, in sadness and mad laughter.

In addition to 49 stories of Coyote as he makes his way through the pitfalls of the earth, this handsome volume gives a brief history of the Kootenai people of Montana, including a map showing their historic location as well as the tribes with which they share a common heritage. The Montana Kootenai presently live on the edge of Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes, in western Montana. The Mission mountains tower 12,000 feet above Flathead Lake; surely, this is Coyote country. One can picture Coyote sitting on the snow-covered peaks looking down at his reflection in the waters of the lake, thinking how handsome he looks, vainly wondering what beautiful woman is yearning for him to come to her lodge.

Or picture him in one of his better moments–when Coyote brought the Four Seasons to the Kootenai people; or how he tricked himself into mischief time and again. We, who are the adult children, know, of course, that Coyote’s antics are aspects of human behavior. Like the European Aesop’s Fables, each Coyote story is a tale of caution, warning us against our own excesses, telling us to beware; sometimes the world is not quite the way it appears.

The drawings, some of which take up most of a page, are well rendered, and their strong visual import  will give smaller children a fuller understanding of the story. This is a good book. With the world seemingly spinning out of control, maybe a few adults who are running the institutions of society would do well to take these tales of moral integrity to heart.

Copies of Ktunaxa Legends are available for $21.00 per copy plus $2.00 shipping from SKC Press, Box 117, Pablo, MT 59855.

Woody Kipp (Sun Chief) of the Pikuni Blackfoot Nation of Montana presently teaches Native History/Contemporary Issues and Native American Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a graduate of the University of Montana with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing.


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