Beaver Steals Fire A Salish Coyote Story by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes


Beaver Steals Fire A Salish Coyote Story by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

A long time ago, fire belonged only to the animals in the land above, not to those on the earth below. Curlew, keeper of the sky world, guarded fire and kept it from the earth. Coyote, however, devised a clever plan to steal fire, aided by Grizzly Bear, Wren, Snake, Frog, Eagle, and Beaver. These brave and resourceful animal beings raided the land above and risked all to steal fire from Curlew. Beaver Steals Fire is an ancient and powerful tale springing from the hearts and experiences of the Salish people of Montana. Steeped in the rich and culturally vital storytelling tradition of the tribe, this tale teaches both respect for fire and awareness of its significance, themes particularly relevant today. This unforgettable version of the story is told by Salish elder Johnny Arlee and beautifully illustrated by tribal artist Sam Sandoval.


A story beautifully told Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story, illustrated by Sam Sandoval, University of Nebraska Press, hardbound, $14.95 At first glance, Beaver Steals Fire seems to be a children's book. Indeed, the lively illustrations by Sam Sandoval would appeal to most young readers. Mr. Sandoval draws well and has created animal characters with personality, no mean feat when you're trying to give human expression to a bird. I would have preferred a bigger palette. Too many shades of brown and yellow for my taste. And, are Western Montana frogs brown? The words of John Arlee, the author, have the pleasant rhythm and subtle repetition of all good storytellers. I could close my eyes and see a family cuddled up to keep warm on a dark winter's night, listening to a favorite tale. Grandpa, tell us about ... . This book retells the Salish version of the gift of fire. As in many other fire myths, fire comes from the sky, and fire is so valuable that it must be stolen. Coyote is voted in to brainstorm the expedition, but Beaver is the real hero. To reach the heavenly fire, the animals fasten a rope to the top of the sky and climb. Grizzly Bear climbed last. Because he was such a greedy person, he carried his lunch with him. Evidently, lunch for a grizzly was no small thing. The rope broke and Grizzly Bear fell back to earth. Fun, I thought. Kids will like this. I liked it, and I'm only an honorary kid. But also included in this picture book is information on ancient Salish and Kootenai fire management. Before the white man, the tribe had a fire setter, evidently an honored and important person, who started controlled fires. This human intervention resulted in healthy forests and fields. Wildfires also burned without interference. Another important cultural tidbit: This Coyote story and others like it should only be told in the dark of winter when the snow is on the ground. After early March, snakes will come get you, or it will snow in summer! I doubt that anyone really believed that, but it was good for a delicious shiver. Winter is a season of deserved rest. With the coming of spring, it's back to work. Beaver Steals Fire is a gift for the whole family, beautifully produced, and very affordable at $14.99. Thanks to the University of Nebraska Press and the Salish and Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee. -- Sharie Clawson Billings Gazette (MT) Beaver Steals Fire. Illus. by Sam Sandoval. 2005 64p. Univ. of Nebraska, $14.95 (0-8032-4323-5). PreS-Gr. 2. A long, long time ago, the only animals who had fire lived in the land above, up in the sky. The animals on earth had no fire. It is very cold, and to keep warm, the Earth animals form a fire-raiding party and appoint Coyote as leader. The animals follow Coyote's instructions, and steal fire from the sky world, bringing it to Earth and passing it from camp to camp. Handsomely illustrated by Salish tribal artist Sandoval, this accessible story credited to confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, incorporates Salish words and is part of a larger fire-education project that focuses on native use of fire as well as principles of fire ecology. A note asks readers to respect the tradition that this story be told or discussed only during winter, when snow is on the ground. A brief guide to written Salish and International Phonetic Alphabet is appended. -- Karen Hutt Booklist The Mythology/Folklore ShelfBeaver Steals Fire Johnny Arlee & Sam Sandoval University of Nebraska Press 233 North 8th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68588-0255 0803243235 $14.95 1-800-755-1105 Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story is a picturebook rendition of a story directly from the cultural tradition of the Salish people of Montana. Retold by Salish elder Johnny Arlee, and wonderfully illustrated in full color by tribal artist Sam Sandoval, Beaver Steals Fire recounts how the animals worked together to obtain fire and help prepare the world for inhabitation by human beings. Beaver Steals Fire is presented with the full support of The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Division of Fire

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Book Info


64 pages


Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
More books by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes


University of Nebraska Press

Publication date

1st January 2008



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