Gamboling at Atlih Legend




In "Notes on the Western Denes. Transactions of the Canadian Institute", Volume 4, Page 79, Mather Morice gives the following legend of the game (Reference, Takull, Stuart Lake, British Columbia):


A young man was so fond of playing atlih that, after he had lost every part of his wearing apparel, he went so far as to gamble away his very wife and children. Disgusted with his conduct, his fellow villagers turned away from him and migrated to another spot of the forest, taking along all their belongings, and carefully extinguishing the fire of every lodge so that he might perish.

Now this happened in winter time. Reduced to this sad fate, and in a state of complete nakedness, the young man searched every fireplace in hope of finding some small bits of burning cinders, but to no purpose. He then took the dry grass on which his fellow villagers had been resting every night and roughly weaved it into some sort of a garment to cover his nakedness.

Yet without fire or food he could not live. So, he went off in despair without snowshoes, expecting death in the midst of his wanderings.

After journeying some time, as he was half frozen and dying of hunger, he suddenly caught sight in the top of the tall spruces of a glimmer as of a far off fire. Groping his way thither, he soon perceived sparks flying out of the two columns of smoke, and cautiously approaching he came upon a large lodge covered with branches of conifers. He peeped through a chink and saw nobody but an old man sitting by one of two large fires burning in the lodge.

Immediately the old man cried out, "Come in, my son in law!" The young man was astonished, inasmuch as he could see nobody outside but himself. "Come in my son in law; what are you doing out in the cold?" came again from the lodge. Where upon the gambler ascertained that it was himself who was thus addressed. Therefore he timidly entered, and, following his host's suggestion, he set to warn himself by one of the fires.

The old man was called He-carries (as with a sleigh) -a-house, because, being no other than Yihta, he nightly carries his house about in the course of his travelings. "You seem very miserable, my son in law; take this up," he said to his guest while putting mantlewise on the young man's shoulders a robe of sewn marmot skins. He next handed him a pair of tanned skin moccasins and ornamental leggings of the same material. He then called out, "My daughter, roast by the fireside something to eat for your husband; he must be hungry." Hearing which, the gambler, who had thought himself alone with Ne-yer-hwolluz, was much surprised to see a beautiful young virgin emerge from one of the corner provision and goods stores and proceed to prepare a repast for him.

Meanwhile the old man was digging a hole in the ashes, whence he brought out a whole black bear cooked under the fire with skin and hair on. Pressing with his fingers the brim of the hole made by the arrow, he took the bear up to his guest's lips, saying, "Such out the grease my son in law." The latter was so exhausted by fatigue that he could drink but a little of the warm liquid, which caused his host to exclaim. "How small bellied my son in law is!" Then the old man went to the second fireplace, likewise dug out therefrom a whole bear, and made his guest drink in the same way with the same result, accompanied by a similar remark.

After they had eaten, the old man showed the gambler to his resting place and cautioned him not to go out during the night. As for himself, he was soon noticed to leave the lodge that and every other night; and as he came back in the morning he invariably seemed to be quite heated and looked as one who had traveled a very great distance.

The gambler lived there happily with his new wife for some months. But his former passion soon revived. As spring came back he would take some alte in an absent minded way and set out to play therewith all alone. Which seeing his father in law said to him "If you feel lonesome here, my son in law, return for awhile to your own folks and gamble with them." Then handing him a set of alte and four tetquh, he added; "When you have won all that is worth winning throw your tatquh up over the roof of the house and come back immediately. Also remember not to speak to your former wife.:

The gambler then made his departure, and was soon again among the people who had abandoned him. He was now a handsome and well dressed young man, and soon finding partners for his game he stripped them of all their belongings, after which he threw his tetquh over the roof of the lodge. He also met his former wife as she was coming from drawing water, and though she entreated him to take her back to wife again he hardened his heart and did not know her.

Yet instead of returning immediately after he had thrown his tetquh over the roof, as he had been directed to do, his passion for atlih betrayed him into playing again, when he lost all he had won. He was thus reduced to his first state of wretched nakedness. He then thought of Ne-yer-hwolluz, of his new wife, and his new home, and attempted to return to them, but he could never find them.

Back to Stick Games