Bill Yallup Jr: Salmon “Show You What It Means to Keep Your Word”

In this excerpt, Bill Yallup describes talks about Spilyay (Coyote) and agreements between humans and salmon.

Bio: Chief William Yallup Jr. is a respected elder and river chief. His father is Chief William Yallup, Sr. and he is a direct descendant of treaty signer Wish-Och-Kmpits, and can trace relations to the chiefs Kamiakin and Skloom who were present for the treaty signing. Bill Yallup Jr is a keeper of oral history related to the treaties and strong advocate for treaty related rights.


When the salmon left, when the lake gave out from the mountains fighting and the water drained out — and the salmon left with it. The people got Spilyay to come and take five people and go look for the salmon. They went through this whole process, enduring all this suffering and loss and everything. And help from others to find the salmon. And the salmon asked them to make an agreement, that they’d come back. Spilyay said the people need you, you have to come back. We’ll come back, because it’s a great and wonderful thing to be needed and loved. We all want to be needed and loved.  Spilyay told the salmon that the people here needed them and loved them, so they agreed to come back — if they’re treated with honor and respect and used in a good way, they will always come back. It’s up to us to keep that word. The salmon always do. They keep struggling, fighting to come back. No matter what we do to destroy their environment, their habitat. They keep struggling to come back and keep their word. They die out there on the river because the waters too hot, but they’re trying to keep their word. We have to keep ours.

The salmon will show you want it means to keep your word, every season they come back. You have people out there running around, there’s not an instance of honesty and sincerity and people actually keeping their word anymore. Those days are gone. Maybe they never happened. You go down to the river and you see it happening every year. How is that not sacred? People see it but they don’t understand it. We write a treaty, we make an agreement and that agreement gets broken. We didn’t keep our word, so what? Those days are gone, they’re passed, who cares? You go down to the river and you see the word being kept every year. Hey, wait a minute, you’re telling me those agreements are gone, are passed, we move on…maybe what you’re telling me it’s your time to pass and time for you to move on. I see the word being kept, between the people, Spilyay and the salmon, that word is being kept. And it’s up to us to keep that word to fulfill our part of the agreement.

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