Tony Johnson: The Reality Behind “Myths”

Tony Johnson explains how traditional stories tell of reality and are more than “myths.”

Bio: Tony Johnson is the tribal chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation, as well as the chair of the tribal cultural committee. He is also the Cultural Education Director for the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe.


Eh-káh-nam is a Chinook word. It means myth I guess, they translated it as “myth”. But really I think it’s–I don’t like that word myth, really. Because myth implies that maybe it’s not real. And we can prove their real because of the things on the ground. One of my favorite things with these stories is when you see that science really backs it up.

So we have a story of why Grizzly can’t run downhill, right? But this is real because the only way you could ever outrun a grizzly bear is going down a hill. But you can never run uphill away from a bear, you can’t run on the ground from it, but when it’s going downhill, that’s the only time you might have an advantage. It’s in a myth. It tells us that.

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