Native American Tales

Salt Woman is Refused Food

Salt Woman is Refused FoodSalt Woman is Refused Food


Salt Woman was an old woman, but she had a grandson. They were very poor. They went to Cochiti and asked for food, but no one gave them any. They were all too busy cooking for a big feast and at the time they didn’t use salt.

Outside of the pueblo, they came across some children playing and Salt Woman turned them into Chapparal jays because no one in the town had fed her.

She and her grandson went to another place and they were given food. Salt Woman gave the people some of her flesh to put on their food. She told them that if they went south they would find her and could take salt to season their food. She went to the salt lake.


Salt doesn’t magically appear at your house. I know it’s only like a dollar a container, but it’s really more of a big deal than you would think. Salt comes from the ocean or natural salt deposits. It’s a mineral. Sometimes there would be places, like the salt lake, where there would be natural salt deposits on the surface of the Earth. People would travel for some distance to gather salt and take back to season their food.

Salt isn’t only for cooking. Salt was also used as a preservative and a cleaner, depending on who you’re talking to. Salt also has medicinal properties. It’s such a big deal. The natives would often make special rituals to go and gather salt. Yes, we’re talking about that same substance that comes in the little blue container.


This is mainly an origin story of how we got salt, but it’s also a story about helping those in need. The Salt Woman was very poor and she needed to feed her grandson, but the people of Cochitti did not give anything to her. They were cooking for a great feast; they had food; they could have spared some. When they did not, Salt Woman turned some of their children into birds.

There’s a sort of saying that goes around in the world of Christian religion, you should be nice to everyone and give where you can because you never know who could be an angel in disguise. Nobody knew this woman had the power to turn their children into birds. They thought she was an old beggar woman, but does that really make any difference? Why not give her some food? Does it matter whether or not she’s an old beggar woman or if she’s Salt Woman? She was still hungry and she still needed food. If someone comes up to you and asks for food, does it really matter if that person is in fact an old drunk bum or if they were somehow a supernatural being in disguise? Need is need and need doesn’t really discriminate. If we have the means to satisfy a need, why not do it?


I kind of like Salt Woman.

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Would you have given Salt Woman food?

Do you think we can always give no matter who we’re giving to?


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