Native American Tales

Ghost Town

Ghost TownGhost Town


Blue Jay had a sister named Io’i that married a ghost. She left the village and went to live in Ghost Town. Blue Jay went to visit his sister after a time. He went to her house and found the whole place shabby. He saw some bones in his sister’s house, but his sister told him that the bones were his brother-in-law. Blue Jay said Io’i was always lying.

She wasn’t lying though. The bones came to life and they were, in fact, Blue Jay’s brother-in-law. The ghosts would come out after a time and do somewhat normal things. Io’i told her brother to go fishing with a boy. They got into a shabby canoe, sometimes the boy was a skeleton and sometimes he looked like a boy. Blue Jay kept catching a bunch of leaves and sticks and threw them back into the river, but the boy would keep the leaves. Blue Jay decided to keep two of the sticks for firewood.

He went back home to his sister and told him how he kept catching leaves and sticks. His sister told them that the leaves were fish and the sticks were salmon. When Blue Jay looked at them again, he saw that she was right. She told him that he could not see as the dead saw.

The next day there was news that a whale had been found. All Blue Jay saw was a bunch of people around a large log peeling off bark. Blue Jay decided to take some of the bark back. Again, he just saw bark, but his sister told him that it was good whale blubber that he had brought back.

Blue Jay played tricks on people. He took their bones and rearranged them and attached them to other people, which they were not pleased with. Io’i told Blue Jay that it was time for him to go home. She gave him five buckets of water, telling him that he would pass burning prairies. She told him that the water must be used on the fourth burning prairie. Blue Jay did not listen. He used his water to put out the first three prairies and had hardly any when he got to the fourth. He was able to put out part of it, but couldn’t put out the rest. He tried to beat it with his robe, but the robe caught fire, and so did Blue Jay. Blue Jay died.

He found himself going back to Ghost Town, but this time as a dead person. There he saw how beautiful everything was. Those shabby canoes weren’t shabby, they were amazing. The houses were beautiful; the people were beautiful. Blue Jay wasn’t finished being annoying though. He went and hung out with the conjurers, who thought it would be a good idea to play a mean trick on Blue Jay. When Blue Jay came back to his sister he was dancing upside down on his head. He had died a second death, his wits taken away from him.


How is it that people can go back and forth between the living and the dead so easily in these tales?


This story has a great message. Just because something is not pleasing to your eye, doesn’t mean it isn’t pleasing to other people. Perception is different for different people. What I think is Fuchsia, may just be plain pink to you. Likewise, I may look at, let’s say a house, and see lots of potential, while all you see is a dump. Sometimes we see things differently depending on what’s going on in our lives.

Blue Jay was not dead, but his sister could see what the dead saw. She saw how beautiful her village was, while Blue Jay, as a living person, could not see what she saw. When she told him what she saw, he could see it. He could see that the leaves were trout and that the sticks were salmon. Sometimes we do need to hear someone else’s vision. We need someone to explain to us what they see when they see a big empty field, or an old piece of furniture, or a dilapidated house. They may see a new house in that empty field, a beautifully restored piece of furniture in that old piece of furniture, or a beautifully restored home in that dilapidated house.

What you see on first glance, may not be what is actually there or what it can be.

Moving on, Blue Jay died a second time because he lost his wits. I think that’s true. I think, in essence, if you do lose your mind you’re essentially dying. You can physically die, you can mentally die, and you can spiritually die, but mental death and spiritual death could be combined. If you lose your mind, you’re essentially losing you. If you can’t remember your name or your life experiences, are you still you? Even if your body is still alive, are you still you? That’s a tough question and it’s a sad question. Most of us would probably agree that if we lost that part of ourselves, while our bodies lived on, that we wouldn’t want to have our bodies live on.

Blue Jay died physically, because he couldn’t follow instructions, which is bad enough. We all have to die, but it’s traumatic for people involved, so it’s no easy task, but he would have been fine. Blue Jay still had his memories and his personality and his ability to think after he died. Good enough, after all, what is life on Earth but a chance to gain experiences? Those things are what made Blue Jay, Blue Jay. He lost those things. He died mentally/spiritually. All that was left was his ghost skeleton, or whatever it is that he left behind. Blue Jay wasn’t in there.

I tend to think that losing the memory/personality of someone is worse than losing them physically.


I kind of feel bad for Blue Jay.

Weigh In

Did Blue Jay deserve what he got?

Would you be sad, as Io’i was, at what happened to Blue Jay?


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