Deadman’s Island: A Chinook Legend

Chinook – Deadman’s Island

It is dusk on the Lost Lagoon,
And we two dreaming the dusk away,
Beneath the drift of a twilight gray-Beneath the drowse of an ending day
And the curve of a golden moon.
It is dark in the Lost Lagoon,
And gone are the depths of haunting blue,
The grouping gulls, and the old canoe,
The singing firs, and the dusk and — you,
And gone is the golden moon.

Art by Albert Bierstadt.

Art by Albert Bierstadt.

O! lure of the Lost Lagoon-I dream tonight that my paddle blurs The purple shade where the seaweed stirs-I hear the call of the singing firs In the hush of the golden moon.

FOR many minutes we stood silently, leaning on the western rail of the bridge as we watched the sun set across that beautiful little basin of water known as Coal Harbor. I have always resented that jarring, unattractive name, for years ago, when I first plied paddle across the gunwale of a light little canoe that idled above its margin, I named the sheltered little cove the Lost Lagoon. This was just to please my own fancy, for as that perfect summer month drifted on, the ever-restless tides left the harbor devoid of water at my favorite canoeing hour, and my pet idling place was lost for many days-hence my fancy to call it the Lost Lagoon. But the chief, Indian-like, immediately adopted the name, at least when he spoke of the place to me, and as we watched the sun slip behind the rim of firs, he expressed the wish that his dugout were here instead of lying beached at the farther side of the park.

“If canoe was here, you and I we paddle close to shores all ’round your Lost Lagoon: we make track just like half moon. Then we paddle under this bridge, and go channel between Deadman’s Island and park. Then ’round where cannon speak time at nine o’clock. Then ‘cross Inlet to Indian side of Narrows.”

Unknown photo from 1909.

Unknown photo from 1909.

I turned to look eastward, following in fancy the course he had sketched; the waters were still as the footstep of the oncoming twilight, and, floating in a pool of soft purple, Deadman’s Island rested like a large circle of candle moss. “Have you ever been on it?” he asked as he caught my gaze centering on the irregular outline of the island pines.

Island of the Dead (Wishram) Edward S. Curtis photo.

Island of the Dead (Wishram) Edward S. Curtis photo.

“I have prowled the length and depth of it,” I told him. “Climbed over every rock on its shores, crept under every tangled growth of its interior, explored its overgrown trails, and more than once nearly got lost in its very heart.” “Yes,” he half laughed, “it pretty wild; not much good for anything.” “People seem to think it valuable,” I said. “There is a lot of litigation — of fighting going on now about it.”

“Oh! that the way always,” he said as though speaking of a long accepted fact. “Always fight over that place. Hundreds of years ago they fight about it; Indian people; they say hundreds of years to come everybody will still fight — never be settled what that place is, who it belong to, who has right to it. No, never settle. Deadman’s Island always mean fight for someone.”

“So the Indians fought amongst themselves about it?” I remarked, seemingly without guile, although my ears tingled for the legend I knew was coming. “Fought like lynx at close quarters,” he answered. “Fought, killed each other, until the island ran with blood redder than that sunset, and the sea water about it was stained flame color — it was then, my people say, that the scarlet fire-flower was first seen growing along this coast.”

“It is a beautiful color — the fire-flower,” I said.

“It should be fine color, for it was born and grew from the hearts of fine tribes-people-very fine people,” he emphasized.

We crossed to the eastern rail of the bridge, and stood watching the deep shadows that gathered slowly and silently about the island; I have seldom looked upon anything more peaceful.

The chief sighed. “We have no such men now, no fighters like those men, no hearts, no courage like theirs. But I tell you the story; you understand it then. Now all peace; tonight all good Tillicum’s; even dead man’s spirit does not fight now, but long time after it happen those spirits fought.”

“And the legend?” I ventured.

“Oh! yes,” he replied, as if suddenly returning to the present from out a far country in the realm of time. “Indian people, they call it the ‘Legend of the Island of Dead Men.’

“There was war everywhere. Fierce tribes from the northern coast, savage tribes from the south all met here and battled and raided, burned and captured, tortured and killed their enemies. The forests smoked with camp fires, the Narrows were choked with war canoes, and the Sagalie Tyee — He who is a man of peace — turned His face away from His Indian children. About this island there was dispute and contention. The medicine men from the North claimed it as their chanting ground. The medicine men from the South laid equal claim to it. Each wanted it as the stronghold of their witchcraft, their magic. Great bands of these medicine men met on the small space, using every sorcery in their power to drive their opponents away. The witch doctors of the North made their camp on the northern rim of the island; those from the South settled along the southern edge, looking towards what is now the great city of Vancouver. Both factions danced, chanted, burned their magic powders, built their magic fires, beat their magic rattles, but neither would give way, yet neither conquered. About them, on the waters, on the mainland’s, raged the warfare of their respective tribes — the Sagalie Tyee had forgotten His Indian children.

“After many months, the warriors on both sides weakened. They said the incantations of the rival medicine men were bewitching them, were making their hearts like children’s, and their arms nerveless as women’s. So friend and foe arose as one man and drove the medicine men from the island, hounded them down the Inlet, herded them through the Narrows and banished them out to sea, where they took refuge on one of the outer islands of the gulf. Then the tribes once more fell upon each other in battle.

“The warrior blood of the North will always conquer. They are the stronger, bolder, more alert, more keen. The snows and the ice of their country make swifter pulse than the sleepy suns of the South can awake in a man; their muscles are of sterner stuff, their endurance greater. Yes, the northern tribes will always be victors.* But the craft and the strategy of the southern tribes are hard things to battle against. While those of the North followed the medicine men farther out to sea to make sure of their banishment, those from the South returned under cover of night and seized the women and children and the old, enfeebled men in their enemy’s camp, transported them all to the Island of Dead Men, and there held them as captives. Their war canoes circled the island like a fortification, through which drifted the sobs of the imprisoned women, the mutterings of the aged men, the wail of little children.

“Again and again the men of the North assailed that circle of canoes, and again and again were repulsed. The air was thick with poisoned arrows, the water stained with blood. But day by day the circle of southern canoes grew thinner and thinner; the northern arrows were telling and truer of aim. Canoes drifted everywhere, empty, or worse still, manned only by dead men. The pick of the southern warriors had already fallen, when their greatest Tyee mounted a large rock on the eastern shore. Brave and unmindful of a thousand weapons aimed at his heart, he uplifted his hand, palm outward — the signal for conference.

Instantly every northern arrow was lowered, and every northern ear listened for his words.

“‘Oh! men of the upper coast,’ he said, ‘you are more numerous than we are; your tribe is larger; your endurance greater. We are growing hungry, we are growing less in numbers. Our captives — your women and children and old men — have lessened, too, our stores of food. If you refuse our terms we will yet fight to the finish. Tomorrow we will kill all our captives before your eyes, for we can feed them no longer, or you can have your wives, your mothers, your fathers, your children, by giving us for each and every one of them one of your best and bravest young warriors, who will consent to suffer death in their stead. Speak! You have your choice.’

“In the northern canoes scores and scores of young warriors leapt to their feet. The air was filled with glad cries, with exultant shouts. The whole world seemed to ring with the voices of those young men who called loudly, with glorious courage:

“‘Take me, but give me back my old father.’
“‘Take me, but spare to my tribe my little sister.’
“‘Take me, but release my wife and boy baby.’

“So the compact was made. Two hundred heroic, magnificent young men paddled up to the island, broke through the fortifying circle of canoes and stepped ashore. They flaunted their eagle plumes with the spirit and boldness of young gods. Their shoulders were erect, their step was firm, their hearts strong. Into their canoes they crowded the two hundred captives. Once more their women sobbed, their old men muttered, their children wailed, but those young copper-colored gods never flinched, never faltered. Their weak and their feeble were saved. What mattered to them such a little thing as death?

“The released captives were quickly surrounded by their own people, but the flower of their splendid nation was in the hands of their enemies, those valorous young men who thought so little of life that they willingly, gladly laid it down to serve and to save those they loved and cared for. Amongst them were war-tried warriors who had fought fifty battles, and boys not yet full grown, who were drawing a bow string for the first time, but their hearts, their courage, their self-sacrifice were as one.

“Out before a long file of southern warriors they stood. Their chins uplifted, their eyes defiant, their breasts bared. Each leaned forward and laid his weapons at his feet, then stood erect, with empty hands, and laughed forth their challenge to death. A thousand arrows ripped the air, two hundred gallant northern throats flung forth a death cry exultant, triumphant as conquering kings — then two hundred fearless northern hearts ceased to beat.

“But in the morning the southern tribes found the spot where they fell peopled with flaming fire-flowers. Dread terror seized upon them. They abandoned the island, and when night again shrouded them they manned their canoes and noiselessly slipped through the Narrows, turned their bows southward and this coast line knew them no more.”

“What glorious men,” I half whispered as the chief concluded the strange legend.

“Yes, men!” he echoed. “The white people call it Deadman’s Island. That is their way; but we of the Squamish call it The Island of Dead Men.”

The clustering pines and the outlines of the island’s margin were now dusky and indistinct. Peace, peace lay over the waters, and the purple of the summer twilight had turned to gray, but I knew that in the depths of the undergrowth on Deadman’s Island there blossomed a flower of flaming beauty; its colors were veiled in the coming nightfall, but somewhere down in the sanctuary of its petals pulsed the heart’s blood of many and valiant men.

Chinook Texts by Franz Boas. [1894] (U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, no 20.)

Charles Lindbergh and the Bridge of the Gods

September 1927, following Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight in May, Colonel

A post--card from the event.

Artist: © Paul A. Lanquist (“PAL”)

Lindbergh himself flew up the gorge from Portland in his famous Spirit of St. Louis, passing low over the new Bridge of the Gods, banked his plane and in a dramatic show of barnstorming, flew under the bridge and headed back to Swan Island.

How Coyote Helped The People- Columbia Basin Tribes

This is a composite of many tales related by many tribes that once lived along the Columbia River and its tributaries. For the sake of this story, the many traditions have been weaved together. No one tribe told about all these deeds of Coyote.

Artist unknown

Artist unknown

The part about Lake Chelan and the waterfall was told by Billy Curlew, at that time he was the present titular chief of the Moses-Columbia band of Indians, to the Forest Supervisor at the agency at Nespelem, with lack Jack Weipe as interpreter.

After Old-One had made the earth and the ancient animal people, he sent Coyote among them, because they were very ignorant and were having a hard time. Coyote was told to kill the evil beings who preyed upon them and to teach them the best way of doing things.

Bonneville Dam

Bonneville Dam

First he broke down the dam which five Beaver women bad built in the lower Columbia.”It is not right,” he said to them, “for you to keep the salmon penned up here. The people farther up the river are hungry.”

Then he changed the Beaver women into sandpipers. “You shall forevermore be sandpipers,” he said. “You shall always run by the water’s edge. You shall never again have control over salmon.”

By this time so many salmon had come up from the mouth of Big River that the water was dark with them. Coyote walked along the bank of the river, and the salmon followed him in the water. At all the villages, the animal people were glad to see him and the fish he brought. Their hunger was over.

map of  white salmon area 1887

map of white salmon area 1887

When he came to the Little White Salmon River, he stopped and taught the people how to make a fish trap. He twisted young twigs of hazel brush and hung the trap in the river. Then he showed the people how to dry fish and how to store it for winter use.When he came to the bigger White Salmon River, he showed the people how to spear salmon. He made a spear from the inside bark of a white fir tree and caught the salmon with the pointed end of the spear.

“This is how you should do it,” said Coyote.

Wishram Grandmother preparing Salmon. Edward S. Curtis photo.

Wishram Grandmother preparing Salmon. Edward S. Curtis photo.

Wherever he stopped, he showed the people how to cook fish. They had always eaten it raw. He showed them how to broil salmon by holding it over the fire on sticks. And he showed them how to cook it in a pothole. Along Big River, to this day, there is a round-bottomed hole in the rocks, a hole that people call Coyote’s Kettle. Coyote put salmon in that hole, poured a little water over it, dropped hot stones into the pothole, and covered everything with green grass to hold the steam. Thus the salmon was steamed until it was tender.”This is how you should do it,” Coyote told the people.

PEO001-00013

Preparing salmon for the First Salmon Ceremony. Stock image

Then he and the people had a big feast – a feast of salmon cooked in the proper way, the way he explained to them. Coyote said to the animal people along Big River and along all the streams which flow into it, “Every spring the salmon will come up the river to lay their eggs. Every spring you must have a big feast like this to celebrate the coming of the salmon. Then you will thank the salmon spirits for guiding the fish up the streams to you, and your Salmon Chief will pray to those spirits to fill your fish traps. During the five days of the feast, you must not cut the salmon with a knife, and you must cook it only by roasting it over a fire. If you do as I tell you, you will always have plenty of salmon to catch and to dry for winter.”

Yakama River.

Yakama River.

Then Coyote traveled farther up the river, and the salmon followed him. Often he came to a smaller stream flowing into Big River. Because the people along the Yakima and Wenatchee rivers treated him kindly, he sent the fish up their rivers and promised them that every spring the salmon would return. Where he was treated very kindly, he made the river narrow in one spot. He would make the two banks of a river almost meet, so that there would be a good place for catching salmon.When he came to the animal people along the Chelan River, he said to them, “I will send many salmon up your river if you will give me a nice young girl for my wife.”

Lake Chelan.

Lake Chelan.

But the Chelan people refused. They thought it was not proper for a young girl to marry anyone as old as Coyote. So Coyote angrily blocked up the canyon of Chelan River with huge rocks and thus made a waterfall. The water dammed up behind the rocks and formed Lake Chelan. The salmon could never get past the waterfall. That is why there are no salmon in Lake Chelan to this day.

Artist rendering of Spokane Falls, 1888 from the book 'The Great Northwest.'

Artist rendering of Spokane Falls, 1888

Coyote made a waterfall in the Okanogan River because the girls there refused to marry him. He made a waterfall in the Spokane River because the chief along the upper river would not let him marry any girl among his people. Coyote said to the chiefs along the Okanogan and the Spokane “I will make falls here. I will make falls so that the salmon cannot get past them, to your people farther up the river.”As Coyote traveled up the rivers, he gave names to the streams and the mountains. He killed monsters that were destroying the animal people. He killed the Ice People and defeated Blizzard, so that the winters would not be so cold.

Pre-dammed Cascades. 1912(?) author unknown.

Pre-dammed Cascades. 1912(?) author unknown.

He planted trees, so that when the new people, the Indians, should come, they could burn wood and keep themselves warm. He planted huckleberries in the mountains. “People must climb to get these berries,” he said. “It will not be good for them to get all food easily. They will become lazy.” He planted strawberries and service berry bushes. He planted camas, kouse, and other roots, so that there would be all kinds of food for the new people. After the new people, the Indians, came, he showed them how to make fire by twirling sticks between their hands. He made a long knife to cut with, and an ax to chop with. He peeled bark off a cedar tree and made a cedar-bark canoe. “This is how you should do it,” he said.

Arrow and spear collection -columbia river basin.

Arrow and spear collection -columbia river basin.

He taught them how to make bows and arrows from young arrowwood, and how to use the weapons. He made dip nets from maple and willow twigs, and showed the Indians how to catch salmon with them. He taught them how to make fishing platforms near the falls of Big River and how to spear salmon from these platforms. He made a basket trap also for catching fish. Coyote taught the Indians that salmon must always be kept clean. “if you do not keep them clean after you have caught them,” Coyote said, “they will be ashamed and not come up the river any more.

Salmon offering plate.

Salmon offering plate.

“And you must never cook any more than you can eat. If you cook three salmon when you are able to eat only half of one, the salmon will be ashamed and will refuse to enter your river.”

Many times he traveled up and down Big River and its branch rivers, teaching the people many useful things. Almost everything the Indians knew, Coyote taught them. He did many good things, but he did many wicked things also.

Indians say that when Coyote had done all the good things he could do, he was given a place in the sky. Other Indians say that he was punished for the bad things he had done.

Hail Coyote! Unknown photographer.

Hail Coyote! Unknown photographer.

He climbed to the sky on a rope. He climbed all one summer and all one winter. Then he fell down for a long, long time. When he struck the ground, he was mashed flat.

Lying there, he heard a voice say, “You shall always be a wanderer and shall forever howl and cry for your sins.”

That is why coyotes howl and cry at night. That is why they wander hungry and friendless over the earth.

*This story taken from the book Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest, Ella E. Clark, University of California Press, 1953.

The Impact of the Bonneville Dam on Native American Culture

The impact of the Bonneville Dam on Native American Culture
(Re-Printed from: http://www2.kenyon.edu/projects/Dams/bsc02yogg.html)

For the Native American tribes living in the Columbia River Basin, salmon are an integral part of their lives, serving as a symbol of their prosperity, their culture and their heritage. There are more than fourteen different tribes represented in the area, including the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama tribes. While they are separate tribes, with differing cultures and traditions, their reliance on salmon to maintain their way of life is a common bond.

Auntie Virginia Miller's Canoe. Edward S. Curtis photo

Auntie Virginia Miller’s Canoe. Edward S. Curtis photo

Life Before the Dam

Economically, salmon were a large part of the culture of most of the tribes along the Columbia River. Before the treaty of 1855, many tribes had sucessful fishing economies. They traded salmon in order to obtain goods from other regions of the country. The salmon that were necessary to sustain their bodies and provide for their economic needs were available to them and therefore, the tribes were wealthy and self-sufficient. The economic benefits of the salmon were tremendously important for the welfare and maintenance of their communities, representing one of many significant benefits of salmon to their lives.

Year after year and generation after generation, the salmon returned every fall to spawn in the river. With this, a transfer of traditional knowledge and values occured. They passed on knowledge of fishing tecniques, as well as philosopies such as a respect for all forms of life. The return of Salmon to the river and subsequent transfer of knowledge symbolized to the natives that there had been a continuation of all life and assured them that their culture, tradition and spirituality had been upheld. It also served to reinforce their sense of place. When the salmon returned the tribes would gather down at the river to collect the salmon they needed to sustain them for the year. During the spring and summer they would head up to the hills to collect roots and berries to supplement their diet. People have mistaken these tribes to be nomads who wandered aimlessly in search of food and resources, but this is a misconception. These tribes followed the seasons, utilizing their resources in a circular pattern. The salmon were a fundamental component of their seasonal migration and their way of life.

Cowlitz First Salmon Ceremony, Photo Unknown

Cowlitz First Salmon Ceremony, Photo Unknown

Because the salmon played such an important role in their way of life, the salmon were incorporated into their spirituality and religious practices as well. The tribes felt that their souls were connected to the natural world and all of its inhabitants, including the salmon. Because of this “over a dozen longhouses and churches on reservations and ceded areas depend on salmon for their religious services” (http://www.critfc.org/text/IMPORT.HTM). The return of the salmon each year was cause for celebration. One of the ceremonies used in celebration of the salmon was the First Food Feast. In this celebration they would pray, sing and dance before eating a traditional meal of salmon, deer or elk, roots and berries. Antone Minthorn of the Umatilla tribe explained the importance of this ceremony…

The importance of the first salmon ceremony has to do with the celebration of life, of the salmon as subsistence, meaning that the Indians depend upon the salmon for their living. And the annual celebration is just that – it’s an appreciation that the salmon are coming back. It is again the natural law; the cycle of life.

(www.critfc.org/text/CERMON.HTM)

A Clash of Cultures

The native tribes to the land surrounding the Columbia, and the white settlers that arrived in the early to mid 1800′s had very different philosophies concerning their respective relationships with the land.

Fish Wheels near North Bonneville. Photo unknown

Fish Wheels near North Bonneville. Photo unknown

In general the white settlers displayed a disregard for the limits of their resources and brought with them the concepts of ownership and property. As a result of this, the non-Indian economy thrived at the expense of the Native Americans, whose fishing economy was driven almost to extinction. The native way of life depended on respecting the earths limits. They saw themselves as spiritually connected to the land, the animals, and its incredible abundance of resources, and they knew that by hurting the land they were hurting themselves. They understood the importance of sustainability, realizing that even if the effects of exploitation were not immediately apparent, they would be felt eventually, hindering the lives of the generations to come. This fostered a duty to protect the salmon. Bill Frank Jr. stated:

Survival of the salmon has always meant more than just food for the Indian people. Indians have long recognized that if they are to survive and if their children’s children are to survive, it will be because the salmon survives. It is their legacy.

(biology.uoregon.edu/classes/bi130/webprojects/35/tedstrong.html)

Construction of Bonneville dam, directly on top of my Ancestors old Village site.

Construction of Bonneville dam, directly on top of my Ancestors old Village site.

As the salmon population declined and many of their traditional fishing sites were flooded as a result of the constriction of the Bonneville Dam and other dams along the Columbia River, the culture, tradition and spirituality of these tribes have been put in danger. The native philosophies were essential in managing the resource of salmon, yet they were powerless in enforcing their methods because their ideas were seen as inferior. Allen V. Pinkham Sr. of the Nez Perce tribe who among other involvements in Native American politics spent nine years on the Nez Perce Tribal Council and was chairman of the Columbia River Tribal Fish Commission, explained:

We utilized the salmon resource, we didn’t deplete it. We utilized what was necessary to sustain our lifestyle and life ways, both spiritually and physically. Nobody does that anymore. Non-natives see only the salmon as a commodity that gets bought and sold. Not thinking about the survivability of that salmon as a species.

(Pinkham, 1996)

Present Day

Old unknown photo of a dip-netter.

Old unknown photo of a dip-netter.

Today the Native Americans struggle to maintain their fishing economy. A recent article by Ellen Morris Bishop in the Columbian describes the hapless state of Native American commercial fishing as follows:

In the next month, Indians from Eastern Washington and Oregon will balance on flimsy platforms above the river’s current and plunge nets into the rolling green water. Others will challenge the Columbia in battered Boston Whaler boats, setting out gill nets in gathering darkness and harvesting their catch at dawn. They fish at sites their ancestors used, sites registered with the tribe, sacred ground.

(Bishop, August 27, 1998)

Les Brown photo. ©2012

Les Brown photo. ©2012

A decade ago there were nearly 1,100 native fishermen, while today they number fewer than 500. This year, in accordance with Native American treaty rights to half of all fish allocated for commercial harvest, the Upper Columbia River tribes are allowed to catch a total of 51,534 fall chinook and 16,720 steel head. It is anticipated that 2,400 will be wild steel head, but most of the fish will be from hatcheries. This year’s catch is up from last year’s 40,200 but far less than the 79,000 Indians caught commercially in 1990.

According to a 1995 article by Allen Thomas in the Columbian, in an effort to replace tribal fishing grounds flooded during construction of the Bonneville Dam, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to build and improve Native American fishing sites. The multiple sites along the Columbia and Snake River were planned to include parking lots, foot docks, camping sites, showers/restrooms, lighting systems, sewer and water systems, and fish cleaning stations. (Thomas, October 13, 1995)

It seems that the government is attempting to repair some of the damage done to the Native American fishing economy, but unfortunately much has already been lost. The Culture, tradition, and way of life of the tribes in the Columbia River Basin will never be the same as they were before the construction of the Bonneville Dam.

The Road to Walville: Stewards of a Ghost. pt. I

Nestled in-between two county lines lies a quiet ghost dressed in the mists of land and history.

Walville road.

Walville road.

The Ghosts of Walville walk here, in the rain and ferns and a road with no warning signs.This is where we have tethered our canoe. Along the banks of yet another Rock Creek (really, how many Rock Creeks are there?). This is our home, but we are merely the stewards of a story, adding our own footprints and footnotes of memory.

Walville, an abandoned mill town site that straddles the Lewis/Pacific county line, was once home to a large sawmill operation. Established in 1902 by the Walworth and Nelville Manufacturing Lumber Mill and General Merchandise Company, the mill burned in 1930 and was permanently shut down. The post office was
opened on June 3, 1903, and closed on February 29, 1936.Like many of the other villages and towns that lined the railroad route, Walville now consists of only a few scattered homes and an old cemetery..

- The Sou’wester of the Pacific County Historical Society and Museum Summer & Fall 2006, Volume XLII, Numbers 2 &3

We acquired the property of Red Hawk Avalon by chance or calling, either or, we are here. The mists have claimed us and the waters have initiated us. We have persevered storms and have laid our claim, always asking permission.

Porch runes.

Many tales have lived and died here. Stories riding on the backs of old Cedar stumps and singing with the chorus of frogs. We arrived to that song, and listened from our porch protected in an old Rune.
The ghosts of Walville are in a state of healing, caught in a constant cycle of letting go and decay caused by the monsoon like rains of the Willapa Hills. Each season washes the old dark memories into the Chehalis watershed, to be re-born, like the Salmon.

During the 1910s and 1920s, the mill employed well over 100 men, who lived with their families in separate areas based on economic, ethnic, and racial barriers. The wealthier white families lived in a part of the community called Big Bug Town, the many Japanese-American families in Jap Town, while other sections were called Cow Town and Dago Town.

Old town map of Walville.

Old town map of Walville.

Even the dead were separated in segregated cemetery plots.

- The Sou’wester of the Pacific County Historical Society and Museum Summer & Fall 2006, Volume XLII, Numbers 2 &3

Japanese Cemetery

Japanese Cemetery

These are newer stories in relationship to time, but one’s that have left a deep scar on the physical and spiritual landscapes of Walville and this bio-region. I feel some camaraderie with this, our mutual healing. I felt I had found my best friend when I arrived here. A friend that needed nothing more than stewardship and understanding. We would take walks in the dawn and discuss our shadows. Take strolls through the scarred forest and process our demons. We layed offerings to each others winds. I finally felt able to let it all go.

Honne Names the Salmon: Chehalis Legend

“LONG TIME AGO in the beginning of the world, Honne came to earth. No one knows where he came from. And as the country was new and strange to him he decided to travel about and see what he could find.”

Chehalis River

Chehalis River

Thus begins the Chehalis Indian legend of Honne, the creator of people and animals, as related in “Honne: The Spirit of the Chehalis”, by Katherine Van Winkle Palmer, W.F. Humphrey Press, Geneva N.Y. 1925. The various species of salmon and trout were extremely important to the Chehalis people, and the legends of the tribe tell fascinating tales of how Honne created these fishes. Honne named the different kinds of salmon and told each the streams they would inhabit and the seasons of their lives. The following is an abbreviated account of the creation of the salmon from the legends of the Chehalis people.

Cowlitz First Salmon Ceremony, Photo Unknown

Cowlitz First Salmon Ceremony, Photo Unknown

When Honne came to earth he found that the people were living like animals, so he decided to exchange the lives of people and animals. As Honne travels the banks of the Chehalis River, he meets several people who have caught a salmon. Honne changes each of these persons into a crane and takes the salmon. After cooking and eating the first salmon Honne said: “‘Now I will name the salmon.’ And he called it Thowsh or Thatssocub. He threw the salmon backbone in the river and told it to go up the river. Honne said to it ‘You will be food for the people. You will go up the river to the riffles and spawn and raise a thousand fish.’

Fresh Salmon Meal

Fresh Salmon Meal

The backbone of the fish said to Honne ‘After we spawn what shall we do?’

Honne replied ‘After you spawn, you will go back to the ocean where you will become fat and bright again. Once every year at a certain time you will go up the river. That is your work to do for the people.’”

Honne met another fisher with a salmon and after turning him into a crane:

“Honne picked up the salmon which had lain in the gravel. He built a fire from drift wood, fixed the salmon and cooked it. After it was cooked and he had eaten all he wanted, he took the backbone of the fish and said ‘Your name will be Twahtwat, the black salmon.’

From ashes rise.

From ashes rise.

backbone said ‘What time of the year will I come up the river?’

And Honne answered ‘You will come up in the fall. You will not stay long but will work fast while you are here for the other salmon will have come ahead of you. When you finish you will go back to the ocean and then you will be young again.’

Black salmon went in the river and Honne traveled on.”

Soon Honne took a third salmon from another crane:

“Then Honne built another fire and cooked the salmon which he ate and as before he took the backbone and said to it ‘Your name is Skawitz, silverside salmon. This is as far as you will come up the river, and you will work in the creeks and never in the river. When you are thru you will go back again to the ocean and become young again.’ Skawitz said ‘How will I work?’

Riffles of the Chehlis River.

Riffles of the Chehlis River.

Honne said ‘You will lay eggs and cover them on the gravel.’

The fish asked ‘Will any place do?’

Honne answered ‘No, you must put them on a riffle because there are many other fish who will eat them.’

Silverside said ‘But won’t the other fish eat them on the riffle?’ ‘No.’ Honne said, ‘because the other fish do not work on the riffles. They work up and down the river but they do not stay on the riffles.’

‘Won’t the eggs float downstream?’ asked the fish. ‘No.’ said Honne, ‘because grandmother* will take care of the eggs.’ (*Grandmother is a small creature who is supposed to hold the eggs between the rocks.)

Elk Creek.

Elk Creek.

Silverside could not understand how it was done so Honne got down on the gravel and dove under the water on the riffle. He kicked the gravel with his feet; each time that he kicked he dropped two or three eggs off his hands and as he laid the eggs he sang,

“Under the gravel,
Under the sand,
You lay, and
Grandmother will take care of you.’

The eggs went under the gravel and lay there. They were to lie there so many days before they would become fish. And Honne told the eggs that they must not leave the fish until they were able to swim. He told them that when the fish grew up they must come each year to the same place. After they were hatched they must go up the creeks and stay one year. In the spring of the year they must go to the ocean but each year they must come back again. Those that go to the creeks for the first year are akalade, mountain trout. They are one year old, and from three to four inches in length. After three years they are large and are then bull trout. The fourth year they are salmon.

Walville Creek

Walville Creek

Silverside said ‘My feet will wear out if I kick the gravel as hard as that.’

Honne answered ‘They will grow so long that you will have to wear them out anyway. And when you go down to the ocean they will grow out again.’ This satisfied Silversides and he started down the river.”

Honne obtained the fourth salmon from yet another crane:

“He went further up the river and cooked the salmon which he carried with him. He ate it and then took the backbone and said to it ‘You will be Squawahee, steelhead salmon. You will always go further up the river than any of the other salmon, and you will have a longer life than the other fishes.’

The fish asked ‘What time of year will I come up the river?’ Honne told him that he would come up in the fall of the year and stay all winter and that he would spawn in the spring of the year. When the pheasant began to drum then it would be time for the steelhead to spawn.

Honne started down the river. The first creek he came to he fished. In it he caught silverside salmon, but no other kind. He told the little creek that hereafter it must give up the silverside salmon. ‘But,’ said the Creek ‘when the fish come up, will they come only here? If they do I will call for rain and it will raise the waters so that the salmon can not tell one creek from another.’

To which Honne said ‘I have told them when and where they are to hatch and that is the way they must do it.’

Honne went on to another creek and fished. There he caught silversides, blacksalmon, steelhead and chinook. He was satisfied and went on to another creek. In that he did not catch anything. He went to the head of the creek and asked it why it did not give him any of the fish. The creek answered that it did not like to give up the fish because they would be killed and eaten.

Honne said he would give the creek another chance so he took a dip net and fished. After some time he caught a silverside, and he said ‘That is all that will ever be in this creek.’ So he continued on. He came to a slough near the river at Choshed* meaning the star that fell (*Grand Mound) He sat down by the slough and gazed for a long time in the clear water.

Cut Throat Trout.

Cut Throat Trout.

After awhile he noticed a fish swimming in the water. He could not see what it was and tried to get closer but could not make it out. He then said to it ‘Come up I want to see you.’ The fish came up to Honne.

Honne said ‘Oh yes I know you now. I had forgotten. You will be the chief of the fish. Your name is Klahwhi, dog salmon. This is as far as you will go up the river. You will come up the river quickly and go back quickly. Your life will be short.’ And Honne gave the fish a striped blanket, which was made of cedar bark and dyed with alder. That is the coat of colors which the fish still wears.”

How The Sun Was Stolen: A Chehalis Legend

Once upon a time, there lived a chief who kept the sun in a box. When his daughter went to gather berries, she carried the box along and opened it a little so that she was able to see. When she had filled her basket, she carried the box home to her father.

Blackberry harvest from our land.

Blackberry harvest from our land.

The people in other countries were very poor. They held a council in which they deliberated how they might obtain the sun. Finally they decided to send Kali-qoo to the chief to steal the sun.

Art by: http://ravenari.deviantart.com

Art by: http://ravenari.deviantart.com

When he reached the country, he assumed the shape of an old slave. The people found him and took him home to their chief. Blue Jay lived in the house of the latter. He said “Oh, that used to be my father’s slave. He lost him one day. His grandfather had been my father’s slave.” The people believed him and gave him to Blue Jay.

When the chief’s daughter went picking berries; they took him along to paddle the canoe. He was a very good oarsman, and Blue Jay said, “That is Tsi sti saatq, he was a very good oarsman.” And they believed him. When they were traveling along, the slave began to say “Tses, tses, tses.” The Blue Jay said to his brother Robin, “He always spoke so when he carried me about when I was a little boy.” But the Robin did not remember. And Blue Jay said, “Oh, you are good for nothing,. You are older than I am and you do not remember him.”

©2013 H a v e n

©2013 H a v e n

Finally they arrived at the berry patch and the girl opened the box a little. As soon as the sun appeared, the slave jumped up, seized the box and opened it. And it became daylight. He ran away and they were unable to catch him. The people almost killed Blue Jay because his lies had been the cause of their losing the sun.

Kali-qoo took the sun home to his chief, who gave it to the people saying, “Henceforth, we will all enjoy the sun and not one man alone shall have it.”

*re-printed from October 2009 Chehalis Tribe newsletter

The Story of the Flood: A Chehalis Legend

A long time ago, the animals and birds lived as people. Thrush wanted to marry a certain young girl, but her parents did not approve of him.

Thrush

Thrush

But the young girl, however, wished to marry him. The girl persisted and finally her parents gave their consent. Thrush and the young girl were married.

Thrush always had a dirty face; he never washed before he ate. His mother-in-law asked him “Why don’t you wash your face?” Thrush did not answer. The next morning she asked again “Why don’t you wash your face? It’s getting dirty.” Thrush once again did not reply. She asked him the same question for 5 days in a row.

Upper Chehalis River.

Upper Chehalis River.

Finally on the 5th day, Thrush said “If I wash my face, something will happen.” Nevertheless, his wife’s parents still insisted. Then they gave him an ultimatum. “If you don’t wash your face, we’ll take our daughter away from you.” So Thrush finally gave in, “All right then, I’ll wash my face”.

He went to the river to wash his face and sang, “Father-in-law, Mother-in-law, Keep moving back from the river.”

He washed his face. The dirt rolled off, leaving his face streaked all over. Then it began to rain. It rained all day.

Chehalis River from Pe Ell, WA.

Chehalis River from Pe Ell, WA.

Thrush told his in-laws, “Move back from the river. I washed my face as you asked.”

The river continued to rise. It rained many days and nights. Soon there were no places for the people to stand but in the water. The water rose and covered everything. There was no place for them to go. Many drifted away and were never seen again.

Thrush, his wife and his in-laws landed their canoe on this side of the land, in Upper Chehalis country. There was only the top of one tall fir tree sticking out of the water. And that is where the People tied their canoe.

They got together and planned what they should do next. They agreed that someone needed to dive in the water and see how deep it was. Muskrat dove into the water and came up with some dirt. He dove down into the water 5 times. Each time he brought up some dirt. From the dirt, he made a little mountain. He told the People to land there, that they would be safe. He told the People “This is the mountain that I have made for you so that you can be safe”. The People called that mountain Tiger Lily Mountain. It is known today as Black Mountain.

Mima Mounds, DNR archive photo.

Mima Mounds, DNR archive photo.

After the water receded and the earth dried up, the earth was found to be covered with dried whales (fossils). At Gate, not far from Mima Prairie, the earth still remains in the shape of the waves. It extends like this for 4 or 5 miles.

After the water subsided, the earth was just like new and the People could begin all over again. It was said “There shall never again be a person who will cause a flood when he washes his face.” Thrush turned into a bird and flew away.

*re-printed from the August 2010 Chehalis Tribe newsletter.

The Day I Met Coyote.

He came into my life the same way he departed, mysterious and quick.

Monday night Bingo at thee Pe Ell Pub.

Monday night Bingo at thee Pe Ell Pub.

Last night on my way home from Bingo, a light flashed on the side of the road, I slowed and looked to see it was a hitch-hiker. He was an old looking chap carrying a plastic garbage bag with clothes and various other implements of living… I asked him where he was headed.. “Home”, he replied.. I asked, ‘Where is that”… ‘I dunno, but Raymond would work.” he replied in a slow southern drawl. He got in the car and introduced himself as Robert E. Love and that he served in Vietnam. He said he was ‘leaving his ol’ lady because she like the needle and bottle more than life itself’.. and that he could not save anyone.. “I am not Jesus, Right?”… he was from Arkansas and was headed back home after not seeing his family for 20+ years, and when he spoke, tears streaked his weathered face. I drove him all the way to his Sisters front door.. he told me, ‘live life fully, because, before you know it, it is too late’…. I asked if we could sit and have coffee before he left for Arkansas. He said, ‘yes, come on back tomorrow and I will tell you some stories.”

Artist unknown

Artist unknown

I showed up at the Senior housing Apartments in Raymond and proceeded to apt. 206, where Robert E. Love told me he  was staying with his sister. I knocked and could hear the slow stopping creak of a rocking chair behind the thin apartment door. I felt excited to meet his family and hear some more stories. The handle slowly turned and opened. There stood a spritely old lady named Mildred, I said..’Hello Ma’am, my name is Si and I am looking for a man named Robert E. Love, he said you were his sister and that I should come here to have coffee with him..”.. there was a silence that ticked in slow seconds with the metronome of the grandfather clock behind her short stature.. and then said, “I don’t know no Robert Love, and why are you looking for him.” I told her the story of picking him up after a game of Bingo in Pe Ell and driving him to Raymond, the whole time telling me stories of strife and love and the want for Home. She said, “I wish I did know a Robert Love, he sounds like a most interesting fellow.” I nodded, and told her if she heard anything about this man to give me a call and then gave her my card.

I picked up Robert E. Love at the very place I always spot Coyotes and last night they were a howling, and have been since that first night I met Robert E. Love. Maybe I was tricked?

CameraZOOM-20131015170036315So long Robert E. Love, may the wind always be at your back and may the path rise up to meet you where ever you end up. I hope you find your Home. I have learned many things from the most craziest of Prophets and I am grateful for the lessons… even if it was Coyote. So, remember, always be in the moment and ‘live life fully, because, before you know it, it is too late’. Thank you Robert.

The Company I keep. Part I

It is a Motley Crew, this company I keep. A rag-tale expose of story and dirt. Blood and experience.  Romance and bullshit. All swimming in their own distinct universe. A crew of the utmost integrity and filth. The outer edges stained in tobacco smoke and smelling of Busch Light. Yes, this company I keep. I never dreamt this to be my life, always wrapped in my own esthetic pre-reg’s and identity façades. The circle is complete now.

Chris and Alan

Chris and Alan

The land of my up bringing is no longer my physical home, but a sinister shadow of spirit has followed me here. Not the Spirit of gloom I made it out to be.. no, a new Spirit. I find myself among the family I grew up with and around.  A family camouflaged in hunter safety orange  and tales of Hercules, heroes of a quiet journey and Brothers in arms.

Oh damn, the Stories that are told by the company I keep.

“I grew up in a storytelling culture, a tribal culture, but also in an American storytelling culture.”  

Sherman Alexie

stoplight

One light town.

It is this Americana that follows me like a bad habit, this company I keep reek of it, like a musty cologne. I found a new bond here in the woods of the Willapa Hills as if glued by an old memory. The single flashing light. The general store and the gas station that makes no apologies for it’s price gouge as hunters stop to re-fuel big Americana Diesel. I forgot how the rivers of stories flowed in those check out lines, sometimes with evidence of the kill, other times.. just story. But a good story none the less. I listen and nod and smile. Sometimes I find myself in the check out line with nothing but a desire to hear a good story.

IMG_20131118_142458

Hunting Stories told here. Truth not required.

As a child I remember all the wonderful stories my uncles would tell. All the tall tales that made them seem larger than life itself. The stories of bravery and stupidity and depravity and being scared. The way the men searched for Ceremony in the code of the myth. It was always and has always been on our lips, these stories. I am no longer lost in the deeper veils of it’s meanings. This is my family. This is the company I keep.