A Journey

The first thing I saw was Crow. It was almost as if I was looking through a camera, and Crow put his face right up to the lens. He put his eyeball up to the lens, and then his beak, then his whole face, and then he vanished.
The next thing I saw was an enormous, gorgeous, perfect rose, free floating in mid-air. It was very dark pink, almost red, and then it became a lush, deep, dark red. It had petals like a peony, but it was a rose. The rose became larger and larger, and as it grew, it opened to reveal a velvety center of infinite petals.

I was on the edge of a forest. Eagle appeared, in a fierce emanation. I got onto his back.

Thunderbird Petroglyph, Horse thief lake, OR.

Thunderbird Petroglyph, Horse thief lake, OR.


Then he and I climbed into the rose and were immediately transported up into the sky on a strong current of wind. Raccoon came running up behind us, and at the last minute grabbed onto the rose and came flying with us. Crow flew up beside us and flew along, by our side. As we climbed high into the sky, I looked down and saw two dead animals at the forest’s edge; a doe and a kit fox. I could see smoke coming from the treetops and I realized there must be a forest fire. It appeared that the doe and the kit fox had possibly died of smoke inhalation.
We were scaling a mountainside. There was a cliff jutting out, way above us. It was above the cloud line. We went through the layer of clouds, very swiftly, and landed on the edge of the cliff. Grandmother Rose was there. She had been waiting for us. There was also a leathery old medicine man. He was half man and half crow, and he called himself Crow Dancer. He had a man’s head and was wearing a crow feather hood with a crow beak. He had crow wings, and he wore a fringed elk hide robe. Rose had been preparing for this retrieval.
First, she pulled out a wonderful medicine blanket that she made for as a gift. It was very long, and when she unfurled it, the length of it tumbled over the cliff for many yards. As she began to gather it back up into a neat roll, she smiled lovingly. She had spent many moons making this blanket, and each stitch contained a prayer. This blanket had very powerful protective medicine. She placed the rolled-up medicine blanket into the saddlebag on the Eagle. Then she handed me a magic compass. The compass was made entirely of quartz crystal. She showed me precisely how to use it for navigation. The face of the compass was completely blank, empty of all markings. It had a clear crystal face, with a quartz crystal needle. The compass would guide us on our journey. Finally, she handed me a key, carved out of jade. I placed the key in my medicine pouch. Crow Dancer danced around and flapped his wings and stomped his feet and made a blessing for the journey, and we were off again.
As soon as we started flying, we were joined by a magnificent phoenix. It came swooping from around the back of the mountain, began flying beside us, and then quickly pulled out in front of us and began to lead the way. We flew downward now, like bullets, and plunged into the ocean with incredible force and speed. We went down down down to the very bottom of the ocean and came to the mouth of a cave.

Paul Kane painting of Loowit (Mt. St. Helens), which was a symbol of rebirth to the Cowlitz People.

Paul Kane painting of Loowit (Mt. St. Helens), which was a symbol of rebirth to the Cowlitz People.

The cave was guarded by a blue dragon. The phoenix approached the dragon and requested permission to enter the cave. The dragon asked the phoenix what business he had in the cave, and the phoenix replied that he had come to “get his boy.” The dragon gave him three challenges. He challenged him to a game of chinese checkers. The phoenix won. He challenged him to a fire breathing contest. The phoenix won. And finally, he asked the phoenix to guess his name. The phoenix went up to the dragon and whispered something in the dragon’s ear. The dragon looked at him, utterly astonished, and granted entry. The dragon breathed fire up into the ceiling above the entry of the cave, and a trap door opened. We all went in. We found ourselves in a very narrow, tight tunnel. It was so narrow and tight that we barely had room to move. The only way was for us to make ourselves smaller and to keep moving, otherwise we would get stuck. I couldn’t see a thing. There were so many twists and turns that it made me dizzy. I remembered the magic compass. As soon as I pulled it out of my medicine pouch, the needle on the compass began to glow and pulse. The needle quivered for a moment and then pointed very strongly in a particular direction, which we followed. After that we were fine. We just followed the glowing compass needle through the labyrinthine tunnels and eventually came out into a part of the cave that had a large central clearing. There were several openings and cave mouths all along the perimeter. However, the compass showed us precisely where to go. We followed it’s guidance to one particular little cave entrance, with its door locked up tight. I took out the jade key and placed it in the lock. It fit perfectly, and with one turn of the key, the door flew open and there we found a little boy. He was curled up in a corner, lying on his left side, with his arms around his knees, huddled up against the cold, wet corner of the cave. He had his face to the corner of the cave and his back to us, and even though he heard us come in, it took a long time for him to stir.

Crow teachers. Public domain photo

Crow teachers. Public domain photo

He looked to be around seven years old. He had long dark hair, and he looked terribly sad. His eyes were large and melancholy and he would not make eye contact. Crow went up to him to try to make eye contact. Then he hopped up onto the boy’s left shoulder and told him that we were here to take him home, if he would like to come with us. The boy just sat there as if he hadn’t heard a word. Crow asked the boy if he liked it there, in the cave. The boy shook his head slowly. “No, not really.” said the boy. “Would you like to come home?” asked Crow. “I don’t know.” Crow explained to the boy that things were different now, and that he would be safe. He told the boy that he had been missed and that he was loved, and that he would be welcomed back home with open arms. The boy indicated that he would like to come with us. I reached into the saddlebag for the medicine blanket, and wrapped it around the boy. He knew who had made it. I didn’t have to say a word. Now, when I looked at his face, he looked older, closer to maybe eleven years old or so. After this, his face would change, and his features would become those of a younger boy, then an older boy. But he was always somewhere between seven and eleven years old.

Crow stayed on his left shoulder. Phoenix stepped forward so the boy could climb onto his back. I followed with Eagle and we quickly exited the dank cave. As we left, Phoenix dropped a colorful tail feather, as an offering to Dragon, and Dragon picked it up and waved. We shot back up through the ocean, just as we had shot down, and we found ourselves back at the cliff. Grandmother Rose was there. Crow Dancer was there. Grandmother Rose embraced the boy for a long time. She pulled him onto her lap and rocked him and kissed him and hummed to him. She pulled the medicine blanket snugly around him and sighed. Crow Dancer placed a breastplate of porcupine quills on the boy and gave him his elk skin robe. Grandmother Rose took the boy’s long hair and divided it into three sections. She made three braids, and then braided those three braids into a single braid. She talked about the power of three, that three was the number to keep in mind. Crow Dancer placed three big shiny black crow feathers in the boy’s hair. Phoenix placed more feathers in the boy’s hair, magnificent feathers of brilliant hues; red, orange, yellow, violet, blue, green…He gave the boy a walking stick on which was carved: “NOW IS THE MOMENT OF POWER.” Grandmother Rose told the boy that it was important to forget the past, and to not worry about the future. “Life is short,” she said. “All we have is this moment.” Spider made an appearance and wove a cloak of scintillating light around the boy. It sparkled and shined with a pure radiance. She said that all he ever needed to do, if he ever got scared, was to ask Spider for a cloak of light, and she would weave something up for him. He will always have access to protection. All he has to do is ask.

Mesa near Taos, NM.  H a v e n © 2016

Mesa near Taos, NM.
H a v e n © 2016

There were embraces and acknowledgements and blessings, and then it was time to say goodbye. We climbed down a ladder made of rainbow light and came to an open, grassy field. It was just outside the same edge of forest from which our journey had begun. Many animals began to appear and quickly disappear; Raccoon, Red Tailed Hawk, Bighorn Sheep, Unicorn, Coyote. As we landed on the grassy field, we joined a fire ceremony that was being held in the boy’s honor. The boy stood at the fire, wearing a white mask. Raccoon came up to him and took off the boy’s mask and tossed it into the fire, where it was consumed. There was another mask underneath. Again, Raccoon took off the mask and tossed it into the fire. This went on and on, mask after mask. The first masks were completely opaque, but as they continued to be peeled away they became more transparent. I could see through the final mask, and I saw that the boy was weeping. Raccoon stood there and looked at the boy with great compassion. Raccoon was not going to take off the final mask. The boy wept for a long time at the fire. Finally, he reached up and slowly removed the final mask, and placed it quietly into the flames. The boy’s face softened and he stopped crying. Everyone laughed and cheered and came over and embraced the boy. He was glad to be home.

Tale of the Cedar Stump House

There are some places some people should not know of, some places where a smile and a nod, and the mile posts of stumps, gives you the key to another world.

Willapa Hills Cedar tree, photo unknown, ca. early 1900's

Willapa Hills Cedar tree, photo unknown, ca. early 1900′s

I first heard of this elusive Cedar Stump house from an old timer at the Pe Ell Pub one night, after a long round of Busch Lights and lines of stories. We were talking about his family and how they settled down here in the Willapa Hills over a 150 years ago. “The forest was a lot different back then”, he told me, rubbing his belly as if to move the words. He told me about, how back in the day, ‘the trees were so big you could live in them, I tell you know lie, in fact, I know of a place that you can live in one. It is an old Cedar stump out in Pacific County. The darn thing has a window, a door and a roof on it.” Not sure what year they made that stump a home, but I am pretty damn sure the old thing is still standing!” Of course this perked my investigative ears to the possibility I would find such a magical kingdom hidden in the hills of mists and moss.

As time went on, I kept asking the local folks questions IMG_20130209_211011(I consider myself a local but I need to live around here for 10 years, to become an “official local”, I am told.) about this elusive fairy land that had captured my imagination. Some people were reluctant to speak of it’s whereabouts, as if holding on to an old code of silence, looking me over with suspicious eyes. I would ‘prime the pump’ with cheap beer to get the lips telling stories, and got little clues. Most would boast about taking their girlfriend out there and writing their names on the holy grail of the ‘Stump”.

IMG_3485

Elk Camp 2014

It was not until I was helping a close friend with some tracking and hunting up in the Willapa Hills, did the biggest clue come. It sailed in on the setting sun, dressed on the wings of a Red Hawk, flying low above our packed Elk Camp caravan. It swooped through light and disappeared into the moss covered trees. At that moment, I looked down to see an old bridge, half rotted from the relentless rainforest mist, and heard the old timers voice in my head: “There is an old bridge…”. That night in Elk camp I laid half awake, listening to the call of cows echoing through the mists and pondered my earlier thoughts of the elusive eden, and made a vow to find it after the hunt.

Mists of the Willapa. | ©2014 H a v e n

Mists of the Willapa. | ©2014 H a v e n

I am finding myself lost in this hunt, this search. I know as a kid growing up in Carson there were, and are, some places, that you just don’t share with anyone, unless they know the code. The code of belonging, and trust, pack it in, pack it out. This ritual always felt sacred to me and solidified my sense of belonging to the community. When asked by an ‘out-of-towner’ if I knew how to get to the hot springs, I would point them to St. Martins , not wanting to give away the magic of the natural Springs, that was for us! It is this kind of rights of passage I felt I may break through if I visited the ‘Stump’. I would then be a local.

My wife Amber and I at the Cedar Stump house.

My wife Amber and I at the Cedar Stump house.

We came down the mountain from Elk camp to have the same Red Hawk fly with us at the same spot as before. I can not help but take notice when such events happen. As we passed by the old bridge again, my neck hairs raised ever so slightly. I wandered into town with tales from the hunting trip, but as soon as I told people where we set up camp, people told me, ‘the stump house is up that way..’ I knew it!

Mt. Shasta and JC Brown’s Lost City

Mt. Shasta | ©2014 H a v e n

Mt. Shasta | ©2014 H a v e n

According to legend, JC Brown was a British prospector who discovered a lost underground city beneath Mt. Shasta in 1904. Brown had been hired by The Lord Cowdray Mining Company of England to prospect for gold, and discovered a cave which sloped downward for 11 miles. In the cave, he found an underground village filled with gold, shields, and mummies, some being up to 10 feet tall.

Thirty years later, he told his story to John C. Root who proceeded to gather an exploration team in Stockton, California. 80 people joined the team, but on the day the team was to set out, Brown did not show up. Brown was not heard from again.

Why there are no snakes on Takhoma | Cowlitz Legend

A long, long time ago, Tyhee Sahale became angry with the people. Sahale ordered a medicine man to take his bow and arrow and shoot into the cloud which hung low over Takhoma. The medicine man shot the arrow, and it stuck fast in the cloud. Then he shot another into the lower end of the first. He shot arrows until he had made a chain which reached from the cloud to the earth. The medicine man told his klootchman and his children to climb up the arrow trail. Then he told the good animals to climb up the arrow trail. Then the medicine man climbed up himself.

mt rainier admiralty inlet 1792

mt rainier admiralty inlet 1792

Just as he was climbing into the cloud, he looked back. A long line of bad animals and snakes were also climbing up the arrow trail. Therefore the medicine man broke the chain of arrows. Thus the snake and bad animals fell down on the mountain side. Then at once it began to rain. It rained until all the land was flooded. Water reached even to the snow line of Takhoma. When all the bad animals and snakes were drowned, it stopped raining.

After a while the waters sank again. Then the medicine man, and his klootchman, and the children climbed out of the cloud and came down the mountain side. The good animals also climbed out of the cloud, Thus there are now no snakes or bad animals on Takhoma.

Keeper of the Fire

Long ago, when the world was young, all people were happy, The Great Spirit, whose home is in the sun, gave them all they needed. No one was Hungry, no one

'Keeper of Fire' | © 2015 H a v e n

‘Keeper of Fire’ | © 2015 H a v e n

was cold. But after a while, two brothers quarreled over the land. The elder one wanted most of it, and the younger one wanted most of it. The Great Spirit decided to stop the quarrel. One night while the brothers were asleep he took them to a new land, to a country with high mountains. Between the mountains flowed a big river.

The Great Spirit took the two brothers to the top of the high mountains and wakened them. They saw that the new country was rich and beautiful.

“Each of you will shoot a arrow in opposite directions,” he said to them. “Then you will follow your arrow. Where your arrow falls, that will be your country. There you will become a great chief. The river will separate your lands.”

One brother shot his arrow south into the valley of the Willamette River. He became the father and the high chief of the Multnomah people. The other brother shot his arrow north into the Klickitat country. He became the father and high chief of the Klickitat people.

Then the Great Spirit built a bridge over the big river. To each brother he said, “I have built a bridge over the river, so that you and your people may visit those on the other side. It will be a sign of peace between you. As long as you and your people are good and are friendly with each other, this bridge of the Tahmahnawis will remain.

Building of the the modern day Bridge of the Gods, ca. 1925

Building of the the modern day Bridge of the Gods, ca. 1925

It was a broad bridge, wide enough for many people and many ponies to walk across at one time. For many snows the people were at peace and crossed the river for friendly visits. But after a time they did wicked things. They were selfish and greedy, and they quarreled. The Great Spirit, displeased again, punished them by keeping the sun from shining. The people had no fire, and then the winter rains came, they were very cold.

Then they began to be sorry for what they had done, and they begged the Great Spirit for fire. “Give us fire, or we will die from the cold,” they prayed. The heart of the Great Spirit was softened by their prayer. He went to an old woman who had kept herself from the wrongdoing of her people and so still had some fire in their lodge.

“If you will share your fire, I will Grant you anything you wish,” the Great Spirit promised her. “What do you want most?”

"Eternal" | ©2015 H a v e n

“Eternal” | ©2015 H a v e n

“Youth and beauty,” answered the old woman promptly, “I wish to be young again, and to be beautiful.”

“You shall be young and beautiful tomorrow morning,” promised the Great Spirit. “Take your fire to the bridge, so that the people on both sides of the river can get it easily. Keep it burning there always as a reminder of the goodness and kindness of the Great Spirit.”

The old woman, whose name was Loo-wit, did as he said. Then the Great Spirit commanded the sun to shine again. When it rose the next morning, it was surprised to see a young and beautiful maiden sitting beside a fire on the Bridge of the Gods. The people, too, saw the fire, and soon their lodges were warm again. For many moons all was peaceful on both sides of the great river and the bridge.

The young men also saw the fire–and the beautiful young woman who attended it. They visited her often. Loo-wit’s heart was stirred by two of them–a handsome young chief from south of the river, whose name was Wyeast, and a handsome young chief from north of the river, whose name was Klickitat. She could not decide which of the two she liked better.

Wyeast and Klickitat grew jealous of each other and soon began to quarrel. They became so angry that they fought. Their people also took up the quarrel, so that there was much fighting on both sides of the river. Many warriors were killed.

The Dalles, Oregon. ca. 1884

The Dalles, Oregon. ca. 1884

This time the Great Spirit was made angry by the wickedness of the people. He broke down the Bridge of the Gods, the sign of peace between the two tribes, and its rocks fell into the river. He changed the two chiefs into mountains. Some say that they continued to quarrel over Loo-wit even after they were mountain peaks. They caused sheets of flame to burst forth, and they hurled hot rocks at each other. Not thrown far enough, many fell into the river
and blocked it. That is why the Columbia is very narrow and the water very swift at the Dalles.

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

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

Loo-wit was changed into a snow-capped peak which still has the youth and beauty promised by the Great Spirit. She is now called Mount St. Helens. Wyeast is known as Mount Hood, and Klickitat as Mount Adams. The rocks and white water where the Bridge of the Gods fell are known as the Cascades of the Columbia.

——-Clark,Ella (1953) Indians of the Pacific Northwest (renewed 1981). The Regents of the University of California

A Mount Adams Story

A Mount Adams Story

Pahto | © 2010 H a v e n

Pahto | © 2010 H a v e n

Mount Adams (12,307 feet in altitude), the second highest peak in Washington, stands in the southwestern part of the state. The Klickitat and Yakama Indians called it Pahto. They claimed it as their mountain.

This legend was told by Chief Jobe Charley, with his granddaughter, Hattie Wesley, acting as interpreter. Now eighty-six years old, Jobe Charley heard the story when he was a little boy. When he got his first horse, he rode to Mount Adams and climbed it. Until he saw the eagles up there, he had not believed the story. Many eagles are hatched in the caves in the east side of Mount Adams.

Back when the mountains were people, Sun was a man. He had five mountains for his wives. One was Plash-Plash, where the Goat Rocks are now. Plash-Plash means “white spots.” Another was Wahkshum, west of Satus Pass. The others were Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens. The Indians called all of them Pahto, which means “standing high.” Wahkshum and Plash-Plash were once known as Pahtoes also. I will call only Mount Adams Pahto in this story, for Rainier and St. Helens are not important in it.

Mt. Adams post card from the 1920's.

Mt. Adams post card from the 1920′s.

Sun traveled from east to west, of a course. So Wahkshum was the first wife he talked to every morning. Plash-Plash was the second, and Pahto was the third. Pahto became jealous of the other two and made up her mind to get rid of them. Jealous and angry, she fought them and broke down their high heads. All that is left of Plash-Plash is goat rocks. All that is left of Wahkshum is the mountain called Simcoe Mountain and the little huckleberry bushes on it. Rainier and St. Helens were so far away that Pahto left them alone.

For a while after she had broken the heads of Wahkshum and Plash-Plash, Pahto was happy. Every morning she was the first wife Sun spoke to. She was the tallest mountain around, and she was proud and strong. But she did not remain satisfied. She made up her mind to go across the river and take what she wanted from the mountains south of her.

Mt. St. Helens. ca. 1920's

Mt. St. Helens. ca. 1920′s

So she went down there and brought back all their grizzly bears, black bears, elk, deer, pine nuts, huckleberries, roots, and herbs. From the rivers and creeks she took the salmon and trout and put them in the streams which flowed sown her sides. She planted the berries and the pine nuts and the roots all around her. She turned loose the elk, deer, and bears. That is why there are plenty on Mount Adams today.

All this time the great was watching. He saw the wrong things Pahto was doing. He thought to himself, “There must be a law that any wrongdoing shall be punished.”

But punishment did not come yet. Pahto was so strong and tall that the other mountains said, “We’ll not do anything about what she has done. We’ll just let it go.”

But Klah-Klahnee-You call them the Three Sisters- said among themselves, ”Pahto is too proud and greedy. We must do something.”

Wy'east.  Postcard, ca. 1920's

Wy’east. Postcard, ca. 1920′s

The came up north and said to Wyeast, Mount Hood, “Why don’t you destroy Pahto? Why do you let her get the best of you? You are tall and strong. Some day there will be people on the earth. When they find that we have let Pahto destroy us and steal from us, they will make fun of us.”

That is how Klah-Klahnee caused Wyeast to fight Pahto. “If I get the best of her,” Wyeast promised them, “I’ll take all that she has stolen from us.”

But first Wyeast said to Pahto, in a nice way, “I want you to give back half of what you took from us. When the new people come, those who live in are part of the country should have the same food that people near you will have. I am asking you now, in a nice way, for only half of what you took from us. If you give it to me, the new people will have food.”

But Pahto was greedy. ” No, I shall never give you anything,” she said.

So they fought.

Paul Kane painting.

Paul Kane painting.

Up to that time, Pahto had a high head. Wyeast hit her from the east side and knocked her head off. Today on the north side of Pahto there is a pile of fine rocks about a half a mile long. These rocks were once Pahto’s head.

The Wyeast thought, “I’ll leave here and there a little bit of everything she took away-elk, deer, berries, I’ll put some here, some there. Pahto can’t have everything.” So Wyeast shared with the other mountains.

The Great Spirit saw all that happened. He did not try to help Pahto. ”She deserved that punishment,” he thought. “She deserved to lose her head because she destroyed the heads of Wahkshum and Plash-Plash. That will be the law. If people do wrong they will be punished in the same way.”

But after Pahto lost her head, she became mean. Whenever she became angry, she would send a big thunderstorm and much rain. In the winter she would send big snows, and in the spring there would be floods. All through the Yakama Valley there were lakes from the big floods. When the first people came to the earth, they lived only on the mountains.

The Great Spirit was watching. He saw all that happened. At last he said, “I shall make a new head for Pahto. Then she will not be so mean.”

So he sent down a big white eagle with his son, a red eagle, riding on his right shoulder. He put the two eagles on top of Pahto, to be her head. Then he said to her, “I am sending white eagle and his son to you, to be your head. Don’t have hard feelings toward the other mountains. And don’t flood the earth again. Remember that you are the daughter of the Great Spirit.

Pahto answered, “I am glad you have given me the eagles. I will forgive the other mountains, and I will not flood the country anymore.”

Then she raised her right hand and said, “I did not know that the Great Spirit is my father. I am sorry for all wrong things I have done.”

Then the Great Spirit replied, ” I gave the world to you mountains. I put you here and there, where I wanted you to be. Some of you I made high. Some I made low. You should have never destroyed Wahkshum and Plash-Plash.”

Source: (http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/FOLKLORE/2000-09/0968495643)

Why did my Chinook Ancestors flatten their heads?

George Catlin. 1850

George Catlin. 1850

The picture is from about 1850 and is a pencil drawing of a scene at The Dalles, on the Columbia River by George Catlin. It clearly depicts the flat heads my tribe gave their children at birth by use of a set cradle board over the forehead during the first few months of life. Learn more here.

I am very interested in why we did this? Were there any old stories that were told that explained why we started flattening our foreheads? How did we come to accept and implement such a custom, that seems so foreign to our modern standards of beauty?

Penny Postcard, ca.1910, "Wind Mountain, Columbia River."

Penny Postcard, ca.1910, “Wind Mountain, Columbia River.”

What role did the landscape we live in play in this custom? I have always noticed a similarity between the contours of Wind Mountain and the profile of the flattened head, is this just coincidence? So many questions… so go’s the seeking.

Grass Man: David Douglas meets my Cousins as told by Jim Atwell

David Douglas was sturdy Scotsman and a remarkable person. Before he was out of his 20′s, he had traveled from his native land to the wilderness of the David_Douglass00Pacific Northwest, where he made the botanical explorations that were to make him famous. It was he who gave his name to the Douglas Fir Tree.

Douglas arrived by ship to Fort George (Astoria, OR.) in 1823. He had been commissioned as a collector for the Royal Horticulture Society to collect any plants unknown to the British Isles. The Gardens of Britain are filled with plants, trees and shrubs introduced from America by Douglas.

Douglas thought nothing of covering up to 50 miles a day on foot through the Wilderness with a 50 pound pack on his back and gun in his hand.

Dr. John McLoughlin

Dr. John McLoughlin

At Fort George, 12 miles upstream, Douglas was a little awed by his first glimpse of the man who was to be his host for the next year, Dr. John McLoughlin, chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Co., was a vigorous giant, standing six foot four, with a regal bearing, arrogant dark eyes, and a great shock of prematurely white hair. Douglas joined McLoughlin in coming from Fort George up to Fort Vancouver. McLoughlin’s plans called for a fort 750 feet square and 20 feet high, enclosing numerous log buildings.

Douglas made several trips upstream to the Cascades of the Columbia. Douglas hoped to gather a shipment of plants back with the ‘William & Ann’ when she sailed in October. He adapted quickly to the new and rugged life, sleeping at night on a bed of pine or fir boughs or under brush, carrying only a little tea in a tin and depending solely on his rifle for food.

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

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

One evening about dark while returning down river. Douglas spotted a a column of smoke rising in the forest near the river bank. Thinking it was a camp of voyageurs, or Canadian boatmen, he landed to join them. He failed to realize his mistake, until he found himself surrounded with more than a hundred braves; he had stumbled on a large Indian encampment.

Fortunately, for Douglas, had met their leader, Chief Cockqua, at Fort Vancouver and the Chief invited him to join their feast. They were eating Sturgeon, a fish weighing five hundred punds, which the had cut up and were roasting in the fires. Between sign language and the few English words that Cockqua knew, Douglas was able to carry on a conversation of sorts, but though the chief appeared friendly, the others watched Douglas suspiciously.

He learned that Cockqua’s braves were preparing for war with the tribe across the river and after the feast almost 300 warriors began to dance around the camp fires, leaping and goading themselves into a frenzy with their keening Death Songs. As the excitement mounted, from time to time a brave would dash intio the light of the Chief’s fire and shake his weapons threateningly in Douglas’ face. As Cockqua sat impassively studying his visitor.

Finally, when many of the braves had dropped with exhaustion, Cockqua announced that it was time to retire and that if Douglas was afraid he could spend the night in his tent. Douglas suspected this was a test also and knowing the Chief’s tent would be full of fleas, he refused. With a nod of satisfaction Cockqua motioned to one of the Indians to throw Douglas a skin blanket.

Field & Stream bough shelter. ca.1955

Field & Stream bough shelter. ca.1955

Douglas was aware of the people watching him as he went about his preparations for the night. He built a bough shelter, lit a small fire, then opening his vasculum he took out a number of plant specimens and with great ceremony arranged them in a circle around his lodge as though they were a protective totem.

The people looked puzzled but seemed to understand. No one bothered him that night, but in the morning it was plain Cockqua was not yet ready to let Douglas leave. As a part of their preparations for battle, the Braves staged an archery contest. When one Brave had distinguished himself above all the other, Cockqua motioned that he now wanted Douglas to compete with the Brave. A target was set upon a rock and Douglas hit it with the first shot from his gun. Unimpressed, the grinning Brave did the same with his arrow. Next a target was suspended by a thong from a limb. Douglas hit this too and so did the Brave.

Red Hawk. ©2013 H a v e n

Red Hawk. ©2013 H a v e n

Just then a Hawk flew overhead. Douglas raised his gun to his shoulder, there was a burst of feathers and the Hawk dropped to the ground. Beside him, the Brave grunted as though he had been kicked.

Cockqua smiled enigmatically, refusing to show whether or not he was impressed. He seized a high-crowned hat from one of the people and threw it into the air as though daring Douglas to repeat the feat. Douglas’ shot ripped away the entire crown of the hat. Cockqua picked up the hat, stared at it in amazement, then shoved it down over the owners head so far that his entire head came through. The People seemed to find this very amusing.

‘ The Grass Man is a Great Chief. The Grass Man is a Medicine Man like the Great White Eagle,” Cockqua told everyone.

Douglas Fir Tree.

Douglas Fir Tree.

The People did not attempt to detain Douglas further and soon the title, Grass Man, had spread everywhere along the River. Just as the practical Natives could see no reason for McLoughlin to measure the River, they could see no reason for a man to collect plants he could not eat or smoke, so they concluded that this also had something to do with magical powers.

-Retold by Jim Atwell from his book Columbia River Gorge History Volume One (out of print)

How Carson got it’s name: As told by Henry Metzger

Skamania County Pioneer, April 21, 1939

John Skaar and unidentified man. ca. 1913

John Skaar and unidentified man. ca. 1913


“… Prior to 1893, the nearest store and postoffice was at Cascade Locks, Oregon. To get there and back by rowboat was to say the least, very inconvenient. In that year, A.G. Tucker, an old bachelor, started a store in a miserable, tumble-down shack which was built by the sawmill company. The citizens of Carson applied for a postoffice and were granted a twice-a-week mail service. Mr. Tucker, an ardent admirer of Kit Carson, suggested the name “Carson” for the postoffice and the name was adopted without objection. … Before [there was] a postoffice … Carson was known as “Sprague Landing”. …”

Blue Jay visits Ghost Town: A Chinook Legend

In this rather gloomy tale with its grim ending, the culture hero Blue Jay meets his final end through his mincing, mischievous ways, in the land of the dead, – Ghost Town.

IMG_20130307_123742

H a v e n | © 2014

One night the ghosts decided to go out and buy a wife. They chose a woman named Io’i, and gave her family dentalia as a dowry. They were married one night, and on the following morning Io’i disappeared. Now Io’i had a brother named Blue Jay. For a year he waited to hear from her, then said, “I’ll go search for her.” He asked all the trees, “Where do people go when they die?” they remained silent. He asked all the birds, but they did not tell him either. Then he asked an old wedge. It said, “Pay me and I’ll carry you there.” He did, and it took him to the ghosts. The wedge and Blue Jay arrived near a large town, where they saw no smoke rising from any of the houses except the last one, a great edifice. Blue Jay went into it and found his elder sister, who greeted him fondly. “Ah, my brother,” she said, “where have you come from? Have you died?” “Oh, no,” he said, “I am not dead at all. The wedge brought me here on his back.” Then he went out and opened the doors to all the other houses. They were full of bones. He noticed a skull and bones lying near his sister, and when he asked her what she was doing with them, she replied: “That’s your brother-in-law!” “Pshaw! Io’i is lying all the time,” he thought. “She says a skull is my brother-in-law!” But when it grew dark people arose from what had been just bones, and the house was suddenly full of activity. When Blue Jay asked his sister about all the people, she laughed and replied, “Do you think they are people? These are ghosts!” Even hearing this, though, he resumed staying with his sister. She said to him, “Do as they do and go fishing with your dip net.” “I think I will,” he replied. “Go with that boy,” she said, pointing to a figure. “He is one of your brother-in-law’s relations. But don’t speak to him; keep quiet.” These people always spoke in whispers, so that Blue Jay didn’t understand them. And so they started in their canoes. He and his guide caught up with a crowd of people who were going down the river, singing aloud as they paddled. When Blue Jay joined their song, they fell silent. Blue Jay looked back and saw that where the boy had been, there were now only bones in the stern of the canoe. They continued to go down the river, and Blue Jay kept quiet. Then he looked at the stern again, and the boy was sitting there. Blue Jay said in a low voice, “Where is your fish trap?” He spoke slowly, and the boy replied, “It’s down the river.” They paddled on. Then Blue Jay said in a loud voice, “Where is your trap?” This time he found only a skeleton in the stern. Blue Jay was again silent. He looked back, and the boy was sitting in the canoe.

Auntie Virginia Miller's Canoe. Edward S. Curtis

Auntie Virginia Miller’s Canoe. Edward S. Curtis

He lowered his voice and said, “Where is your trap?” “Here,” replied the boy. Now they fished with their dip nets. Blue Jay felt something in his net, and lifted it, and found only two branches. He turned his net and threw them into the water; it soon became full of leaves. He threw them back, but some fell into the canoe and the boy gathered them up. As they continued fishing, Blue Jay caught two more branches that he decided to take back to Io’i for making a fire. They arrived at home and went up to the house. Blue Jay was angry that he had not caught anything, but the boy brought up a mat full of trout, even though Blue Jay had not seen him catch a single one in his net. While the people were roasting them, the boy announced, “He threw most of the catch out of the canoe. Our canoe would have been full if he had not thrown so much away.” His sister said to Blue Jay: “Why did you throw away what you had caught?” “I threw away nothing but branches and leaves.” “That is our food,” she replied. “Did you think they were branches? The leaves were trout, and the branches were fall salmon.” He said, “Well, I brought you two branches to use for making a fire.” So his sister went down to the beach and found two fall salmon in the canoe. She carried them up to the house, and Blue jay said, “Where did you steal those salmon?” She replied, “That’s what you caught.” “Io’i is always lying,” Blue Jay said. The next day Blue Jay went to the beach. There lay the canoes of the ghosts, now full of holes and covered with moss. He went up to the house and said to his sister, “How bad your husband’s canoes are, Io’i!” “Oh, be quiet,” she said. “They’ll become tired of you.” “But the canoes of these people are full of holes!” Exasperated, his sister turned to him and said, “Are they people? Are they people? Don’t you understand? They are ghosts.”

Paul Kane drawing of one of my Watala/ Chinook ancestors.

Paul Kane drawing of one of my Watala/ Chinook ancestors.

When it grew dark again, Blue Jay and the boy made themselves ready to go fishing again. This time he teased the boy: as they made their way down the river, he would shout, and only bones would be there. When they began fishing, Blue Jay gathered in the branches and leaves instead of throwing them away. When the ebb tide set in, their canoe was full. On the way home, he teased all the other ghosts. As soon as they met one he would shout out loud, and only bones would lie in the other canoe. They arrived at home, and he presented his sister with armfuls of fall salmon and silver-side salmon. The next morning Blue Jay went into the town and waited for the dark, when the life came back. That evening he heard someone announce, “Ah, a whale has been found!” his sister gave him a knife and said, “Run! A whale has been found!” Anxious to gather meat, Blue Jay ran to the beach, but when he met one of the people and asked in a loud voice, “Where is the whale?” only a skeleton lay there. Then he came to a large log with thick bark. A crowd of people were peeling off the bark, and Blue Jay shouted to them so that only skeletons lay there. The bark was full of pitch. He peeled off two pieces and carried them home on his shoulder. He went home and threw the bark down outside the house. He said to his sister, ” I really thought it was a whale. Look here: it’s just bark from a fir.” His sister said, “It’s whale meat, it’s whale meat; did you think it’s just bark?” His sister went out and pointed to two cuts of whale meat lying on the ground. “It’s good whale, and it’s blubber is very thick.” Blue Jay stared down at the bark, astonished to find a dead whale lying there. Then he turned his back, and when he saw a person carrying a piece of bark on his back, he shouted and nothing but a skeleton lay there. He grabbed the bark and carried it home, then went back to catch more ghosts.

Elk | H a v e n ©2013

Elk | H a v e n ©2013

In the course of time he had many meals of whale meat. The next morning he entered a house and took a child’s skull, which he put on a large skeleton. And he took a large skull and put it on that child’s skeleton. He mixed up all the people like this, and when it grew dark the child rose to it’s feet. It wanted to sit up, but it fell down again because its head pulled it down. The old man arose. His head was too light! The next morning Blue Jay replaced the heads and switch around their legs instead. He gave small legs to an old man, and large legs to a child. Sometimes he exchanged a man’s and a woman’s legs. In course of time Blue Jay’s antics began to make him very unpopular. Io’i's husband said: “Tell him he must go home. He mistreats them, and these people don’t like him.” Io’i tried to stop her younger brother’s pranks, but he would pay no attention. On the next morning he awoke early and found Io’i holding a skull in her arms. He tossed it away and asked: “Why do you hold that skull, Io’i?” “Ah, you have broken your brother-in-law’s neck!” When it grew dark, his brother in law was gravely sick, but a shaman was able to make him well again. Finally Blue Jay decided it was time to go home. His sister gave him five buckets full of water and said: “Take care! When you come to burning prairies, save the water until you come to the fourth prairie. Then pour it out.” “All right,” replied Blue Jay. He started out and reached a prairie. It was hot. Red flowers bloomed on the prairie. He poured water on the prairie, using half of one of his buckets. He passed through a woods and reached another prairie, which was burning at its end. “This is what my sister told me about.” He poured the rest of the bucket out on the trail. He took another bucket and poured, and when it was half empty he reached the woods on the other side of the prairie. He came to still another prairie, the third one. One half of it was burning strongly. He took a bucket and emptied it. He took another bucket and emptied half of it. Then he reached the woods on the other side of the prairie. Now he had only two and a half buckets left. He came to another prairie which was almost totally on fire. He took the half bucket and emptied it. He took one more bucket, and when he arrived at the woods at the far side of the prairie, he had emptied it. Now only one bucket was left. He reached another prairie which was completely ablaze. He eked out the last drop of water. When he had gotten nearly across he had run out of water, so he took off his bearskin blanket and beat the fire. The whole bearskin blanket blazed up. Then his head and hair caught fire and soon Blue Jay himself was burned to death.

'you put a spell on me. 'exquisite corpse drawing © Bernard Dumaine & Marc Gosselin

‘you put a spell on me. ‘exquisite corpse drawing by Bernard Dumaine & Marc Gosselin.

Now when it was just growing dark Blue Jay returned to his sister. “Kukukukukuku, Io’i,” he called. Mournfully his sister cried, “Ah, my brother is dead.” His trail led to the water on the other side of the river. She launched her canoe to fetch him. Io’i's canoe seemed beautiful to him. She said, “And you told me that my canoe was moss-grown!” “Ah, Io’i is always telling lies. The `other’ ones had holes and were moss grown, anyway.” “You are dead now, Blue Jay, so you see things differently.” But still he insisted, “Io’i is always telling lies.” Now she paddled her brother across to the other side. He saw the people. Some sang; some played dice with beaver teeth or with ten disks. The women played hoops. Farther along, Blue Jay heard people singing conjurers’ songs and saw them dancing, kumm, kumm, kumm, kumm. He tried to sing and shout, but they all laughed at him. Blue Jay entered his sister’s house and saw that his brother-in-law was a chief, and a handsome one. She said: “And you broke his neck!” “Io’i is always telling lies. Where did these canoes come from? They’re pretty.” “And you said they were all moss-grown!” “Io’i is always telling lies. The others all had holes. Parts of them were moss-grown.” “You are dead now, and you see things differently,” said his sister. “Io’i is always telling lies.” Blue Jay tried to shout at the people, but they laughed at him. Then he gave it up and became quiet. Later when his sister went to look for him, he was standing near the dancing conjurors. He wanted their powers, but they only laughed at him. He pestered them night after night, and after five nights he came back to his sister’s house. She saw him dancing on his head, his legs upward. She turned back and cried. Now he had really died. He had died a second time, made witless by the magicians.

Based on a tale reported by Franz Boas in 1894, and is now in the public domain.