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.

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)

Volcanoes in Cascadian Myth

Warring gods, black snow and deities represented by mountains are central

Wy'east | © 2015 H a v e n

Wy’east | © 2015 H a v e n

features of native folklore focusing on volcanoes in the Cascade Range.

To the Yakama, Klickitat, Cowlitz, Multnomah, Puyallup, Nisqually and other Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, peaks like Mt. St. Helens embodied supernatural and spiritual forces…”

Read more here

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.

The Journey has just Begun.

For the last several months I have been deeply steeped in book and print research, but this is not where my passion lies. I wish to be out and about with my recording gear, searching and digging for more knowledge and just sitting with the sound of the rivers and winds. It really is gathering many stories to piece together one story. The very question that started this whole journey was: “Who were my Ancestors?’ and from that one question, come many tributaries. And still my thirst grows.

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

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

I am about to fully step into the initial aims of this project of documenting what is left of our Stories, meaning, more living persons oral histories. Some of my Watala/Cascade cousins are looking at dis-enrollment from the Grand Ronde tribe (read more here) and fighting for what it means to be ‘Indigenous’. The honest truth is, we are becoming ghosts and I wish to honor a memory, fully and honestly. I want to know what our traditions were. I want to know why Wind Mountain was so Sacred to us and I want it to become sacred again, before we are all gone. I want to know how the landscape shaped our myth and our traditions. Why did we flatten our foreheads? I don’t want to be co-opted into the generalization of the ‘plains noble Indian’, for we were our own People and we are our own People.

BUT….yet, I am the Immigrant carrying goods upriver and I am the hands that would build the dam that would silence it forever. I am of many stories. And giving the way the modern world is swallowing our sense of belonging to place, we too, and our stories, are becoming ghosts.

The journey has just begun.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.