Music: Dreams Of The Healing Rain by Mesa Music Consort
|A Legend of Multnomah Falls
A Wasco Legend
Many years ago the head chief of the Multnomah people had a beautiful young daughter. She was especially dear to her father because he had lost all
his sons in fighting, and he was now a old man. He chose her husband with great care, a young chief from his neighbors the Clatsop people. To the
wedding feast came many people from tribes along the lower Columbia and south of it.
The wedding feast was to last for several days. There were swimming races and canoe races on the river. There would be bow-and-arrow contests,
horse racing, dancing, and feasting. The whole crowd was merry, for both the maiden and the young warrior were loved by their people.
But without warning the happiness changed to sorrow. A sickness came over the village. Children and young people were the first victims, then
strong men became ill and died in only one day. The wailing of the women was heard throughout the Multnomah village and the camps of the guests.
"The Great Spirit is angry with us," the people said to each other. The head chief called together his old men and warriors for counsel and asked
gravely, "What can we do to soften the Great Spirit's wrath?"
Only silence followed his question. At last one of the old medicine men arose. "There is nothing we can do. If it is the will of the Great Spirit that we
die, then we must meet our death like brave men. The Multnomah have ever been a brave people."
The other members of the council nodded in agreement, all except one, the oldest medicine man. He had not attended the wedding feast and games,
but he had come in from the mountains when he was called by the chief. He rose and, leaning on his stick, spoke to the council. His voice was low
"I am a very old man, my friends, I have lived a long, long time. Now you will know why. I will tell you a secret my father told me. He was a great
medicine man of the Multnomah, many summers and many snows in the past.
"When he was an old man, he told me that when I became old, the Great Spirit would send a sickness upon our people. All would die, he said, unless a
sacrifice was made to the Great Spirit. Some pure and innocent maiden of the tribe, the daughter of a chief, must willingly give her life for her people.
Alon, she must go to a high cliff above Big River and throw herself upon the rocks below. If she does this, the sickness will leave us at once."
Then the old man said, "I have finished, my father's secret is told. Now I can die in peace."
Not a word was spoken as the medicine man sat down. At last the chief lifted his head. "Let us call in all the maidens whose fathers or grandfathers
have been headmen.
Soon a dozen girls stood before him, among them his own loved daughter. The chief told them what the old medicine man had said. "I think his
words are words of truth," he added.
Then he turned to his medicine and warriors, "Tell our people to meet death bravely. No maiden shall be asked to sacrifice herself. The meeting has
The sickness stayed in the village, and many more people died. The daughter of the head chief sometimes wondered if she should be the one to give her
life to the Great Spirit. But she loved the young warrior, she wanted to live.
A few days later she saw the sickness on the face of her lover. Now she knew what she must do. She cooled his hot face, cared for him tenderly, and
left a bowl of water by his bedside. Then she slipped away alone, without a word to anyone.
All night and all the next day she followed the trail to the great river. At sunset she reached the edge of a cliff overlooking the water. She stood there in
silence for a few moments, looking at the jagged rocks far below. Then she turned her face toward the sky and lifted up her arms. She spoke aloud to
the Great Spirit.
"You are angry with my people. Will you make the sickness pass away if I give you my life? Only love and peace and purity are in my heart. If you
will accept me as a sacrifice for my people, let some token hang in the sky. Let me know that my death will not be in vain and that the sickness will
Just then she saw the moon coming up over the trees across the river. It was the token. She closed her eyes and jumped from the cliff.
Next morning, all the people who had expected to die that day arose from their beds well and strong. They were full of joy. Once more there was
laughter in the village and in the camps of the guests.
Suddenly someone asked, "What caused the sickness to pass away? Did one of the maidens---?"
Once more the chief called the daughter and granddaughter of the headmen to come before him. This time one was missing.
The Young Clatsop warrior hurried along the trail which leads to Big River. Other people followed. On the rocks below the high cliff they found the
girl they all loved. There they buried her.
Then her father prayed to the Great Spirit, "Show us some token that my daughter's spirit has been welcomed into the land of the spirits."
Almost at once they heard the sound of water above. All the people looked up to the cliff. A stream of water, silvery white, was coming over the edge
of the rock. It broke into floating mist and then fell at their feet. The stream continued to float down in a high and beautiful waterfall.
For many summers the white water has dropped from the cliff into the pool below. Sometimes in winter the spirit of the brave and beautiful maiden
comes back to see the waterfall. Dressed in white, she stands among the trees at one side of Multnomah Falls. There she looks upon the place where
she made her great sacrifice and thus saved her lover and her people from death.
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|Coyote and Multnomah Falls
A Wasco Legend
The Big River, or Great River, in the stories of the Northwest Indians is the Columbia. The Big Shining Mountains are the Rockies.
"Long, long ago, when the world was young and people had not come out yet," said an elderly Indian years ago, "the animals and the birds were the
people of this country. They talked to each other just as we do. And they married, too."
Coyote (ki-o-ti) was the most powerful of the animal people, for he had been given special power by the Spirit Chief. For one thing, he changed the
course of Big River, leaving Dry Falls behind. In some stories, he was an animal; in others he was a man, sometimes a handsome young man.
In that long ago time before this time, when all the people and all the animals spoke the same language, Coyote made one of his frequent trips along
Great River. He stopped when he came to the place where the water flowed under the Great Bridge that joined the mountains on one side of the river
with the mountains on the other side. There he changed himself into a handsome young hunter.
When traveling up the river the last time, he had seen a beautiful girl in a village not far from the bridge. He made up his mind that he would ask the
girl's father if he might have her for his wife. The girl's father was a chief. When the handsome young man went to the chief's lodge, he carried with
him a choice gift for the father in return for his daughter.
The gift was a pile of the hides and furs of many animals, as many skins as Coyote could carry. He made the gift large and handsome because he had
learned that the man who would become the husband of the girl would one day become the chief of the tribe.
The chief knew nothing about the young man except that he seemed to be a great hunter. The gift was pleasing in the father's eyes, but he wanted his
daughter to be pleased.
"She is my only daughter," the chief said to the young hunter. "And she is very dear to my heart. I shall not be like other fathers and trade her for a
pile of furs. You will have to win the heart of my daughter, for I want her to be happy."
So Coyote came to the chief's lodge every day, bringing with him some small gift that he thought would please the girl. But he never seemed to bring
the right thing. She would shyly accept his gift and then run away to the place where the women sat in the sun doing their work with deerskins or to
the place where the children were playing games.
Every day Coyote became more eager to win the beautiful girl. He thought and thought about what gifts to take to her. "Perhaps the prettiest flower
hidden in the forest," he said to himself one day, "will be the gift that will make her want to marry me."
He went to the forest beside Great River and searched for one whole day. Then he took to the chief's lodge the most beautiful flower he had found. He
asked to see the chief.
"I have looked all day for this flower for your daughter," said Coyote to the chief. "If this does not touch her heart, what will? What gift can I bring
that will win her heart?"
The chief was the wisest of all the chiefs of a great tribe. He answered, "Why don't you ask my daughter? Ask her, today, what gift will make her
heart the happiest of all hearts."
As the two finished talking, they saw the girl come out of the forest. Again Coyote was pleased and excited by her beauty and her youth. He stepped
up to her and asked, "Oh, beautiful one, what does your heart want most of all? I will get for you anything that you name. This flower that I found
for you in a hidden spot in the woods is my pledge."
Surprised, or seeming to be surprised, the girl looked at the young hunter and at the rare white flower he was offering her.
"I want a pool," she answered shyly. "A pool where I may bathe every day hidden from all eyes that might see."
Then, without accepting he flower that Coyote had searched for so many hours, she ran away. As before, she hurried to play with her young friends.
Coyote turned to her father. "It is well. In seven suns I will come for you and your daughter. I will take you to the pool she asked for. The pool will
be for her alone."
For seven suns Coyote worked to build the pool that would win the heart of the girl he wished to marry. First he cut a great gash in the hills on the
south side of Great River. Then he lined the gash with trees and shrubs and ferns to the very top of a high wall that looked toward the river.
Then he went to the bottom of the rock wall and slanted it back a long way, far enough to hollow out a wide pool. He climbed up the wall again and
went far back into the hills. There he made a stream come out of the earth, and he sent it down the big gash he had made, to fall over the slanting rock
wall. From the edge of that wall the water dropped with spray and mist. And so the water made, at the bottom, a big screen that hid the pool from all
When he had finished his work, Coyote went to the village to invite the chief and his daughter to see what he had made. When they had admired the
new waterfall, he showed them the pool that lay behind it and the spray. He watched the eyes of the girl.
She looked with smiling eyes, first at the pool and the waterfall in front of it, and then at the young hunter who had made them for her. He could see
that she was pleased. He could see that at last he had won her heart. She told her father that she was willing to become the wife of the young hunter.
In that long ago time before this time, two old grandmothers sat all day on top of the highest mountains. One sat on the top of the highest mountain
north of Great River. The other sat on the highest mountain on the south of. When the one on the north side talked, she could be heard eastward as
far as the Big Shining Mountains, westward as far as the big water where the sun hides every night, and northward to the top of the world.
The grandmother on the south side of the river also could be heard as far west as the big water and as far south as anyone lived. The two old women
saw everything that was done, and every day they told all the people on both sides of the river.
Now they saw the chief's daughter go every morning to bathe in the pool, and they saw Coyote wait for her outside the screen of waterfall and spray.
The old grandmothers heard the two sing to each other and laugh together. The grandmothers laughed at the pair, raised their voices, and told all the
people what they saw and heard.
Soon the chief's daughter knew that all the people were laughing at her-- all the people from the big water to the Big Shining Mountains, all the people
from the top of the world to as far south as anyone lived.
She was no longer happy. She no longer sang with joy. One day she asked Coyote to allow her to go alone to the pool. The old grandmothers
watched her go behind the waterfall. Then they saw her walk from the pool and go down into Great River. Her people never saw her again.
Coyote, in a swift canoe, went down Great River in search of her. He saw her floating and swimming ahead of him, and he paddled as fast as he
could. He reached her just before she was carried out into the big water where the sun hides at night.
There the two of them, Coyote and the girl, were turned into little ducks, little summer ducks, floating on the water.
That was a long, long time ago. But even today, when the sun takes its last look at the high cliff south of Great River, two summer ducks swim out to
look back at the series of waterfalls that dash down the high mountain. They look longest at the lower cascade and the spray that hides the
tree-fringed pool behind them.
If those who want to understand will be silent and listen, they will hear the little song that the chief's daughter and Coyote used to sing to each other
every morning after she bathed in the pool. The song begins very soft and low, lifts sharply to a high note, and then fades gently away.
|Coyote Places the Stars
A Wasco Legend
One time there were five wolves, all brothers, who traveled together. Whatever meat they got when they were hunting they would share with Coyote.
One evening Coyote saw the wolves looking up at the sky. "What are you looking at up there my brothers?" asked Coyote. "Oh, nothing," said the
Next evening Coyote saw they were all looking up in the sky at something. He asked the next oldest wolf what they were looking at, but he wouldn't
It went on like this for three or four nights. No one wanted to tell Coyote what they were looking at because they thought he would want to interfere.
One night Coyote asked the youngest wolf brother to tell him, and the youngest wolf said to the other wolves, "Let's tell Coyote what we see up there.
He won't do anything."
So they told him. "We see two animals up there. Way up there, where we cannot get to them."
"Let's go up and see them," said Coyote.
"Well, how can we do that?"
"Oh, I can do that easy," said Coyote. "I can show you how to get up there without any trouble at all."
Coyote gathered a great number of arrows and then began shooting them into the sky. The first arrow stuck in the sky and the second arrow stuck in
the first. Each arrow stuck in the end of the one before it like that until there was a ladder reaching down to the earth. "We can climb up now," said
The oldest wolf took his dog with him, and then the other four wolf brothers came, and then Coyote. They climbed all day and into the night. All the
next day they climbed. For many days and nights they climbed, until finally they reached the sky. They stood in the sky and looked over at the two
animals the wolves had seen from below. They were two grizzly bears.
"Don't go near them," said Coyote. "They will tear you apart." But the two youngest wolves were already headed over. And the next two youngest
wolves followed them. Only the oldest wolf held back. The wolves sat down and looked at the bears, and the bears sat there looking at the wolves.
The oldest wolf, when he saw it was safe, came over with his dog and sat down with them.
Coyote wouldn't come over. He didn't trust the bears. "That makes a nice picture, though," thought Coyote. "They all look pretty good sitting there
like that. I think I'll leave it that way for everyone to see. Then when people look at them in the sky they will say, 'There's a story about that picture,'
and they will tell a story about me."
So Coyote left it that way. He took out the arrows as he descended so there was no way for anyone to get back. From down on earth Coyote admired
the arrangement he had left up there.
Today they still look the same. They call those stars Big Dipper now. If you look up there you'll see that three wolves make up the handle and the
oldest wolf, the one in the middle, still has his dog with him. The two youngest wolves make up the part of the bowl under the handle, and the two
grizzly bears make up the other side, the one that points toward the North Star.
When Coyote saw how they looked, he wanted to put up a lot of stars. He arranged stars all over the sky in pictures and then made the Big Road
across the sky with the stars he had left over.
When Coyote was finished he called Meadowlark over. "My brother," he said, "When I am gone, tell everyone they look up into the sky and see the
stars arranged this way, I was the one who did that. That is my work."
Now Meadowlark tells that story about Coyote.
|The Elk Spirit of Lost Lake
A Wasco Legend
In the days of our grandfathers, a young warrior named Plain Feather lived near Mount Hood. His guardian spirit was a great elk. The great elk
taught Plain Feather so well that he knew the best places to look for every kind of game and became the most skillful hunter in his tribe.
Again and again his guardian spirit said to him, "Never kill more than you can use. Kill only for your present need. Then there will be enough for all."
Plain Feather obeyed him. He killed only for food, only what he needed. Other hunters in his tribe teased him for not shooting for fun, for not using
all his arrows when he was out on a hunt. But Plain Feather obeyed the great elk.
Smart Crow, one of the old men of the tribe, planned in his bad heart to make the young hunter disobey his guardian spirit. Smart Crow pretended
that he was one of the wise men and that he had had a vision.
In the vision, he said, the Great Spirit had told him that the coming winter would be long and cold. There would be much snow. "Kill as many
animals as you can," said Smart Crow to the hunters of the tribe. "We must store meat for the winter."
The hunters, believing him, went to the forest and meadows and killed all the animals they could. Each man tried to be the best hunter in the tribe. At
first Plain Feather would not go with them, but Smart Crow kept saying, "The Great Spirit told me that we will have a hard winter. The Great Spirit
told me that we must get our meat now."
Plain Feather thought that Smart Crow was telling the truth. So at last he gave in and went hunting along the stream now called Hood River. First he
killed deer and bears. Soon he came upon five bands of elk and killed all but one, which he wounded.
Plain Feather did not know that this was his guardian elk, and when the wounded animal hurried away into the forest, Plain Feather followed.
Deeper and deeper into the forest and into the mountains he followed the elk tracks.
At last he came to a beautiful little lake. There, lying in the water not far from the shore, was the wounded elk. He heard a voice say clearly, "Draw
him in." And something drew Plain Feather closer to the wounded elk.
"Draw him in," the voice said again. And again Plain Feather was drawn closer to the great elk. At last he lay beside it. "Why did you disobey me?"
asked the elk. "All around you are the spirits of the animals you have killed. I will no longer be your guardian. You have disobeyed me and slain my
Then the voice which had said, "Draw him in," said, "Cast him out." And the spirits cast the hunter out of the water, onto the shore of the lake.
Weary in body and sick at heart, Plain Feather dragged himself to the village where his tribe lived. Slowly he entered his teepee and sank upon the
ground. "I am sick," he said. "I have been in the dwelling place of the lost spirits. And I have lost my guardian spirit, the great elk. He is in the lake of
the lost spirits."
Then he lay back and died. Ever after, the Indians called that lake the Lake of the Lost Spirits. Beneath its calm blue waters are the spirits of
thousands of the dead. On its surface is the face of Mount Hood, which stands as a monument to the lost spirits.