Mythology Of Mt. St. Helens--Part 1D Picture


Ancient Stories --Part 1D

The Bridge Of The Gods—Multnomah Tribe Version

--Henry Sicade

Long, long, ago a man came down the Columbia River and settled at about where The Dalles, Oregon, is now, and this man had two sons, and as the boys grew up they became very ambitious, and there was trouble brewing, because they wanted to rule the country. To prevent trouble in the family the father secured a great big bow and arrow and shot one arrow to the north and told the older brother to go and hunt that arrow and “where you find it that will be your country.” So the older brother went north, and he became the progenitor of the Squally people.

And he took his bow and shot the other arrow to the south and the younger son was told to go and hunt that arrow and he found that arrow on the banks of the Willamette River, and this man became the progenitor of the Multnomah people.

“In my language they call it 'Multnomah' the people who lived by the big bend in the river.”

And to prevent further trouble the Great Spirit reared a range of mountains between these two brothers. There were then no peaks.

As time went on the Great Spirit caused a bridge over the Columbia River to be made. This was called the Tormanawas Bridge and later it was termed by the white writers, ‘The Bridge of the God.

The Columbia River flowed under this big bridge of rock, and on the south end of this bridge the Great Spirit placed a woman, a witch, and this woman was the guardian of the only fire then known, the sacred fire. There was no fire anywhere and as she saw the people living in misery and having a hard time getting along, she asked the Great Spirit that she might be allowed to give these people the sacred fire, and in time the Great Spirit consented and after that they could cook and prepare their food, and live happier and their lives were brightened, and as a reward to this woman the Great Spirit asked her what she desired the most as a reward for her benefits to the people.

She said, womanlike, “Make me the most handsome woman, the handsomest girl.” And so the Great Spirit rewarded her and she became the most handsome woman of the Northwest.

The people from all sections went over there asking her hand in marriage, and she paid no attention to them. Bye and bye a chief from the north came, a young man; his name was Chief Klickitat, and he asked her hand in marriage and she did not like to say yes, but she held him back and bye and bye another chief from the south came, and his name was Chief Wyeast.

He was the chief of the Multnomah people, and between the two she could not choose which she liked best and so a great war was started; the country was ravaged; people were killed and misery ruled, and the people got very scarce killing one another, and the great Spirit seeing this handsome woman was the cause of all kinds of trouble determined to undo what he had done, and so he killed all three, the two chiefs and this witch, and handsomest woman, and over the grave of this witch, as she had been some good to the people he placed a monument, which is now known as St. Helens Mountain or Mount St. Helens.

The Indians said that the mountain shall be known hereafter as Loowit a monument to Loowit, the witch, which was her name. These peaks were known and called by the names of the chiefs and the witch.

Klickitat was killed and his body was buried in the mountains, and a great big mountain was put over his grave, and now you know that mountain as Mount Adams.

As Wyeast had come from the south, his body was taken away off to the east of what is now known as Portland, and buried in the mountains, and the Great Spirit reared that great mountain known as Mount Hood as his monument and as these people who had caused so much trouble were gone, the Great Spirit reared another mountain, and this is this mountain which we now call Tacoma.

The part this mountain was to play in this story, she was to act as the guardian of these bodies, so nothing should happen to them and the Great Spirit thinking some trouble might come from the north also reared another mountain, and that is Mt. Kulshan, now known as Mount Baker. That was another watcher.

The Great Flood Story—Cowlitz Tribe Version

The Cowlitz also has an ancient story of how their tribe came into being. Unlike the stories of the Klickitat, Cascade and Multnomah who lived near the Bridge of the Gods, the Cowlitz tribe lived near the swift waters of the Cowlitz River, far away from the legendary Cascades of the Columbia River where this story took place.

What is amazing is that like the Klickitat, Cascade and Multnomah, the Cowlitz people suffered a devastating flood that submerged the entire valley of what would be the I-5 corridor all the way up to Mossyrock, which is where they settled. Geologically speaking, the Glacial Lake Missoula is noted to have flooded about 50 miles due west of Mossyrock, which might have not been the cause of the flood.

The greatest possibility of the great flood might have come from Mount Rainier. Possibly a massive mudflow or glacial outburst might have flooded the valley, but there is no evidence of a flood that swamped the entire valley to where only Lawelatla could be seen. Only two massive mudflows have ever been recorded at Mount Rainier: the Osceola and Electron mudflows. Both flows buried the land, some parts up to 26 feet deep in sediment near Orting, Washington.

One of the lease known lahars, the National Lahar, began from an explosive eruption that generated the C tephra 2,200-2,300 years ago also triggered lahars at the heads of several drainages (White, Cowlitz, and Nisqually), including one named the National Lahar, which moved for at least 100 km (62 mi) down the Nisqually River valley. It is among the largest of many lahars that originated during eruptions when hot rock mixed energetically with snow and ice to form sudden floods of water and debris. As they descend, these sudden watery floods incorporate considerable sediment from debris- mantled slopes and valleys to become voluminous lahars. Energetic mixing of hot rock and ice during eruptions is the most common cause of voluminous lahars at Mount Rainier.

Whatever be the cause, the flood that affected the Cowlitz people would determine their culture and their hope for salvation would come from a distant peak that they call Lawelatla.

--M. Terry Thompson & Steven M. Egesdal (Told By Roy Wilson ~ Cowlitz Tribal Chairman)

Pg. 134

Once, in the long ago time, the Great-Chief-of-the-Above told the tribal Holy Man to tell the people that a great flood was coming. The men were instructed to look for the largest cedar tree that they could find and cut it down. They were to make the largest canoe they had ever seen. It was to be the largest canoe that they could possibly make. Some of the women were to go to their basket trees and gather enough cedar bark to make the biggest and longest rope they had ever seen. The other women were to prepare much food: smoked salmon, dried berries, and many other foods.

The men finished building the great canoe. The women placed all of the food they had prepared in the canoe. The men took the rope the women had made and attached one end to the canoe and the other end to a very large rock near the edge of the river.

It began to rain, and they placed all of the children in the great canoe. They then put one of their finest young braves and a young woman of sixteen summers in the canoe to watch over and care for the children.

The rain continued to fall and the river overflowed its banks. The canoe began to float on the floodwaters. Soon the lower hills were covered with water. Finally, only Lawelatla (Mount St. Helens) could be seen. In time even she disappeared under the waters of the flood. The canoe tugged on the long rope the women had made, which was attached to the large rock far below.

One day, one of the children cried, “Look, there is another canoe!” They all could see a tiny speck in the distance. The thought of seeing other people made them feel very good. The next day the other canoe seemed to be a little bit closer. At least it was a tiny bit larger, but the following day they realized that it was not a canoe. It was Lawelatla coming back into view.

When the waters finally receded, the canoe rested on the banks of what is known today as the Cowlitz River. And the children in that canoe became the ancestors of today’s Cowlitz Indian people.

Takhoma’s Two Wives—Cowlitz Tribe

--M. Terry Thompson & Steven M. Egesdal (Told By Roy Wilson ~ Cowlitz Tribal Chairman)

Pg. 134

Generalized, after the Great Flood story as told by the Cowlitz people, they began another story about the major peaks surrounding them.

They tell of a great chief that once ruled the lands of the Salish Nation named Takhoma who had two wives named Lawelatla and Patu. This story does not explain to why the Creator was angry with them, but another story hints that one of Takhoma’s wives, Lawelatla tend to have a violent temper which might have caused the punishment. Nevertheless, the Creator turns them all into mountains.

Once in the long ago time there was a great chief. His name was Takhoma, and he had two wives, Lawelatla and Patu. They were doing some things that the Creator did not like, and they would not heed his warnings. He had to punish them, but he did not want to destroy them because they were such great people. They should remain as a lesson to everyone, forever. So, he changed them into great mountains. Today we know Takhoma as Mount Rainier, Lawelatla as Mount St. Helens, and Patu as Mount Adams.

Lawelatla’s Temper—Cowlitz Tribe

In this tell, the Cowlitz people explain a terrible feud between Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. This story offers the name to the river that flows from Mount St. Helens called the Seqiku River which is now known as the Toutle River and about Coyote the Trickster who witnesses the argument.

M. Terry Thompson & Steven M. Egesdal (Told By Roy Wilson ~ Cowlitz Tribal Chairman)

--Pg. 134

Once in the long ago time Coyote was going up the Seqiku, the Toutle River, and he heard a great rumbling. He heard a great rumbling. He perked up his ear and realized that it was Lawelatla. She was very angry. Soon he heard another great rumbling coming from another direction, and he realized that it was Takhoma, who was also very angry. They were having a husband and wife argument, and he was in between them. Soon he saw Lawelatla blow her top and knock off the head of Takhoma.

Umatilla’s Story-- The Dalles Tribe

--Ida Dorman Morris (June 8th 1901)

--Pg. 143-149

‘Years ago when the earth was young; Mount Hood was the home of the Storm Spirit, and Mount Adams of the Fire Spirit. Across the vale that spread between them stretched a mighty bridge of stone joining peak to peak. On this altar ‘The Bridge Of The Gods’, the Indian laid his offering of fish and dressed skins for Nanne, the goddess of summer. These two spirits; Storm and Fire, both loving the fair goddess grew jealous of each other and fell to fighting. A perfect gale of fire, lightning, splintered trees and rocks swept the bridge, but the brave goddess courageously kept her place on this strange altar. In the deep shadows of the rocks, a warrior who had loved her long but hopelessly, kept watch. The storm waxed stronger, the altar trembled, and the earth to its very center shook. The young chief sprang forward and caught Nanne in his arms, a crash and the beautiful goddess and the brave warrior were buried under the debris forever. The Columbia now goes whirling, tossing and dashing over that old altar and hurrying on to the sea.

The Spirits of Storm and Fire still linger in their old haunts; but never again will they see the fair Nanne. The Indian invariably mixes a grain of truth with much that is wild, weird and strange. It was Umatilla, chief of the Indians at the Cascades who brought about peace between the white man and his red brother. He had lost all of his children by the plague except his youngest son; Black Eagle as his father called him; and Benjamin as the white man called him. Black Eagle was still a lad when an eastern man built a little schoolhouse by the river and began teaching the Indians. A warm friendship sprang up between teacher and pupil.

One sad day, Black Eagle fell ill with the plague. Umatilla received the news that his son could not live, with all the stoicism of his race, hilt he went away alone into the wood, returning at the dawn of day. When he returned Black Eagle was dying. Slowly the pale lids closed over the sunken eyes, a breath and the brave lad had trusted his soul to the white man's God. The broken-hearted old chief sat the long night through by the corpse of his son. When morning came he called the tribe together and told them he wished to follow his last child to the grave, but he wanted them to promise him that they would cease to war with the white man and seek his friendship. At first many of the warriors refused, but Umatilla had been a good chief, and always had given them tine presents at the potlatches. Consulting among themselves they finally consented. When the grave was ready, the braves laid the body of Black Eagle to rest…then said the old chief:

“My heart is in the grave with my son. Be always kind to the white man as you have promised me, and bury us together. One last look into the grave of him I loved and Umatilla too shall die.” The next instant the gentle, kind hearted old chief dropped to the ground dead. Peace to his ashes. They buried him as he had requested and a little later sought the teacher's friendship, asking him to guide them. That year saw the end of the trouble between the Indians and the white race at The Dalles. The old chief still lives in the history of his country. Umatilla is a familiar name in Dalles City. The principal hotel bears the name of Umatilla.

Up toward The Dalles on the Washington side of the river, are three springs. These springs have long been considered by the Indians a veritable fountain of youth. Long before the coming of the white man they carried their sick and aged to these springs, across the ‘Bridge Of The Gods.’ Just above Dalles City lies The Dalles which obstructs navigation for twelve miles. Beyond this point the river is navigable two hundred miles. Here, too, legends play an important part.

When the volcanoes of the northwest were blazing forth their storm of fire; ashes and lava; a tribe known as the Fire Fiends walked the earth and held high revelry in this wild country. When Mount Rainier had ceased to burn, the Devil called the leaders of the tribe together one day and proposed that they follow nature's mood and live more peaceably, and that they quit killing and eating each other. A howl met this proposal. The Devil deemed it wise just at this moment to move on, so off he set, a thousand Fire Fiends after him. Now his majesty could easily whip a score of Fiends, but he was no match for a thousand, lie lashed his wondrous tail about and broke a great chasm in the ground. Many of the Fiends fell in, but the greater part leaped the rent and came on. A second time the ponderous tail came down with such force that a large ravine was cracked out of the rocks, the earth breaking away into an inland sea. The flood engulfed the Fiends to a man. The bed of the sea is now a prairie and the three strokes of the Devil's tail are plainly visible in the bed of the Columbia at The Dalles.

Link To: Mythology Of Mount St. Helens--Part 2A (Legend Of Seatco)

Continue Reading: Ages of Man