Like the ancient Greeks, the Siwash of the
Northwest invest the unseen world with spiritual intelligence. Every tree
has a soul; the forests were peopled with good and evil genie, the latter
receiving oblation at the devil-dances, for it was not worth while to
appease those already good; and the mountains are the home of tamanouses,
or guardian spirits, that sometimes fight together--as, when the spirits
of Mount Tacoma engaged with those of Mount Hood, fire and melted stone
burst from their peaks, their bellowing was heard afar, and some of the
rocks flung by Tacoma fell short, blocking the Columbia about the Dalles.
Across these fantastic reports of older
time there come echoes of a later instruction, adapted and blended
into native legend so that the point of division cannot be indicated.
Such is that of the mysterious Voyager of the Whulge--the Siwash name
for the sound that takes the name of Puget from one of Vancouver's
Across this body of water the stranger
came in a copper canoe that borrowed the glories of the morning. When
he had landed and sent for all the red men, far and near, he addressed
to them a doctrine that provoked expressions of contempt--a doctrine
To fight and steal no more, to give of
their goods to men in need, to forgive their enemies,--they could not
understand such things. He promised--this radiant stranger--to those
who lived right, eternal life
on seas and hills more fair than these of
earth, but they did not heed him. At last, wearying of his talk, they
dragged him to a tree and nailed him fast to it, with pegs through his
hands and feet, and jeered and danced about him, as they did about
their victims in the devil-dance, until his head fell on his breast
and his life went out.
A great storm, with thunderings and
earthquakes! They took the body down and would have buried it, but,
it arose to its feet, as the sun burst forth, and resumed its
preaching. Then they took the voyager's word for truth and never
harmed him more, while they grew less warlike as each year went by
until, of all
Indians, they were most peaceable.
of America, updated September, 1016.
About the Author: Charles M.
Skinner (1852-1907) authored the complete nine volume set of Myths and
Legends of Our Own Land in 1896. This tale is excerpted from
these excellent works, which are now in the public domain.