LORE & LEGENDS
Tamanous Of Tacoma
By Charles M. Skinner in 1896
Mount Tacoma has always been a place of
superstitious regard among the Siwash (Sauvage) of the Northwest. In their
myths it was the place of refuge for the last man when the Whulge was so
swollen after long rain that its waters covered the earth. All other men
were drowned. The waves pursued the one man as he climbed, rising higher
and higher until they came to his knees, his waist, his breast. Hope was
almost gone, and he felt that the next wave would launch him into the
black ocean that raged about him, when one of the tamanouses of the peak,
taking pity on him, turned his feet to stone.
The storm ceased, and the waters fell away.
The man still stood there, his feet a part of the peak, and he mourned
that he could not descend to where the air was balmy and the flowers were
The Spirit of all Things came and bade him
sleep, and, after his eyes were closed, tore out one of his ribs and
changed it to a woman. When lifted out of the rock the man awoke, and,
turning with delight to the woman, he led her to the sea-shore, and there
in a forest bower they made their home. There the human race was
shore of the Whulge in after years lived an
miser--rare personage--who dried salmon and jerked the meat that he
did not use, and sold it to his fellow-men for hiaqua--the wampum of
the Pacific tribes. The more of this treasure he got, the more he
wanted--even as if it were dollars. One day, while hunting on the
slopes of Mount Tacoma, he looked along its snow-fields, climbing to
the sky, and, instead of doing homage to the tamanous, or divinity of
the mountain, he only sighed, "If I could only get more hiaqua!"
Mount Tacoma around the turn of the century.
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Sounded a voice in
his ear: "Dare you go to my treasure caves?"
"I dare!" cried the
The rocks and snows
and woods roared back the words so quick in echoes that the noise was
like that of a mountain laughing. The wind came up again to whisper
the secret in the man's ear, and with an elk-horn for pick and spade
he began the ascent of the peak. Next morning he had reached the
crater's rim, and, hurrying down the declivity, he passed a rock
shaped like a salmon, next, one in the form of a kamas-root, and
presently a third in likeness of an elk's head. "'Tis a tamanous has
spoken!" he exclaimed, as he looked at them.
At the foot of the elk's head he began to
dig. Under the snow he came to crusts of rock that gave a hollow
sound, and presently he lifted a scale of stone that covered a cavity
brimful of shells more beautiful, more precious, more abundant than
his wildest hopes had pictured. He plunged his arms among them to the
shoulder--he laughed and fondled them, winding the strings of them
about his arms and waist and neck and filling his hands. Then, heavily
burdened, he started homeward.
In his eagerness to take away his treasure
he made no offerings of hiaqua strings to the stone tamanouses in the
crater, and hardly had he begun the descent of the mountain's western
face before he began to be buffeted with winds.
The angry god wrapped himself in a whirling
tower of cloud and fell upon him, drawing darkness after. Hands seemed to
clutch at him out of the storm: they tore at his treasure, and, in
despair, he cast away a cord of it in sacrifice. The storm paused for a
moment, and when it returned upon him with scream and flash and roar he
parted with another. So, going down in the lulls, he reached timber just
as the last handful of his wealth was wrenched from his grasp and flung
upon the winds. Sick in heart and body, he fell upon a moss-heap,
senseless. He awoke and arose stiffly, after a time, and resumed his
In his sleep a change had come to the man. His
hair was matted and reached to his knees; his joints creaked; his food
supply was gone; but he picked kamas bulbs and broke his fast, and the
world seemed fresh and good to him. He looked back at Tacoma and admired
the splendor of its snows and the beauty of its form, and had never a care
for the riches in its crater. The wood was strange to him as he descended,
but at sunset he reached his wigwam, where an aged woman was cooking
salmon. Wife and husband recognized each other, though he had been asleep
and she a-sorrowing for years. In his joy to be at home the miser dug up
all his treasure that he had secreted and gave of his wealth and wisdom to
whoso needed them. Life, love, and nature were enough, he found, and he
never braved the tamanous again.
A Siwash Wiki-up
Compiled and edited by
updated December, 2012.
About the Author:
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.
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