The Native American civilizations of the Pacific Northwest created a diverse mythology to rich with tales of natural phenomena. Several tribal legends from this area attribute anthropomorphic qualities to animals they viewed as the helpers of humankind. Others describe terrifying monsters and tell how these creatures suffered defeat at the hands of humans, animals or benevolent supernatural entities.
Cyclone, Mother of Wind
The Alsea tribe depicted cyclones as a maternal force that was as protective as it was destructive. According to their legend, an old woman allowed her sons and only daughter to travel the world. At each town they came across, the sons instigated, and won, games of field hockey. Angry at losing the game, the people in one town trapped the children in a stone house.
The daughter pulled herself out of a small hole in the stone and ran to alert her mother. The mother tapped on the stone house with her cane, repeating the phrase, "I am Cyclone." The stone home cracked open, releasing her children. Cyclone overturned each village they passed on their way home, then turned her children into the winds so they would no longer need her protection.
Kali-qoo Steals the Sun
The Chehalis believed that, long ago, a greedy chief kept the sun in a box, immersing the world in darkness. The surrounding villages decided to steal the sun so that all could enjoy its warm rays. A man named Kali-qoo disguised himself as a slave, infiltrating the home of the sun-hiding chief. Blue Jay helped by pretending he recognized Kali-goo from his childhood.
The chief always gave the box of sun to his daughter when she went to pick berries. When she brought along Kali-goo as an oarsman, he stole the sun just as she opened the box. He brought it to his chief, who declared that all would share the sun from that time forward.
Coyote Creates Humankind
The Trickster Coyote figures into a number of indigenous legends, with the Nez Perce crediting him with the creation of humanity. Their legend states that a giant monster went through the land, devouring all the small animals. Coyote tied himself to the Wallowa mountains and challenged the monster to eat him.
The monster failed, but decided to be friends with Coyote instead of continuing in his attempts to devour the Trickster. One day, Coyote said he wished to see the animals the monster had eaten. The monster obliged and opened his mouth wide enough for Coyote to enter.
Coyote built a fire in the monster's stomach and cut out his heart, allowing the other animals to escape. He scattered the pieces of the monster across the globe, creating a new species, humans. He then washed the blood from his hands where he stood, creating the Nez Perce.
The Owl's Eyes
Yakama legend tells of sinister cannibals called Tah-tah-kle' -ah, monstrous entities that nevertheless resembled tall humans. They would often trap people for food, but at one point, two Tah-tah-kle'-ah sisters decided instead to kidnap a young boy and raise him as their own. The boy endured several nights in captivity before he managed to escape.
Some time later, the cave of the Tah-tah-kle'-ah sisters grew red-hot and exploded. They and the other Tah-tah-kle'-ah died, killed by a supernatural force. The force that killed them preserved one of their eyes and used it to give the owls the power of night vision.
Since 2003, Momi Awana's writing has been featured in "The Hawaii Independent," "Tradewinds" and "Eternal Portraits." She served as a communications specialist at the Hawaii State Legislature and currently teaches writing classes at her library. Awana holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Hawaii, Mānoa.