Document: Cascade Indian traditions

The following tales are taken from Donald M. Hines' book, The Forgotten Tribes: Oral Tales of the Teninos and Adjacent Mid-Columbia River Indian Nations, published in 1991 by Great Eagle Publishing Inc.,Issaquah, Washington.


Origin of the Horse
Chief Meninock, July 4, 1921

The horse [Kuc-ci] came from the East somewhere. It was never found on the ridges and dry land as now. The horse was in the lakes; it lived there.

Once the Indians held a meeting, a council. A lake was there. A young woman went to bring water. She saw an Indian man, who took her. She did not know who he was, but he was a real person. This was early in the fall, and that woman never came back. The Indians hunted for her but never found her. She was lost.

It was the next spring, early spring, when a man went to hunt rabbits and small game. He came to a swamp; some grass and feed were there. He saw a brown stallion in that swamp. The lost woman was there, about one-fourth horse. He saw that she had a mane and a tail, and hair on her body. This woman had been the wife of the Chief of the tribe.

The man hurried back to the village. He told what he had seen in the swamp, told the Chief how he had seen his wife and how she appeared. A council was held, and it was decided that they go see what was in the swamp. They did not believe all that the man had told them. They would go see for themselves. They went to the swamp and hid behind some bushes. They saw the brown stallion. They saw the woman, now partly changed to a horse. They now believed what the man had told them. He had spoken true words.

In those days the Indians had deerskin ropes for packing their bedding of skins and furs. They surrounded the swamp with these ropes, where the stallion and the woman were. Two colts were with them. The stallion broke the line and escaped, the two colts following him. The woman was behind and was caught. She was like a wild horse. The two colts turned back, came near their mother. One was about three moons old, the other one moon old. At first the woman did not talk, could not talk. But finally she spoke a few words, then talked more. She told them that she could not help it; she had to go with the stallion. She now had two children and wanted to take care of them. The Chief and his people let her go.

Three months later they saw her again. She was then completely changed into an iat [woman] kuc-ci. In three snows more there were plenty of kuc-cimah. Every snow after that the Indians caught any horses wanted in the swamps. They would catch one-snow colt and use it to pack from place to place. One would do a whole family, for all walked. They were afoot in those days. They would pay high for a horse. It was too costly for everyone to own a horse.

The horses kept coming on from the East, brought from the East to the n-Che-wana. They are now here in plenty. The Indians always believe that when you hallo, when you call to the horse, he understands you. He stops, or looks up. This is because of the iat kuc-ci. They understand our language, for they came from the iat.


How a Water-Ball was Made
Chepos Tocos (Owl Child), March 5, 1932

You know the Sweathouse, how it is made - how the rocks are first heated, and then put into the small hole in the ground just inside the doorway; how water must be brought and sprinkled on those hot stones to make a fog for the sweat. Three men had the rocks hot all ready for the sweat. Then they found they had no water-basket to bring water from the lake. They must try their Power to see who could bring the water.

One man took an open-woven basket, all full of holes, and dipped it into the lake. He brought the basket full of water and set it down at the sweathouse. He had a strong power. Another man took the dip-net - used to catch fish - and, going to the lake, dipped into the water and brought it filled and sat it by the basket that had been filled. The water did not leak out.

The last man must now try his power. He waded into the lake until the water came above his knees. Then he began making a waterball, piling it up and shaping it with his hands. He made a round ball of water, large as a good-sized cooking basket. He lifted it to his shoulder, carried it to the sweathouse, and sat it down by the basket and the dipnet of the other men. The water-ball held its shape, did not melt down. Then the man stuck his finger into it, and the water ran out. It was great work.

You do not know what Power this man possessed? I will tell you. When a small boy, he was sent out somewhere in a lonely place to try to find power from something. The seal came and talked to him. It told him to do as it was telling him, and when he should be grown up he would have this power to handle the water. Inside the fish, inside the seal, is the sack [air bladder} which you can take out. It was given to the fish and the seal to help them handle themselves in the water; they blow it up with air. Land animals do not have this, and it was this power given by the seal to the boy when alone in the night darkness. No other man had such power as did this man.