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Arthur Ballard records and translates the Snoqualmie tribe's legend of Moon the Transformer beginning in 1916.
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Beginning in 1916, Anthropologist Arthur C. Ballard (1876-1962) records and translates the Snoqualmie tribe's legend of Moon the Transformer, who creates Snoqualmie Falls and transforms the Dog Salmon. This is a compressed retelling of the story as collected by Ballard from Snuqualmie Charlie (sia'txted) (b. ca. 1850).
The Story of Moon the Transformer
Suwa'blko and his wife Tupa'ltxw had two daughters, Tukwiye' and Ya'slibc at a place called toltxw. The two sisters went up to the prairie to dig fern roots, called tadi by the Snoqualmie. When night came, the women lay down and looked at the sky full of stars. Ya'slibc, the younger of the two, made a wish that the shining white star would become her husband and that the shining red star would become her older sister's husband.
While they were sleeping, they were taken up to the sky. They awoke the next morning in the Sky Country and found that the wishes had come true. They were lying next to the men who they had wanted. There was no wind, only calm, and they did not know where they were. Ya'slibc learned that her husband, the one with one white eye, was an old man. Her sister's husband, the one with one red eye, was young and in the prime of life. The men hunted and the women dug fern roots. Soon the elder sister became pregnant and gave birth to a little boy.
The sisters discovered that by digging straight down, they came to the bottom of the Sky Country which is how they learned where they were. They climbed down a ladder they made from cedar boughs, closed the hole in the sky, and returned to their people on earth. There was great joy since the people did not know where the daughters had gone and they had searched everywhere for them.
While everyone was celebrating, Dog Salmon came and stole the little boy. Birds such as Yellowhammer and Raven and Osprey searched for the boy, but could not find him. Finally, Bluejay found the lost baby, Moon, among the Dog Salmon. By that time Moon was a grown man with boys of his own. Bluejay told Moon of his history which explained why Moon always felt badly. Moon decided to leave the Dog Salmon and return to his mother's people.
Snuqualmie Charlie told Anthropologist Ballard,
Moon started up the river. He drove the Dog Salmon ahead of him saying, "The new generation is coming now and you shall be food for the people, O Dog Salmon," Thus Moon began his work of changing things on earth.
At this time Moon had first said, "Dog Salmon, go down." Afterwards Moon wondered if he had made a mistake, then said, "Dog Salmon, go up stream." Then they became dog salmon and ran up stream. This was Moon's first work. If Moon had not made that mistake first the dog salmon would have run up stream all the time and never have gone down to the bay as they do now.
Snuqualmie Charlie told Ballard how Moon traveled up the river and transformed sandpipers and sawbill ducks and mallard ducks and clams, and bears and deer and other animals. The story continues:
Moon came to the place where Snuqualmi Falls now are, near the place where he was stolen as a child. It was then a fish weir of wood, closed so that the salmon could not go up the stream. Most of the people who owned the trap lived on the prairie above. Moon turned the fish weir into a waterfall.
Moon addressed the waterfall thus: "You, Waterfall, shall be a lofty cataract. Birds flying over you will fall and people shall gather them up and eat them. Deer coming down the stream will perish and the people shall have them for food. Game of every kind shall be found by the people for their subsistence."
After he had changed everything, and before he entered upon his work of giving light, Moon created the various peoples and all the rivers as they are now.
He made the Puyallup, the Nisqually and the other rivers. A man a wife he place upon one river; another couple he place upon another river, a people on each. Each people had a name, as Skagit, Yakima, Lummi, Puyallup, and others.
Moon said, "Fish shall run up these rivers; they shall belong to each people on its own river. You shall make your own living from the fish, deer and other wild game."
These couples increased until many people were on these rivers. This is why the Indians have multiplied. It is all the work of Moon and no one else but Moon.
The Snoqualmie Tribe regards Snoqualmie Falls as its birthplace. The spirits of various resources of the Snoqualmie River valley and the spirits of the prairie upstream meet at the falls, forming a sacred site for seeking spirit power.
Arthur C. Ballard, "Mythology of Southern Puget Sound," University of Washington Publications in Anthropology, Vol. 3, No. 2 (December 1929), pp. 31-150, (reprinted by the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum, North Bend, WA, 1929); Ken Tollefson, "Cultural Survival of the Snoqualmie Tribe," American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Vol. 16, No. 4 (1992), p. 34.
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Snoqualmie Falls from above, 1940s
Snoqualmie Falls, August 6, 2005
Photo by Stephen Reier