Arthur Ballard records and translates the Snoqualmie Tribe's legend of origin of the Tolt River beginning in 1916.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 8/01/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2587
Beginning in 1916, Anthropologist Arthur C. Ballard (1876-1962) records and translates the Snoqualmie tribe's legend regarding the origin of the Tolt River. Ballard interviews Snuqualmie Charlie (sia'txted) (ca. 1850-?) who relates the following:

The Wolf people lived on the slopes of Daqo'bit, the great snow mountain. They were famous hunters and every time one went out for game he brought in an elk. A pair of Wolf people turned to human-kind. They begat children, five sons, who grew up to be hunters like their fathers.

The young men, grown up and become persons, went out to hunt, but they did not kill so many elk as before. The eldest brother reflected and asked himself, "What shall we do now?" Then he thought, "We must move now." So he said to the brothers, "We shall move; we shall go this way as I direct, and when we find a good mountain we shall stay there."

They moved and made a new camp, but the place was not a good one, they found no elk. On the next day the eldest brother said, "There is nothing here; we shall move and seek another place."

They found another place to camp. Said they, "If this place is good we shall remain here." On the next day they hunted. They found a few elk, but not enough to meet their desires. The eldest brother again said, "We shall move again.

So the five brothers moved. This time they made their camp at Kalbts, where the ladder once reached from the sky. They hunted from Kalbts to the valley where the Tolt River now flows. They were pleased with the place. Next day they hunted. They found nothing but elk. "This is a good place to stay," they thought. "We find many elk."

Next day they hunted. They killed great numbers of elk, all they wanted. They thought this place would make a good home.

The parents of the hunters were now old and growing blind. The eldest son said, "This is a good place for the old people; there is food for them." "We shall live here now. Let us build something," said the others. Said the eldest, "I think we shall make a river from elk's tallow."

So they began to melt tallow of elk to make the river. The eldest brother said, "Let us pour this and see if it will flow down the ravine and turn to water."

Now they began to look and see what manner of work they had wrought. It was a river and they thought it good. Now they gave it a name; they called it Txwoda'tctLib, elk's tallow. But later they gave to the river the name, Toltxw, which it bears now.


Sources: Arthur C. Ballard, "Mythology of Puget Sound," University of Washington Publications in Anthropology, Vol. 3, No. 2 (December 1929), pp. 90-91.

Related Topics:   Northwest Indians | Rivers | Roots

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