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Tamanous Of Tacoma


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

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
opening. 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 recreated.

On the shore of the Whulge in after years lived an Indian 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!

Sounded a voice in his ear: Dare you go to my treasure caves?

I dare! cried the miser.

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 journey.

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.

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Previous: The Voyager Of Whulge

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