Coast Salish

Eastside Stories: Indigenous Myths in a Land of Change

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

In a place where violent acts of nature are common in the form of landslides and wildfires, and the threat of earthquakes and volcanoes are ever present, Native American myths show how these kinds of events have unending possibilities for humanity. Many Native American myths from the Eastside and surrounding areas tell of a powerful being who came and transformed the world from what it was into what it is today. Groups like the Snoqualmie and Muckleshoot peoples believe in a deity who aided people and made great changes to the earth and animals. This transformative being is known by many names including The Changer, Moon the Transformer, Xode, Snoqualmie, and Dukʷibeł. The changes and transformations brought on by these creators made the region of western Washington inhabitable for human beings and allowed crafts such as woodworking to begin.

For the Snoqualmie, Dukʷibeł (Moon the Transformer) is the son of a human girl and a star. As a baby, he was stolen away and gained magical powers which allowed him to come back and transform the world. Lake Washington and all the cities and towns around it make up the ancestral land of the Muckleshoot, Snoqualmie, Duwamish, Coast Salish, and other indigenous groups who had and maintain a deep knowledge of the environment around them through sharing skills, stories, and myths.

Snoqualmie Valley Hop Farmers and Workers, c. 1890. L88.029.003.7

Snoqualmie Valley Hop Farmers and Workers, c. 1890. L88.029.003.7

“This is the land of the Changer, the Star Child who descended from the heavens to the fertile earth and, as Moon, married a daughter of the Salmon people, ensuring his human kin happiness and plenty if they would respect the family of his bride.” The Changer pops up in other myths but his largest work was in the shaping of the land around us. It is said that he announced his plan to make the earth into a place for human beings before coming to Western Washington to do his work of creating the world as we know it today. Some animals were angered by this and deer are said to have prepared bow and arrow to fight The Changer. When The Changer came he took the arrows and stuck them into the deer’s head, making them docile and turning them into prey. Actions like this turned the earth into a place where human beings could live.

In the many stories about this transformative deity, the great changes he creates are almost always beneficial to humans as a whole or as individuals. The tribes of our area reveal their great understanding of the changes that came before humanity arrived to the geological landscape. Recently, indigenous myths have begun to gain the respect they deserve as sources of knowledge and a form of information sharing. In fact, the area of Geomythology has been gaining ground in the scientific field as myths from indigenous people around the globe prove to be records of previous geological changes. For example, the Duwamish tell of a large red sandstone boulder called ‘yahos’ that animal spirits are said to live in. These boulders indicate fault lines and areas of previous seismic violence, having been pushed up by the shifting of the earth. Fear of these rocks would have protected people from settling in areas that were prone to dangerous geological occurrences.

The myth of The Changer and Moon the Transformer also teach people today about the beautiful land in Washington, west of the Rockies. By making change into a positive force and honoring the one who brings those changes, Indigenous people of Western Washington demonstrate their knowledge that even catastrophic environmental events can bring renewal and replenishment to the earth.


Sources

Beurge, David M. "Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest: An Introduction." American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection. Accessed August 06, 2019. https://content.lib.washington.edu/aipnw/buerge1.html

De Los Angeles, Steve. "Story of the Moon." Story of the Moon | Snoqualmie Tribe. 2012. Accessed August 06, 2019. https://www.snoqualmietribe.us/moon

Krajick, Kevin. "Tracking Myth to Geological Reality: Once Dismissed, Myths Are Winning New Attention from Geologists Who Find That They May Encode Valuable Data about Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tsunamis, and Other Stirrings of the Earth.(News Focus)." Science310, no. 5749 (2005): 762-764.

Matthes, Whitney, Frey, Rodney, Putsche, Laura, and Tripepi, Robert. The Relationship between Plants and People: An Ethnobotanical Study in Partnership with the Muckleshoot Tribe , 2016, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Watson, Kenneth Greg. "Native Americans of Puget Sound -- A Brief History of the First People and Their Cultures." Native Americans of Puget Sound -- A Brief History of the First People and Their Cultures. June 29, 1999. Accessed August 06, 2019. https://www.historylink.org/File/1506