James Wickersham, "Nusqually mythology, studies of the Washington Indians," Overland Monthly. XXXII (Second Series), July-December 1898, 345-351.
The word "Nusqually" is the anglicized form of the Indian name "Squally," their own name for their tribe is Squallay-absch, meaning Squally people; the word Squally seems to be related to "squa-qually" meaning grass; if so they are the "people of the grass country." As they inhabited the beautiful park-like prairies around the southern head of Puget Sound, the appropriateness of the name will be apparent.
The Nusqually nation embraced all the sub-tribes between the Skagit and Quiniault rivers; it included the Skagits, Snohomish, Duwamish, Puyallup, Squally, and the tribes around Olympia and thence to Gray's harbor and the Quiniault River.
All these talked dialects of the same stock language, and were intimately related by marriage and in their methods of domestic life. They were all connected, also, by common religious observances, myths, and traditions. The area of common myths, however, was much greater than their tribal area, for the belief in Doquebulth, the Changer, and in the underground world of the dead, extended far into other tribes.
The Squally was neither a stoic nor a stone; he loved his family, his friends, and his country; he was moved by the sentiments of love, hate, and jealousy; of fear and the most sublime courage; he sang, danced, and made music; he laughed, whistled, and joked with as jolly a fellowship as the white man; he was an orator, a soldier and a patriot; Leschi, Quiemulth, and Kanaskut gave up their lives in defense of their native land.
Neither was the Squally an atheist; he humbly bowed in submission to Nature. His theology was simple:
Lo, the poor Indian whose untutored mind Sees God in the clouds, or hears him in the wind--
embraced the whole of his creed. It was not the God of the christian that he saw, however; he worshiped not one god but many; the god of the storm thundering over his lowly home was Wha-quoddie, the Thunder-bird, while the voice of the wind was La-liad, the spirit of the air.
He did not believe in a single Supreme Being but in a multitude of spirits, some benevolent and others bad. Each manifestation of nature was represented by a different spirit or demon; he accepted Nature as the Source and indulged in but few doubts or speculations.
He was so truly simple that his theology was free from even the idea of a hell; he seems not to have found it necessary to create a place of eternal torment in which to confine his brother who insisted that the god of thunder ate buffalo instead of whales. There was but one resort for the souls of the dead, and this spirit land was underground and not in the sky.
The Squally-absch believed the world to be flat and beneath its surface was the home of the dead. "Otlas-skio."
Constant communication was maintained between this and the underground world by the spirits of the dead as well as the shamans or "medicine men." The country of Otlas-skio is filled with waving forests, grassy plains, and running streams. Villages after the ancient type occupy the most beautiful places; the woods are filled with game and singing birds; brilliant flowers enliven the landscape and perfume the balmy air; the streams are filled with salmon, and it is indeed a happy hunting ground where the dead find all their friends and relatives.
Here the soul of the dead passes an eternity in pursuit of the pleasures so dear on earth; the family is again formed; the wives and children gather around the hearth fire, and the happiest period of the life on earth is resumed, never to be broken again by the pangs of separation and death.
The soul of a dead person is called "sli": if a corpse is laced in a dead house or box, a hole is always left for the escape of the should. The spirit is thought by them to retain many of the attributes of the body. It has the power of speech and is thought by them to be the very essence and shadow of the individual preserving also in the ghostly form the exact shape of a dead person.
George Leschi, a member of the tribe and a firm believer in the ancient faith, gave this statement regarding the soul and it's possible separation from the body even before death:
"You might be asleep and your father who is dead might come and get your soul and take it to where the dead stay, across a river. Next day you would feel bad (sick) and grow worse, and finally die. The soul may be separated from the body. The tahmanaous man can steal the soul away from the body and kill the person."
When the soul goes to Otlas-skio it enters the earth and goes downward; before reaching the abode of the dead it must cross a river, and a small object of value is often placed in the mouth to pay the ferryman, who waits on the banks with a ghostly canoe to ferry the soul across. Sometimes the ferryman is absent, whereupon the soul returns to earth, re-enters the body and the person resumes life. It is thus that they explain a case of suspended animation.
The Squally neither expected favor or reward, nor feared punishment after death. During life, however, he worshiped the beneficent forces of nature and appealed to them for aid and assistance; he feared the evil forces represented by a multitude of demons, whom he attempted to propitiate that he might escape their attacks. His ceremonial appeals to the good forces and his attempts to allay the evil one, constituted the ritual of Nusqually theology.
Doquebulth, the Changer, represents the highest form of good in the polytheism of the Squally-absch, while the fear of Seatco, the demon of the dark forest was the most pronounced feature of their demonology. Doquebluth was a culture hero; he changed men into animals and fish and transformed his wives into sleek brown-coated elk; he taught the Indians to make and use the bow and arrow; and he created the salmon and other food fish and taught the Squally-absch to make traps.
The story of his birth in the stars and descent to earth is an unfailing source of interest to Indian auditors:
"Two comely sisters of the tribe of Squally-absch had retired to sleep beneath the shelter of a mat home. Above their heads the mats parted somewhat and through the rent they gazed upon the starry heaven. Like many another pair of maidens they began to talk of marriage. The Indians imagine that men are frequently placed in the sky by some supernatural power, and there shine as stars.
"Referring to these curious legends, one of the sisters inquired of the other which of the stars above them she would choose for a husband. The answer was, 'the bright one.' The other chose the red star and dreaming of marriage with these far away star men they fell asleep.
"When the awoke they found that they had been transported to the stars. They met the bright and red star men of their fancy and became their wives; and so happy and peaceful was their honeymoon that they forgot in some degree the loss of home and friends on the far off earth.
"To the elders of the sisters, by this astral marriage, was born Doquebulth, a beautiful child, and one possessed of the power to change the very character of matter. He could change a man or woman into a rock, an elk or a bird; he cold upturn mountains, break the surface of the earth into lakes and rivers, and could change the whole aspect of the earth.
"As with other Indian wives, it was the duty of these two sisters to seek food for their husbands. Each day they wandered out to dig fern roots (tuddy) to mix with salmon eggs to make "tsad-ack." They were cautioned by their husbands "Do not dig deep, take only the fern roots nearest the surface.
"This injunction they followed for a long time, but Eve-like, one day one of them said, "Who do our husbands require us to take only that part of the tuddy nearest the surface, why not dig deeper?"
"No sooner suggested than they began to dig. Deeper and deeper they dug, until the very bottom root of tuddy was reached, when, upon another stroke of the elk-horn they pierced the surface of Star-land. Peering with astonishment, through this hole, they saw far below them the waving forests and blue waters, the clouds and mountains of earth, their old home.
"Ah," they said, " there is our country; there is where we came from; there are our friends and parents."
"They now began to long to go back to their own people; thereafter only the youngest dug fern roots while the eldest began secretly to make a rope of hazel witches. After great labor the rope was completed. One day they went out as usual to dig tuddy, the mother carrying Doquebulth on her back. Having arrived at the place where their rope lay concealed, they dug a hole through Star-land, and having tied one end of their rope to a tree, dropped the other end through the hole and found to their great joy that it reached the earth.
The youngest sister descended first, carrying Doquebulth. After she had safely reached the earth the mother came down, and carrying the child of the stars in their arms, they traveled a little way and found their old home, where they were received with great joy. And this is the story of the birth and descent upon earth of Doquelbuth, the Changer.
Soon after their return to earth, the child of the stars was stolen by the Pup-pe-de and carried to the land of the Sunset, behind a great portal that regularly rose and fell. Their efforts to recover him make a long chapter in the sagas of Fish-land
The deer, bear, crow, eagle, and many others, were sent for him, but all were crushed at the dangerous portal. At last Ski-ki, the jay bird, was sent. He sat just outside the portal until it began to rise, when he went through in a flash, not quite enough, however, for the closing walls crushed the top of his head, and Ski-ki yet turns his head sidewise to the Squally-absch that his top knot may remind them of the debt of gratitude they owe him.
Doquebulth created the sun and sent his brother Tlo-qualth to preside therein; while he finally ascended to the moon where he yet resides.
SEATCO, THE EVIL ONE
Doquebulth, the spirit of life, finds his opposite in Seatco, the evil one, the demon of the dark forests. Seatco is a malicious demon having the form of an Indian, but larger, quick and stealthy. He inhabits the dark recesses of the woods, where his campfires are often seen; he sleeps by day but sallies forth at dusk for a "...night of it.."
He robs traps, breaks canoes, steals food and other portable property; he waylays the belated traveler and is said to kill all those whose bodies are found dead. To his wicked and malicious cunning is credited all the unfortunate and malicious acts which cannot be otherwise explained. He steals children and brings them up as slaves in his dark retreats; he is a constant menace to the disobedient child and is an object of fear and terror to all.
The Squally-absch believe as firmly as Christian people that a deluge once destroyed the nations of the world. Long ago there came a great flood and as the water rose higher than the hills and mountains, the Indians tied their canoes by long ropes to trees on the highest hills in their vicinity.
Three points were thus used: Suc-cla-de-tsote, one of the Olympic Mountains, Ba-be-date, one of the high hills near Port Orchard, and De-sha-caw, a high hill near the south end of Puget sound. They clung to these mountains while the waters rose around them, many were drowned.
A few canoes, however, broke away and landed after the flood in distant parts of the country, and which explains the fact that other tribes speak a similar language. From the few who thus escaped the present tribes has descended.
Enim-tla, Thunder Mountain.
About a mile east of Buckley, in the valley of the White River stands a small mountain peak. It is about a thousand feet high and is surrounded by the level valley. Its southern base comes down to the river, yet far enough away to permit the ancient Yakima trail to go by on its way down from Naches pass.
Here the glacial waters break from the mountain canyons; the green prairies so loved by the Squally-absch dot the forests from this point to Puget Sound. This almost perpendicular peak is "enim-tla" or Thunder mountain, and is the resting place of Wha-dquoddie, the thunder-bird.
Wha-quoddie is a monster bird; he advances in and above the storm cloud; thunder is produced by the movement of his wings, and lightning by the flash of his eyes. He is the spirit of the storm; he creates clouds and controls the rains. He goes out to the ocean for food which accounts for the meteorological fact that the rain clouds and thunder storms come from the Pacific.
When the thunder rolls and rumbles from the dark advancing cloud, filling the valley and the canyons above Enim-tla with distant reverberations, when the dark storm advances and the lightning flashes, it is noticed that Wha-quod-die has returned to his mountain home from another trip to the ocean.
The Squally-absch compare their rich lands, lowing rivers, waving forests, their fisheries and berry lands with the sanding plains of the Yakimas and give the praise to Wha-quo-die, who brings the rains; at the same time they fear the noise of the thunder and the stroke of lightning.
SKA-GWATS, A SHAMAN
Ska-gwats, a shaman, was jealous of the power and reputation of Doquelbulth, and sought to kill him. He prepared four long sharp needles with which to stab him. As he sat singing his hatred to Doquebulth, the Changer came by. Ska-gwats did not recognize him. Doquebluth said, "What are you singing about? Sing it again."
The answer was, " I am making needles with which to kill Doquebluth."
The Changer asked for the needles and having received them, suddenly seized Ska-gwats and thrust them into his legs and arms, struck him a blow, changed him into a deer saying" You were not made for a warrior, but to be eaten as food."
And Ska-gwats, the deer has the bone needles in his ankles to this day.
TU-BA-DY, A SWAMP SPIRIT
Tu-ba-dy is a spirit of the swamp and thickets. When the Squally-absch hear the voice of Tu-ba-dy they become lost and wander aimlessly about. Tu-ba-dy does no damage to the person, no one can see it, but simply to hear its voice causes one to become lost, prevents one from knowing the right direction or finding one's way home. In all cases where persons are lost in the woods, it is because they have heard the cry of Tu-ba-dy who turned them in the wrong direction.
Zach-ad is another spirit of the swamps. It is heard to cry at night in the swamps, in dense woods, or other lonely places, but particularly out near Spanaway Lake. It is derived from the Squally word, "to cry." When one's relative or friend dies the voice of this spirit is an omen of death. Not that it will cause the death, for it merely announces a fact known to it through its intimacy with the spirits of the dead from Otlas-skio.
Three dutiful boys lived with their mother at Twa-wal-kut, or Gig Harbor. One day they went out fishing and were drawn into the whirlpools around Point Defiance, their canoe was overturned and they were thrown into the water. Doquebluth was passing by and he changed them into porpoises; and they are frequently seen in these waters.
The mother mourned long for her sons; she sat on the beach a quarter of a mile south of the entrance to the Harbor, looking out over the waters and weeping for her children until Doquebluth turned her into a large granite rock which yet lies there.
WHE-ATCHEE OR LAKE STEILACOOM
Whe-atchee is the Indian name for Lake Steilacoom. It is given to that body of water because of a female demon of that name lives in the depths. No Indian ever bathes in that lake for fear of Whe-atchee. When she shows herself it is by raising her head and right arm out of the water, elevating the little finger and thumb and closing the middle fingers and saying," Here is my Whe-atchee."
On account of the fear of this demon, this lake is shunned by the Squally-absch as an evil place.
"The man in the moon," according to Squally tradition is a female. Swo-cock was a female frog, who stole Doquebluth's magic bag for which theft she was condemned by him to stand forever in the moon, in sight of all the Squally-absch, holding the stolen bag in her hand--a solemn public warning against theft.
There are no rattlesnakes on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. Wah-push, of the tribe of the Squally-absch, went over into the Yakima country to visit his friends. While there, for some misdemeanor, he was turned into a rattlesnake by Doquebluth, and became the ancestor of the whole tribe of rattlers.
His descendants have been fully informed of their ancestry and relation to the Squally-absch and when a rattlesnake hears the Squally language spoken, and thus recognizes a relative, his anger instantly subsides, and he crawls from the sight of his kinsman as fast as his wriggling gait will allow. The Squally-absch assert that the rattlesnake will not bite one of their tribe.
LA-LIAD, THE SPIRIT OF THE WIND
La-liad is the spirit of the wind. When the Indian children hear the sharp musical sound of the wind at night as it cuts the corner of their lowly home, it is accepted as the call of La-liad. When the trees bend musically before the breeze, when a stronger wind overturns the great fir and cedar trunks, it is the force of La-liad, the spirit of the wind. He is the attendant upon Wha-quod-die, the storm king, and usually precedes his coming. Every sound of the wind, every whistle, moan, or sigh, even the roar of the storm is the voice of La-liad.
La-liad was the "tahmanaous," or special force in Nature through which old Luke, an ancient Squally obtained his power as a shaman. He claimed to have power to bring on a wind storm or to allay one when fierce.
Some years ago at Squaxin Island his power was questioned by a scientific scoffer, whereupon old Luke (after first taking a view of the southwestern sky and sniffing the breeze) began a loud speech, calling upon La-liad to send a strong wind.
He began to dance, shake his rattle and make medicine. After an hour or two spent in loud speech and frantic dancing a wind storm actually arose and became so strong that it blew several loose boards off the racherie; the voice of La-liad was heard, and Luke held a pow wow with the spirit of the storm through the open roof, in the presence of the awe struck audience.
His reputation as a shaman was never again questioned. Many another great man has cunningly won a reputation.
SWO-QUAD, THE LOON
The Indian mother necessarily sought to impress the lesson of obedience to parental authority upon her child, and the story of Swo-quad, the loon, was repeated with that view. Swo-quad was a headstrong youth who frequently disobeyed his mother's instructions. He was an expert swimmer and passed much of his time in the waters and around their banks.
His mother cautioned him against going to swim in Mason Lake, north of Shelton. This caution seemed only to stimulate his desire to swim in the forbidden waters; and one day he broke away from his resolution to be an obedient boy, and went into the water of the haunted lake.
Instead of demons he only saw the speckled trout, "squspl," darting from side to side in the clear lake waters. In his joy he dove, and swam and finally caught a trout with his hand and swam ashore. Elated with his exercise and hungry from exertion, he kindled a fire, cooked the trout and ate it.
The demon of the lake lay concealed in the beautiful speckled trout and instantly Swo-quad was turned into a loon. Frantic at his misfortune, he flew at once to his mother's home, and circled
above her head uttering the discordant cry of the loon, but crying in vain to explain his awful condition.
The mother not knowing that it was her unhappy son, who really loved her in spite of his disobedience tried to kill the bird with her stick. To this day, Swoquad repeats his harsh notes of warning whenever a disobedient child is within the sound of his voice.
(James Wickersham, "Nusqually Mythology, studies of the Washington Indians," Overland Monthly. XXXII Second Series, (July-December, 1898), p. 345-51.)
AN INDIAN LEGEND
Henry Sicade, "An Indian Legend," in William P. Bonney, History of Pierce County. Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1927, p. 2-12.
Long, long, ago a man came down the Columbia River and settled at about where The Dalles, Oregon, is now, and this man had two sons, and as the boys grew up they became very ambitious, and there was trouble brewing, because they wanted to rule the country. To prevent trouble in the family the father secured a great big bow and arrow and shot one arrow to the north and told the older brother to go and hunt that arrow and "...where you find it that will be your country.." So the older brother went north, and he became the progenitor of the Squally people.
And he took his bow and shot the other arrow to the south and the younger son was told to go and hunt that arrow and he found that arrow on the banks of the Willamette River, and this man became the progenitor of the Multomah people.
"In my language they call it 'Multhnomah' the people who lived by the big bend in the river."
And to prevent further trouble the Great Spirit reared a range of mountains between these two brothers. There were then no peaks.
As time went on the Great Spirit caused a bridge over the Columbia River to be made. This was called the Tormanawas Bridge and later it was termed by the white writers, "The Bridge of the God."
The Columbia River flowed under this big bridge of rock, and on the south end of this bridge the Great Spirit placed a woman, a witch, and this woman was the guardian of the only fire then known, the sacred fire. There was no fire anywhere and as she saw the people living in misery and having a hard time getting along, she asked the Great Spirit that she might be allowed to give these people the sacred fire, and in time the Great Spirit consented and after that they could cook and prepare their food, and live happier and their lives were brightened, and as a reward to this woman the Great Spirit asked her what she desired the most as a reward for her benefits to the people.
She said, womanlike, "Make me the most handsome woman, the handsomest girl." And so the Great Spirit rewarded her and she became the most handsome woman of the Northwest.
The people from all sections went over there asking her hand in marriage, and she paid no attention to them. Bye and bye a chief from the north came, a young man; his name was Chief Klickitat, and he asked her hand in marriage and she did not like to say yes, but she held him back and bye and bye another chief from the south came, and his name was Chief Wiyeast.
He was the chief of the Multanomh people, and between the two she could not choose which she liked best and so a great war was started; the country was ravaged; people were killed and misery ruled, and the people got very scarce killing one another, and the great Spirit seeing this handsome woman was the cause of all kinds of trouble determined to undo what he had done, and so he killed all three, the two chiefs and this witch, and handsomest woman, and over the grave of this witch, as she had been some good to the people he placed a monument, which is now known as St. Helens Mountain or Mount St. Helens.
The Indians said that the mountain shall be known hereafter as Loowit a monument to Loowit, the witch, that was her name. These peaks were known and called by the names of the chiefs and the witch.
Klickitat was killed and his body was buried in the mountains, and a great big mountain was put over his grave, and now you know that mountain as Mount Adams.
As Wiyeast had come from the south, his body was taken away off to the east of what is now known as Portland, and buried in the mountains, and the Great Spirit reared that great mountain known as Mount Hood as his monument and as these people who had caused so much trouble were gone, the Great Spirit reared another mountain, and this is this mountain which we now call Tacoma.
The part this mountain was to play in this story, she was to act as the guardian of these bodies, so nothing should happen to them and the Great Spirit thinking some trouble might come from the north also reared another mountain, and that is Mt. Kulshan, now known as Mount Baker. That was another watcher.
A SECOND LEGEND
The Squally people lived up and down the Squally River; the north bank being cut down very abruptly, several hundred feet affording a fine protection from invaders. Therefore they were forced to live along the river bottom. To the north there lay open the Squally Plains and the enemy would be bold and reckless ever to attempt invasions over the plains; some had dared, but the bold plains people met those northern hoards who were slow on their feet but very agile in canoes. It is legendary the invaders were utterly routed and few returned to tell of their defeat.
But as time went on, the northerners thirsted for revenge and sometimes small parties succeeded in capturing some women and children of the Squally Tribe who were carried away into captivity and made slaves; these successful incursions were usually made by canoe parties.
There came a time when all concerned saw that nothing could prevent a great war, so a bold chief of the Squallies called his people together and laid his plan to them. "Our enemy from the cold and snow land are many; but we are better fighters than they. This you know, we are plains people; but we also understand the canoe mode of traveling. Have we not been able to ride the rapids, the whirlpools and the treacherous streams?
Why not challenge them to a great battle on the salt water; let them fight us in their own way. Is there a coward among you who would not fight for his native land? Then I say, if there is such among you, he can move away, just as far as he likes out of harms way. He will not be hereafter a member of our people; we have no room or place for him among us."
There was not an answer; all the people wondered what the chief's plan would be. "I propose to build a fleet of canoes and we will meet the enemy on the salt water and give them battle; a fight to decide whether we are to be made slaves and do their bidding forever,; or they will hereafter never molest us and we will live in peace in our fair lands."
The young men who were in the rear of the big meeting under the oak trees, rose up as though one and with a great cheer, said they stood ready to fight and none would move away for safety, but that the older men would have to make the canoes and paddles. For months all over the river bottoms and up the mountain streams, the great forests gave up the best cedar trees for making of the great fleet.
It is now a legend and the older ones point with pride to the tree tops which have lain for generations, other trees having grown up on top of them, whispering to the young that their forbearers were bold and fearless and had made canoes from those trees to fight their enemy and defend their land. At the Squally flats there were received many basketfuls of red paint from the natural paint banks at the head of the Hoods Canal to give the final touches to the war canoes.
From sunrise to dusk a constant drill kept all busy and there were races and different maneuvers on the water. Finally all was ready and neutral messengers were sent north, that at any time they chose, somewhere down the Sound they would meet to decide who were to be masters of this fair section of lands and waters.
Watches were placed on the steep banks of Maury Island to prevent surprises. If only a fair sized crew were coming, a big smoky fire would give the signal; if a very large party, five or more fires at different points were to give the alarm.
One fair day there were seen smokes arising from the steep banks all the way down, telling the Squallys that the enemy in countless numbers were coming, literally choking the Sound; hundreds of the largest war canoes. With a fair wind and tide, mats up for sails, the warriors from the land of snow came around the point, unconcerned singing as though going to a party, keeping time to their paddles, standing up, whirling in unison, the bright sun shining on those red painted paddles, which reflected like an immense mirror.
The Squally chief was constantly drilling his men for the decisive combat. With no bows and arrows and no spears, only elk hide shields for protection, they put out to meet the numerous confident foe. His war canoes were laden down with boulders, common ordinary large rocks; but each canoe had at least two stalwart warriors who had practiced pitching these heavy rocks until their aim was true and threw with great force.
Three others were to man each canoe and must go straight in to the enemies line. Orders were given to encircle the whole fleet before giving battle. No quarter was asked for or expected.
Much to the astonishment of the invaders no instruments of war were in sight; those plains people could paddle so gracefully, the enemy waited to see how the plains people would fight. On they came working in unison and not a word was spoken as they drew nearer.
Then a great cheer was given and up stood the big brawny plainsmen. Before the invaders knew, big rocks were hurled which crushed their war canoes and they were helplessly swimming about and were drowned. Darkness saved a few of the invaders who escaped to tell of their utter defeat.
The tide and wind brought thousands of bodies to the beaches and none were buried. "Little ones," the story teller would give a solemn warning, "some day, you may be called to defend our fair lands and waters. Remember your forbearers knew how to fight; we shall expect you to fight and die for our fair lands and waters if need be."
And they have fought and died for that fair land and waters and for the freedom of the whole world.
(Henry Sicade in William P. Bonney, History of Pierce County, Washington. Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1927. p. 2-12.)
(Christianity and community spirit are taken to the Nisquallies by these Reservation Missionaries by Alice Franklin Bryant. Seattle Times. March 22, 1959 p. 10.)
In a small clearing on the Nisqually Indian Reservation near Yelm, Thurston county, stands a little log church. "It isn't any demonination, just Christian," says Mrs. Frank Evans, a plump little lady wreathed in smiles who with her husband is taking Christianity and community spirit to the Nisqually Indians.
The transcendent sincerity of this devoted couple convinces easily. In their little log church the pews were given by Catholics and Congregationalists; two chimneys, by the University Unitarian Church, Seattle; chairs and drapery material by the Faith Temple, Tacoma; gasoline lanterns, by a Congregational Church in Tacoma; a stove by Presbyterian women in Olympia, the doors and windows by Pentecostals.
Mr. and Mrs. Evans helped at first by their daughter and son in law Mr. and Mrs. Raymond E. Cook, who later moved away, began missionary work among the Nisquallies in 1953. They did this independently and without backing from any individual or organization.
The Evanses felt called to carry on the project when the Rev. Foster Jones told them that no Christian work was being done among the two hundred Indians of the reservation. They moved near the edge of the reservation, supported themselves as they had been doing, Evans is a carpenter and put every possible moment and every available cent into their missionary work.
"That first year was hard, " Mrs. Evans said with a rueful smile. "Of course, getting our work started involved plenty of problems. And we had to economize so much. I love coffee, but we couldn't afford it, and I had to use rancid shortening."
The Evanses were welcomed heartily by the reservation by Mrs. Alice Kalama, an elderly Indian who wanted her people to be taught Christianity. She provided land for a church and standing timber with which to built it.
But the work could not wait for the building. The Evanses opened a Sunday School in a sixteen by sixteen foot tent, February 22, 1953. It was attended by seventeen Indian Children who knew nothing about Jesus and his teachings and one man who warned the missionaries not to try to convert him, because he was a member of a certain denomination.
"I'm going to come every Sunday to see that you don't teach anything you oughtn't to." the man said.
A few months ago this same Indian, in an utterly different spirit said to these missionaries, " Isn't it wonderful we made so much money on our salmon bake. Now we will be able to have a nice Christmas for our children."
Later when this treat was being distributed, Mrs. Evans said, "At most churches children are given only small bags of goodies, not large ones like these."
One child replied, " Yes, but they aren't Indians."
After using the small tent for meetings two months, Evans obtained a larger one, sixteen by thirty-two feet, but it was destroyed in a wind storm in November of 1953. The Evanses then conducted services in their home while they went ahead with the work of putting up a log meeting house helped by the Indians.
Mrs. Evans peeled logs by hand while the men felled them and constructed the small flat-roofed building. The mission moved into it in February, 1954, although it was many months before there were doors, windows and a floor.
No sooner was this building completed than the group started work on a larger log church with a roof made of shakes split by Evans. The Church was occupied in February of 1956.
The older building still is much in use, for Sunday School classes, church dinners, tribal meetings and community events.
There were no community affairs until the Evanses began their work. It was they who developed a community spirit. They are careful to stay away from the tribal meetings and to train their parishioners to conduct community enterprises.
It would be a mistake to think that the Evanses work consists only of holding meetings and an occasional church dinner. They are a whole civilizing, uplifting movement complete with sewing, cooking and child care instruction and high ideals.
"We try to be scrupulously clean and neat in every way, " the Evanses say, " so as to set a good example."
Now some of the young Indians the Evanses have influenced for years are getting married. Mrs. Evans says, " We have a beautiful wedding service for them, and they prepared a dinner in the old church building. I make them quilts. Indeed we do everything we can to make a memorable event of these weddings to encourage the young people to marry in a Christian way."
The real love of this couple for the Indians they serve is proved by their hospitality. Drop in late any evening and the chances are you will find Indians asleep on their spare beds, davenport, and perhaps on the floor.
The visitors may have made a trip into Yelm and decided to call on the Evanses and stay overnight with them before going home. Or some may have stopped in for help and advise, knowing that they will not ask in vain.
Mrs. Evans is ready equally to nurse a sick person or to try to mend a breaking home. Hundreds of garments have passed through her hands, and many she has made herself to give to school children and others who needed them.
(Alice Franklin Bryant, " Reservation Missionaries," Seattle Times, March 22, 1959.).
Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown, "The Nisqually Tribe," A guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Revised edition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992, p. 150-52.
The name Nisqually is said to derive from that for the Nisqually River flowing into southern Puget Sound in western Washington. Some anthropologists suggest that there was no basis in fact for the name nez quarros, meaning "square noses," which supposedly was given to the Nisquallies by French-Canadian fur men.
The Nisquallies spoke the Nisqually dialect of the Coastal Salishan language. They believed, as did other Puget Sound natives, in the deity Dokibatt (variously spelled among the tribes), the Changer, who was the son of a woman and of a star. They believed that Dokibatt had much to do with the world as it existed.
The trickster Coyote, who figures prominently in the mythology of natives east of the Cascade Mountains, appeared occasionally in Nisqually mythology also. Some scholars see in that, a cultural link between the Nisquallies and the peoples of the interior, such as the Klickitats and their subdivisions west of the Cascade Mountains, and the Yakimas, with whom, like the Klickitats, the Nisquallies traded marine products and intermarried.
From the Klickitats the Nisquallies purchased horses, which they pastured on their prairies, and they raised more of these animals than did most tribes west of the Cascades.
In former times the Nisquallies occupied at least forty villages, which were on both banks of the Nisqually River and extended nearly thirty miles upstream from its delta. The modern-day Nisquallies of the Nisqually Indian Community, Nisqually Reservation, Washington, live on their reservation on the west side of the Nisqually River in Thurston County or in the lower Nisqually valley.
Others live in the town of Yelm, which is about fifteen miles southeast of Washington's state capital, Olympia. Some tribal members have intermarried with Puyallups, Muckleshoots, and members of other tribes.
The Nisqually tribal membership in 1989 was listed at 1,455. The Nisquallies were said to have numbered 258 in 1838-39 and 200 five years later. At the time of their treaty with the United States at Medicine Creek in 1854, they numbered less than 300.
Some enumerations, not only in early times but also in early twentieth century, placed their numbers as high as 1,000, a figure that probably included other speakers of the Nisqually dialect of the Coastal Salishan language. As it did with those other speakers, disease played a major role in the Nisqually decline.
The first major contact between Nisquallies and whites occurred with the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Nisqually in their homelands in 1833. Besides purchasing furs from the Nisquallies and surrounding tribes, the post traders tried to instruct them in the doctrines of the Christian faith.
In 1839 the Roman Catholic secular priest Modeste Demers met several tribesmen at Fort Nisqually, where he had gone to thwart the establishment of a Methodist mission. Two Methodist missionaries, John Richmond and William Wilson, came to Fort Nisqually in 1840, but they remained only two years. A Catholic priest, Pascal Richard, established an Indian mission north of present-day Olympia in 1848.
Around 1825 the Nisquallies and other Coastal Salish peoples attacked Cowichans of the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. In the attack the Nisquallies and their allies suffered heavy losses. At nearby Butlers Cove in 1855, Stikine Indian war parties from Canada raided Puget Sound settlers after a white man had murdered a Stikine chief in his employ.
The original Nisqually Reservation was established by the Medicine Creek Treaty of December 26, 1854, with Washington Territorial Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs Isaac Stevens. It consisted of 1,280 acres on Puget Sound near the mouth of Shenahnam Creek. By executive order on January 20, 1857, it was enlarged to 4,717 acres on both sides of the Nisqually River a few miles above its mouth.
Since the Nisqually Reservation was on both sides of the river, the tribe claims the river, which comprises 210 additional acres, securing for its people the right to take fish, in the words of the treaty, "at usual and accustomed places." This provision has embroiled the Nisquallies and other tribes in controversy with state and federal governments.
A Nisqually chief, Leschi, was the leader of the Indian coalition against the Americans in the 1850s. To his death he declared that he had never signed the treaty. During the negotiations, when each chief was expected to make a map of his country in preparation for a composite one, Leschi reportedly refused to complete his and tore up a paper commissioning him as chief.
He was angry that under the treaty his people were scheduled to settle at the mouth of McAllister Creek, a heavily wooded area, which was a poor place for them because they were accustomed to gathering marine foods at places such as the mouth of the Nisqually River. It also had been their practice to pasture their horses in the Nisqually valley, whose prairies they fired to prevent forest growth and to promote the growth of grasses.
As a result of Leschi's anti-American activities, which whites called murder but Leschi called warfare, the chief was sentenced to hang at the end of the war on February 19, 1858. His people came to his defense, as did prominent members of the American community, but their support was to no avail. He was condemned in the white men's court and, as a white historian later recorded, "strangled according to the law."
Not all of the Nisquallies were combatants during the war. Many were among the natives of lower Puget Sound whom an acting Indian agent, J. V. Weber, confined to Squaxin Island in 1855 to keep them from hostilities.
On September 30, 1884, the acreage set aside for the Nisqually Reservation was divided into thirty family allotments on both sides of the Nisqually River. The acreage did not include the river itself. After that the tribe lived in peace for some time, harvesting fish from the Nisqually River and growing potatoes on prairie tracts.
Tribal members received few government rations and among other foods they consumed as many as 500 salmon annually per family. In the winter of 1917 the U.S. Army, without warning, moved onto Nisqually lands and ordered them from their homes. The army later condemned about two-thirds (3,353 acres) of the Nisqually Reservation to expand its Camp (later Fort) Lewis base.
Replacement lands were secured for the Nisquallies at points as distant as the Quinault River on the Olympic Peninsula. Other lands were purchased for displaced Nisquallies at such places as the Puyallup, Skokomish, and Chehalis reservations. The Nisquallies were also paid $75,840 for their lands and improvements.
On April 28,1924, Congress belatedly awarded them $85,000 as compensation for the hunting rights that they had lost with their lands, as well as for lost access to lakes and streams. In the post-World War II period the focus of Washington state action was at Franks Landing, a six-acre tract on the Nisqually River just below the reduced Nisqually Reservation, which Willie Frank had purchased to replace, in part, lands that he had lost in the government's Fort Lewis acquisition.
In the 1960s, Frank's Landing was the scene of sometimes violent confrontations between state police and game officials and the Nisquallies. Helping focus national attention on the conflict was the symbolic arrest there of actor Marlon Brando during a "fish-in" and the appearance of Dick Gregory, a well known entertainer and civil-rights activist.
Government and Claims:
The Nisqually tribe was organized under provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act (48 Stat. 984) as the Nisqually Indian Community, Nisqually Reservation, Washington. Its constitution and bylaws were approved on September 9, 1946.
After filing a claim (Docket 197) with the Indian Claims Commission, the Nisquallies received a final award of $80,013.07 for which funds were appropriated on September 30, 1976. The monies awarded by the Claims Commission were set aside for land acquisition. This award did not include compensation for land within Fort Lewis Reservation for which Nisquallies later sought compensation.
In 1991 the tribe dedicated a salmon hatchery on Clear Creek.
Contemporary Life and Culture:
Reservation acreage is as follows, excluding, as noted, the Nisqually River of 210 acres: allotted lands in trust or in restricted status, 715 acres; alienated lands, 392 acres; tribally owned lands and those in trust, 247 acres (including a cemetery of 2.5 acres); and a recent addition, because of a reservation boundary change, 45 acres.
In recent years the tribe has enlarged its on-reservation housing by forty-eight units and has erected a tribal center. The reservation is the focus of the Nisqually Community. The major source of tribal income is fishing, which is a major cultural and identity touchstone for tribal members.
One tribal spokesman, writing of the favorable decision by Judge George Boldt in 1974 and the U. S. v. Washington fishing cases stated that they had gone far beyond the improvement of Nisqually fisheries by reinforcing and validating tribal members' knowledge of themselves as Nisqually Indians, their fishing way of life, and their community.
The predominant religion in the Nisqually Community is Roman Catholic. There are also adherents of the Indian Shaker Church.
Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown, "The Nisqually Tribe," A guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Revised edition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. p. 150-52.