Geography of the Bridge of the Gods Understanding the Unknown The People of the Bridge of the Gods Bibliography

NOTE: Where Native names are known, they have been used in place of names such as Great Spirit, Mt St Helens, and the like.

Long ago, when the world was young, all people were happy. The Great Spirit, Tyhee Saghalie, whose home is in the sun, gave them all they needed. No one was hungry, no one was cold.

But after a while, two brothers, his sons, quarreled over the land. The older one wanted most of it, and the younger one wanted most of it. Tyhee Saghalie decided to stop the quarrel. One night while the brothers were asleep he took them to the new land, to a country with high mountains. Between the mountains flowed a big river.

Tyhee Saghalie took the two brothers to the top of the high mountains and wakened them. They saw that the new country was rich and beautiful.

“Each of you will shoot an arrow in opposite directions,” he said to them. “Then you will follow your arrow. Where your arrow falls, that will be your country. There you will become a great chief. The river will separate your lands.”

One brother shot his arrow south into the valley of the Willamette River. He became the father and high chief of the Multnomah People. The other brother shot his arrow north into the Klickitat Country. He became the father and high chief of the Klickitat People.

Then Tyhee Saghalie built a bridge over the big river. The each brother, he said, “I have built a bridge over the river, so that you and your people may visit those on the other side. It will be a sign of peace between you. As long as you and your people are good and are friendly with each other, this bridge of the Tahmahnawis will remain.”
It was a broad bridge, wide enough for many people and many ponies to walk across at one time. For many snows the people were at peace and crossed the river for friendly visits. But after a time, they did wicked things. They were selfish and greedy, and they quarreled. Tyhee Saghalie, displeased again, punished them by keeping the sun from shining. The people had no fire, and when the winter rains came, they were cold.

Then they began to worry for what they had done, and they begged Tyhee Saghalie for fire. “Give us fire or we will die from the cold,” they prayed. The heart of Tyhee Saghalie was softened by their prayer. He went to an old woman who had kept herself from the wrongdoing of her people and so still had some fire in her lodge.

“If you will share your fire, I will grant you anything you wish,” Tyhee Saghalie promised her. “What do you want most?”

“Youth and beauty,” answered the old woman promptly. “I wish to be young again, and to be beautiful.”

“You shall be young and beautiful tomorrow morning,” promised Tyhee Saghalie. “Take your fire to the bridge , so that the people on both sides of the river can get it easily. Keep it burning there always as a reminder of the goodness and kindness of Tyhee Saghalie.”

The old woman, whose name was Loo-wit, did as he said. Then Tyhee Saghalie commanded the sun to shine again. When it rose the next morning, it was surprised to see a young and beautiful maiden sitting beside a fire on Tahmahnawis, the Bridge of the Gods. The people, too, saw the fire, and soon their lodges were warm again. For many moons, all was peaceful on both sides of the river and the bridge.

The young men also saw the fire—and the beautiful young woman you attended it. They visited her often. Loo-wit’s heart was stirred by two of them—a handsome young chief from south of the river whose name was Wyeast, and a handsome young chief from the north of the river whose name was Pahto (or Klickitat) . She could not decide which of the two she liked better.

Wyeast and Pahto grew jealous of each other and soon began to quarrel. They became so angry that they fought. Their people also took up the quarrel, so that there was much fighting on both sides of the river. Many warriors were killed.

The time Tyhee Saghalie was made angry by the wickedness of the people. He broke down the Bridge of the Gods, the sign of peace between the two tribes, and its rocks fell into the river. He changed the two chiefs into mountains. Some say that they continue to quarrel over Loo-wit even after they were mountain peaks. They caused sheets of flame to burst forth, and they hurled hot rocks at each other. Not thrown far enough, many fell into the river and blocked it. That is why the Columbia is very narrow and the water very swift at The Dalles.

Loo-wit was changed into the snow-capped peak which still has the youth and beauty promised by Tyhee Saghalie. She is now called Mt St Helens. Wyeast is known as Mt Hood, and Pahto as Mt Adams. The rocks and the white water were the Bridge of the Gods fell is known as the Cascades of the Columbia. (5)

Close window to return to main page.

© Copyright 2009 Jillian Wetzel WanderPaw Images