Turtle Island Storyteller Esther Stutzman

Esther Stutzman

Esther Stutzman

The Beginnings of the Kalapuya People

My name is Esther Stutzman and I am Kalapuya and Coos. I would like to talk about the beginnings of the Kalapuya people. One of the stories that I heard from my relatives was about the beginning and how it all came to be.

You see, the world was made of stone. There were stone mountains and stone valleys. At the very top of the stone mountain something came to life, and that life became known as Le-lu, First Woman, who walked down from that stone mountain with two babies clutched to her breast. As she walked, with every step she took the grass began to grow. And as she sat and as she touched the ground, the rivers began to flow.

And she walked until she came to the valley, the valley of the stone. And there she met Quartux, Mother Wolf, who looked at her and said, “Who are you?” And she said, “I am Le-lu, First Woman.” And Quartux said, “And where did the babies come from?” And Le-lu, First Woman said, “I dreamed of them and they came to me, but I need someone to watch them while I go out and look around in the world.”

Quartux looked at her and smiled and her teeth flashed in the sun. Mother Wolf said, “I will watch them.”

Le-lu was a bit afraid, but something inside of her made her trust Mother Wolf. So she wove a pack basket of wild iris, kliskwis. And put the babies in the pack basket and strapped them to the back of Mother Wolf and just to make sure the babies would be safe and would not fall out, Le-lu also wove a wide strap and strapped those babies around their head in that basket, to make sure they were safe and she went away to look around in the world.

She was gone a long time, but when she came back the babies were safe. Le-lu, Mother Wolf, had taken good care of them. As Le-lu lifted those babies out of that basket she saw that something was different. As she unstrapped them from that basket, took the straps from their head, she noticed that their forehead was flattened. She said, “This is good. From now on our people will flatten the foreheads of the babies in honor of Mother Wolf, who took such very good care of the babies.” Indeed, that’s how life came to this earth.

The people of the Kalapuya did flatten the foreheads of babies to honor the Mother Wolf, who also has a forehead that is flattened. This was a practice that was kept until about a hundred years ago when it was considered to be cruel and it was outlawed by the government. So our people did come to earth and we honor the Mother Wolf. We honor Quartux and we believe that she is the protector of the babies.


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