Warm Springs Tribes


The Warm Springs is a confederated tribe. Treaties negotiated during the 1850's forced the Walla Walla and Wasco tribes together on a reservation extending from the Columbia River on the north along the eastern shoulder of the Cascades and into central Oregon - a fraction of the tribes' traditional lands that had stretched across the state to the Blue Mountains. In the 1880s these tribes were joined by remnants of the Paiutes who had lost their lands in south central Oregon in short lived wars with the U.S. Army two decades earlier.

Mountains figure prominently in native American legends - particularly so in this Warm Springs story of the origin of Black Butte and Green Ridge and their role in providing for the needs of the tribe.

The mountains were once people, our grandfathers used to tell us. Mount Adams, north of the Columbia, and Mount Hood, south of it, became jealous of each other because of some girl. So they started quarreling and fighting. At that time there was a bridge across the river, and the two rivals would cross it to fight. Sometimes they fought on one side of the Columbia, sometimes on the other. Coyote tried to stop their quarreling, but they would not stop.

So all the other mountain peaks agreed to help him. From away down in the Klamath Marsh country they marched north for a big council meeting. They planned to cross the Columbia on the bridge and have the meeting north of the river. The Three Sisters marched with the mountain people, and so did Black Butte and her husband.

Black Butte carried on her back a big bag of roots and berries, for food along the way. Her husband carried a deer over his shoulder, so that they would have meat on their journey. One day the sun was so hot and the bag was so heavy that Black Butte sat down to rest. Her husband was annoyed and lay down, pouting. Black Butte was very tired. She was so warm that sweat ran down her face and sides in streams. Those creeks came together below her and formed the Metolius River.

But Coyote did not wait for the help of the mountain people. Mount Adams and Mount Hood were going to have a wrestling match, and Coyote knew that it would turn into a fight. So he made up his mind to keep the two men apart. He wished the bridge to fall, and the bridge fell. Mount Adams could not cross over.

When the mountain people heard that Coyote had broken down the bridge, they stopped marching. They stayed just where they were, and later were given new mountain names. They stopped where they are today-Mount Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Mount Washington, and all the others.

Black Butte and her husband were still resting when the bridge fell, and they stayed there at the head of the Metolius River. Green Ridge, the husband, still lies there pouting. There are plenty of deer on Green Ridge. The plants and seeds Black Butte carried took root. We still go there to dig bitterroot, kouse, Indian potato, and looksch, and to gather huckleberries, service berries, little blueberries, and pine nuts. Almost all the plant foods Indians like grow on Black Butte.

Ella E. Clark, editor, Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest, Berkelry, University of California Press, 1953, pp 12-13.

Last modified in August, 2019 by Rick Thomas