North Wind and Storm Wind

The land was locked in ice, frozen solid from too-KWEET-hloss to tohl-AHL-too. Every day was bitter cold. Icy winds blew the snow into deep drifts. From that little mountain known as s’BAH-bah-teel North Wind--the one they called STOH-bluh--sent his freezing blast over all the country. He built an ice dam across the Duwamish River that stopped the salmon from running upstream so the people were always hungry and cold. Month after month nothing ever changed. STOH-bluh held all the land in his chilling grip.

Into that frozen white world a young boy went hunting with his bow and arrow. His name was see-SOOL, which means Little Mountain Beaver.

One day the boy’s grandfather became worried. He called see-SOOL and gave him a warning: "That hill made of rock on the other side of the river--stay away from it." But he did not tell his grandson the reason.

see-SOOL became older. He grew into a skilled hunter. He began to go farther and farther away from his home to hunt. Each day he would come closer to the forbidden hill next to the frozen river.

Now at this time there was an old lady named skwuh-LAHTS who lived on that hill. Her name means the tracks that tears make when they run down someone’s face. She got that name because she was always crying for her dead son who was called Chinook Wind and for his people who had all been killed by the cold North Wind, STOH-bluh. You can still see that hill where she lived next to the Duwamish River. You can recognize it even today by the grey streaks which look like tears running down the dark rock.

Now, it was skwuh-LAHTS habit to go down to the river to collect cat-tail rushes to weave into baskets. She made baskets of all sizes--ones that were coarsely woven and had big holes between the plaits of rush, and also finely woven baskets that had only tiny holes. Because skwuh-LAHTS had no wood to burn at her home she also burned the cat-tail rushes for heat, but they would flame up and die down so quickly that even when she was inside she was never warm enough.

But one day as skwuh-LAHTS was weaving baskets in her house on the hill and she got so warm she began to sweat. This was so unusual skwuh-LAHTS sang out, "Another one of my people must have escaped North Wind’s rage. That person is walking nearby; that is the reason I am becoming so warm." Then the old lady went to the door of her house to see who was there and she saw the young man see-SOOL standing right where he had been forbidden to go.

When she saw him she knew right away who he was. This was the only child of her own son, Chinook Wind. She told that young man who his father was, and that he himself was also one of the Chinook Wind people who had almost all been killed by STOH-bluh.

"What reason did North Wind have to kill my father and his people," the young man asked. skwuh-LAHTS, who was also his grandmother, told him the reason, and this is what it was: It was North Wind’s jealousy that caused him to kill Chinook Wind people and his people. Both North Wind and Chinook Wind had wanted to marry Mountain Beaver Woman, but because Chinook Wind brought presents of warmth and food to the Mountain Beaver people, he was the one she married. Mountain Beaver Woman escaped STOH-bluh’s madness by an underground path and gave birth to see-SOOL at the home of her parents.

Of course, when he heard this the young man became very angry and brought out of himself a strong warm wind that blew down the big fir trees which grew near that place. That is how he came to be called s’whaht-SAH-lah-tsee which means "Wind-that-tears-the-trees-up", or, as others call him, Storm Wind. It was only after he did that that he saw his grandmother was shivering from cold, so he took the blown-down trees and laid them beside her and told the heavy trees to allow themselves to be moved easily by the old lady so she could use them for firewood. To his grandmother he said, "Do not go outside to gather cat-tail rushes or for any other reason until I come back."

But before he could leave he saw that his grandmother had become nearly blind from her tears as well as from the filth that Raven had been dropping on her face. Raven was one of North Wind’s slaves. s’whaht-SAH-lah-tsee sharpened a stick and give it to the old lady. He told her to use the stick to poke Raven if he came back again to bother her. Then, young Storm Wind told his grandmother not to wash her face until he returned, and then he left her, promising to come back soon.

But Storm Wind was gone a long time and while he was gone that sneaky Raven came back to skwuh-LAHTS. He was going to drop his filth on her face as he always did. But this time, when he got close to her, the old lady stuck him with the sharp stick. She stuck him so hard that Raven flew away, back to North Wind, and he was too ashamed to tell his master how old skwuh-LAHTS had hurt him. But STOH-bluh knew something was up and he said, "The son of Chinook Wind, whom we have destroyed, must have returned to see his grandmother." Still, though, the land was all cold and frozen because North Wind had not been defeated.

But even then a warm wind began to blow from the South. It blew and blew, stronger and stronger. Storm Wind had returned. As he blew many of the Chinook Wind people were unfrozen and came to life and they all began to blow. The Storm Wind became so strong that many trees were blown down in that place. Old skwuh-LAHTS felt the warm wind and knew that her grandson had returned. Now was the time for her to wash Raven’s filth and the frozen tears from her face. When she did that the rains began to come.

skwuh-LAHTS went outside now, just as her grandson, Storm Wind, had told her to do when he returned. She brought her baskets outside to collect the rain. There she met Storm Wind, or s’whaht-SAH-lah-tsee, who now told her to take her baskets full of rain and pour them all over the frozen valley.

First, the old lady took the finely woven basket and when the water came out of it there was a fine mist. Next she took the one with the medium weave and the water came out like light rain. Finally old skwuh-LAHTS brought out the coarsely woven basket and shaking it, a heavy rain fell out.

Storm Wind blew the rain all over the valley. There was so much rain it washed the blown-down trees all the way to the river, which had become unfrozen. There was a flood which washed through the valley. The flood waters pushed all the trees against the ice dam that North Wind had built across the river. The ice dam--which had kept the salmon from swimming up the river--broke and was swept down to Elliot Bay. Some of the pieces of ice, though, turned into stone. You can still see what remains of North Wind’s ice dam in the river there not far from the hill where skwuh-LAHTS lived. You can see big blocks of stone in the river when the water is low.

Now, everything was melting. All the land was becoming unfrozen. North Wind ran away. From Elliot Bay he ran across the Sound to what is now called Bainbridge Island. He landed at a place called Yeomalt. That place used to be called Spirit House, or in the language of The People, t’lee-boh-AWLT’wh. But even there he could not stay. He went further North still and took his slave Raven with him. If North Wind had not been chased away we should all be cold and hungry all the time. As it is, we have a little ice and snow, but not for long, only until Storm Wind comes.

In the old days, before the country was all torn up by the settlers, when the people wanted Storm Wind to bring the warm Chinook rain they would go to that hill where old skwuh-LAHTS lived, on the west bank of the river just above Allentown, down near Boeing Field. They would splash water on the side of the hill to wash it clean. Then the rain would come.


--The original story with the same name was related by Ann Jack to Arthur Ballard and is contained in the book Mythology of Southern Puget Sound.   This version was adapted by Tom Dailey.