The Story of Loowit

The Nisqually Legend of the Beautiful Fire Keeper
(From BellaOnline - "The Voice of Women")

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Mt. St. Helens Erupting at Night; Paul Kane, 1847 - Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada

A long time ago, the land the Nisqually lived in was always warm and pleasant. There was much to eat and the animals and the birds gave themselves freely. Creator provided for all their needs and everyone was happy.

Two boys, Klickitat and Wyeast, were born into a strong family, a family of leaders. They grew up with great strength, but very little wisdom. They both wanted control, and they both wanted power, not just over the People, but also over the land that they lived upon. Each man garnered men who would support his claims, men who would speak out against the rights of the opposing brother. They were men who would fight to support those supposed rights. For the first time people talked about killing each other.

Creator was furious with the two brothers. In a dream Creator showed them both a new land, land of great beauty. He then spoke to them, " Tomorrow you will be guided to a place I showed you in your dreams." You will both take a bow and one arrow. When you have reached the place, each of you in turn will shoot your arrow. Where it lands is where you will take the People that will follow you. That is where you will live; and you will live, hopefully in peace."

The next morning, the brothers arose early. Taking their bows and one arrow each, they set off on their quest. They came to a beautiful river that both remembered form their dreams. As they argued over who should shoot first, Creators voice boomed down.

"As the eldest, Wyeast will shoot first and wherever the arrow falls, will be his land. Wyeast pulled his bow taut and fired his arrow right over the river. Where it landed is where his People went. Klickitat fired his arrow to the North and he and his followers settled where it landed.
Before the brothers and their People had set off for their new lands, Creator made a stone crossing, known as the Bridge of the Gods. Then he said, "As long as your hearts are good toward each other, this crossing will always join your Peoples. It will be a Symbol of Peace."

And so, for a time, the People remained happy crossing freely to visit and help each other. Soon, the brothers again wanted more. Klickitat said, "It was not fair Wyeast got to shoot his arrow first. He chose to shoot his arrow at the Land that I wanted for my People. It is far more beautiful there and the hunting is much better." He soon had his followers all riled up again.

Creator saw what was going on and knew that war would soon be declared if he didn't intervene. He decided to send rain to cool off and dampen the spirits of the trouble-makers. It rained so hard it extinguished all the People's fires, but one, the fire of the hermit Loowit.

Without fire the People could not cook or warm themselves. Everyone became soggy, damp and downright miserable. The People prayed to Creator to forgive them for their thoughts of greed and war, even the brothers prayed for forgiveness. Creator, feeling benevolent, decided to help the brothers and their People one more time. He went to the hermit, Loowit, who was getting on in years and who owned the only fire still burning.

"Loowit," said Creator, "you are a good, wise woman, and have not engaged in any of this war-like activity. I will give you whatever you wish for if you share your fire with the People."

Loowit thought for some time about Creator's generous offer. Finally, she said, "I would enjoy by beauty returning to me. I would like to be a young woman again."

"So be it. Your wish is granted,"said Creator. Loowit was immediately as beautiful as she had been many years before. Creator said, "Tomorrow you must take this fire to the Bridge of the Gods. Let all the People who want fire have it. Tell them all that if they take the fire, they must remain at peace."

The next morning at first light, Loowit got up. Taking her heavy pack of dry wood and kindling and a firebrand from her hearth, she set off for the Bridge of the Gods. Creator had made a beautiful day.
Father Sun shone brightly and the Sky was the deepest blue. Loowit was glad to see Sun again as it had been a long time since He had shone.

When she arrived, she set up her fire, then called to the People to come and help themselves. The People heard her calling and came out of their lodges. They saw the beautiful day and the beautiful woman calling to them to come and get the badly needed, warming fire. Soon, the People came and took the fire, and Loowit told them Creator's Message of Peace.

When Klickitat saw the beautiful Loowit he immediately fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. At around the same time, Wyeast arrived to partake in the fire give-away. He, too, fell in love with Loowit. Like his brother, he asked for her hand in marriage.

Loowit considered the brothers' marriage offers. The fact was, she didn't like either of them very well. "Sure they are handsome," she thought. "But they are also ruthless and greedy."

The brothers were growing tired of waiting to see who Loowit would choose and sent emissaries to ask her to hurry up and decide. She sent the messengers back, telling them that she did not wish to marry either of them. When the brothers got her message, each took it to mean Loowit was about to marry the other. Each became angry and another war started. Both brothers began hurling flaming stones at one other, causing much fire and destruction.

Creator was watching all of this. Finally, He had had enough. In His fury, He turned both brothers into mountains. Klickitat He made into the mountain the White Man calls Mount Adams; Wyeast became Mount Hood. He destroyed the Bridge of the Gods, and made the river very narrow where the stone bridge had been.

Loowit was very unhappy, blaming herself for the friction between the brothers. Thinking her beauty had caused most of the trouble, she prayed to Creator to change her back to an old woman. Creator heard her prayers and knew that the friction between the brothers was not her fault. Instead of turning her back into an old woman, He turned her into a beautiful mountain, much more stunning than the mountains He had created from the ever-feuding brothers.

He made her into a Fire-Keeper for all time. She became what the White Man calls Mount St. Helens. She still sits between the quarrelsome brothers and she sleeps soundly most of the time. But if Creators becomes unhappy or angry over the lack of concern that People have in their dealings with Mother Earth, Loowit will awaken and spread her fire of destruction which is Creator's wrath.