Grateful to the Wandering Artist

The Cayuse Sisters rock formation at Wallula

It’s out-of-season to talk about you-know-who, but an intriguing story appeared online recently.  Tamastslikt features the Cayuse Sisters landmark prominently in the ‘Sikem’ or horse culture diorama.  You may have read the signpost at the Waluula landmark about how Spilyay the Coyote turned his wives into pillars of basalt so he could keep an eye on them. But do you  know the prequel?– how Spilyay vanquished the great medicine grasshopper beforehand. ‘Ikuyn, Spilyay worried that the infamous grasshopper was on the verge of overshadowing his own feats. When they met up, the coyote and the grasshopper eyed each other warily, neither knowing the other’s strengths or weaknesses. Spilyay came up with the idea that they would both empty out their stomach contents and compare the quantity of victims rendered. As Grasshopper closed his eyes as he retched, Spilyay swept some of the mess over to his side. Upon seeing that Spilyay’s upchuck pile was way more than his own, Grasshopper became anxious to make peace. Grasshopper suggested that they exchange shirts to seal the deal. They argued back and forth for a while about who would go first. Finally Spilyay hit himself forcefully on the chest. Instantly, his shirt was off him. Grasshopper couldn’t do that, so he took his shirt off the only way he knew how, by pulling it over his arms, shoulders and head. While Grasshopper was encumbered that way, Spilyay did him in. And in that triumphant state, Spilyay continued his journey upriver. Without the 19th century European artist Paul Kane, that part of the story could have become lost. Kane recorded the story in his travel journal as told to him by a River Indian as he sketched, although he erroneously called the coyote a wolf.   It’s an awesome special effect the way Spilyay hit his chest and caused his shirt to instantly come off. Back in the 19th century, Indians were visualizing worlds way beyond the limits of their daily reality. Now I won’t blog about Spilyay til it snows. 

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