Throughout the museum, you may have noticed the series of lit panels with coyote silhouettes and paw prints that display excerpts from stories. Most panels contain coyote-themed excerpts but there is an exception. The panel at the Oregon Trail exhibit reads, “white people with hair on their faces will come from the rising sun, you people must be careful.” It resembles a source in the Wishram Texts, an early 1900s ethnography. According to Franz Boas, an elderly woman named Sophia Klickitat related such an event in ‘A Prophecy of the Coming of the Whites,’ that she claimed happened at the Cascades long before the coming of the whites.
“Long ago, I believe, the people learned that now whites would soon come. One old man, I believe, learned of it at night. Then he dreamt; he saw strange people, they spoke to him, and showed him everything– and he heard something like three or four Indian songs. In the morning he spoke to all the people. And then everybody gathered together to hear him,–women, men, children, old men—everybody. He told the people what he had seen in his sleep at night. And then they gathered together to hear him; they danced every day and every night. They were made glad because of his story.
He said: ‘Soon all sorts of strange things will come. No longer as before; no longer, as will soon happen, shall we use these things of ours. They will bring to us everything strange; they will bring to us (something which) you just have to point at anything moving way yonder, and it will fall right down and die.’ As it turned out, it was a gun of which he spoke. ‘There will be brought to us a bucket for boiling-purposes; no longer will you use your old-fashioned bucket made out of stone.’ As it turned out, they really brought to us what he told the people of. ‘No longer will you make fire by drilling with sticks as before.’ Still more were they made glad, they danced with energy. ‘Certain small pieces of wood will be brought to us with which you will make a fire.’ As it turned out, it was matches whereof he spoke.
For days and nights they danced. They were not at all hungry, truly they did their best. Everything they saw—ax, hatchet, knife, stove. ‘Strange people will bring us such things. White people with mustaches on their faces will come from the east. Do you people be careful.’ Then indeed they would again jump up and down; they did their best strongly. And truly things are just so to-day ; now surely the old man dreamt just that way. Up to that time there were no cattle at all. Presently white people brought them; only farther up there were buffaloes. Nor were there any horses either, only dogs. Thus long ago did it happen to the people dwelling along the river.”
Since it’s said that horses arrived about 1730, this story must be old, old. It’s a wonderful story to read in its original rendering. The flavor is quite different. As Tessie Williams has said, ‘our people welcomed change.’