The Origin of the Spokane River

Falls of the Spokane

The Falls of the Spokane in 1853 - John Mix Stanley

The Spokane Indians once lived in terror because of a huge monster that lived both on land and in the water.  He swallowed all the fish and birds and animals that came near him.  His claws were so strong that with one pull he could uproot the largest pine trees.  His breath was so bad that it killed people.  No weapons would stick in his skin, and no hunter had been able to capture him.  All people were afraid of him.

One day a gril was picking berries near where the Spokane River now flows into the Columbia River.  At that time, there was no Spokane River.  The girl looked up from the berries and saw the monster.  He was lying on a hillside, asleep in the sunshine.

The girl slipped quietly away and ran to her village as fast as she could.

"I have seen the monster!" she gasped.  "And he is asleep."

The headman of the village called his men together and said to them, "Gather up every cord and rope and every leather thong in all the tepees."

After this was done, the men walked noiselessly to the hillside where the monster still lay sleeping.  There they tied him to trees and to rocks.  Still he slept, they moved so quietly.  Then all the people began to beat him with their weapons of war and their weapons of hunting.

When the monster awoke, he made one big jump.  All the cords and all the leather thongs broke, as if they were made of grass.  The monster turned and ran eastward like the wind.  He ran and ran until he reached Lake Coeur d'Alene.  As he went he tore a deep channel.  When he reached the lake, the waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene rushed into the new channel and made a new river.

Ever since then, the Spokane River has flowed from Lake Coeur d'Alene into Big River, and so its waters have reached the sea.

Katharine Berry Judson, Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.