Native Palouse Falls Creation Story

In the modern world, science explains why the world turns and how natural wonders, such as waterfalls, are created and formed. Prior to modern science, however, there were still answers needed to these questions. The story of the creation of Palouse Falls is no different. The Nez Perce and Palus tribes have a different version to tell than of a catastrophic flood.

Four Giant Brothers and their Giant Sister lived near the Palouse River. They were incredibly vain and kept their hair well-greased with the oil from the tails of beavers. One day, their oil stash became depleted and the Wolf people suggested that they get some from Big Beaver, who resided in the Palouse River. The Four Giant Brothers searched the river and came across their prey, just above the location of the present-day falls, as the river ran undisturbed into the Snake River at that time. The first of the giant brothers viciously attacked Beaver, injuring him with his spear. They chased Beaver until they caught up with him, and the second brother speared his target. Beaver quickly shifted course, redirecting the river at the first bend.

Still being chased, Beaver was angry and attempted to elude the brothers by turning left, and his incredible movements dug a deep canyon in the earth. The brothers were still in pursuit and as they caught up, the third brother speared him. Beaver, in pain and angry, shifted his direction again, while vigorously shaking his tail, creating five small falls. It was here that the fourth brother javelined Beaver, who again tried to evade the pursuing brothers. The giants eventually caught up with Beaver and they began to fight, leading to the rapids and sharp turns just before the what is now the falls. Here, Beaver was impaled for the fifth time, which enraged Beaver. He turned to fight the brothers, and in the commotion he tore a huge canyon into the ground that the falls spill into. Beaver managed to escape. However, the marks of Beaver’s claws are still visible in the rock to this day.

The responsibility of the creation of Palouse Falls and the eventual death of Beaver, however, is due to Coyote. Coyote had been watching the fight from the beginning and could have ended it at any time. He enjoyed the action, and when he noticed Beaver retreating, he sang his song of power, forcing Beaver to return up the river. Beaver was then struck down. Beaver’s heart still remains and is visible as the big rock along the west side of the Palouse River, where it flows into the Snake.


Images

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls

This spectacular 178-foot drop creates the largest waterfall in Washington State. The fantastic vertical marks are said to be the claws of Beaver trying to survive the encounter with the Giant Brothers. | Source: Photo Courtesy of Anna Harbine View File Details Page

Coyote's Song

Coyote's Song

This illustration is a rendition of Coyote. Coyote is depicted playing the flute. | Source: Artwork '© H. Kyoht Luterman View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Ronald E. Scheck, “Native Palouse Falls Creation Story,” Ice Age Floods Explorer, accessed August 22, 2017, http://floodexplorer.org/items/show/14.

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