Indigenous Storytelling: Kalapuya Creation Story
Told by Esther Stutzman, Yonkalla Kalapuya/Coos (Oregon)
Recorded 30 August 2001
This is a family story that I learned from my elders. I was given permission to tell this story in public as long as it remained the same and not changed. Because stories are private family property, I only tell stories from my family. To do otherwise, a storyteller could sicken and die. The story relates the coming of the first human being to the world…"Le-lu," who dreamed of two babies. When they came to her, she walked down from the stone mountain and gave the babies to Quartux, Mother Wolf to take care of them. When she strapped the babies to a packbasket, she strapped them around their head. When she came back and removed the straps, the foreheads of the babies were flattened. This became the custom of flattening the foreheads of children.
Stories must be used and told exactly as they are spoken. To change the story to fit modern ideas is bad luck and considered to be disrespectful. This story should be an instruction on how the reverence for the Wolf came to be and also how the custom of forehead flattening came to be. Because the Kalapuya believe that the world began of stone, it also refers to several stone outcroppings in the Willamette Valley of Oregon that are still considered sacred to the Kalapuya.
Listen to this story:
About Esther Stutzman:
Esther Stutzman has been a storyteller for most of her life. She learned stories from her elders who carefully guided her storytelling techniques. She works as an Artist-in-Residence with art associations throughout Oregon and is a cultural resource consultant for Title IX Indian Education Programs in many locations within the state. She has been an elementary and secondary teacher, a cultural curriculum developer, University lecturer and is currently working on a Kalapuya curriculum. She is chair of the Komemma Cultural Protection Association, a group of Kalapuya people who engage in historical research, photo documentation and protection of sacred sites.
Esther Stutzman is available as a Storyteller. She can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 180
Yoncalla, OR 97499