Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Legend of Multnomah Falls

This week’s article combines three things I love, 1) My daughter, 2) a grand waterfall, 3) an intriguing legend.   My daughter, Mechelle, recently took a trip to Washington and Oregon  and sent me the following pictures and shared with me the Native American Legend associated with the waterfall.  So, she is my guest blogger this week. 

Multnomah Falls is located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge east of Troutdale, between Corbett and Dodson.  The water falls 542 feet into a pond and then another 69 feet to the base.  According to the United States Forest Service, it is the second tallest (year-round) waterfall in the United States.  The water for the falls is supplied by underground springs from Larch Mountain and also spring runoff from the mountain’s snowpack in spring.
Multnoman Falls -- Top half

An interesting Native American legend is associated with the falls.

Long ago, the chief of the Multnomah tribe was blessed with a beautiful daughter.  He loved her very much and cherished her all the more after losing his sons in war.  The chief wanted to make sure that his daughter had only the very best and was especially particular about choosing her husband .  After considerable deliberation, he decided that the man for his daughter was a young chief from the neighboring  Clatsop tribe.

The chief threw a great wedding party and people from miles around came to enjoy the festivities which included swimming and canoe races, archery contests, dancing, and feasting.  It was a grand affair until a sickness befell the village.  The young and weak began to die from the plague and there was great sorrow and morning throughout as even the strong began to succumb.
Multnomah Falls - last half

The chief called a council of his elders and warriors and asked for their advice.  An old medicine man came forward.  He had been called down from the mountains by the chief to speak.   Sadly, the old man shared with the council a prophecy foretold by his father many summers before. 

 “My father told me that some day when I grow old, a great sickness will come to our people.  All will die, he said, unless an innocent maiden of a chief is willingly sacrificed to the Great Spirit.”

When the people heard what the old medicine man had said, dozens of young maidens, including the chief’s daughter presented themselves to the chief.  The chief could not bear the thought of any maiden having to sacrifice her life so he ended the council and called upon his people to be brave and face the consequences of the sickness.

But as more died, the daughter of the chief grieved and considered giving up her life to save the others.  Then when the sickness struck the man she loved, she knew what she must do.  After caring for him one last time, she slipped away secretly and followed the trail to the cliff.

As she stood at the edge of the cliff and looked down upon the jagged rocks at the bottom, she called upon the spirits to send her a sign that her sacrifice would appease them and end the sickness.  When she looked to the sky for a sign, the moon rose above the trees.  It was the sign she was looking for.  She closed her eyes and dove off the cliff to her death.

The next morning, the sickness was lifted and the people were filled with happiness again.  The celebrations resumed.  But, then, they stopped to question why the sickness had ended so suddenly.  When the chief recalled all of the maidens, they realized that his daughter was missing.  The young Clatsop chief raced to the cliff where he saw his love below on the rocks.

Everyone was sad to learn that the young maiden they all loved was dead.  They descended to the bottom of the cliff and buried her there.   Her father called to the spirits to offer them a sign that his daughter’s spirit had been welcomed into the land of the spirits.

Instantly, they heard the sound of water atop the cliff and when they looked up, a stream of water began flowing over the cliff.  Since then, the water has flowed continuously off the cliff. 

It is said that sometimes the spirit of the maiden returns dressed in a white dress and hides in the trees to look upon the waterfall where she made her sacrifice for those she loved. 
-- Mechelle Miller


  1. i am blessed to have gotten a photo of this amazing princess!

    1. I AM mixed Native and Rainbow Child and have heard this story many times it is my truth... I still get Spirit Bumps every time I hear it... Pilamaya (Thank you, Lakota) for sharing

    2. Where in the photo is she located?