Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Prophesy of Circling Raven

As Mike, Ron, and I drove up to Mount Spokane (before we picked up Clayne), I recounted the story of an early Spokane prophet who saw a vision of the Creator on the mountain. I quote the story from Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown*:

"A fresh Spokane grave in the plague year 1782 held the remains of the little son of Yureerachen ("Circling Raven"), a shaman brother of the chief of the Upper Spokanes. Yureerachen, anguished at the death, blasphemed the Creator. "Why," he sobbed to his chieftan brother, "did He take my son, who has committed no crime, and leave bad people on the earth?" One day his chieftan brother told him, "All right, we will be as animals; we will disband our laws. First, you must go to the top of the [Spokane] mountain and fast four days and nights, then come back the fourth day just before noon. If you find no proof of our Creator, we will then disband our laws and live like animals." Clad only in a breechcloth, Yureerachen went to the top of the mountain. He built a fire, prayed, beat sticks, cried, and sang. On the fourth day, before dawn, in a burst of light, he heard the voice of the Creator. "Look down the mountain into the future of your people," spoke the Creator. Overwhelmed, Yureerachen knew in an instant that he had to bring word of this vision to his people. But he also knew the time to do so was not at hand, for in mourning the recent loss of their loved ones, they would never believe him. What should he tell them?

Yureerachen raced down the hill to affirm to his chieftan brother and the other people his own faith in the Creator. The rest of his story, a prophecy, he kept to himself until the time should come to reveal it. One day, about the year 1790, there was a defeaning blast, the air clouded, and the ground became covered with a flour pumicite. The people, well versed in stories of the earlier volcanic catastrophe, were stricken with fear by the "dry snow" mantling the earth. It was as though an evil hand were completing a sinister cycle on earth, from ashes to ashes. They thought the end of the world was at hand.

Yureerachen felt it was the proper time to prophesy. First, he calmed his people with assurances that the Creator was not ending their existence on earth. "Soon," he said, "there will come from the rising sun a different kind of man from any you have yet seen, who will bring with them a book, and will teach you everything, and after that the world will fall to pieces." When the people pressed him for details, he said white men would come.

I find it intersting that grieving drove Yureerachen to pray on the slopes of Mount Spokane. Today my grieving also brought me to the mountain where once God appeared to our people.

*Ruby, Robert H. & Brown, John A., The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun. Norman, Oklamhoma: 1970.

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