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The Columbia River Gorge

Oregon, USA

Once there were three sisters who lived with their tribe on the edge of a large gorge. Their father was the chief, and the wisest of all the tribes that lived by the gorge.

Although the sisters loved each other very much, they were not at all alike. Nichi’wana, the eldest was the best at cooking, and all women envied her. The middle sister,Wyam, was a very talented sewer, and could make the finest clothing in the tribes. And the littlest sister,Elu, was by far the most beautiful.

One day, their father the great chief noticed a man coming over the hill. How handsome and strong he is, thought the chief, he shall marry one of my beautiful daughters.

When the man rode into the village, the sisters noticed him at once. They admired his strong arms, his beautiful clothes, and his bow and arrows.

Nichi’wana invited him to her hut. There, she gave him delicious food she had prepared, and made him a bed of down feathers and buckskin.

“My name is Nipahem. I need shelter and food. I would like to stay here.” the man stood up and gave his empty plate to Nichi’wana.

“ Of course you may shelter here. I will give you shelter. I will feed you. Stay here as long as you want.” Nichi’wana replied.

Suns passed, and soon Nipahem’s gaze had rested on Wyam. She too, wished for him to come to her hut. She too cooked him food and gave him a place to stay. She also offered him some of her most beautiful war shirts and moccasins.

But just like Nichi’wana, he soon became less and less interested in her. He found that Elu was far more beautiful than the others. Elu noticed him too, and like her sisters, offered him a place to stay. He stayed with her for many moons, much longer than his stay with the other sisters.

The old chief noticed this. “ Nipahem, you shall marry one of my three beautiful daughters. Pick wisely, and you have my blessing.”

Nipahem pondered about this for five suns until he came to a conclusion: Elu was the one who captured his heart, surely she was to be his wife.

Word got around quickly, coming around to the sisters. They were extremely jealous. They were so jealous, they didn’t come to the wedding of Nipahem and Elu.

Many moons passed, and Elu soon had a child, a beautiful child, whom they called Alameda. Once again, she was the prettiest baby in the village, just like her mother.

The sisters were so jealous this time, that they made a plan to kill the husband. Nici’wana snuck out in the woods with his bow and arrows to gather berries. When he came looking for game, she shot him in the throat.

She ran back to camp, only to find her youngest sister in tears. “ Why sister, why! Why have you killed my husband?!”

Nichi’wana was astonished, then furious. She stormed into Wyam’s hut and began to beat her, fuming out loud. Elu came to see what the commotion was, but both sisters quickly turned on her, turning her beautiful face bloody.

“ Sisters, what did I do? I shouldn't be punished!” Elu exclaimed as she blocked a kick in the shins from Wyam.

“ Husband steal-er!” Wyam shouted to Elu. “ Husband killer!” She shouted to Nichi’wana.

“ No sister! You haven’t forgotten that you helped create the plan as well.” Nichi’wana said slyly.

Elu went into a rage. She swung punches and kicks at her sisters for many suns.

The old chief did not like the fighting. He believed it must come to a stop. “ Daughters! Come to your foolishness, I must do the thing I hate most. You must learn to watch over the homes of the people.”

He turned to Nichi’wana and waved his arm. “ You, my daughter, will become the Columbia River. Our people will make delicious food with the fish that live in your waters.”

He then turned to Wyam. “You will become Celilo Falls. You will amaze many with your beautiful features just like the clothes you made.”

He next turned to Elu. “ You will become Multnomah Falls, for your natural beauty.”

Last he turned to Alameda. “ And you, my dear, will become the orchards, for your blossoming beauty.”

And that is the story of the Columbia River Gorge.

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