by Ray Jordan, 1974
Transcribed by Larry SpurlingBig Rock, located about halfway between Clearlake and Biglake, was the reason for the fork in the road that is seen today on Hwy 9 and Hwy 538 from College Way and Mount Vernon. This photo is from the Skagit Land Trust.
~~~~~To you, perhaps, Big Rock is just another rock, but to the Noo-quah-chamish this bold pinnacle guarding the forks of the road opposite the Big Rock Service Station was a sacred spot looming large in their legends. [This anglicized version of the Indian band's name was the source of the name for Nookachamps Creek or River.]
~~~~~It was called "Yud-was-ta," which means, "heart" or "of the heart," since it stands in the heart of the onetime Noo-quah-chamish homeland. Their story of how the rock was formed reveals the reason for their reverence of it, for this was the place where Star Child alighted upon her return from a sojourn in that illahee (land) in the sky.
~~~~~The Star Child, to escape an unhappy marriage to a man who lived in the sky, returned to earth by means of a long rope woven from cedar saplings. When she reached earth, her sister, who remained in the sky, cut the rope to conceal the method of escape.
~~~~~The rope fell, coil upon coil, and formed the present Big Rock. If you are doubtful, drive a short distance on a side road to the east some clear morning; and the strong rays of the rising sun will accentuate the unusual formation of the rock, giving the impression that the legend is true.
~~~~~Not far from Yud-was-ta was a prominent Noo-quah-chamish winter village (also important in legend) in pre-Caucasian days, according to two of the oldest Indian informants I ever knew. Both had spent some time there during their youth; but of course by then, the village had lost most of its pre-white glory due to the white invasion of their land and the ensuing loss of population by paleface diseases, ending their way of life. Today, the place is a cultivated field.
~~~~~Some other large rocks in the Big Lake vicinity are said to be the souls of thieves ready to emerge from their stoney lairs and rob the luckless Indian of his soul. When this happened, the best medicine man available was summoned to retrieve the lost soul. This required a practitioner of the highest skill, since the rocks tossed the missing soul back and forth between them to thwart recovery. But a doctor with a strong Tamanowas could accomplish the feat.
Sometimes, long detours around these rocks were made by travelers to avoid risk.
~~~~~Legends and fables play a large part in scholarly studies of Europe, Asia, and Africa. By now, much is made of Indian legends in our own older eastern states to preserve Indian history and to interest tourists; but so far, little has been done to perpetuate the interesting local Indian lore that surrounds us. Perhaps it is too new. Maybe a hundred years from now, scholars will be diligently searching here for lost clues to a lost civilization.
Thanks for coming along, Mike. We must make that run again when we have more daylight hours so that we can explore this legendary Big Rock!