Saukwa Beault – Sauk Prairie Legend and History

Sauk Prairie Legend and History

At one time Sauk Prairie was a big marshland and belonged to the Beavers. Indian tribes used to send out scouts to locate hunting, fishing and camping grounds. One of these scouts found what is now Sauk Prairie. In and around the marsh were many plants with edible roots, many kinds of berries, also much small game and birds. The scout had a vision of a great summer camp for his tribe. He wanted to secure the marsh for them and began dickering with the Beavers. ‘They agreed to part with it for some pieces of hard wood with which to sharpen their teeth and with the understanding that thereafter the Indian should be friendly with the Beavers.

The scout brought his people up one spring. They thought it a wonderful place, and at once pulled out the dams which the Beavers had made, when most of the water rushed out. Then everybody went to work pulling out plants and bushes that did not have edible root or berries, leaving all that had. Salmon berries, thimbleberries, huckleberries, spaykoolits (leek), etc.

This they did year after year, sometimes bringing in and planting new varieties. So in time Sauk Prairie became known far and wide for its wealth of good roots and berries.

The first fall after all the winter supplies had beet: prepared, meat cured, berries dried, fish and roots pounded together, all the Indians left for their homes down the river. The second year some of the people started gambling and became so possessed with the spirit of the sticks that they forgot to prepare for the trip down river, so they built winter houses and stayed over. No body suffered from want of food, because deer came right to their doors and there was fish in river and sloughs.

This started the permanent camps at the Prairie. More and more people came up the rivers. Those coming up the Stillaguamish crossed at Kuds-al-kaid (the Portage) a short distance below what is now Darrington.

Once, after the white man had come, the Indians at Sauk Prairie heard that a missionary from the Sound wanted to come to them and start a small church. Some of the Indians who had visited Tulalip said that the good Indians who had been baptized were no better than before, but the bad ones who had been baptized seemed to be just as bad as ever. The Prairie people talked it over and said something must be done. A council was held. The wise men discussed the problem. One much-traveled Indian said: “Way over the mountains near a place called Walla Walla are two missionaries. Their religion must be good because nearly all the Indians over there speak well of them. Why not send some men over there to hear and see, so if we have to build a church and if we want to accept the white man’s religion we can do it ourselves and not have to take orders from Stilacoom or Tulalip missionaries.”

The council then decided to send eleven men to Walla Walla. They went by way of Indian Pass, stayed nearly all summer and came back with good reports. After hearing them the Prairie people built a church, put a fence around it, also setting aside a plot of ground for a cemetery. They adopted the new religion in part but decided to still keep what they thought best of their own beliefs and rules of conduct.

This church or meeting house stood but a few years. Some white men came up the Skagit and Sauk-probably prospectors. They brought fire water. One night the church and everything around it was destroyed.

An Indian once said to me: “That time wise Indian say, ‘White man bring some good things, but more bad things to spoil our people. It will be long time before we can all be good friends.'”

Bruseth, Nels. Indian Stories and Legends of the Stillaguamish and Allied Tribes. 1926.

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