The Great Medicine Meeting

After years of training from boyhood up the Indian youth at the age of 18 or 20 went out to seek his guiding spirit or tamanois. He would go into the hills and fast for three or more days, when he would be bodily clean and in the proper state of mind and body for the tamanois to enter. The youth might wish for skill in hunting, shrewdness and luck in gambling, protection against fire, death from knife wounds etc., but the greatest was to be either big man in councils or good tamanois doctor.

With some tribes the youth seeking his tamanois might dive in a lake. Closing his eyes and staying under water a long time tamanois would come and show him like a picture his fortune in life, sometimes pointing out herds of elk, deer, bear and other animals if his tamanois would make him a good


With other tribes he would stay until his tamanois would come. If this fortune was the gift of healing he would get a song that was magic. It so happened about three generations ago. A young man on the Chu-gualitch (the Skagit) became possessed with a powerful spirit of healing. People all over found out about him and his good tamanois. One day he sent out a call for a Speego-dilolh, a meeting similar to the Sque-que or Potlatch, except that its main purpose was to heal the sick, gain new recruits for the good tamanois and so strengthen the faith of the weak.

Runners carried the summons up the Skagit, the Sauk and the Suiattle, down the Skagit to he lowland around Sedro. With the returning runners came the people in the canoes carrying food, mats and poles for camps, even fire wood. For days they came until the riverbank for a quarter mile was one unbroken row of canoes. Some brought Cha-hwadi, the little magic stick, a wand about two feet long, used in the medicine dance. It was sometimes used to beat time to the singing, also during the dance held with both hands straight out in front. During the singing these sticks would quiver and shake, leading its bearer into the circle of dancers. If doubters and scoffers were present they would be given a wand, and if upon feeling its magic they believed, all was well; but if they still doubted, the wand would pull its victim out of doors to a pond or river where there was muddy bottom. Head first he would dive with the stick in his hands, later to be found stuck in the mud and drowned. Sometimes the doubter would jump right into a fire and be burned to death.

Another stick that was used in the Speego-dilolh was the Tusted, a slender pole about 10 or 12 feet long, made of split fir or cedar. On the top end slightly bigger was a tassle of finely shredded cedar bark. If the doctor, or the man possessed of strong healing tamanois had a good tamanois song, he could make these poles vibrate with it, and its bearer would dance with vigor and the spirit-power would drive all bad tamanois away and spread strength and healing to the whole assembly. At this Speego-dilolh on the Chu-gwalitch the young man who had called it together was possessed by a tamanois who knew where could be found the magic saplings from which the Sko-deelitch could be made. This was the hoop made of a sapling of vinemaple or other pliable wood, about 4 or 5 feet long. This was bent into a hoop, the ends crossed, leaving handles about 8 inches long to hold it by. Around the hoop on the outside was a fringe of fine, fuzzy cedar bark tied on with goat hair twine.

The young man selected six men to go in search of the young trees. He did not know where they grew, but his tamanois aid, and they would be known to the searchers by their unnatural twisting and swaying motion when seen. The men hunted for hours and hours without success. But there were two small boys also out hunting; one of them heard a strange noise in the brush down a hillside. He warily approached the noise and saw a clump of vinemaples twisting together like a rope, and swaying violently from side to side. He yelled and called to the searchers to come, saying that he had found the magic saplings. It took them some time to come. Meanwhile he called the other little boy and they grabbed the little trees, trying to hold them, but they were flung around by the trees and nearly exhausted when the men arrived. The knives were brought out and while two men held each little sapling, the third would try to cut it down. All the knives were nearly used up before the three of them were cut down. Next they cut off the tops. Then, two men to each stick, they were carried down hill to the camp, the sticks continually exerting their magic. Upon entering the canoe the men discovered that they did not have to paddle or pole; they held up the sticks and the canoe slid swiftly through the water, straight for the encampment and went half a canoe length on shore before it stopped. The sticks were made into hoops and performed wonders under the direction of the tamanois of healing.

This was a great Speego-dilolh and is spoken of to this day by many tribes. The young man lived long and was often sought in sickness and trouble.

This was told by an old man who was one of the boys who found the magic saplings.


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

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