The Steet-Athls

All over Skagit and parts of Whatcom and Snohomish counties, the Indians used at times to be greatly worried about a mysterious tribe of wild Indians, who lived way up in the mountains back of Mt. Baker. Nobody had ever seen their homes. They traveled all over the country by night and lived by thievery. They knew everything about the other tribes. Those who offered resistance to them they would pester and harass at every opportunity. Many Indians were very careful when traveling at night for fear of the Steet-athls.

Their tracks were sometimes seen in the snow. One way of finding out if they frequented a certain locality was to set up a stick in a fresh mound of dirt. If the stick was knocked down and no tracks found in the dirt, the Steet-athls had surely been there. If the sticks were undisturbed the place was safe.

The Steet-athls talked and signaled to each other like the lithe birds, whistling and chirping. One Indian said to me that he had heard them around and wishing to avoid trouble he called out: My roothouse door is open, my smokehouse door is open, you can come and help yourself. They helped themselves to a little and left. Since then he has never been bothered.

The Chugualitch (proper name for Skagit, especially the county from the junction of the Sauk and on down to Sedro ; Skagit is a place near Coupville) were on bad terms with them, and many a time some member of the tribe has suddenly disappeared never to return.

A party of hunters once saw a Steet-athl sitting on a rock in a little mountain stream way up Ruby creek. When he saw the hunters he jumped up and ran away up the mountain and disappeared in a hole. The Steet-athls are now getting weak, soon they will all be dead and gone.


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

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