Devils in the River; Devils in the Creek.

"The petroglyph shown here depicts a "river devil" or "river monster", a spirit living in the depths of the Columbia River that pulls people into the water and drowns them. Little else is known about the figure.

 Columbia Gorge

Columbia Gorge


Prior to 1956 this ancient drawing was located among literally thousands of others on the walls of Petroglyph Canyon. Having religious significance, they were respected and honored by the First People to inhabit the Columbia River Gorge and its surrounding uplands. When the Dalles Dam was built, Petroglyph Canyon and its artifacts were lost forever to the rising waters. Only a few petroglyphs, including the one shown above, were cut from the basalt lava cliffs before they were submerged. The removed petroglyphs were stored at the dam, perched against a wall of the fish ladder beneath roosting birds, where they became covered with highly acidic droppings. They remained this way until they were cleaned and moved to Columbia Hills State Park in 2004. Here they are currently displayed outdoors near a basalt cliff similar to the one from which they were cut. At some point during all of the cutting, moving, storage, cleaning, and handling, this petroglyph cracked into two completely separate pieces. There is another crack along the top that threatens to separate the ancient artwork into three pieces. This piece ended up resting on its side with the separated parts roughly aligned." (Dean M Chriss; quote.)

What is a Creek or River Devil? Or Indian Devil?

At Wecpus, or Weitchpec, as a girl my older brother told me a legend that there is also a creature known as a "Creek Devil" who will follow the creeks up the canyons from the river, then the rivulets, then the water drops into your camp while in its spirit form. He heard this story from our Grandfather as a boy. It's known as the Rac'ni'oo'ma'ah (ph sp) up in the mountains, which also means Sasquatch to Yuroks, or can be as well "other beings of a spirit nature."

Sometimes these spirits were acquired by "Indian Devils" or sorcerers who did "bad doctoring" with these powerful spirits' assistance. These men and women were also called Oomah'ah's and said to be shape-shifters known to transform into owls, vultures, dogs, bears, wolves, coyotes et al. They could run like lightening and shot people with little energy arrows called asekis they kept in a kit of 12. The kits were said to come from the "creek devils" which sometimes meant a Spirit Being that walked in two worlds, known as Sasquatch, to the Yurok. Or perhaps Bigfoot was the in-between spirit who got them from the Creek Devils, no one knows for sure how the story went in the old times. These arrows, asekis, held bad thought forms and bad emotions, much like curses which would eventually lead to illness and even death.

Oomah'a, or devil, can mean many things; a catch all word. One thing is for sure, people felt that spirits were involved in their every day lives and that these spirits existed at a different level of consciousness-- and we humans were the middle men used to access them.

There were also kits of "white" tiny arrows acquired from the "first people spirits known as the Wo'gas." Wo'gas could be found in the high places and big rocks where you "cried for luck" (help or a vision). These kits were for healing doctors to utilize. Just as the Kegowor were known as sucking doctors, who would remove dangerous and or, illness causing spiritual intrusions. The Oomah'a, on the other hand, used them to cause illness for a price. These little arrows known as asekis were said to be so powerful they could explode if handled improperly and kill a man. And it all started with the creek devils... perhaps that is the part of the story that is missing from Columbia Gorge's tales of "River Devils." Of which-- "little is known."

North American indigenous stories, rituals and myths are all reflected in our petroglyphs, there is no doubt. This is an important reason these places must be preserved for future generations. Too many have lost many generations of their oral histories of pre-contact times, which can still be found on the cliffs and walls of these remarkable locations. All you have to do is "read the writing on the wall."

Adisi Waya