Northwind’s Fishing Weir Series
EXHIBITION:Honoring the Salish Sea
Northwind Fishing Weir
Limited Edition Print Series – Set of Six
Northwind, a powerful head man, lived in a winter village on the west bank of the river. Upstream was the winter village of Southwind, another formidable head man, and his people. A deep hostility between Northwind and Southwind grew even stronger when both powerful chiefs sought to claim the beautiful Mountain Beaver Woman as their own. When Mountain Beaver Woman chose Southwind as her mate Northwind and his people were enraged. They attacked Southwind’s village. The only survivors were Mountain Beaver Woman, now pregnant with Southwind’s child, and an old woman who was Southwind’s mother. But the old woman’s powers were destroyed, locked in dirty ice that Northwind froze to her face.
Northwind led Mountain Beaver Woman back to his village in shame as his slave. She later gave birth to a son, Little Mountain Beaver. As Northwind ruled he used his power to make the land unbearably cold. Lakes and streams froze. In greed he built a fish weir of ice across the river so that no fish could swim upstream to spawn. The people upstream were starving. Their misery drove many to try and go below the ice barrier to fish. But when Northwind caught them he forced them to weave a rope of hazel saplings, and then used the same rope to hang them.
As the people endured Northwind’s cruelty, Little Mountain Beaver grew into a strong and powerful man and took the name of Stormwind. Northwind allowed him to travel wherever he wanted, but warned him to stay away from a certain hill upstream. For years, the boy obeyed. Then, one day, he found himself climbing that very hill, and saw a dilapidated mat house at the top. Against Northwind’s orders, he climbed the hill and looked inside the house, where he found a filthy old woman weaving baskets and singing an anguished lament. She was all alone except for two loyal servants – a rat and a mole. Baskets were stacked high all around her. Some were large and open, others were medium-sized, and some were very small, woven so tightly that they were nearly watertight.
The old woman took the curious young Stormwind by surprise. She told him that she was his grandmother, and that Northwind had brutally murdered his real father and his people. Reunited, the two kin plotted their revenge.
The young Stormwind told no one of his discovery. He began to display a new found strength that frightened the people of Northwind’s village. Stormwind would secretly tear down large, ancient trees and throw them into the river, where they would float downstream and lodge against Northwind’s ice fish weir. Although many tried, no one in Northwind’s winter village, including Northwind himself, was strong enough to dislodge the logs. As they struggled and strained against the great logs, Stormwind would casually stroll along the bank and effortlessly flip the massive trunks over the weir, much to the shock of the villagers.
Northwind took note of Stormwind’s strength, and began to fear for his position as head man of the village. In an effort to form a bond with Stormwind, Northwind dressed his eldest daughter in lavish necklaces and bracelets of ice as a dowry, and sent her to Stormwind as a marriage offering. But before Northwind’s daughter could even enter Stormwind’s doorway, his warm breath melted her ice jewelry, leaving her without a dowry. Over and over this happened. Northwind began to suspect that his worst fears had been realized – Stormwind had discovered his true identity, and was resolved to avenge the death of his father and his villagers. Northwind had no choice. He decided he must kill Stormwind before the younger man became invincible. But Stormwind and his mother escaped Northwind’s attempt, and made their way to the grandmother’s shack.
After so many years, Stormwind’s grandmother was ready for battle. Stormwind melted the filthy ice from her face and restored her powers. Then, Stormwind began to blow. Tree after tree fell into the river as Stormwind continued to blow. The trees filled the river and jammed against the fish weir. Northwind’s people grew terrified and refused to leave their longhouses. Stormwind’s grandmother filled her many baskets with water and emptied them over the land. The rains poured over Northwind’s village and raised the river until the pressure against Northwind’s ice weir grew to be too much, and the weir collapsed, its remains turned to stones, which can still be seen when the water is low. The flood swept Northwind’s village away and Stormwind chased Northwind down the river valley, across what we now call Puget Sound, and on to Bainbridge Island. To this day the final battle of Northwind and Stormwind is replayed in the breakers that roll so ferociously off Yeomalt Point.
Although Stormwind triumphed and avenged the death of his father and his villagers, Northwind was not entirely defeated. He was permitted to return to the valley to visit Mountain Beaver Woman for a few months every year. This, they say, is why it is cold during the winter season.