First Peoples

Eagle and Turtle

There’s an old Okanogan story about Eagle and Turtle. Here’s a simple version from Colville, Washington. A more complex version from the head of Okanagan Lake is embedded in an interview, here. In the interest of exploring cosmologies in which landscape and stories interacts, could this be the turtle?

Turtle Mountain, Vernon
If it looks like a turtle and is called a turtle, and is in the shallows of an ancient lake, on the banks of an ancient river, might it be a turtle?

It even has turtle eggs…

Volcanic Glass, Turtle Mountain

… and turtle scales…

Eroded Basalt Columns, Turtle Mountain

Of course, the story needs an eagle. Here it is:

Eagle, Turtle Mountain
This raptor is perched just behind the turtle’s head, looking west. He looks worried. He should be, as the story goes.

Here’s a closer view:

Eagle’s Head

Up close, he looks less like an eagle than a collection of animals pretending to be one. Maybe the story is more sly than we think.

The mountain itself, appears to contain dozens of other animals, which the story says were held as slaves by eagle, until turtle freed them by flying faster than eagle, which was tricky in itself. Here’s a pair of tadpoles:

Tadpoles on Turtle Mountain

…or is that a bullhead … with two heads?

… and a lizard …

Lizard on Turtle Mountain

…and this …

A Human Figure? A Bear?

Or?

That’s the thing about stories like this. By looking at the land we find ourselves searching our hearts for points of recognition. And it will be a long time before the searching ends. In the meantime, the land is held whole.

The mountain is a treasure trove of figures like this, as is the entire valley stretching five kilometres west to Okanagan Lake. A map of the story would be a very interesting thing indeed.

 

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