Spirit Quest Sites


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 What:  Certain sites were chosen to send young girls and boys to so that the might increase their warring, fishing, or living power. Many times this site was a high place where the initiate would stay overnight or for days alone or with a small fire as their only companion. The initiate would wait the appearance of some spirit like a wolf spirit or the spirit of the storms, etc. Therefore the site was often called a Spirit Quest. Many times the pictographs or petroglyphs were entered at the base of the mountains to record the event. A circle around a picture often represents that Spirit Quest might have happened at the site. Remember many tribes thought the paintings or carvings were done by little people, or earlier tribes since they didn't know anything of them.

By Richard Scheuerman & his 1997 class of students at St Johns School: An interview with Isabel Arcasa, Emily her niece, memories of Mary Moses telling stories.

A power mountain is where power can come to your spirit because the place has been a sacred place since the time of the Animal People. It was the custom for Indian youths entering adulthood to undertake a special journey, or spirit quest, in order to receive a special guardian power from the Great spirit that would protect the person throughout life.  It was traditional to be alone on such a quest to some remote place and remain there for several days without food until the spirit was revealed in a dream or vision.  The spirit might take the form of a bird or other animal or in some other force of nature which coul be summoned with a special song or prayer learned during the quest. After this defining experience the inidvidual might choose a new name that was associated with the spirit power like, Thunder rolling in the mountains, Yellow serpent, Pile of clouds. For this reason, Steptoe Butte was called a power mountain. The butte was known to the local Indians as Eomoshtoss. One of Kamiakin's sons, Skees had his name originate from such a quest. Skees was a son by Kamiakin's third wife, Whylatspam, and when he was a boy his parents sent him in search of a guardian spirit. He traveled for some time and climbed the steep slopes until he came upon an abandoned campsite on which were scattered a number of animal bones. The boy fasted throughout the day and watched as the sunlight fell beyond a cloud-covered horizon. While keeping his vigil late into the night, a great hailstorm suddenly arose that assailed the slopes with ferocious winds and pelted the boy's crude shelter. A loud voice then spoke to him out of the gale, "I give you my power of wind and strength to withstand the force of hail that strikes against me like the bullets of an enemy. So you shall have power to overcome the attacks of those who ride against you. From the voice in the wind the boy learned a song with which he could summon help in time of danger before falling off into a deep sleep from the exhaustion of his ordeal. The next morning he arose and walked to the place near the camp where he had heard the voice. He found a pile of elk bones and then realized that the power of this majestic creature to withstand enemies has been bestowed upon him. For this reason he took the name Skees which means "Hailstorm." During the wars of the 1850s, this son of Kamiakin distinguished himself in battle by daring raids against the soldiers. On these occasions Skees would sing his power song and ride against the hail of bullets fired at him and escape unharmed despite the bullet holes torn through his buckskin clothes.



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