Kw?kwál?lw?t: The Maiden of Deception Pass
NOTE: I have used the spelling Kw?kwál?lw?t as that is the closest I can come to the spelling on a r Romanized keyboard. I photographed the name on the sign and thus you can see the original name in photo 4. The legend has been drastically cut short in this tip, and to find the whole story I suggest further research, or come visit Deception Pass State Park and read it for yourself.
At Rosario Beach there is a large wooden statue, carved from a tree similar to the traditional "story poles" that used to be inside local Native long houses, of a maiden that is the main character of a local legend. The statue is carved with two sides: one shows the maiden as a natural woman, and the other side shows the maiden as she is slowly turning into a creature of the sea.
In the old days, a family lived on the rock just above the Straight of Juan de Fuca over by the spring. Here, they were able to find everything they needed, including camas tubers by the stream coming from the spring and lots of fish and other creatures from the salt water.
The daughter of the family was named Kw?kwál?lw?t and was very beautiful.
Kw?kwál?lw?t was out on the rock one day collecting food after the tide went out. One of the chiton escaped from her, and rolled down onto the beach. She went after it, and it rolled further. Eventually, she chased it into the water of the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
When she finally grabbed it in the deep water, what she found herself holding was not a chiton, but another hand.
A voice told her that she was very beautiful, and that he was not trying to scare her, but only wanted to look at her a little longer.
She asked of the voice "Who are you and where are your people?"
"I have a house deep under the ocean, and there is always lots of food there." The hand released her and though she looked through the water she could not find the stranger.
She had several other encounters with the stranger on several other occasions when she went to gather food from the rocks after the tide went out. She was told of the many wonders under the sea.
The fourth time this happened, Kw?kwál?lw?t held on tightly to the hand, and said "Let me look at you."
A man then stood up out of the water with her, and walked with her to her house.
After eating with her family, the stranger asked permission to take Kw?kwál?w?t with him to his home under the sea, where she would be with him always.
However, Kw?kwál?lw?t's father objected, saying that none of them knew the family of the stranger, and how could Kw?kwál?w?t ever come to live in the sea? "We have never seen your people, and we don't want Kw?kwál?w?t to go away from us forever."
"You do not know us, but we have always been kind to you and left you gifts of food when the tide goes out." The young man said, "However, from this time on, the tide will not go out, and we will not leave you food. Furthermore, even the spring will dry up."
The young man returned to the sea.
Just as the young man said, things got very bad for Kw?kwál?lw?t and her people. Food was very scarce as the tide no longer went out, and there were no longer gifts from the sea.
Kw?kwál?lw?t went down to the water, dressed in her best clothes, and cried for the young man to return. There was no response.
She tried again, and again.
On the forth try, the young man came from the water. He came with a vast armload of gifts from the sea for Kw?kwál?lw?t and her family. They walked hand in hand to her house.
Kw?kwál?lw?t's father appologied for the disrespect shown, even though the gifts from the people of the sea should have been known all along. "Kw?kwál?w?t can go and be with your family, but please let her come back each year for a visit."
And so it was that Kw?kwál?lw?t went to live in the sea with her new husband. There were more fish and shellfish than ever before, and Kw?kwál?w?t's family became well known and respected, as their reward for allowing Kw?kwál?lw?t to go into the sea.
She did come back to visit her family. She came back to visit four times. The first time she visited they noticed that she was starting to develop cold skin and scales. Each time she came, she looked more and more like a creature of the sea. But each time she came, she seemed sadder to be away from her new family in the sea.
On the forth visit, her family told her that if it made her so sad to be away from the sea, she didn't have to come back again.
So, she walked into the sea and never came back. As she walked into the sea, her hair floated out behind her head - just like the seaweed you see around Rosario Head today.
Today, when you see the seaweed around Rosario Head, it tells us that Kw?kwál?lw?t is back to check to make sure that her family is doing well.
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Please Recycle your Fishing Line!
Fishing line represents a hazard to wildlife because it can cause entanglement problems as well as severe problems with animals that catch fish that still has fishing line and a hook inside it.
Fishing line also represents a hazard to boaters (entanglement in propellers), swimmers (general entanglement problems) and people in general.
Therefore, if you visit Deception Pass State Park, and do some fishing, please recycle your fishing line in the containers provided. This keeps the fishing line out of the wild surroundings, and makes life a lot safer for both the wildlife that call this park home and the many other visitors to the park.
History of the Area and Naming
The area was first settled by the Samish and Swinomish Indian tribes. It wasn’t until the 1700’s that George Vancouver became the first European to discover the passage. He and his crew falsely thought that they were traversing the inner passage of a large peninsula until they discovered the passage and the realization that it was in fact an island. They named it “Deception Pass” in honor of their deception in thinking it was not an island and named the island Whidbey Island in honor of Vancouver’s assistant Joseph Whidbey.
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