The Legend of Snoqual

I have travelled the stretch of I-90 that leads east from Seattle over Snoqualmie Pass so many times that I can close my eyes and see each twist and turn of that heavenly climb into the Cascade Mountains.

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Snoqualmie Pass on a hot summer’s day

I’ve also hiked trails around Snoqualmie Falls; an impressive 276 foot waterfall that is a sacred site for the Snoqualmie Tribe. Their name translates as ‘people of the moon’ and they regard the waterfall as their birthplace. I relish the name Snoqualmie; it sounds like snow, which is entirely appropriate for the pass where Seattleites take to the slopes in winter armed with skis and snowboards and inner tubes. So when I was walking through Lower Queen Anne recently and spotted a piece of public art bearing the title “Snoqual/The Moon Transformer” I had to stop and find out more.

Artist Roger Fernandes carved and painted cedar panels that depict events in the story of Snoqual, a legend shared by many Salish tribes in the Puget Sound area. The panels are joined by an overhead cedar panel creating an archway you can walk under, suggesting the structure of cedar longhouses; the traditional dwellings of local tribes.

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Snoqual creating the world

Snoqual was a mythical being said to have been born of a mother from the Earth and a father from the Sky. He was stolen as a baby and raised by the Dog Salmon peoples, but a blue jay found him when he was a grown man and told him who he was. As punishment for his kidnapping, Snoqual turned the Dog Salmon people into the fish that swim in our streams today – and he gave them the difficult task of swimming upstream as well as downstream. Then he followed the blue jay back home, changing the world as he went, preparing it for the people to come. He had a brother, Sun, and they agreed to travel separately so they wouldn’t overpower and scorch the earth with their light. Snoqual, who had now become Moon the Transformer, cast a blue hue over his aura so he could light the earth but leave the heat to his brother. When Moon reached the waters of Puget Sound, he stopped, saying “My work is done. This is the most beautiful place in the entire world. I need travel no further.”

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Snoqual taking those salmon to task

If you have a chance, take a walk under Snoqual’s arch at the cross streets of Thomas and 3rd Avenue West in Lower Queen Anne, just by the entrance to the Thomas Street footbridge. And if you happen to catch a glimpse of Puget Sound while you’re here, you’ll understand why Moon decided to stay. It really is beautiful.

xxx Ailsa


About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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21 Responses to The Legend of Snoqual

  1. Allan G. Smorra says:

    A very informative and entertaining post. The photos really illustrate your message.

  2. rasklein says:

    Very interesting ailsapm, I drive over Snoqualmie pas regularly as I did yesterday. Now, I will think differently about it when ever go over.

    • ailsapm says:

      I love it, Ron, so happy to have added a little something new to your Snoqualmie commute. It’s one of my favourite drives. xxx Ailsa

  3. Angela says:

    Wow that’s a great story I love hearing tales like this. Thanks for sharing!

  4. John says:

    These are fabulous photos and carvings! Thanks for sharing this history.

  5. Sandra says:

    Where did you find this story? 🙂 It’s wonderful. The carvings are even more lovely.
    Are these panels in Seattle, or somewhere else?

  6. Thanks for sharing this history Alisa. Now I have to look for the arch!

  7. Interesting post, Ailsa. Fabulous carvings and so colorful. Great shots. Such a simple yet expressive moon face. Thanks for sharing the legend. 🙂

  8. originaltitle says:

    Neat artwork and legend. Thanks for sharing!

  9. bulldog says:

    Great article… great share..

  10. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I love this Ailsa and it great to see an interpretation of the myth displayed for everyone.

  11. chrisstov says:

    What a lovely story of the legend of Snoqual.

  12. Max510 says:

    Nice story Ailsa ! Thank you ! 😉

  13. These stories from the past are so wonderful to read. Your photos of their artwork are great also!

  14. Amy says:

    Great stories to share, Ailsa! Love the artwork.

  15. pommepal says:

    I can just imagine the tribes from long ago sitting around the fire as the moon rises and telling that lovely story to their children.

  16. Heyjude says:

    Late to the party! I love legends and this one of the Snoqual is wonderful. So are the photos and the talented carver
    Jude xx

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