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Legend of Saddle Rock

The Legend of Saddle Rock

Saddle Rock is a well known Wenatchee landmark formed from an ancient intrusion of volcanic magma through the sedimentary rock of the western foothills. The Wenatchi-P’squosa Indians know the place as where Black Bear and Grizzly Bear once engaged in a battle over their husband. The smaller rocks scattered to their sides are variously described as their children or their baskets for gathering roots and berries. In the late 1800s, white settlers thought the rock formation resembled a saddle – hence the name that has stuck.

This is adapted from a story told by Celia Ann Dick, daughter of the last Wenatchi chief, John Harmelt. Harmelt and his wife Ellen died when their Cashmere house caught fire in 1937. Celia Ann passed on around 2000. Her sons William and Mathew Dick are among the last living members of the Wenatchi band, living on the Colville reservation. This story is printed with permission of the Dick family in Bill Layman’s book Native River: The Columbia Remembered. It is on sale in the gift shop of the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center.

Grizzly Bear was a disagreeable wife. She had a reputation of being grouchy and was prone to outbursts of anger. Black Bear, on the other hand, was hardworking and conscientious. She cooked good meals, took care of the children, and tended her duties at home. This earned her the respect of the husband the two bears shared in common. Grizzly Bear was very jealous of Black Bear.

One morning Black Bear needed to go dig some camas, so she set out from the hills above the river to Badger Mountain. She rose early, took off her digging pouch and flung its belt across the river at Rock Island, forming a bridge that she could then cross. By the time Grizzly Bear finally caught up, Black Bear was on the other side with her belt back by her side. This made Grizzly Bear very mad, and in a temper she tore up trees and brush before traveling downriver in search of another place to cross.

Once on Badger Mountain, Grizzly Bear neglected her digging by spending the day spying on Black Bear who went about her business of root digging. By day’s end Black Bear’s basket was filled with camas, but Grizzly had little to take home. Hurrying to get something in her basket, Grizzly broke what roots she dug. When Grizzly Bear arrived home to feed her husband, he would not eat because her camas was inferior.

Black Bear took care in digging her roots and, upon returning home, she prepared them well. Their husband of course preferred Black Bear’s camas. This infuriated Grizzly Bear all the more. Soon she even began having thoughts that Black Bear must be more attractive to her husband. Such thinking only made Grizzly Bear all the madder at Black Bear, and the fighting continued.

As time went on, the two bears’ quarreling got worse. One day Coyote grew tired of their ceaseless bickering and turned them into stone, which is where they stand today.

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