Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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Return of the Cedar People

A Story in Progress: Doty and Coyote watch from the Mythtime shadows as the ancient race of Cedar People come back to Ti'lomikh, their ancient home on the Rogue River. Raven and Old Man Walker are there to welcome them. Walker's Indian name is Eymehetkwat. He is the last Takelma living at Ti'lomikh in a traditional lodge and holds nearly all of the history and lore of Ti'lomikh inside his head. That is, until the Cedar People show up.

Here's the beginning of the story....

Raven watches from his perch in a pine tree above the Rogue River, at the downriver end of the village of Ti'lomikh. It is almost summer, a time of abundance. He'll have the neighborhood walnut trees to himself. He'll carry one nut at a time to just the right height above the road, let it fall and crack open on the asphalt. By fall the road will be littered with empty shells. A few more weeks and Raven will go nuts over walnuts.

Raven blinks on his perch. He sees the village when he was the only one there ... before the Human People arrive, before the Dragonfly Brothers stop by on their way upriver, before Coyote tries to catch salmon below the falls, before the Human People and the Cedar People live here together, before miners blast their gold-grubbing way up and down the river, and make the Salmon People choke. Raven pauses in that memorable moment and watches the Cedar People retreat far into the mountains. He watches the last of the native people gather in the community house and name this village Ti'lomikh, "West of Here Live the Cedar People." He watches everyone with roots to this place leave the village. Everyone, except him.

Raven blinks again and a hundred years go by. Old Man Walker settles in the village and invites a few native friends to stop by. They sing. They dance. They pray. The Salmon People start swimming the river again. And far to the west, the Cedar People listen to songs they haven't heard for a long, long time. Old Man Walker listens, too. Raven shakes his mythic head free of the memory and concentrates on the present.

Raven watches. A steady stream of traffic rumbles past him a mile up the road toward the large meadow at Ti'lomikh. Native folks pile out of rigs that have bumper stickers that read, "It's a Good Day to be Indigenous" and "Custer Died for Your Sins" and "Fighting Terrorism since 1492!" Tents cover the meadow. A fire is built in the sacred firepit lined with redwood stakes. Salmon starts baking as people gather for stories.

Raven flies upriver to a perch that gives him a better view. He smells the salmon. Sunlight on their silver skin draws him closer. When the keeper of the fire has his back turned, Raven swoops in, grabs a tasty tidbit and glides back to his home perch. He peels the skin and drops it onto the road. By the end of the day the road is littered with salmon skin that looks like silver foil or pieces of silver coins.

That night, Raven watches from his perch as everyone leaves the village, except the old man who has been watching Raven all along. Sitting near the door to his lodge, he leans back and waits for Raven's next trick.

Sometime after sunset, in silver moonlight, there is movement above the river. The Cedar People gather at the top of the ridge. Then storm clouds roll down the ridge and disappear. Raven swoops onto the roof of Old Man Walker's lodge. "People should be here to welcome them," he whispers to himself. "Me and the old man will watch through the night. Just in case they come home."

To Be Continued....

This story was commissioned by Stephen Kiesling (Gold Hill, OR) and Gary & Christina Frost (Gold Hill, OR).