The Tah-tah-kle'-ah (Owl-Woman Monster)

Yakama Indian William Charley told this story to McWhorter about the Tah-tah kle' -ah (Owl-Woman-Monster) in 1918. "Before the tribes lived peaceably in this country, before the last creation, there were certain people who ate Indians whenever they could get them. They preferred and hunted children, as better eating. These people, the Tah-tah kle' -ah, were taller and larger than the common human. They ate every bad thing known such as frogs, lizards, snakes, and other things that Indians do not eat. They talked the Indian language, and in that way might fool the Indians. There were five of them, all sisters. But at the last creation they came up only in California. Two were seen there. They were women, tall big, women, who lived in a cave."

"One time the Shastas (Shasta Indians) were digging roots and camped. They knew that the two Tah-tah kle' -ah were about, were in that place. The Indians were careful, but the Tah-tah kle'-ah caught one little boy, not to eat, but to raise up and live with them. The boy thought he would be killed, but he was not. The Tah-tah kle'-ah had him several days...[One day], when they were out of sight, the boy hurried away. He ran fast, traveled over rough, wild places, and at last reached his own people... After many years the two Tah-tah-kle'-ah were destroyed. None knew how, but perhaps by a higher power. Their cave home became red hot and blew out. The monster-women were never seen again, never more heard of. but they have always been talked about as the most dangerous beings on earth. One other of the five sisters was drowned. From her eye, all owls were created. The person or power that killed her said to her, 'From now on, your eye will be the only part of you to act. At night it will go to certain birds, the owls'."

A Yakama Indian named Tam-a-wash told L. V. McWhorter this Tah-tah-kle'-ah story in 1919.

"Owl [Sho-pow'-tan] was the man. He was a big chief who lived at Po-ye-koosen. He went up the Naches [river?] to hunt deer. Many men went with him. They hunted all one sun, and when evening came, Owl did not return to camp. The hunters called to each other, "Owl is not here! Owl is away! Owl is lost!"

"Tah-tah-kle'-ah, the evil old woman with her basket, heard that call in the twilight, "Owl is lost!" And she said to her four sisters, "We must go hunt Owl who is lost from his people. We will get him for ourselves".

"Owl knew that Tah-tah-kle'-ah was coming for him; so he went up to a hollow place in the Tic-te' ah. You can see the trail that he traveled up the face of the rock to the cave high up in the wall of Tic-te' ah. Grass is growing along the narrow trail. You can see it when you are out from the rock where it winds up the cliff." km

"Owl had killed a deer. He filled the tripe with the blood of the deer. He heard Tah-tah-kle'-ah coming, and he knew she would kill him. He knew, and he placed the blood filled tripe in front of him... Tah-tah-kle'-ah entered the mouth of the cave. She looked. It was dark, but she saw it, the strange thing lying there. She did not know. She was afraid. She called to Owl, "Take it away! I do not like it!"

"Owl said, "No! That is something powerful, step over it." Tah-tah-kle'-ah did as told, stepped her foot over the tripe. Owl was ready. He did not get up. He sat there; and when the Tah-tah-kle'-ah stepped, he punched the tripe with his stick. He punched it often and it went, "Kloup! kloup! kloup!"

"Tah-tah-kle'-ah was scared! she screamed, threw up her hands, and fell from the cliff. The wana [river] ran by the base of the cliff, deep and swift. Tah-tah-kle'-ah fell into the water and was killed."

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Compiled by: Glenn Welker

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