Nez Perce Legend: The Seven Devils Mountains

Posted on Thursday, Nov 14th, 2013
Seven Devils Mountains

The story goes that the Seven Devils Mountains were once seven giant, child-eating mosters living in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon. Each year the monsters traveled east, devouring Nez Perce children in their path. According to Nez Perce legend, the tribe's chiefs asked Coyote to help free the children from the tyranny of the seven giants, and Coyote asked his friend Fox for advice. 

"We will first dig seven holes," said Fox. "We will then fill the holes with a boiling liquid."

Coyote gathered all the animals with claws: beavers, marmots, cougars, and bears. They helped dig the seven holes. Then, Coyote filled the holes with a rust-colored liquid. Coyote and Fox dropped hot rocks into the liquid to make it boil. The next time the seven devil monsters traveled east, they fell into the seven deep holes of boiling liquid. They fumed and splashed, but they couldn't climb their way out. As they struggled, they scattered the liquid as far as a man could travel in a day. 

Coyote came out of his hiding place and said, "You are being punished for your wickedness. I will punish you even more by changing you into seven mountains. I will make you very high so that everyone can see you. You will stand here forever, to remind people that your punishment comes from bad deeds. I will make a deep gash in the earth here so that no more of your family can get across to trouble my people." Coyote changed the seven giants into the Seven Devils Mountains, and then he struck the earth and opened a deep gash in the crust, Hells Canyon, at the feet of the petrified giants. No more evil monsters from the Blue Mountains troubled children in the land of the Nez Perce.