Native American Tales

A Legend of Multnomah Falls

A Legend of Multnomah FallsA Legend of Multnomah Falls


A chief had a daughter which he cherished because he had lost all his children except for her. It was to be her wedding, but people got sick. The people of the tribe gathered together, they decided that it should be the will of the people that they bravely die, but one old medicine man told a secret. When he was little a great spirit told his father that when he was old, everyone would die, if a young maiden did not sacrifice herself by jumping off of the cliff into Great River.

They gathered all the young women together and decided that they would face death bravely, rather than have one of their maidens sacrifice herself. People grew sicker, including the young man who the chief’s daughter loved. She could no longer stand to see him suffering.

She went to the cliff and asked the great spirit if her sacrifice would appease him. She asked for a sign. The moon came out and she decided that this was her sign. She jumped from the tall cliff. Everyone became miraculously well.

The people knew something had happened. They called all the daughters together, again, and found the chief’s daughter missing. They found her body at the bottom of the cliff. The chief prayed to the great spirit for a sign that his daughter’s spirit had been welcomed. They heard water. A silver stream of water came down from over the cliff and has flowed many years since then. Some say, her spirit comes back in winter to look at the falls. She is dressed in white and stands off to one side of the falls.


Plenty of waterfalls are named for people or events, at least that’s how it’s always seemed to me. One of the closest waterfalls to where I grew up is called Anna Ruby Falls, named after a girl named Anna Ruby, surprise, surprise. Anna was not a native, but the daughter of some logging tycoon, or prospector, or something. This waterfall is named after the people who lived near it. It’s a beautiful waterfall. I would love to go and see it one day.

I was thinking that maybe there was some event associated with the waterfall’s discovery, but I can’t find anything notable about it. This is just an origin story, which most likely is not how the waterfall came to be, but it’s a nice story.


The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.


Spock was always wise, Leonard Nemoy who played Spock was also a wise man. Sometimes we have to overlook the needs of one person, or a small group of people, in favor of the greater whole of society. This isn’t always the case. There have been plenty of times during which society bowed to a minority group, but there have also been more times that the group mattered more.

Democracy is a concept where this comes into play. The greatest vote gets the idea. If more people want hamburgers than turkey burgers, then there are hamburgers. That’s how democracy works and that’s an example of the needs, or wants, of the many outweighing the needs of the few.

In this story one girl sacrificed herself so that an entire people might live. This was truly an example of one person’s needs not really mattering. Sure, you’re important. Sure, people love you, Sure, the world would be different without you, but if the loss of you was going to keep an entire people alive, is there really a question as to what you should do?


It’s a bit of a sad story.

Weigh In

Would you have jumped off the waterfall?

Do you think all the people should have died rather than one girl dying?


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