Most Native Americans believed in the spirits of the dead. Although a person may have been a good friend while alive, their spirit came back after death and were regarded as bad luck. Ghosts revisited the earth every night. They would appear to friends and relatives in dreams, begging them to join them in the afterworld. The ghost cursed family and friends to kill them and take them to the spirit world.
Because of the danger of ghosts, most people were buried far away from their home villages. Many of the islands on the Columbia River were used as cemeteries. That way the spirits of the dead could not cross the river to return to their former villages.
Yacolt (Yacolt, WA)
In 1902, a fire known as the Yacolt Burn spread over a hundred thousand acres and destroyed a billion board feet of timber. When it made its run up the narrow valleys of the Cascade mountains, the fire was clocked at nearly 60 miles an hour! The smoke was seen as far away as Olympia and Salem (Oregon). Residents thought that Mt. St. Helens had erupted. Although the fire never reached Yacolt, the heat from its flames was hot enough to blister paint off the walls two miles away!
The traditional Indian name for the Yacolt Valley is "Yolicolb." Two translations of that name are: "haunted place" and "valley of demons." Legend has it that Indian children disappeared while picking berries there. An Indian graveyard may have been covered by the center of the town site. The strange reputation of powers existing in the valley seems to have affected the Euro-American settlers as well.
At the turn of the century, the town of Yacolt had only 15 buildings and 50 inhabitants. Edgar Rotschy, an early pioneer, kept a diary from around 1890 to 1910. He wrote of at least three of the pioneers being more than just "slightly touched." In our sanity-conscious society, three crazy people might not seem like much, but given the small population, it is a large percentage.
Silver Star Mt. (Skamania County, Washington)
A well known system of pits and rock piles exist on the ridge south of Silver Star Mountain, just east of the Clark County/Skamania County line in southern Washington. At least 26 pits, trenches and rock piles have been mapped by in recent years. There are several different explanations for these pits.
There is a story about a group of soldiers who were traveling from the Vancouver Barracks to Ft. Simcoe in Eastern Washington. They were ambushed and trapped on Silver Star Mt. For defense they excavated several pits and built low rock walls to protect themselves from the Native Americans. After a day or two they were able to slip away and return to the Vancouver Barracks. Pioneer stories tell of Native Americans using the pits and trenches as hunting blinds. They would wait in the pits for game being driven uphill by other hunters. It is possible that pits were dug and rocks were piled as rituals for a vision quest.
Cathapootle (Ridgefield, WA)
When Lewis and Clark traveled down the Columbia River, the largest Indian Village they visited was near the City of Ridgefield. It was called Cathapootle. The area is ideally suited for settlement. It is along the Columbia River and has access to fertile, yet marshy ground nearby. This was perfect for Native American villagers. Recent archeological excavations have explored the village site. Much of the wetlands have been protected as a National Wildlife Refuge.
Ridgefield grew out of the first Donation Land Claim established near the river, called Shobert's Landing. Its name was changed to Union Ridge when Civil War veterans began settling on the high ground above the river. Later, as the town grew spread down the ridge, its name was changed to Ridgefield. Like many place in Clark County, Ridgefield has recently began to grow.
Ramona Reed is a local Psychic. She has seen the ghosts of several Native Americans outside of a recent housing development in Ridgefield. She was reading a newspaper in January of 1995, when she saw the ghost of an Indian in a picture of the housing development. She and her husband drove to the development site to investigate.
She reported a gathering of many Indian spirits outside of the development; all of them looked displeased. Was this their old village or burial ground? Rumor has it that construction was delayed by mysterious acts of vandalism and equipment failures. No one was ever arrested for these acts. Ramona believes that it was the spirits trying to protect their ancient land. Now that the houses have been built, do the spirits of the Indians bother their owners?