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Indian Myth Describes Creation of Black Butte Dome on Interstate 5


Travelers on Interstate 5 between Mount Shasta and Weed, Calif., pass closely by the 6,325-foot-high Black Butte Dome. A creation myth of the Abjumawi Band of the Pitt River Indians explains its origin.

At a time when both humans and animals were considered people, the Creator lived on Mount Shasta with his son and daughter.  The Creator provided Shastina dome as a private annex for the daughter, but warned against visiting the valley to the west. 

Grizzly sang love songs to her, and together they roamed the valley among wild flowers and berries, meadows and streams. They had two children, and Grizzly created Black Butte for their home.

Meanwhile, humans began killing animals, upsetting the Creator’s peaceful design. Disgusted, the Creator sent his son to fetch the daughter, but angrily left Mount Shasta without her after learning she had grizzly children.  Grizzly sent her home to Mount Shasta, where she still awaits her father’s return. 

When Grizzly began killing to provide food for his children, the Creator condemned him to life as a bear, forced to walk on all fours and be hunted forever by humans. 

Black Butte is the daughter’s empty house.

Sources: English, Jane, and Bonnie Eddy. Mount Shasta’s Black Butte. Mount Shasta City: Earth Heart, 2002. 14-15. Print.   

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.