When the clouds hang in the sky for too many days, there is a general sense of oppression that settles over even native Northwesterners. We move a little slower, then, as though the sky is a literal weight on our shoulders.
The people of the Snohomish tribe tell a story of a time when the sky hung so low, a tall man might knock his head on it. According to the legend, the Creator stopped his world-building when he reached the Puget Sound. It was such a perfect place, with salt and fresh water in abundance, mountains, and forests and rich earth that could provide anything man or animal might need. He still had many languages left, so he scattered them around like seeds in a garden around the sound.
The result was a land with many different people, speaking many different tongues. But the people had one thing in common; they weren’t happy with the height of the sky. It was so low that bold people would sometimes climb the tall trees and go into the Sky World, where it was forbidden to go.
A group of wise men came together from all the tribes to discuss the problem. It was decided that, if all the men and all the animals and all the birds could push together at the same time, they might be able to lift the sky to a more comfortable height.
It was decided that, if all the men and all the animals and all the birds could push together at the same time, they might be able to lift the sky to a more comfortable height.
“It’s possible,” agreed the men, “but how do we know when to push?” Each tribe and each animal and each type of bird had its own language. It seemed impossible to break through such a strong barrier to bring so many together.
But these were people who sometimes slipped into the Sky World, so they knew a thing or two about breaking down barriers. It was decided that, when the time came to push, someone would shout “Ya-hoh,” meaning, “lift together.”
Over the next weeks, the tribes and the animals and the birds prepared for the lifting of the sky. When the day came, the people raised poles to push and the wise men shouted, “Ya-hoh!” “Ya-hoh,” came the resounding reply as everyone pushed as one and the sky moved an inch. “Ya-hoh!” sounded out, again and again, every man, animal, and bird threw itself into the task.
With each shout and each shove, the sky moved up little by little. Today, no man bumps his head on it, and no one can sneak into the Sky World. A few were trapped up there, of course, when the sky moved. There was a team of hunters who had chased some elk into the Sky World at just the wrong moment. There were some folks in canoes up there, and a little fish swimming. They are all stars now, so it’s not such a bad trade.
The tribes of the Puget Sound knew the strength of people working together, despite differences in language or tradition or geography. When we work together towards a common goal, we can make our own miracles. “Ya-hooooooh!”
This story is one of many delightful, lesser-told, Pacific Northwest centric stories that inspired our coffee blend names. We hope you enjoy reading them over a cup of great coffee.