Monday, June 10, 2013

The Story of Sack Woman

Beloved Salish elder Louis Adams recently shared the story of Sack Woman with a group of high school students at Fales Flat in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Centuries-old Ponderosa pines surrounded the group. These trees bore scars that Sack Woman herself had made more than a century ago in teaching her people how to gather nourishment.

Louis Adams tells stories in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness
Louis told the students that when he was a boy, Sack Woman was very old. But she was a powerful person. He and the other kids were afraid of her because it was her job to punish children. When a child misbehaved, parents would say, “I am going to tell Sack Woman.” If a child stole something or talked back to a parent or disobeyed, Sack Woman would come looking for the guilty child. She would catch him, put him in a gunny sack, and dunk him in the river. One day Louis did something that got him into big trouble. His mother told Sack Woman, and Louis was scared. Sometime later, the family was at a gathering and Sack Woman came after him. But she was elderly, and Louis moved much faster than she could. Although she chased him, Louis got away. And he thought he had escaped. Sometime later, Louis had forgotten all about his misdeed and figured Sack Woman had forgotten too. He was at a family gathering, and Sack Woman was there. She came up quietly behind him and threw the sack over his head. She had him, and Louis was so scared! Sack Woman dragged him screaming down to the water and dunked him. Later on, Sack Woman called Louis over to her side, invited him to sit down beside her, and talked with him for a long time. She gently explained why she had dunked him. Children have to learn to be good, she told him, and it was her job to make sure that children grew up to be good people. And to be a good person, you have to learn from your mistakes. After that, Louis greatly respected Sack Woman, and loved her for what she had taught him.

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