general interest, studies and accounts regarding Native American
Legends of possible tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest are excerpted
below. Much of the information on this page was presented by Jim
Bergeron, Oregon Sea Grant, Astoria Extension at a 1995 Meeting in
Seaside, Oregon. Those interested in the subject are encouraged to
refer to the original reports:
T. H., and Snavely, P. D., Jr., 1985, Possible tsunami along the
northwestern coast of the United States inferred from Indian
traditions. Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 75, 1455-1460.
D., 1995, Oral History: Legends give valuable hints. Eureka,
California Times-Standard newspaper. Sunday Feb. 12, 1995.
J.G., 1868, The Indians of Cape Flattery, at the entrance to the
straight of Juan de Fuca, Washington Territory. Smithsonian
Contributions to Knowledge, 200, 108 pp.
Legend (as accounted by Swan, 1868)
only tradition that I have heard respecting any migratory movement
among the Makahs, is relative to a deluge or flood which occurred
many years ago, but seems to have been local, and to have had no
connection with the Noachic deluge which they know nothing about, as
a casual visitor might suppose they did, on hearing them relate the
story of their flood. This I give as stated to me by an intelligent
chief; and the statement was repeated on different occasions by
several others, with a slight variation in detail.
long time ago," said by informant, "but not at a very
remote period, the water of the Pacific flowed through what is now
the swamp and prairie between Waatch village and Neeah Bay, making
an island of Cape Flattery. The water suddenly receded leaving Neeah
Bay perfectly dry. It was four days reaching it lowest ebb, and then
rose again without any wave or breakers, till it had submerged the
Cape, and in fact the whole country, excepting the tops of the
mountains at Clyoquot. The water on its rise became very warm, and
as it came up to the houses, those who had canoes put their effects
into them, and floated off with the current, which set very strongly
to the north. Some drifted one way, some another; and when the
waters assumed their accustomed level, a portion of the tribe found
themselves beyond Nootka, where their descendants now reside, and
are known by the same name as the Makahs in Classett, or
Kwenaitchechat. Many canoes came down in trees and were destroyed,
and numerous lives were lost. The water was four days regaining its
accounted by Deborah Carver (in Anderson, 1995)
number of stories, including one from Washington state, tell of a
huge earthquake occurring in the middle of the night, Deborah Carver
said, in some cases after people in a doomed village have
misbehaved. Elders tell the young that they must run for high
ground. Those who heed their warning survive, although the 'flood'
waters follow close behind them. They spend a cold night in the
hills, surrounded by animals who have also fled the flood. In the
morning they find that all traces of their village, and all
neighboring coastal villages, have been completely washed away and
no one else has survived.
the signs of danger, the elders warn, is long-lasting shaking moving
from west to east, and sand that becomes so loose people walking on
the beach sink into it."