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Legends Of Cheam

Mt. CheamIntroduction written based on interview with Joe Aleck

Pre-contact, every "village" had an Indian name. Today, the villages have been turned into "reservations" and given a "white" name. Chiyom, originates from the halquemeylem name T'chiyam and is now known as Cheam, which means "wild strawberry place". When our homesteads were up towards the eastside of Chiyom, you could smell the wild strawberries for miles away. And when people asked where we were from, we would say T'chiyam and they would know that we lived in the wild strawberry place. In the older days, none of our people spoke English so there wasn't any translation to think about in our language. The mountain goat has a story for Cheam - it tells where we came from as Chiyom people. Chiyom is also known for the beautiful Mt. Cheam. The legend about Lady Mt. Cheam is that she was taken south and married Mt. Rainier. They had five children, two were males and three were females. Lady Mt. Cheam got lonely for the people in the valley so she took her girls and a dog and came back to Mt. Cheam, while Mt. Rainier and their two sons stayed south. In the old days, all the fishing was done by canoe and so was all the travelling. There weren't any ferries or bridges. Fishing was for food and for trading, it was our culture that we would catch only what we could carry or what we need. The fish would be cleaned at the river, brought home and baked in the wood stove. The next day the head, eggs and backbone would be boiled for soup. So every second day, we would walk the miles back to the river and return the parts of the fish that we didn't cook and would go fish again for what we needed to eat.

In the old days when people died, they would be brought up the mountain and put on a platform. Very sick people were also brought to the platform to die. Well, when the missionaries came they said, "don't put people on platforms" and that's when graveyards came about. One part of the graveyard was used for mass burial of those people that were on platforms;  another part was for babies; people who committed suicide and those that weren't baptized.

All families had their own animal spirit. They say that at some point in time an animal spirit married a human and would have many children, giving each family an animal spirit.