The gentle Skokomish Tribal Nation remains committed to its tradition of honoring its elders, the sacred Elk in what is called the First Elk Ceremony which is held in the late summer at a picnic (Tuwadug Community Park) welcoming visitors, and its native creation lore.
First Elk Ceremony:
Skomish elders tell us when the world, as we know it, was reaching completion, du’kWibahl, “the transformer”, traveled throughout the highlands. He came upon some animal people. They had been sitting in the dust, which made their rear-ends all dusty.
When the transformer asked the animals what they wanted to be, they replied, “Make us whatever you wish.” The transformer, du’kWibahl, changed them into d3xWkWa’kap (salted on the rear). The transformer decreed from that time on, they would be the high chief of all the game animals, second to none in significance. The mountain presently known as Mt. Washington, was called si’luahL by the Twana. It is in this area where the transformer came upon the people that he changed into the elk we know now.
Today, we call these transformed people “Elk”. The transformer made the law that until the end of time the Twana would honor the Elk with the First Elk Ceremony. This ceremony was believed to be necessary in order to placate the spirit of the “Father of the Game Animals” as decreed by the Transformer.
As a rule, the ritual treatment of the Elk was considered to be highly essential in order to ensure the prosperity of the Elk People. The First Elk Ceremony was also believed to feed asta’laX, power of the land game hunter and the shaman power of sxW34da’cH. The headman of the Elk drive would let out a holler that froze the game animals in their path, making them easy prey.
The first Elk was taken in a community Elk drive, after which the ceremonial bull Elk was dressed and butchered. A pit was dug and the skin of the “father of the Game Animals” was used to line the pit. The skin lined pit was called sTLa’b. The Elk meat was cooked by boiling water with heated stones. All parts of the elk were to be used by the people. Only after this ceremony were the tribal hunters allowed to hunt for their own subsistence.
The Elk meat obtained during the subsistence hunting was butchered and dried in a village at the mouth of Big Creek, which was named e’lo’ahL. The Elk would be hunted during the fall and early winter, but would remain unhunted for the rest of the year.
The Skokomish Tribes annual Elders Picnic includes a ‘Chum Run’ (typical 3-mile run for those wishing to participate), Opening Prayer, 1st Elk Ceremony, Lunch served to Elders, recognition of the Eldest Man and Woman in attendance, followed by raffle ticket drawings with the proceeds to help support the event.