There have always been stories about the origin of the land and the life that calls it home. Before there was science, those stories came from imagination and spirituality. In this series, I have created contemporary nature photography to illustrate them. Read more about my Legends of the Land series.
Ewauna was the very definition of adventurous. A child of the mountains, she spent all her free time climbing as high as she could, seeing as far as she could see. So there was no doubt that she would attend the first gathering of four tribes, which was going to be held along the coast, something she had only seen from far, far away. As a chief’s daughter, she had to go, not that it mattered; she would have invited herself anyway.
Arriving at the potlatch, however, she was immediately disappointed. She was forbidden to see the very thing she traveled so far to see: the ocean.
It wasn’t safe, she was told. Those alluring blue waters were home to Seatco — the evil spirit of the ocean.
Just as Ewauna was the epitome of adventurous, Seatco was the epitome of evil. For fun he spawned severe storms that ravaged the coast, throwing logs and debris as far and as hard as he could. The local tribe relied on the ocean for food and could only send men out to fish when Seatco wasn’t looking. If he saw them he would sink their boats and create powerful waves that would consume them whole.
Ewauna would have none of that. She had to see the ocean. She promised herself that she would be careful.
After the big feast, as everyone slept, stomachs full, she quietly slipped out. The bright full moon guided her through the darkness to a bluff that overlooked the ocean. The crashing waves sounded more peaceful than ferocious, so she climbed down and ventured closer.
Soon she was close enough that she felt the water splashing over her toes. And then she felt a powerful arm that was trying to drag her in.
As she jerked back, she lost her grip on the basket of kittens she had brought with her. They were her pets and they provided comfort. Seatco used his other giant hand to bat the basket out to sea. The kittens were immediately turned to stone, their heads visible above the water.
Unable to run, Ewauna knew all she could do was avoid Seatco’s gaze. That’s how he got his power. She focused her eyes on the full moon.
Eventually she, too, was turned to stone. Her father awoke at first light and saw that she was missing. He immediately headed to the ocean where he found her, still staring at the moon.
— Adapted from a Coquille tribal legend
(Learn more about Kevin Ebi's newest book, Living Wilderness, the first comprehensive portfolio of his fine-art images and download a free preview. Follow his photography on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram .)