ILWACO - The Ilwaco Heritage Museum, which features in its collection the history and peoples of the Columbia-Pacific Region, presents a new edition of the book "Kutkos: Chinook Tyee," written in 1942 by Mildred Colbert.
Since North American Indians had no written language, traditional Chinook Indian culture is rich in legends, myths and tales that were handed down by word-of-mouth for thousands of years. Miss Colbert, who came of Chinook ancestry, listened to many of them as a child in Ilwaco and never forgot them.
She wrote: "I got tired of reading about Indians who spoke in monosyllables, and I wrote this book to show that Indians could talk. At that time (the 1940s) all the western stories were of cowboys and Indians. The Indian was always the (villain) ... I wanted a book that would show the far-West Indian as he really was ... (The Chinook) did not live in tents or go on buffalo hunts. (They) went to sea in very large canoes and killed whales and other ocean creatures ... (They) were very great traders ... Some say they ranged as far as the Falls of the Columbia."
"Kutkos: Chinook Tyee" follows the adventures of Kutkos, young son of Chief Comcomly of the Chinooks. The delightful story tells about the daily life and customs of the Chinookan people: the killing of a whale, hunting a cougar, games the men enjoyed, building a cedar plank house, the festival of the Potlatch, interpreted through the legends and beliefs of the Indian spirit world. Anyone familiar with winters on the Northwest Coast will especially appreciate the tale of "The Storm" describing how terrifying and destructive the local weather can be. To the Chinook People, it seemed that evil spirits caused the tempest. The Shaman needed all of his mystical powers to exorcise the demons of the storm.
Mildred Colbert graduated from Ellensburg State Normal School (a teachers' college). She first taught school in Naselle, and then in Portland for many years until her retirement. She later said that she wrote "Kutkos" so that her eighth grade students, who were studying the journals of Lewis and Clark at the time, might learn something about the native peoples the explorers encountered when they arrived here. Her irresistible descriptions of the country she loved, and the people who were her ancestors, makes "Kutkos" appealing to readers of all ages.
This new paperback edition includes all of the original drawings and color plates by Keith Shaw Williams from the hardcover First Edition. The book sells for $19.95 and is available at the Ilwaco Heritage Museum Gift Shop, 115 S.E. Lake Street. Museum hours are Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. All proceeds from the book's sale will benefit the programs and collections of the museum.