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Storyteller: The lasting kiss

In a time when mother earth was the beginning of our people and traditions made good men, good warriors and a good son, there was a man named Kukli. He was the son of Luch’a, who was the chief of the tribe. Now, Kukli was in love with a beautiful woman who lived across the river. Her name was Mehaw. Mehaw’s father was also the chief of his tribe. She was known to all as daughter of Winaway and no man was good enough for her.

Many good men from her village tried to win her hand in marriage but failed. For no matter how great the hunter or how great their skills or how good their hearts, Winaway would always disapprove. He kept Mehaw always in his sight.

But his eyes didn’t see everything, for Mehaw would always wait for the night to come. She would pretend to sleep, and when all was still she would hurry to the river where Kukli would be waiting for her. He, too, would hide away into the night just to be with her. Kukli’s father was also a proud man and never felt there was anyone good enough for his son.

So when night came, it was the only time no eyes could see them and harsh words could not hurt them. They would laugh and hold one another like it could be the last time they would see each other. Their dreams of the future kept their hearts true, but they knew the future was a promise that would be hard to keep. For they, being from different tribes, were always fighting one another.

It seemed impossible to get their fathers’ approval. Still, they hoped that peace could be made between the two tribes; and it was hope that kept them together, even when the winter moon came and the cold winds blew. Still they snuck from their warm hides to be with one another. Even though the cold winds seemed to blow through them they never felt it, for they were in a world that was warm and loving. It was when they were home among their people that they felt the cold.

One morning, Mehaw overheard her father talking to all his head warriors. It seemed that he was planning an attack on Kukli’s village. Mehaw could not help herself. She burst into the tipi and pleaded with her father to call off the attack. This made Luch’a angry.

“What concern is this to you, Mehaw? Ah yes, it’s Kukli you’re worried about. You have gone behind my back to be with him. Our people are the ones who belong here. They hunt our food and fish in our river. This must stop. Tonight we will make them leave.

“Mehaw, you will stay with your mother and do not think about warning Kukli and his people. I will leave two men outside just to make sure you go nowhere.”

Mehaw could do nothing but cry. Her pleading with her father only made him angrier, but she had to do something and she would! As she was led back to the tipi with her mother, her eyes were busy scanning for a quick way out to the river. She noticed all but one canoe was being used. Her hope was that the men would grow tired and she would run.

As Mehaw and her mother sat together Mehaw told her mother about Kukli and how her love for him would never die. She and Kukli would never part and that she hoped her mother understood. Her mother was always a quiet woman but her eyes saw a lot. She hugged her daughter and motioned for her to crawl out the back as she tried to distract the men.

It worked. Mehaw ran as fast as the coldest night wind. As she approached the canoe, she could hear yelling and war cries. It had started. She must get to Kukli. She did her best to paddle fast and hard to reach Kukli. Then they would run away and not live in fear of fighting other people.

Yes, she thought. We will go far and start anew. At that moment, paddling with all his might, Kukli appeared. He had the same thought and was trying to get to Mehaw and to take her away.

Finally, he saw her and she saw him. Harder and faster they paddled and finally were in each other’s arms. They hugged one another and kissed. But at that moment, that loving kiss was stopped. Arrows were flying everywhere and had pierced both of them.

Still in each other’s arms, they slipped into the river. The fighting stopped at that moment, for both tribes saw what had happened. They searched all night for Kukli and Mehaw but found nothing. Both fathers stood on the riverbank, tears running down their faces as they looked into the river. No one could see those tears, for the sun still would not be up for some time.

They looked at each other and realized their pride had done them no good. Misused pride never does. They promised to be friends and help one another. “Such a loss to gain friendship,” Mehaw’s father said.

All went home but no one slept. As morning came one of the children stood at the bank of the river. “Look. It is Mehaw and Kukli.” Both sides of the river were filled with the people. All were amazed at what they saw. For where one mountain had stood there were now two mountains, one on each side of the river. One was Mehaw and one was Kukli.

They looked down at their people and soberly spoke. “Creator saw our love; even though we are different tribes, we are one people. He knew we belonged together. Please, always get along. After all, we will be watching you.” At that moment they turned to one another and kissed: and people they were no longer. They became two mountains kissing – two mountains that made one. After that day, the people of both villages learned a lesson. They united as one and lived in peace.

So the next time you see two mountains as one, think: If love can make a mountain, then mankind has a chance.

Peace to all. <i>Lim Lim.

<i>Ken “Rainbow Cougar” Edwards, from the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington, is an accomplished painter and storyteller. Edwards is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., and a longtime cartoonist for Indian Country Today. Contact him at