Early Encounters, Early Hypotheses
The Mima Mounds intrigues travelers and explorers in the 1800s as described in their journal entries.
MAY 20, 1841
Charles Wilkes, commander of the United States Exploring Expedition from 1838 to 1842, thought the Mima mounds might be burial sites: "Being anxious to ascertain if they contained any relics, I subsequently visited these prairies, and opened three of the mounds, but nothing was found in them but a pavement of round stones."
Sir James Douglas of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver, traveled through mounded prairies in the region. "In short the whole aspect of the Plain, its sinuous banks, the larger and smaller knolls, its slope towards the Chehaylis River and the oral tradition of the Natives, unite in strengthening the opinion that it has in some former period much more recent than the deluge belonged to the region of waters."
APRIL 6, 1847
Artist explorer Paul Kane traveled in western North America from 1845 to 1848. "This evening we encamped in the Prairie de Bute. This is remarkable for having innumerable round elevations, touching each other like so many hemispheres... I travelled twenty-two miles through this extraordinary prairie."
PAINTING SHOWN HERE
James Graham Cooper did field work in this area for the Pacific Railroad Surveys. "I would suggest that they may have been produced by eddies and whirlpools, probably at a time when this sound formed the estuary of a great river like the Columbia, or perhaps were branches of the great system of northwest sounds which extends from the Columbia River to Sitka, or further."
A Story From the First People
According to stories told by people of the Upper Chehalis Tribe, the Mima Mounds were left behind after a great flood subsided.
Thrush was a disgrace to the tribe: the people had noticed, for many years, that she would not wash her face or bathe; she would not go near the water... ?My friends,' Thrush would say, ?if I should wash my face, something might happen to this earth...' One day at last she consented to wash her face... Clouds started to form immediately... It rained and rained. The whole world was flooded... There was nothing but prairie land beneath the water. ...At last the water fell... (near Mima Prairie) the earth still remains in the shape of waves. It extends like this for four or five miles."
Folk Tales of the Coast Salish