Native American Legends
Climbing the Mountain
A Cahuillan Legend
Here in the dry desert, of the southwestern part of our country,
there lived the Cahuillan Indian Tribe, and just to the north of
them, off in the distance, was the very high range of mountains
we today call the San Bernardino Mountains. It was considered a
great and important achievement to be able to climb this mountain,
and so all the young boys of the village looked forward to the day
when they were old enough that they could try it on their own.
One night, during the Fall season of the year, the Chief called
all the boys together and said to them, "Now, boys, you are
of the proper age to accept this challenge, and you may now all
go out tomorrow and seek to climb that mountain with my blessings.
Start right after breakfast, and each of you, go as far as you can,
and, when you are tired, come back, but you must bring back a twig
from the place where you turned."
The boys were so excited they could hardly sleep that night.
The next morning, away they all went, full of hope and dreams,
each feeling that he could surely reach the top.
Soon a fat, pudgy boy come slowly back, puffing and sweating all
the way. As he stood before his Chief, he showed in his hand, that
he held a piece of green Beavertail Cactus. "My boy,"
the Chief smiled in disbelief, "I can see you did not reach
the foot of the mountain. In fact you did not get across the desert
to even start the climb."
An hour passed. Then another boy returned carrying a twig of Black
Sagebrush. "Well," said the Chief, "I can see you
did reach the mountain's foot, but you did not start to climb."
Another hour passed, and a third boy returned. He held a young
Cottonwood sapling. "Good work," said the Chief, "you
got up as far as the springs! Very good!"
A bit of a longer wait, and there came a boy with a part of some
Buckthorn. The Chief smiled when he saw it, and said, "You
were actually climbing! I can see you were up to that first rock-slide.
You are a hard working boy."
Later in the afternoon, one arrived with an Incense Cedar frond.
"Well done, my boy," said the Chief. "You made it
half way up! You have seen the heart of the mountain. Very good
An hour after that, one came with a branch of Ponderosa Pine, and
to him the Chief said, "Good job. You went to the third life
zone. It looks like you made it three quarters of the way. I bet
if you keep trying, next year you will undoubtedly reach the top!"
The sun was low, and even the Chief was starting to worry a bit.
There were many pitfalls on that mountain to overcome, and the last
of his boys was still outside of camp. Could a Grizzly Bear have
ambushed him? Or maybe he fell off a tall rock facing somewhere,
never to be heard from again ? Maybe he had lost his way, or ran
out of water.
As it happened, just when the Chief was to send out a search party
to look for the boy, he was at last returned. He was a tall, splendid
boy of noble character, everyone already knew he was marked to be
successful in life. He approached the Chief and held out his hand.
It was empty, but his face was glowing with happiness when the boy
said, "My Chief, there were no trees where I came from. I saw
no twigs, no living thing up on that peak. And far away I could
see the glorious sight of the sun shining off the sea."
Now the old man's face started to glow too! He turned around, and
said aloud with an almost musical tone in his voice, "I knew
it! I just knew it when I looked upon your face. You have been all
the way to the top! It was written in your eyes! It rings in your
voice! And it is alive in the way you carry your body! My boy, you
need no twigs for token. You have felt the uplift in your spirit
because you have seen the glory of the mountain!"
Dearest Scouts, keep this in mind, that the badges that are offered
you for your achievements, are not "prizes" to be "won".
For prizes are things of value, taken by force or contest from their
rightful owners. These badges, are then, just tokens, of what you
have done, and where you have been. Remember this that as fun as
these badges are to earn, they are just twigs collected from the
trail, to show how far you got, during your climb to manhood.
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