I recently received a Pendleton Blanket entitled "Spirit Quest". My current residence is along the Columbia River, the river that once brought salmon from the ocean, the lifeline of the Native Americans who live here. The Coulee Dam was built during the Great Depression under a public works project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Now the salmon are permanently blocked from migrating to their spawning grounds in the upper Columbia Basin. The dam negatively affected the Native American tribes who had to relocated their settlements and graveyards. Kettle Falls was once the primary fishing grounds for the Native Americans. I drive to Kettle Falls to get my groceries. There is a lot of history behind these little towns.
And now back to the original reason I started this post... the narrative about the "Spirit Quest" blanket.
For centuries, Columbia Gorge tribes honored the Great Spirit with petroglyphs to record the important figures, events and visions in their lives. Throughout history in the Gorge, Salmon runs developed , tribes evolved and the Gorge of the Great River became a major crossroads to fish and trade.
Most remaining petroglyphs date back 1200 to 1500 years to the high point of an art producing era and are still visible today on the basalt cliffs where the back waters from the dams have not covered them. Some petroglyphs represent shamanistic tales of the ancient ones which protected and guided the spirit world.
The Spirit Quest blanket commemorates the ritual of young braves who would seek out their own destiny through a vision into the spirit world of their Creator.
According to tribunal legend, as a young warrior developed his spirituality in his adolescence, he was sent alone on his Spirit Quest to a sacred, secluded place without food or water. He waited until the vision came to him - sometimes in the form of a human or of an animal.
Depending what appeared to him, the warrior gained the power to become a great hunter, leader, healer or provider to the People; and if he endured the trial of his Quest, he was rewarded special power, protection and a direction through life.
The vision was often etched onto rocks at the place of the quest to record the experience. If the Spirit left a token, like a feather, it was worn with other sacred objects and returned to the Earth with the warrior.
Once the vision was apparent, the warrior returned to the Elders of his tribe to present his direction. They could either grant the Vision or, if they felt it was not accurate, they could deny it. Often his name was derived from the direction the Elders agreed upon. If the power of the Spirit was lost or weakened later in life, the Quest was again employed.
-Pendelton Woolen Mills