When it comes to Northwest legends, we usually think big: There's Bigfoot, D.B. Cooper's Big Heist, Paul Bunyan and his Big Blue Ox — even the Big White Worm of the Palouse. This tradition goes back. When Jonathan Swift documented Gulliver's travels in the early 1700s, he placed the land of the giants, Brobdingnag, in the Pacific Northwest — somewhere between what we know today as British Columbia and Alaska. But we have our mini-myths, as well. Yes, Northwest giants are fun to think about (remember Olaf?), but take a minute to think about our munchkins.
Along with Northwest Indian legends of Sasquatch and huge flying thunderbirds, there are stories at the other end of the spectrum. Yes, many believed in little people, as well. Earthquakes were said by some tribes to be caused by mountain dwarves dancing around. The Twana Indians believed in spirit creatures called "little earths." The Lummi also saw little people. And just as people today think they see mysterious giant primates in the woods from time to time, so there are occasional sightings of elfin creatures in our forests today.
There doesn't seem to be as much interest in tracking little people as Bigfoot, even though science has been full of discoveries of actual little people (and I'm not talking about the woman in India who is less than two-feet tall nor the creepy night gnome of South America). There is archaeological evidence that suggests there have been earlier races of smaller humans, most notably the "Hobbit" people of Indonesia, Homo floresiensis, and their fossil neighbors who lived on Palau as recently as 1,400 years ago. So-called "island dwarfism" is also known on Wrangel Island in the Russian Arctic, where a race of miniature mammoths appears to have survived as late as 1700 B.C.
I know at least one person who claims to have seen little people in the Northwest, but they've kept quiet. But not all who see do. Next month, you can attend the 8th Annual Fairy & Human Relations Congress in Twisp, Wash., and gather with those who believe. The Fairy Congress describes its mission this way: "Here at the Fairy Congress we are among the vanguard of humans working to bring peace and understanding between humans and the fairy realms." Lest you think George W. Bush has declared fairies a terrorist organization, the conflict being referred to is, I think, our ravaging of Mother Earth and failure to listen to the planet's other voices. But attendees can, we are told, expect to commune with actual fairies and devas (a kind of Hindu angel). According to the Congress' Web site:
The humans are vastly outnumbered at the Congress by the fairies, devas and other Light beings who are in attendance. How many fairies and devas attend? We are assured it is in the thousands. Fairies and devas of many ranks and sizes attend. Some are similar in size to the small 'hand-size' fairies we see represented in the common press. Others are immense beings of great power. Remember though, that size is not necessarily an indicator of knowledge, wisdom or power. The fairy beings who attend the Fairy Congress are fully as intelligent (and often much more so) than the human participants. We approach the fairies and devas with respect and love as co-creators of this event. We are meeting as equal participants. The fairies and devas have a concurrent Congress as well as interacting with the human participants during circles and joint meditations. ... It is a rare event for humans to experience so much fairy energy and such an outpouring of fairy/devic blessings.
No word on whether Hillary Clinton will be seeking super-delegates at this convention too.
For those thinking of attending and worried about fairy etiquette, there are resources to help you. I found one article on the Web that offers a kind of Miss Manners guide to fairy do's and don'ts. Note that they don't like cut flowers (a desecration) but do like chocolate. Also, if you meet a fairy, go easy on the sex.
Maybe it's time to downsize our Northwest legends for a new century. Instead of chasing big resource users like Bigfoot, perhaps its time to develop a sustainable mythology, one that thinks small.