The Legend of Mount Timpanogos
A long, long, time ago, a tribe of Indians called the Timpanogos, Nation of the Snake Band of Shoshone Indians, lived by a beautiful silver lake. The lake abounded in fish and when the Indians caught more fish than they could eat, they dried and stored them for future use. As time passed by, the tribe accumulated more dried fish than they needed.
Far to the north, there lived another tribe of Indians known as the Nez Perce. They were recognized as great hunters, and like all other native tribes believed in the Great Spirit. Once a year, the tribal leader climbed to the top of a very high mountain called Great White Throne to pray to the Great Spirit.
The leader of the Nez Perce had a son name Timpanac. Timpanac’s mother died while giving birth, leaving the leader alone to raise his son. Since his early childhood, he accompanied his father each year on the annual climb to the summit of the Throne. Timpanac soon became an expert climber. One year, there was no rain or snow, leaving many of the Nez Perce to die from famine. The leader was too ill to make the journey to the Great White Throne, so Timpanac went alone to pray to the Great Spirit.
While praying, Timpanac was told to go far to the South where a tribe would be glad to sell him food. He loaded a number of ponies with rich furs and then began his journey.
After many days of travel, Timpanac came to the silver lake and found the Timpanogos tribe. He was invited into the leader’s teepee and there he made his errand known. The leader treated Timpanac kindly and was willing to exchange dried fish for rich furs.
Large skins divided the leader’s teepee into two rooms. Through a hole in one of the hides Timpanac saw a beautiful Indian Maiden in the next room. She was Ucanogos, the leader’s daughter.
Timpanac was ready to return home, he gave Ucanogos a beaded headband that had been made by his mother. Ucanogos, in return, gave him a pair of gloves she had made from deerskin. As his journey brought him to the crest of a distant hill, Timpanac looked back upon the dimming horizon to see a hand waving farewell.
Soon the time came when Ucanogos was old enough to marry. So that Timpanac might have an opportunity to win her hand, Ucanogos asked her father to conduct a contest for all those braves who wished to marry her. With her father’s consent, Ucanogos sent a runner to Timpanac to come to the silver lake when the pussy willows bloom and to bring twenty fat ponies. Word of the contest was also sent to the other tribes.
Ucanogos went to the river every day and banked snow around the pussy willows so that they wouldn’t bloom before Timpanac could arrive. When the time came and all the snow had melted, Ucanogos would look to the north in search of Timpanac and his ponies.
An Arapaho, a Shoshone, a Ute and a Hopi brave came, each with the twenty ponies required to participate in the contest. Timpanac was the last brave to arrive but his ponies were so thin that all the other Indians laughed.
Ucanogos wanted to marry the Nez Perce brave and found faults with all the other contestants. The contestants were first asked to demonstrate their endurance by running around the great silver lake. Halfway through the race, the Arapaho fell and accidently drowned in the lake. The other braves thought Timpanac had pushed the Arapaho.
Back at the leader’s teepee Timpanac was bound and placed in the teepee while the others decided what should be done with him. While waiting, Ucanogos came to him and cut the cords which bound him. She told him to take the pony which she had waiting and pleaded with him to leave.
He explained that to run would bring shame to himself, therefore he must stay. Timpanac then held his hands behind his back as though they were tied. With honor he awaited the decision of the leader. When the leader came into the teepee and announced that Timpanac was to be disqualified, Timpanac stepped forward and declared his love for the Indian Maiden.
The next day, the contestants were told to demonstrate their ability to support a wife by going out to hunt for food without any weapons. The Shoshone hunted long enough to get a rabbit, the Ute returned a short time later with a pheasant and the Hopi came in with a small deer.
Timpanac had been gone three days and killed a buffalo so large he couldn’t carry it. Men from the tribe were sent to bring back the buffalo that was large enough to feed them all.
The final contest was to climb to the top of a high mountain where Ucanogos would be waiting. The first to reach her could claim her as his bride. Ucanogos was confident that Timpanac’s great climbing skills would bring him to her first. The race was to begin with the rising of the moon, but the Shoshone and the Ute started sooner.
When Timpanac reached the steepest place on the mountain, his opponents were waiting for him. Wrestling him to the ground, they pushed Timpanac over a ledge where he fell hundreds of feet to his death.
As Ucanogos saw what had happened she wept great tears and vowed they would never stop falling. A wall of tears still falls down Provo Canyon - now named Bridal Veil Falls.
She then threw herself off the mountain, praying to the Great Spirit to take her soul and join it with Timpanac’s in The Great Beyond. Hearing her plea, the Great Spirit joined their two hearts together as one, forever to hang in the heart of Timpanogos Cave, buried deep in the mountain.
The Great Spirit was so saddened by these events he decided to put the Indian Maiden to rest on the mountain tops for eternity. Many now call her the Sleeping Princess. Those who travel through Heber Valley or Provo Canyon can clearly see her features. The name Timpanogos was given to the mountain by combining the names of the ill-fated lovers: Timpanac and Ucanogos. The word Timpanogos, has since been used by the tribe to mean “People of a Mountain.” Learn more about Mount Timpanogos
Learn more about the Timpanogos Tribe here.