The Tale of Wahconah, an Indian Princess
The Wahconah Group takes its name from Western Massachusetts and the legend of a resourceful Indian Princess named Wahconah who had two young braves in a rivalry to determine whose squaw she would be. A Mohawk warrior visiting her village was enchanted by her beauty and received her father's permission to marry her the following spring, as her father saw him as a brave and stalwart man. One day as Wahconah was collecting firewood, she was attacked by a bear. As she struggled to escape its claws, a young warrior appeared. He was an Algonquin named Nessacus. With but a light fish spear, Nessacus killed the bear, though the beasts talons tore his flesh. The young man was ill from his wounds for many days, and Wahconah nursed him tenderly with her own hands. Her beauty and friendliness captured his heart and he asked her father for her hand in marriage. Wahconah's father told him that although he was a brave man and had saved his daughter's life, he felt that he must keep his promise to the other warrior. Perplexed, the chief went to the lodge of the medicine man, and the two men smoked many pipes as they discussed the problem of the two warriors who were in love with Wahconah. Agreed that both warriors were brave men and had just claims. One of these men claimed Wahconah on a promise, the other because he had saved her life. Thus only fate should judge the right warrior, and a contest should be held.
Wahconah, it was decided, should be placed in a canoe without paddles at the base of the falls. The canoe would then be set adrift. In the shallow water of the falls there was a small island. If the vessel bearing Wahconah passed the island to the north side, she should belong to the Mohawk warrior, if it passed to the south side, Nessacus could claim her. Wahconah got into the canoe, sitting in a bundle of furs, and it was pushed out into the rushing water. The Canoe turned and rocked as it sped toward the bank where the Mohawk warrior was standing and then suddenly and inexplicably the canoe turned, hesitated, and then shot to the center of the stream. As it rapidly approached the shallows close to the island, it grounded briefly then twisted free and moved toward the bank where Nessacus was standing. Nessacus ran into the water and dragged the canoe ashore, and gave his future wife a hug. Wahconah and Nessacus were married and lived happily ever after.
Later that afternoon, Wahconah's Father and the medicine man saw a canoe filled with water, lying several feet from the bank. As they waded out and pulled the canoe to shore. It was the one used by Wahconah. In the bottom was a bundle of soggy furs. The medicine man picked up the skins and saw a ragged hole in the bottom of the craft. From a fold in the furs a sharp, sturdy stick fell to the ground. They discovered that Wahconah had rigged the canoe with an ingenuous rudder - A sharp stick pushed through the bottom could guide a canoe in shallow water.