The Story of Chief Taloali

A long time ago, before there was ever a Camp Taloali, there was a tribe of Santiam Indians living around here. In this tribe, there was a young boy who was somewhat different from the other boys; he was deaf. He had the same problems many deaf people do today. It was difficult to talk to the villagers, and the children didn’t want to play with him because he couldn’t hear, or talk very well. 

He liked to go out in the woods every day, and explore new places and watch fish, animals and insects. One day, he found a baby bird that had fallen out of a nest, and since he couldn’t find the nest, he took it home to raise. It was probably a swallow like the many swallows we have swooping over the meadows here. The Indian boy took such good care of the bird that it grew to be able to fly and go with him on his daily trips in the woods.

This boy couldn’t hear, but he learned to watch animals and birds closely enough so that he could understand messages that they sent through their body movements. He even discovered that he could see birds singing by the way they flew. In watching their swoops, fast flights and circling, he could see the music in their movement. Because of this discovery, he named his bird “Taloali” which means “singing bird.” This ability to understand animal communication helped the boy later when he had many animal friends.

One day, the whole village was surrounded by fire. The deaf boy watched the animals to find a way out to safety for everyone. The whole tribe followed him and were all saved.

Many years later, when this deaf Indian boy was an adult, the tribe recognized his wisdom and sensitivity which had developed from his many years of observation and meditation. They gave him the title “Chief”, and since he had gotten his start from the first bird, they changed his name to “Chief Taloali, which means “Chief Singing Bird”.

Chief Taloali is dead, but his spirit lingers on in the 
campers at Camp Taloali. Through them, he is still sharing his wisdom.


Story by Tony Papalia

Illustrations by Eanger Irving Couse.

His partner and best friend was a deaf artist, John Henry Sharp. 

They communicated with the Indians with hand signals and sketches.