Falling Rock

DC is a 53-year-old white woman who currently lives in Texas but was born in rural Montana. 

DC- You know when you’re driving down the road and you see the yellow caution signs that say ‘loose gravel’ or ‘falling rock’. When I was young, my parents used to tell us that Falling Rock was an angry Native American because we lived with a lot of Indigenous people. They would say that he would jump out and throw boulders at passing cars. I believe that I was in like late elementary school and I used to tell my friends about the legendary Falling Rock.

Me- Do you have any other details you can think about the story? Did your parents ever have a reason as to why he was angry and throwing rocks?

DC- He was angry because the land was taken. That’s all I can remember. My parents would tell us to be quiet and make us look for him when we saw signs. They always told us that as long as we don’t bother him he won’t bother us. His wife’s name was Loose Gravel. I think he also had kids named like boulders on the road or something.


The Falling Rock story has many different interesting aspects to examine. Firstly, this tale perpetrates many negative stereotypes towards Native Americans. While I don’t think it was DC’s parent’s goal to be hateful towards Indigenous people, equating important tribal names to the likes of signs found on the sides of roads is disrespectful and harmful, as well as spreading the idea that Native people are angry and violent.  DC and her family were not doing this on purpose, they considered themselves to be good allies and friends with many Indigenous people in their town. This goes to show that unconscious biases exist in everyone, and we need to make an active effort to be aware of the ways we may perpetuate harm without realizing it. An important part of being a good ally is being able to see where you have done wrong and improve from it. While DC heard this story as a young child and would tell others the tale then, as she has grown and become aware of the negative connotations of the story, she no longer spreads it, not even to her own children. 

While DC’s family may unconsciously have been spreading harmful stereotypes, this story also served to educate their children in some ways. Through the story, we can see that DC’s parents had at least a basic understanding of the ways that Native Americans had been unfairly treated, and were trying to teach their children. While it’s not as thorough as the education one may get in class, it still teaches the audience that Natives are valid in their anger because of the cruel way Americans have treated them in the past. They were taught to respect their anger and boundaries and understand their pain, at least slightly. While the story still holds many harmful beliefs, it is important to think through all the ways this story may have impacted its young, White audience. While it may have unfortunately further engrained a few stereotypes, it also helped them better understand the Native’s pain and history. 

Looking past the race dynamics, this story exemplifies many of the ways that similar stories begin and spread. It takes something as simple as a road sign to begin such an oral tradition. Every family has thought of ways to entertain, or quiet, their children on long car rides. Legends are much easier to create than one might imagine, they are being made all around you at every moment.