The Prophecy of the Samaysquatcha

“A long time ago Yosierra people dwelled the land of Emeral Coh. Since then our people have been run off by men with boomstick.

“However, it was fortold by our prophets that one day, a generation would be born in the land of Emeral Coh that would take back what was ours. A sign of the coming of this generation would be the return of the Samaysquatcha, a gorilla beast who has come to aid the Yosierra peoples in the days of old. When the Samaysquatcha was spotted in the forest of old, the elders of the Yosierra shall re-enter the land of Emeral Coh and summon the young warriors of the new generation and train them in the warrior way. When the warriors are ready, the bravest warrior shall hunt the Samaysquatcha and take his life. Then shall the other warriors take his body to the waterfall of Emeral Coh and feast on his flesh. Only then shall the young warriors have the strength to overcome the foreign men and reclaim the land that was once ours.”

This story is part of a much larger activity that my informant, a camp councilor, performs once a summer at the children’s (age 6 to 17) summer camp he councils. It is performed on a day in which the camp, which is normally coed, is split, boys separated by girls, each off to their own activities for the day. The story lays out the events that the boys partake in that day: after the story is told, the storyteller, who acts as the Yosierra Chief Elder, is taken by other staff members representing “the foreigners”, described in the story as “men with boomstick”. The foreigners then take the chief out of sight (usually behind a cabin), where he is “executed”. The staff applies some theatrics to the execution in order to sell it to the campers. As my informant describes, “we shoot off cap guns, throw fake blood on the cabin window, stuff like that.”

Once the chief is gone, the next-eldest staff member acts as replacement chief, and instructs the campers to begin the enactment of the prophecy. To add some dramatic tension, the new chief begins by instructing the student to build a teepee and fortify it with sticks and other found objects. The foreign men would then commence a surprise attack on the campers, destroying their fortifications and giving the boys “the first lost”, showing them that “they’re not ready yet”.

At this low point the new chief gives a speech to raise the boys’ spirits and begin the painting ceremony, where the boys decorate themselves with body paint. As the boys finish applying their war paint, a staff member dressed in a gorilla costume runs by, signaling the “return of the Samaysquatcha”. The boys are instructed to chase the Samaysquatcha to the campsite’s waterfall, where they find a staff member next to the “Samaysquatcha corpse”, the gorilla costume filled with beef jerky. The staff tells the boys that the prophecy is coming true, and to celebrate the campers “feast on the flesh of the Samaysquatcha”.

Fueled by the strength of the Samaysquatcha, the campers begin their final phase of training. The staff instructs the kids “to find the best spear stick”, which my informant clarifies is “a stick that could resemble a spear”. With their new weaponry, the campers learn to “sneak, find a target, and beat the target with their finest spear stick”. Once they complete this task, the campers return to the waterfall where, one at a time, they cleanse themselves in the water and take on their new “native name”. The campers are now ready to “reclaim the land that was once [theirs]”.

Under the chief’s instruction, the campers line up near the foreigner’s fort, a cardboard construction put together by the rest of the staff, who act as the foreigners for the “final battle”. Another staff member sets up a fire pit to the side of the battleground “with just a few glowing embers” and throws gasoline into it, creating a pillar of fire, “the sign to charge”.

As the battle rages, some of the campers use a water balloon launcher to lob balloons at the foreigners’ fort. Other rush the fort with water balloons and flour bombs (“flour stuffed in a plastic bag, that you throw and it explodes all over the place”), and cinch their victory with their cardboard weapons. My informant says this battle usually last forty-five minutes, after which the kids “scalp the staff”, pretending to take the heads of all the foreigners. The battle is then won, and the prophecy has come true.

Although this is first year my informant has taken part in this specific story, he informs me “the camp has been doing this for a while, since the sixties”. The activity takes place every year, and it follows the same beats as this particular iteration, but the theme rotates every year. My informant explains, “this year we’re doing a Wild West theme, but last year we did Robin Hood…I think the very first one I ever took part in was a space theme, where aliens were coming to take the land, which was the whole planet”. Nevertheless, the activity plays out the same every year, “slightly twisted to meet the theme”.