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The name of the Falls commemorates Chief Kai, one of the distinguished chieftains (known also as Toshaos) of the once powerful Patamona tribe. He committed self-sacrifice by canoeing over the falls in order that Makonaima, the Great Spirit, would be appeased and to save his tribe from being destroyed by a raiding party of Caribs. "Teur" translates as "falls" hence the name Kaieteur. Folklore has it that the old man and his "wood skin" canoe were turned to stone and now form part of the rocks of Kaieteur. Perhaps he won appeasement, for his name still marks the magical curtain of water known as Kaieteur.
The legend of the Falls has been celebrated by generations of poets, writers, painters and musicians-most memorably in the "The legend of Kaieteur", a Choral Fantasy by the Guyanese composer Philip Pilgrim (1917-1944) set to the words of a children's epic poem by Arthur Seymour.