Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest
Katharine Berry Judson
Part 1 out of 2
Compiled and Edited by
Katharine Berry Judson
Author of "Myths and Legends of Alaska", "Myths and Legends
of the Pacific Northwest", and "Montana."
In the beginning of the New-making, the ancient fathers lived
successively in four caves in the Four fold-containing-earth. The first
was of sooty blackness, black as a chimney at night time; the second,
dark as the night in the stormy season; the third, like a valley in
starlight; the fourth, with a light like the dawning. Then they came up
in the night-shine into the World of Knowing and Seeing.
So runs the Zuni myth, and it typifies well the mental development,
insight, and beauty of speech of the Indian tribes along the Pacific
Coast, from those of Alaska in the far-away Northland, with half of life
spent in actual darkness and more than half in the struggle for
existence against the cold and the storms loosed by fatal curiosity from
the bear's bag of bitter, icy winds, to the exquisite imagery of the
Zunis and other desert tribes, on their sunny plains in the Southland.
It was in the night-shine of this southern land, with its clear, dry air
and brilliant stars, that the Indians, looking up at the heavens above
them, told the story of the bag of stars—of Utset, the First Mother, who
gave to the scarab beetle, when the floods came, the bag of Star People,
sending him first into the world above. It was a long climb to the world
above and the tired little fellow, once safe, sat down by the sack.
After a while he cut a tiny hole in the bag, just to see what was in it,
but the Star People flew out and filled the heavens everywhere. Yet he
saved a few stars by grasping the neck of the sack, and sat there,
frightened and sad, when Utset, the First Mother, asked what he had done
with the beautiful Star People.
The Sky-father himself, in those early years of the New-making, spread
out his hand with the palm downward, and into all the wrinkles of his
hand set the semblance of shining yellow corn-grains, gleaming like
sparks of fire in the dark of the early World-dawn. "See," said
Sky-father to Earth-mother, "our children shall be guided by these when
the Sun-father is not near and thy mountain terraces are as darkness
itself. Then shall our children be guided by light." So Sky-father
created the stars. Then he said, "And even as these grains gleam upward
from the water, so shall seed grain like them spring up from the earth
when touched by water, to nourish our children." And he created the
golden Seed-stuff of the corn.
It is around the beautiful Corn Maidens that perhaps the most delicate
of all imagery clings, Maidens offended when the dancers sought their
presence all too freely, no longer holding them so precious as in the
olden time, so that, in white garments, they became invisible in the
thickening white mists. Then sadly and noiselessly they stole in amongst
the people and laid their corn wands down amongst the trays, and laid
their white broidered garments thereon, as mothers lay soft kilting over
their babes. Even as the mists became they, and with the mists drifting,
fled away, to the south Summer-land.
They began the search for the Corn Maidens, found at last only by
Paiyatuma, the god of dawn, from whose flute came wonderful music, as of
liquid voices in caverns, or the echo of women's laughter in water
vases, heard only by men of nights as they wandered up and down the
When he paused to rest on his journey, playing on his painted flute,
butterflies and birds sought him, and he sent them before to seek the
Maidens, even before they could hear the music of his song-sound. And
the Maidens filled their colored trays with seed-corn from their fields,
and over all spread broidered mantles, broidered with the bright colors
and the creature signs of the Summer-land, and thus following him,
journeyed only at night and dawn, as the dead do, and the stars also.
Back to the Seed People they came, but only to give to the ancients the
precious seed, and this having been given, the darkness of night fell
around them. As shadows in deep night, so these Maidens of the Seed of
Corn, the beloved and beautiful, were seen no more of men. But Shutsuka
walked behind the Maidens, whistling shrilly as they sped southward,
even as the frost wind whistles when the corn is gathered away, among
the lone canes and the dry leaves of a gleaned field.
The myths of California, in general, are of the same type as those given
in a preceding volume on the myths of the Pacific Northwest. Indeed many
of the myths of Northern Californian tribes are so obviously the same as
those of the Modocs and Klamath Indians that they have not been
repeated. Coyote and Fox reign supreme, as they do along the entire
coast, though the birds of the air take a greater part in the creation
of things. These stories are quaint and whimsical, but they lack the
beauty of the myths of the desert tribes. There is nothing in all
Californian myths, so far as I have studied them, which in any way
compares with the one of the Corn Maidens, referred to above, or the Sia
myths of the Cloud People. In the compilation of this volume, the same
idea has governed as in the two preceding volumes—simply the preparation
of a volume of the quainter, purer myths, suitable for general reading,
authentic, and with illustrations of the country portrayed, but with no
pretensions to being a purely scientific piece of work. Scientific
people know well the government documents and reports of learned
societies which contain myths of all kinds, good, bad, and indifferent.
But the volumes of this series are intended for popular use. Changes
have been made only in abridgments of long conversations and of
ceremonial details which detracted from the myth as a myth, even though
of great ethnological importance.
Especial credit is due in this volume to the work of the ethnologists
whose work has appeared in the publications of the Smithsonian
Institution, and the U. S. Geographical and Geological Surveys West of
the Rocky Mountains: to Mrs. Mathilda Cox Stevenson for the Sia myths,
and to the late James Stevenson for the Navajo myths and sand painting;
to the late Frank Hamilton Cushing for the Zuni myths, to the late Frank
Russell for the Pima myths, to the late Stephen Powers for the
Californian myths, and also to James Mooney and Cosmos Mindeleff. The
recent publications of the University of California on the myths of the
tribes of that State have not been included.
Thanks are also due to the Smithsonian Institution for the illustrations
accredited to them, to the Carnegie Institution of Washington for
illustrations from the Desert Botanical Laboratory at Tucson, Arizona,
and to Mr. Ferdinard Ellerman of the Mount Wilson Observatory and to
K. B. J.
Department of History,
University of Washington.
Table of Contents
The Beginning of Newness - Zuni (New Mexico)
The Men of the Early Times - Zuni (New Mexico)
Creation and Longevity - Achomawi (Pit River, Cal.)
Old Moles Creation - Shastika (Cal.)
The Creation of the World - Pima (Arizona)
Spider's Creation - Sia (New Mexico)
The Gods and the Six Regions
How Old Man Above Created the World - Shastika (Cal.)
The Search for the Middle and the Hardening of the World - Zuni (New
Origin of Light - Gallinomero (Russian River, Cal.)
Pokoh, the Old Man - Pai Ute (near Kern River, Cal.)
Thunder and Lightning - Maidu (near Sacramento Valley. Cal.)
Creation of Man - Miwok (San Joaquin Valley, Cal.)
The First Man and Woman - Nishinam (near Bear River, Cal.)
Old Man Above and the Grizzlies - Shastika (Cal.)
The Creation of Man-kind and the Flood - Pima (Arizona)
The Birds and the Flood - Pima (Arizona)
Legend of the Flood - Ashochimi (Coast Indians, Cal.)
The Great Flood - Sia (New Mexico)
The Flood and the Theft of Fire - Tolowa (Del Norte Co., Cal.)
Legend of the Flood in Sacramento Maidu Valley - (near Sacramento, Cal.)
The Fable of the Animals - Karok (near Klamath River, Cal.)
Coyote and Sun - Pai Ute (near Kern River, Cal.)
The Course of the Sun - Sia (New Mexico)
The Foxes and the Sun - Yurok (near Klamath River, Cal.)
The Theft of Fire - Karok (near Klamath River, Cal.)
The Theft of Fire - Sia (New Mexico)
The Earth-hardening after the Flood - Sia (New Mexico)
The Origins of the Totems and of Names - Zuni (New Mexico)
Traditions of Wanderings - Hopi (Arizona)
The Migration of the Water People - Walpi (Arizona)
Coyote and the Mesquite Beans - Pima (Arizona)
Origin of the Sierra Nevadas and Coast Range - Yokuts (near Fresno,
Yosemite Valley and its Indian Names
Legend of Tu-tok-a-nu'-la (El Capitan) - Yosemite Valley
Legend of Tis-se'-yak (South Dome and North Dome) Yosemite Valley
Historic Tradition of the Upper Tuolumne - Yosemite Valley
California Big Trees - Pai Ute (near Kern River, Cal.)
The Children of Cloud - Pima (Arizona)
The Cloud People - Sia (New Mexico)
Rain Song - Sia (New Mexico)
Rain Song - Sia (New Mexico)
The Corn Maidens - Zuni (New Mexico)
The Search for the Corn Maidens - Zuni (New Mexico)
Hasjelti and Hostjoghon - Navajo (New Mexico)
The Song-hunter - Navajo (New Mexico)
Sand Painting of the Song-hunter - Navajo
The Guiding Duck and the Lake of Death - Zuni (New Mexico)
The Boy who Became a God - Navajo (New Mexico)
Origin of Clear Lake - Patwin (Sacramento Valley, Cal.)
The Great Fire - Patwin (Sacramento Valley, Cal.)
Origin of the Raven and the Macaw - Zuni (New Mexico)
Coyote and the Hare - Sia (New Mexico)
Coyote and the Quails - Pima (Arizona)
Coyote and the Fawns - Sia (New Mexico)
How the Bluebird Got its Color - Pima (Arizona)
Coyote's Eyes - Pima (Arizona)
Coyote and the Tortillas - Pima (Arizona)
Coyote as a Hunter - Sia (New Mexico)
How the Rattlesnake Learned to Bite - Pima (Arizona)
Coyote and the Rattlesnake - Sia (New Mexico)
Origin of the Saguaro and Palo Verde Cacti - Pima (Arizona)
The Thirsty Quails - Pima (Arizona)
The Boy and the Beast - Pima (Arizona)
Why the Apaches are Fierce - Pima (Arizona)
Speech on the Warpath - Pima (Arizona)
The Spirit Land - Gallinomero (Russian River, Cal.)
Song of the Ghost Dance - Pai Ute (Kern River, Cal.)
The Beginning of Newness
Zuni (New Mexico)
Before the beginning of the New-making, the All-father Father alone had
being. Through ages there was nothing else except black darkness.
In the beginning of the New-making, the All-father Father thought
outward in space, and mists were created and up-lifted. Thus through his
knowledge he made himself the Sun who was thus created and is the great
Father. The dark spaces brightened with light. The cloud mists thickened
and became water.
From his flesh, the Sun-father created the Seed-stuff of worlds, and he
himself rested upon the waters. And these two, the Four-fold-containing
Earth-mother and the All-covering Sky-father, the surpassing beings,
with power of changing their forms even as smoke changes in the wind,
were the father and mother of the soul beings.
Then as man and woman spoke these two together. "Behold!" said
Earth-mother, as a great terraced bowl appeared at hand, and within it
water, "This shall be the home of my tiny children. On the rim of each
world-country in which they wander, terraced mountains shall stand,
making in one region many mountains by which one country shall be known
Then she spat on the water and struck it and stirred it with her
fingers. Foam gathered about the terraced rim, mounting higher and
higher. Then with her warm breath she blew across the terraces. White
flecks of foam broke away and floated over the water. But the cold
breath of Sky-father shattered the foam and it fell downward in fine
mist and spray.
Then Earth-mother spoke:
"Even so shall white clouds float up from the great waters at the
borders of the world, and clustering about the mountain terraces of the
horizon, shall be broken and hardened by thy cold. Then will they shed
downward, in rain-spray, the water of life, even into the hollow places
of my lap. For in my lap shall nestle our children, man-kind and
creature-kind, for warmth in thy coldness."
So even now the trees on high mountains near the clouds and Sky-father,
crouch low toward Earth mother for warmth and protection. Warm is
Earth-mother, cold our Sky-father.
Then Sky-father said, "Even so. Yet I, too, will be helpful to our
children." Then he spread his hand out with the palm downward and into
all the wrinkles of his hand he set the semblance of shining yellow
corn-grains; in the dark of the early world-dawn they gleamed like
sparks of fire.
"See," he said, pointing to the seven grains between his thumb and four
fingers, "our children shall be guided by these when the Sun-father is
not near and thy terraces are as darkness itself. Then shall our
children be guided by lights." So Sky-father created the stars. Then he
said, "And even as these grains gleam up from the water, so shall seed
grain like them spring up from the earth when touched by water, to
nourish our children." And thus they created the seed-corn. And in many
other ways they devised for their children, the soul-beings.
But the first children, in a cave of the earth, were unfinished. The
cave was of sooty blackness, black as a chimney at night time, and foul.
Loud became their murmurings and lamentations, until many sought to
escape, growing wiser and more man-like.
But the earth was not then as we now see it. Then Sun-father sent down
two sons (sons also of the Foam-cap), the Beloved Twain, Twin Brothers
of Light, yet Elder and Younger, the Right and the Left, like to
question and answer in deciding and doing. To them the Sun-father
imparted his own wisdom. He gave them the great cloud-bow, and for
arrows the thunderbolts of the four quarters. For buckler, they had the
fog-making shield, spun and woven of the floating clouds and spray. The
shield supports its bearer, as clouds are supported by the wind, yet
hides its bearer also. And he gave to them the fathership and control of
men and of all creatures. Then the Beloved Twain, with their great
cloud-bow lifted the Sky-father into the vault of the skies, that the
earth might become warm and fitter for men and creatures. Then along the
sun-seeking trail, they sped to the mountains westward. With magic
knives they spread open the depths of the mountain and uncovered the
cave in which dwelt the unfinished men and creatures. So they dwelt with
men, learning to know them, and seeking to lead them out.
Now there were growing things in the depths, like grasses and vines. So
the Beloved Twain breathed on the stems, growing tall toward the light
as grass is wont to do, making them stronger, and twisting them upward
until they formed a great ladder by which men and creatures ascended to
a second cave.
Up the ladder into the second cave-world, men and the beings crowded,
following closely the Two Little but Mighty Ones. Yet many fell back and
were lost in the darkness. They peopled the under-world from which they
escaped in after time, amid terrible earth shakings.
In this second cave it was as dark as the night of a stormy season, but
larger of space and higher. Here again men and the beings increased, and
their complainings grew loud. So the Twain again increased the growth of
the ladder, and again led men upward, not all at once, but in six bands,
to become the fathers of the six kinds of men, the yellow, the tawny
gray, the red, the white, the black, and the mingled. And this time also
many were lost or left behind.
Now the third great cave was larger and lighter, like a valley in
starlight. And again they increased in number. And again the Two led
them out into a fourth cave. Here it was light like dawning, and men
began to perceive and to learn variously, according to their natures,
wherefore the Twain taught them first to seek the Sun-father.
Then as the last cave became filled and men learned to understand, the
Two led them forth again into the great upper world, which is the World
of Knowing Seeing.
The Men of the Early Times
Zuni (New Mexico)
Eight years was but four days and four nights when the world was new. It
was while such days and nights continued that men were led out, in the
night-shine of the World of Seeing. For even when they saw the great
star, they thought it the Sun-father himself, it so burned their eye-balls.
Men and creatures were more alike then than now. Our fathers were black,
like the caves they came from; their skins were cold and scaly like
those of mud creatures; their eyes were goggled like an owl's; their
ears were like those of cave bats; their feet were webbed like those of
walkers in wet and soft places; they had tails, long or short, as they
were old or young. Men crouched when they walked, or crawled along the
ground like lizards. They feared to walk straight, but crouched as
before time they had in their cave worlds, that they might not stumble
or fall in the uncertain light.
When the morning star arose, they blinked excessively when they beheld
its brightness and cried out that now surely the Father was coming. But
it was only the elder of the Bright Ones, heralding with his shield of
flame the approach of the Sun-father. And when, low down in the east,
the Sun-father himself appeared, though shrouded in the mist of the
world-waters, they were blinded and heated by his light and glory. They
fell down wallowing and covered their eyes with their hands and arms,
yet ever as they looked toward the light, they struggled toward the Sun
as moths and other night creatures seek the light of a camp fire. Thus
they became used to the light. But when they rose and walked straight,
no longer bending, and looked upon each other, they sought to clothe
themselves with girdles and garments of bark and rushes. And when by
walking only upon their hinder feet they were bruised by stone and sand,
they plaited sandals of yucca fibre.
Creation and Longevity
Achomawi (Pit River, Cal.)
Coyote began the creation of the earth, but Eagle completed it. Coyote
scratched it up with his paws out of nothingness, but Eagle complained
there were no mountains for him to perch on. So Coyote made hills, but
they were not high enough. Therefore Eagle scratched up great ridges.
When Eagle flew over them, his feathers dropped down, took root, and
became trees. The pin feathers became bushes and plants.
Coyote and Fox together created man. They quarrelled as to whether they
should let men live always or not. Coyote said, "If they want to die,
let them die." Fox said, "If they want to come back, let them come
back." But Coyote's medicine was stronger, and nobody ever came back.
Coyote also brought fire into the world, for the Indians were freezing.
He journeyed far to the west, to a place where there was fire, stole
some of it, and brought it home in his ears. He kindled a fire in the
mountains, and the Indians saw the smoke of it, and went up and got
Old Mole's Creation
Long, long ago, before there was any earth, Old Mole burrowed underneath
Somewhere, and threw up the earth which forms the world. Then Great Man
created the people. But the Indians were cold.
Now in the cast gleamed the white Fire Stone. Therefore Coyote journeyed
eastward, and brought back the Fire Stone for the Indians. So people had
In the beginning, Sun had nine brothers, all flaming hot like himself.
But Coyote killed the nine brothers and so saved the world from burning
up. But Moon also had nine brothers all made of ice, like himself, and
the Night People almost froze to death. Therefore Coyote went away out
on the eastern edge of the world with his flint-stone knife. He heated
stones to keep his hands warm, and as the Moons arose, he killed one
after another with his flint-stone knife, until he had slain nine of
them. Thus the people were saved from freezing at night.
When it rains, some Indian, sick in heaven, is weeping. Long, long ago,
there was a good young Indian on earth. When he died the Indians wept so
that a flood came upon the earth, and drowned all people except one
The Creation of the World
In the beginning there was nothing at all except darkness. All was
darkness and emptiness. For a long, long while, the darkness gathered
until it became a great mass. Over this the spirit of Earth Doctor
drifted to and fro like a fluffy bit of cotton in the breeze. Then Earth
Doctor decided to make for himself an abiding place. So he thought
within himself, "Come forth, some kind of plant," and there appeared the
creosote bush. He placed this before him and set it upright. But it at
once fell over. He set it upright again; again it fell. So it fell until
the fourth time it remained upright. Then Earth Doctor took from his
breast a little dust and flattened it into a cake. When the dust cake
was still, he danced upon it, singing a magic song.
Next he created some black insects which made black gum on the creosote
bush. Then he made a termite which worked with the small earth cake
until it grew very large. As he sang and danced upon it, the flat World
stretched out on all sides until it was as large as it is now. Then he
made a round sky-cover to fit over it, round like the houses of the
Pimas. But the earth shook and stretched, so that it was unsafe. So
Earth Doctor made a gray spider which was to spin a web around the edges
of the earth and sky, fastening them together. When this was done, the
earth grew firm and solid.
Earth Doctor made water, mountains, trees, grass, and weeds-made
everything as we see it now. But all was still inky blackness. Then he
made a dish, poured water into it, and it became ice. He threw this
round block of ice far to the north, and it fell at the place where the
earth and sky were woven together. At once the ice began to gleam and
shine. We call it now the sun. It rose from the ground in the north up
into the sky and then fell back. Earth Doctor took it and threw it to
the west where the earth and sky were sewn together. It rose into the
sky and again slid back to the earth. Then he threw it to the far south,
but it slid back again to the flat earth. Then at last he threw it to
the east. It rose higher and higher in the sky until it reached the
highest point in the round blue cover and began to slide down on the
other side. And so the sun does even yet.
Then Earth Doctor poured more water into the dish and it became ice. He
sang a magic song, and threw the round ball of ice to the north where
the earth and sky are woven together. It gleamed and shone, but not so
brightly as the sun. It became the moon, and it rose in the sky, but
fell back again, just as the sun had done. So he threw the ball to the
west, and then to the south, but it slid back each time to the earth.
Then he threw it to the east, and it rose to the highest point in the
sky-cover and began to slide down on the other side. And so it does even
to-day, following the sun.
But Earth Doctor saw that when the sun and moon were not in the sky, all
was inky darkness. So he sang a magic song, and took some water into his
mouth and blew it into the sky, in a spray, to make little stars. Then
he took his magic crystal and broke it into pieces and threw them into
the sky, to make the larger stars. Next he took his walking stick and
placed ashes on the end of it. Then he drew it across the sky to form
the Milky Way. So Earth Doctor made all the stars.
Sia (New Mexico)
In the beginning, long, long ago, there was but one being in the lower
world. This was the spider, Sussistinnako. At that time there were no
other insects, no birds, animals, or any other living creature.
The spider drew a line of meal from north to south and then crossed it
with another line running east and west. On each side of the first line,
north of the second, he placed two small parcels. They were precious but
no one knows what was in them except Spider. Then he sat down near the
parcels and began to sing. The music was low and sweet and the two
parcels accompanied him, by shaking like rattles. Then two women
appeared, one from each parcel.
In a short time people appeared and began walking around. Then animals,
birds, and insects appeared, and the spider continued to sing until his
creation was complete.
But there was no light, and as there were many people, they did not pass
about much for fear of treading upon each other. The two women first
created were the mothers of all. One was named Utset and she as the
mother of all Indians. The other was Now-utset, and she was the mother
of all other nations. While it was still dark, the spider divided the
people into clans, saying to some, "You are of the Corn clan, and you
are the first of all." To others he said, "You belong to the Coyote
clan." So he divided them into their clans, the clans of the Bear, the
Eagle, and other clans.
After Spider had nearly created the earth, Ha-arts, he thought it would
be well to have rain to water it, so he created the Cloud People, the
Lightning People, the Thunder People, and the Rainbow People, to work
for the people of Ha-arts, the earth. He divided this creation into six
parts, and each had its home in a spring in the heart of a great
mountain upon whose summit was a giant tree. One was in the spruce tree
on the Mountain of the North; another in the pine tree on the Mountain
of the West; another in the oak tree on the Mountain of the South; and
another in the aspen tree on the Mountain of the East; the fifth was on
the cedar tree on the Mountain of the Zenith; and the last in an oak on
the Mountain of the Nadir.
The spider divided the world into three parts: Ha-arts, the earth;
Tinia, the middle plain; and Hu-wa-ka, the upper plain. Then the spider
gave to these People of the Clouds and to the rainbow, Tinia, the middle
Now it was still dark, but the people of Ha-arts made houses for
themselves by digging in the rocks and the earth. They could not build
houses as they do now, because they could not see. In a short time Utset
and Now-utset talked much to each other, saying,
"We will make light, that our people may see. We cannot tell the people
now, but to-morrow will be a good day and the day after to-morrow will
be a good day," meaning that their thoughts were good. So they spoke
with one tongue. They said, "Now all is covered with darkness, but after
a while we will have light."
Then these two mothers, being inspired by Sussistinnako, the spider,
made the sun from white shell, turkis, red stone, and abalone shell.
After making the sun, they carried him to the east and camped there,
since there were no houses. The next morning they climbed to the top of
a high mountain and dropped the sun down behind it. After a time he
began to ascend. When the people saw the light they were happy.
When the sun was far off, his face was blue; as he came nearer, the face
grew brighter. Yet they did not see the sun himself, but only a large
mask which covered his whole body.
The people saw that the world was large and the country beautiful. When
the two mothers returned to the village, they said to the people, "We
are the mothers of all."
The sun lighted the world during the day, but there was no light at
night. So the two mothers created the moon from a slightly black stone,
many kinds of yellow stone, turkis, and a red stone, that the world
might be lighted at night. But the moon travelled slowly and did not
always give light. Then the two mothers created the Star People and made
their eyes of sparkling white crystal that they might twinkle and
brighten the world at night. When the Star People lived in the lower
world they were gathered into beautiful groups; they were not scattered
about as they are in the upper world.
The Gods and the Six Regions
In ancient times, Po-shai-an-ki-a, the father of the sacred bands, or
tribes, lived with his followers in the City of Mists, the Middle Place,
guarded by six warriors, the prey gods. Toward the North, he was guarded
by Long Tail, the mountain lion; West by Clumsy Foot, the bear; South by
Black-Mark Face, the badger; East by Hang Tail, the wolf; above by White
Cap, the eagle; below by Mole.
So when he was about to go forth into the world, he divided the earth
into six regions: North, the Direction of the Swept or Barren Plains;
West, the Direction of the Home of the Waters; South, the Place of the
Beautiful Red; East, the Direction of the Home of Day; upper regions,
the Direction of the Home of the High; lower regions, the Direction of
the Home of the Low.
How Old Man Above Created the World
Long, long ago, when the world was so new that even the stars were dark,
it was very, very flat. Chareya, Old Man Above, could not see through
the dark to the new, flat earth. Neither could he step down to it
because it was so far below him. With a large stone he bored a hole in
the sky. Then through the hole he pushed down masses of ice and snow,
until a great pyramid rose from the plain. Old Man Above climbed down
through the hole he had made in the sky, stepping from cloud to cloud,
until he could put his foot on top the mass of ice and snow. Then with
one long step he reached the earth.
The sun shone through the hole in the sky and began to melt the ice and
snow. It made holes in the ice and snow. When it was soft, Chareya bored
with his finger into the earth, here and there, and planted the first
trees. Streams from the melting snow watered the new trees and made them
grow. Then he gathered the leaves which fell from the trees and blew
upon them. They became birds. He took a stick and broke it into pieces.
Out of the small end he made fishes and placed them in the mountain
streams. Of the middle of the stick, he made all the animals except the grizzly bear. From the big end of the stick came the grizzly bear, who was made master of all. Grizzly was large and strong and cunning. When the
earth was new he walked upon two feet and carried a large club. So strong
was Grizzly that Old Man Above feared the creature he had made. Therefore,
so that he might be safe, Chareya hollowed out the pyramid of ice and snow
as a tepee. There he lived for thousands of snows. The Indians knew he
lived there because they could see the smoke curling from the smoke hole
of his tepee. When the pale-face came, Old Man Above went away. There is
no longer any smoke from the smoke hole. White men call the tepee Mount
The Search for the Middle and the Hardening of the World
Zuni (New Mexico)
As it was with the first men and creatures, so it was with the world. It
was young and unripe. Earthquakes shook the world and rent it. Demons
and monsters of the under-world fled forth. Creatures became fierce,
beasts of prey, and others turned timid, becoming their quarry.
Wretchedness and hunger abounded and black magic. Fear was everywhere
among them, so the people, in dread of their precious possessions,
became wanderers, living on the seeds of grass, eaters of dead and slain things. Yet, guided by the Beloved Twain, they sought in the light and
under the pathway of the Sun, the Middle of the world, over which alone
they could find the earth at rest(1).
When the tremblings grew still for a time, the people paused at the
First of Sitting Places. Yet they were still poor and defenceless and
unskilled, and the world still moist and unstable. Demons and monsters
fled from the earth in times of shaking, and threatened wanderers.
Then the Two took counsel of each other. The Elder said the earth must
be made more stable for men and the valleys where their children rested.
If they sent down their fire bolts of thunder, aimed to all the four
regions, the earth would heave up and down, fire would, belch over the
world and burn it, floods of hot water would sweep over it, smoke would
blacken the daylight, but the earth would at last be safer for men.
So the Beloved Twain let fly the thunderbolts.
The mountains shook and trembled, the plains cracked and crackled under
the floods and fires, and the hollow places, the only refuge of men and
creatures, grew black and awful. At last thick rain fell, putting out
the fires. Then water flooded the world, cutting deep trails through the
mountains, and burying or uncovering the bodies of things and beings.
Where they huddled together and were blasted thus, their blood gushed
forth and flowed deeply, here in rivers, there in floods, for gigantic
were they. But the blood was charred and blistered and blackened by the
fires into the black rocks of the lower mesas(2). There were vast plains
of dust, ashes, and cinders, reddened like the mud of the hearth place.
Yet many places behind and between the mountain terraces were unharmed
by the fires, and even then green grew the trees and grasses and even
flowers bloomed. Then the earth became more stable, and drier, and its
lone places less fearsome since monsters of prey were changed to rock.
But ever and again the earth trembled and the people were troubled.
"Let us again seek the Middle," they said. So they travelled far
eastward to their second stopping place, the Place of Bare Mountains.
Again the world rumbled, and they travelled into a country to a place
called Where-tree-boles-stand-in-the-midst-of-waters. There they
remained long, saying, "This is the Middle." They built homes there. At
times they met people who had gone before, and thus they learned war.
And many strange things happened there, as told in speeches of the
Then when the earth groaned again, the Twain bade them go forth, and
they murmured. Many refused and perished miserably in their own homes,
as do rats in falling trees, or flies in forbidden food.
But the greater number went forward until they came to
Steam-mist-in-the-midst-of-waters. And they saw the smoke of men's
hearth fires and many houses scattered over the hills before them. When
they came nearer, they challenged the people rudely, demanding who they
were and why there, for in their last standing-place they had had touch
"We are the People of the Seed," said the men of the hearth-fires, "born
elder brothers of ye, and led of the gods."
"No," said our fathers, "we are led of the gods and we are the Seed
People . . . "
Long lived the people in the town on the sunrise slope of the mountains
of Kahluelawan, until the earth began to groan warningly again. Loath
were they to leave the place of the Kaka and the lake of their dead. But
the rumbling grew louder and the Twain Beloved called, and all together
they journeyed eastward, seeking once more the Place of the Middle. But
they grumbled amongst themselves, so when they came to a place of great
promise, they said, "Let us stay here. Perhaps it may be the Place of
So they built houses there, larger and stronger than ever before, and
more perfect, for they were strong in numbers and wiser, though yet
unperfected as men. They called the place "The Place of Sacred
Long they dwelt there, happily, but growing wiser and stronger, so that,
with their tails and dressed in the skins of animals, they saw they were
rude and ugly.
In chase or in war, they were at a disadvantage, for they met older
nations of men with whom they fought. No longer they feared the gods and
monsters, but only their own kind. So therefore the gods called a
Changed shall ye be, oh our children, "cried the Twain." Ye shall walk
straight in the pathways, clothed in garments, and without tails, that
ye may sit more straight in council, and without webs to your feet, or
talons on your hands."
So the people were arranged in procession like dancers. And the Twain
with their weapons and fires of lightning shored off the forelocks
hanging down over their faces, severed the talons, and slitted the
webbed fingers and toes. Sore was the wounding and loud cried the
foolish, when lastly the people were arranged in procession for the
razing of their tails.
But those who stood at the end of the line, shrinking farther and
farther, fled in their terror, climbing trees and high places, with loud
chatter. Wandering far, sleeping ever in tree tops, in the far-away
Summerland, they are sometimes seen of far-walkers, long of tail and
long handed, like wizened men-children.
But the people grew in strength, and became more perfect, and more than
ever went to war. They grew vain. They had reached the Place of the
Middle. They said, "Let us not wearily wander forth again even though
the earth tremble and the Twain bid us forth."
And even as they spoke, the mountain trembled and shook, though
But as the people changed, changed also were the Twain, small and
misshapen, hard-favored and unyielding of will, strong of spirit, evil
and bad. They taught the people to war, and led them far to the
At last the people neared, in the midst of the plains to the eastward,
great towns built in the heights. Great were the fields and possessions
of this people, for they knew how to command and carry the waters,
bringing new soil. And this, too, without hail or rain. So our ancients,
hungry with long wandering for new food, were the more greedy and often
It was here that the Ancient Woman of the Elder People, who carried her
heart in her rattle and was deathless of wounds in the body, led the
enemy, crying out shrilly. So it fell out ill for our fathers. For,
moreover, thunder raged and confused their warriors, rain descended and
blinded them, stretching their bow strings of sinew and quenching the
flight of their arrows as the flight of bees is quenched by the
sprinkling plume of the honey-hunter. But they devised bow strings of
yucca and the Two Little Ones sought counsel of the Sun-father who
revealed the life-secret of the Ancient Woman and the magic powers over
the under-fires of the dwellers of the mountains, so that our enemy in
the mountain town was overmastered. And because our people found in that
great town some hidden deep in the cellars, and pulled them out as rats
are pulled from a hollow cedar, and found them blackened by the fumes of
their war magic, yet wiser than the common people, they spared them and
received them into their next of kin of the Black Corn. . . .
But the tremblings and warnings still sounded, and the people searched
for the stable Middle.
Now they called a great council of men and the beasts, birds, and
insects of all kinds. After a long council it was said,
"Where is Water-skate? He has six legs, all very long. Perhaps he can
feel with them to the uttermost of the six regions, and point out the
So Water-skate was summoned. But lo! It was the Sun-father in his
likeness which appeared. And he lifted himself to the zenith and
extended his fingerfeet to all the six regions, so that they touched the
north, the great waters; the west, and the south, and the east, the
great waters; and to the northeast the waters above. and to the
southwest the waters below. But to the north his finger foot grew cold,
so he drew it in. Then gradually he settled down upon the earth and
said, "Where my heart rests, mark a spot, and build a town of the
Mid-most, for there shall be the Mid-most Place of the Earth-mother."
And his heart rested over the middle of the plain and valley of Zuni.
And when he drew in his finger-legs, lo! there were the trail-roads
leading out and in like stays of a spider's nest, into and from the
mid-most place he had covered.
Here because of their good fortune in finding the stable Middle, the
priest father called the town the Abiding-place-of-happy-fortune.
(1) The earth was flat and round, like a plate.
Origin of Light
Gallinomero (Russian River, Cal.)
In the earliest beginning, the darkness was thick and deep. There was no
light. The animals ran here and there, always bumping into each other.
The birds flew here and there, but continually knocked against each
Hawk and Coyote thought a long time about the darkness. Then Coyote felt
his way into a swamp and found a large number of dry tule reeds. He made
a ball of them. He gave the ball to Hawk, with some flints, and Hawk
flew up into the sky, where he touched off the tule reeds and sent the
bundle whirling around the world. But still the nights were dark, so
Coyote made another bundle of tule reeds, and Hawk flew into the air
with them, and touched them off with the flints. But these reeds were
damp and did not burn so well. That is why the moon does not give so
much light as the sun.
Pokoh, the Old Man
Pai Ute (near Kern River, Cal.)
Pokoh, Old Man, they say, created the world. Pokoh had many thoughts. He
had many blankets in which he carried around gifts for men. He created
every tribe out of the soil where they used to live. That is why an
Indian wants to live and die in his native place. He was made of the
same soil. Pokoh did not wish men to wander and travel, but to remain in
Long ago, Sun was a man, and was bad. Moon was good. Sun had a quiver
full of arrows, and they are deadly. Sun wishes to kill all things.
Sun has two daughters (Venus and Mercury) and twenty men kill them; but
after fifty days, they return to life again.
Rainbow is the sister of Pokoh, and her breast is covered with flowers.
Lightning strikes the ground and fills the flint with fire. That is the
origin of fire. Some say the beaver brought fire from the east, hauling
it on his broad, flat tail. That is why the beaver's tail has no hair on
it, even to this day. It was burned off.
There are many worlds. Some have passed and some are still to come. In
one world the Indians all creep; in another they all walk; in another
they all fly. Perhaps in a world to come, Indians may walk on four legs;
or they may crawl like snakes; or they may swim in the water like fish.
Thunder and Lightning
Maidu (near Sacramento Valley, Cal.)
Great-Man created the world and all the people. At first the earth was
very hot, so hot it was melted, and that is why even to-day there is
fire in the trunk and branches of trees, and in the stones.
Lightning is Great-Man himself coming down swiftly from his world above,
and tearing apart the trees with his flaming arm.
Thunder and Lightning are two great spirits who try to destroy mankind.
But Rainbow is a good spirit who speaks gently to them, and persuades
them to let the Indians live a little longer.
Creation of Man
Miwok (San Joaquin Valley, Cal.)
After Coyote had completed making the world, he began to think about
creating man. He called a council of all the animals. The animals sat in
a circle, just as the Indians do, with Lion at the head, in an open
space in the forest. On Lion's right was Grizzly Bear; next Cinnamon
Bear; and so on to Mouse, who sat at Lion's left.
Lion spoke first. Lion said he wished man to have a terrible voice, like
himself, so that he could frighten all animals. He wanted man also to be
well covered with hair, with fangs in his claws, and very strong teeth.
Grizzly Bear laughed. He said it was ridiculous for any one to have such
a voice as Lion, because when he roared he frightened away the very prey
for which he was searching. But he said man should have very great
strength; that he should move silently, but very swiftly; and he should
be able to seize his prey without noise.
Buck said man would look foolish without antlers. And a terrible voice
was absurd, but man should have ears like a spider's web, and eyes like
Mountain Sheep said the branching antlers would bother man if he got
caught in a thicket. If man had horns rolled up, so that they were like
a stone on each side of his head, it would give his head weight enough
to butt very hard.
When it came Coyote's turn, he said the other animals were foolish
because they each wanted man to be just like themselves. Coyote was sure
he could make a man who would look better than Coyote himself, or any
other animal. Of course he would have to have four legs, with five
fingers. Man should have a strong voice, but he need not roar all the
time with it. And he should have feet nearly like Grizzly Bear's,
because he could then stand erect when he needed to. Grizzly Bear had no
tail, and man should not have any. The eyes and ears of Buck were good,
and perhaps man should have those. Then there was Fish, which had no
hair, and hair was a burden much of the year. So Coyote thought man
should not wear fur. And his claws should be as long as the Eagle's, so
that he could hold things in them. But no animal was as cunning and
crafty as Coyote, so man should have the wit of Coyote.
Then Beaver talked. Beaver said man would have to have a tail, but it
should be broad and flat, so he could haul mud and sand on it. Not a
furry tail, because they were troublesome on account of fleas.
Owl said man would be useless without wings.
But Mole said wings would be folly. Man would be sure to bump against
the sky. Besides, if he had wings and eyes both, he would get his eyes
burned out by flying too near the sun. But without eyes, he could burrow
in the soft, cool earth where he could be happy.
Mouse said man needed eyes so he could see what he was eating. And
nobody wanted to burrow in the damp earth. So the council broke up in a
Then every animal set to work to make a man according to his own ideas.
Each one took a lump of earth and modelled it just like himself. All but
Coyote, for Coyote began to make the kind of man he had talked of in the
It was late when the animals stopped work and fell asleep. All but
Coyote, for Coyote was the cunningest of all the animals, and he stayed
awake until he had finished his model. He worked hard all night. When
the other animals were fast asleep he threw water on the lumps of earth,
and so spoiled the models of the other animals. But in the morning he
finished his own, and gave it life long before the others could finish
theirs. Thus man was made by Coyote.
The First Man And Woman
Nishinam (near Bear River, Cal.)
The first man created by Coyote was called Aikut. His wife was Yototowi.
But the woman grew sick and died. Aikut dug a grave for her close beside
his camp fire, for the Nishinam did not burn their dead then. All the
light was gone from his life. He wanted to die, so that he could follow
Yototowi, and he fell into a deep sleep.
There was a rumbling sound and the spirit of Yototowi arose from the
earth and stood beside him. He would have spoken to her, but she forbade
him, for when an Indian speaks to a ghost he dies. Then she turned away
and set out for the dance-house of ghosts. Aikut followed her. Together
they journeyed through a great, dark country, until they came to a river
which separated them from the Ghost-land. Over the river there was a
bridge of but one small rope, so small that hardly Spider could crawl
across it. Here the woman started off alone, but when Aikut stretched
out his arms, she returned. Then she started again over the bridge of
thread. And Aikut spoke to her, so that he died. Thus together they
journeyed to the Spirit-land.
Old Man Above and the Grizzlies
Along time ago, while smoke still curled from the smoke hole of the
tepee, a great storm arose. The storm shook the tepee. Wind blew the
smoke down the smoke hole. Old Man Above said to Little Daughter: "Climb
up to the smoke hole. Tell Wind to be quiet. Stick your arm out of the
smoke hole before you tell him." Little Daughter climbed up to the smoke
hole and put out her arm. But Little Daughter put out her head also. She
wanted to see the world. Little Daughter wanted to see the rivers and
trees, and the white foam on the Bitter Waters. Wind caught Little
Daughter by the hair. Wind pulled her out of the smoke hole and blew her
down the mountain. Wind blew Little Daughter over the smooth ice and the
great forests, down to the land of the Grizzlies. Wind tangled her hair
and then left her cold and shivering near the tepees of the Grizzlies.
Soon Grizzly came home. In those days Grizzly walked on two feet, and
carried a big stick. Grizzly could talk as people do. Grizzly laid down
the young elk he had killed and picked up Little Daughter. He took
Little Daughter to his tepee. Then Mother Grizzly warmed her by the
fire. Mother Grizzly gave her food to eat.
Soon Little Daughter married the son of Grizzly. Their children were not
Grizzlies. They were men. So the Grizzlies built a tepee for Little
Daughter and her children. White men call the tepee Little Shasta.
At last Mother Grizzly sent a son to Old Man Above. Mother Grizzly knew
that Little Daughter was the child of Old Man Above, but she was afraid.
She said: "Tell Old Man Above that Little Daughter is alive."
Old Man Above climbed out of the smoke hole. He ran down the mountain
side to the land of the Grizzlies. Old Man Above ran very quickly.
Wherever he set his foot the snow melted. The snow melted very quickly
and made streams of water. Now Grizzlies stood in line to welcome Old
Man Above. They stood on two feet and carried clubs. Then Old Man Above
saw his daughter and her children. He saw the new race of men. Then Old
Man Above became very angry. He said to Grizzlies:
"Never speak again. Be silent. Neither shall ye stand upright. Ye shall
use your hands as feet. Ye shall look downward."
Then Old Man Above put out the fire in the tepee. Smoke no longer curls
from the smoke hole. He fastened the door of the tepee. The new race of
men he drove out. Then Old Man Above took Little Daughter back to his
That is why grizzlies walk on four feet and look downward. Only when
fighting they stand on two feet and use their fists like men.
The Creation of Man-Kind and the Flood
After the world was ready, Earth Doctor made all kinds of animals and
creeping things. Then he made images of clay, and told them to be
people. After a while there were so many people that there was not food
and water enough for all. They were never sick and none died. At last
there grew to be so many they were obliged to eat each other. Then Earth
Doctor, because he could not give them food and water enough, killed
them all. He caught the hook of his staff into the sky and pulled it
down so that it crushed all the people and all the animals, until there
was nothing living on the earth. Earth Doctor made a hole through the
earth with his stick, and through that he went, coming out safe, but
alone, on the other side.
He called upon the sun and moon to come out of the wreck of the world
and sky, and they did so. But there was no sky for them to travel
through, no stars, and no Milky Way. So Earth Doctor made these all over
again. Then he created another race of men and animals.
Then Coyote was born. Moon was his mother. When Coyote was large and
strong he came to the land where the Pima Indians lived.
Then Elder Brother was born. Earth was his mother, and Sky his father.
He was so powerful that he spoke roughly to Earth Doctor, who trembled
before him. The people began to increase in numbers, just as they had
done before, but Elder Brother shortened their lives, so the earth did
not become so crowded. But Elder Brother did not like the people created
by Earth Doctor, so he planned to destroy them again. So Elder Brother
planned to create a magic baby. . . .
The screams of the baby shook the earth. They could be heard for a great
distance. Then Earth Doctor called all the people together, and told
them there would be a great flood. He sang a magic song and then bored a
hole through the flat earth-plain through to the other side. Some of the
people went into the hole to escape the flood that was coming, but not
very many got through. Some of the people asked Elder Brother to help
them, but he did not answer. Only Coyote he answered. He told Coyote to
find a big log and sit on it, so that he would float on the surface of
the water with the driftwood. Elder Brother got into a big olla which he
had made, and closed it tight. So he rolled along on the ground under
the olla. He sang a magic song as he climbed into his olla.
A young man went to the place where the baby was screaming. Its tears
were a great torrent which cut gorges in the earth before it. The water
was rising all over the earth. He bent over the child to pick it up, and
immediately both became birds and flew above the flood. Only five birds
were saved from the flood. One was a flicker and one a vulture. They
clung by their beaks to the sky to keep themselves above the waters, but
the tail of the flicker was washed by the waves and that is why it is
stiff to this day. At last a god took pity on them and gave them power
to make "nests of down" from their own breasts on which they floated on
the water. One of these birds was the vipisimal, and if any one injures
it to this day, the flood may come again.
Now South Doctor called his people to him and told them that a flood was
coming. He sang a magic song and he bored a hole in the ground with a
cane so that people might go through to the other side. Others he sent
to Earth Doctor, but Earth Doctor told them they were too late. So they
sent the people to the top of a high mountain called Crooked Mountain.
South Doctor sang a magic song and traced his cane around the mountain,
but that held back the waters only for a short time. Four times he sang
and traced a line around the mountain, yet the flood rose again each
time. There was only one thing more to do.
He held his magic crystals in his left hand and sang a song. Then he
struck it with his cane. A thunder peal rang through the mountains. He
threw his staff into the water and it cracked with a loud noise.
Turning, he saw a dog near him. He said, "How high is the tide?" The dog
said, "It is very near the top." He looked at the people as he said it.
When they heard his voice they all turned to stone. They stood just as
they were, and they are there to this day in groups: some of the men
talking, some of the women cooking, and some crying.
But Earth Doctor escaped by enclosing himself in his reed staff, which
floated upon the water. Elder Brother rolled along in his olla until he
came near the mouth of the Colorado River. The olla is now called Black
Mountain. After the flood he came out and visited all parts of the land.
When he met Coyote and Earth Doctor, each claimed to have been the first
to appear after the flood, but at last they admitted Elder Brother was
the first, so he became ruler of the world.
The Birds and the Flood
Once upon a time, when all the earth was flooded, two birds were hanging
above the water. They were clinging to the sky with their beaks. The
larger bird was gray with a long tail and beak, but the smaller one was
the tiny bird that builds a nest shaped like an olla, with only a very
small opening at the top. The birds were tired and frightened. The
larger one cried and cried, but the little bird held on tight and said,
"Don't cry. I 'm littler than you are, but I 'm very brave."
Legend of the Flood
Ashochimi (Coast Indians, Cal.)
Long ago there was a great flood which destroyed all the people in the
world. Only Coyote was saved. When the waters subsided, the earth was
empty. Coyote thought about it a long time.
Then Coyote collected a great bundle of tail feathers from owls, hawks,
eagles, and buzzards. He journeyed over the whole earth and carefully
located the site of each Indian village. Where the tepees had stood, he
planted a feather in the ground and scraped up the dirt around it. The
feathers sprouted like trees, and grew up and branched. At last they
turned into men and women. So the world was inhabited with people again.
The Great Flood
Sia (New Mexico)
For a long time after the fight, the people were very happy, but the
ninth year was very bad. The whole earth was filled with water. The
water did not fall in rain, but came in as rivers between the mesas. It
continued to flow in from all sides until the people and the animals
fled to the mesa tops. The water continued to rise until nearly level
with the tops of the mesas. Then Sussistinnako cried, "Where shall my
people go? Where is the road to the north?" He looked to the north.
"Where is the road to the west? Where is the road to the east? Where is
the road to the south?" He looked in each direction. He said, "I see the
waters are everywhere."
All of the medicine men sang four days and four nights, but still the
waters continued to rise.
Then Spider placed a huge reed upon the top of the mesa. He said, "My
people will pass up through this to the world above."
Utset led the way, carrying a sack in which were many of the Star
people. The medicine men followed, carrying sacred things in sacred
blankets on their backs. Then came the people, and the animals, and the
snakes, and birds. The turkey was far behind and the foam of the water
rose and reached the tip ends of his feathers. You may know that is true
because even to this day they bear the mark of the waters.
When they reached the top of the great reed, the earth which formed the
floor of the world above, barred their way. Utset called to Locust,
"Man, come here." Locust went to her. She said, "You know best how to
pass through the earth. Go and make a door for us."
"Very well, mother," said Locust. "I think I can make a way."
He began working with his feet and after a while he passed through the
earthy floor, entering the upper world. As soon as he saw it, he said to
Utset, "It is good above."
Utset called Badger, and said, "Make a door for us. Sika, the Locust has
made one, but it is very small."
"Very well, mother, I will," said Badger.
After much work he passed into the world above, and said,
"Mother, I have opened the way." Badger also said, "Father-mother, the
world above is good."
Utset then called Deer. She said, "You go through first. If you can get
your head through, others may pass."
The deer returned saying, "Father, it is all right. I passed without
Utset called Elk. She said, "You pass through. If you can get your head
and horns through the door, all may pass."
Elk returned saying, "Father, it is good. I passed without trouble."
Then Utset told the buffalo to try, and he returned saying,
"Father-mother, the door is good. I passed without trouble."
Utset called the scarab beetle and gave him the sack of stars, telling
him to pass out first with them. Scarab did not know what the sack
contained, but he was very small and grew tired carrying it. He wondered
what could be in the sack. After entering the new world he was so tired
he laid down the sack and peeped into it. He cut only a tiny hole, but
at once the Star People flew out and filled the heavens everywhere.
Then Utset and all the people came, and after Turkey passed, the door
was closed with a great rock so that the waters from below could not
Then Utset looked for the sack with the Star People. She found it nearly
empty and could not tell where the stars had gone. The little beetle sat
by, very much frightened and very sad. But Utset was angry and said,
"You are bad and disobedient. From this time forth, you shall be blind."
That is the reason the scarabaeus has no eyes, so the old ones say.
But the little fellow had saved a few of the stars by grasping the sack
and holding it fast. Utset placed these in the heavens. In one group she
placed seven - the great bear. In another, three. In another group she
placed the Pleiades, and threw the others far off into the sky.
The Flood and the Theft of Fire
Tolowa (Del Norte Co., Cal.)
Along time ago there came a great rain. It lasted a long time and the
water kept rising till all the valleys were submerged, and the Indian
tribes fled to the high lands. But the water rose, and though the
Indians fled to the highest point, all were swept away and drowned-all
but one man and one woman. They reached the very highest peak and were
saved. These two Indians ate the fish from the waters around them.
Then the waters subsided. All the game was gone, and all the animals.
But the children of these two Indians, when they died, became the
spirits of deer and bear and insects, and so the animals and insects
came back to the earth again.
The Indians had no fire. The flood had put out all the fires in the
world. They looked at the moon and wished they could secure fire from
it. Then the Spider Indians and the Snake Indians formed a plan to steal
fire. The Spiders wove a very light balloon, and fastened it by a long
rope to the earth. Then they climbed into the balloon and started for
the moon. But the Indians of the Moon were suspicious of the Earth
Indians. The Spiders said, "We came to gamble." The Moon Indians were
much pleased and all the Spider Indians began to gamble with them. They
sat by the fire.
Then the Snake Indians sent a man to climb up the long rope from the
earth to the moon. He climbed the rope, and darted through the fire
before the Moon Indians understood what he had done. Then he slid down
the rope to earth again. As soon as he touched the earth he travelled
over the rocks, the trees, and the dry sticks lying upon the ground,
giving fire to each. Everything he touched contained fire. So the world
became bright again, as it was before the flood.
When the Spider Indians came down to earth again, they were immediately
put to death, for the tribes were afraid the Moon Indians might want
Legend of the Flood in Sacramento Valley
Maidu (near Sacramento Valley, Cal.)
Long, long ago the Indians living in Sacramento Valley were happy.
Suddenly there came the swift sound of rushing waters, and the valley
became like Big Waters, which no man can measure. The Indians fled, but
many slept beneath the waves. Also the frogs and the salmon pursued them
and they ate many Indians. Only two who fled into the foothills escaped.
To these two, Great Man gave many children, and many tribes arose. But
one great chief ruled all the nation. The chief went out upon a wide
knoll overlooking Big Waters, and he knew that the plains of his people
were beneath the waves. Nine sleeps he lay on the knoll, thinking
thoughts of these great waters. Nine sleeps he lay without food, and his
mind was thinking always of one thing: How did this deep water cover the
plains of the world?
At the end of nine sleeps he was changed. He was not like himself. No
arrow could wound him. He was like Great Man for no Indian could slay
him. Then he spoke to Great Man and commanded him to banish the waters
from the plains of his ancestors. Great Man tore a hole in the mountain
side, so that the waters on the plains flowed into Big Waters. Thus the
Sacramento River was formed.
The Fable of the Animals
Karok (near Klamath River,. Cal.)
A great many hundred snows ago, Kareya, sitting on the Sacred Stool,
created the world. First, he made the fishes in the Big Water, then the
animals on the green land, and last of all, Man! But at first the
animals were all alike in power. No one knew which animals should be
food for others, and which should be food for man. Then Kareya ordered
them all to meet in one place, that Man might give each his rank and his
power. So the animals all met together one evening, when the sun was
set, to wait overnight for the coming of Man on the next morning. Kareya
also commanded Man to make bows and arrows, as many as there were
animals, and to give the longest one to the animal which was to have the
most power, and the shortest to the one which should have least power.
So he did, and after nine sleeps his work was ended, and the bows and
arrows which he had made were very many.
Now the animals, being all together, went to sleep, so they might be
ready to meet Man on the next morning. But Coyote was exceedingly
cunning - he was cunning above all the beasts. Coyote wanted the longest
bow and the greatest power, so he could have all the other animals for
his meat. He decided to stay awake all night, so that he would be first
to meet Man in the morning. So he laughed to himself and stretched his
nose out on his paw and pretended to sleep. About midnight he began to
be sleepy. He had to walk around the camp and scratch his eyes to keep
them open. He grew more sleepy, so that he had to skip and jump about to
keep awake. But he made so much noise, he awakened some of the other
animals. When the morning star came up, he was too sleepy to keep his
eyes open any longer. So he took two little sticks, and sharpened them
at the ends, and propped open his eyelids. Then he felt safe. He watched
the morning star, with his nose stretched along his paws, and fell
asleep. The sharp sticks pinned his eyelids fast together.
The morning star rose rapidly into the sky. The birds began to sing. The
animals woke up and stretched themselves, but still Coyote lay fast
asleep. When the sun rose, the animals went to meet Man. He gave the
longest bow to Cougar, so he had greatest power; the second longest he
gave to Bear; others he gave to the other animals, giving all but the
last to Frog. But the shortest one was left. Man cried out, "What animal
have I missed?" Then the animals began to look about and found Coyote
fast asleep, with his eyelids pinned together. All the animals began to
laugh, and they jumped upon Coyote and danced upon him. Then they led
him to Man, still blinded, and Man pulled out the sharp sticks and gave
him the shortest bow of all. It would hardly shoot an arrow farther than
a foot. All the animals laughed.
But Man took pity on Coyote, because he was now weaker even than Frog.
So at his request, Kareya gave him cunning, ten times more than before,
so that he was cunning above all the animals of the wood. Therefore
Coyote was friendly to Man and his children, and did many things for
Coyote and Sun
Pai Ute (near Kern River, Cal.)
Along time ago, Coyote wanted to go to the sun. He asked Pokoh, Old Man,
to show him the trail. Coyote went straight out on this trail and he
travelled it all day. But Sun went round so that Coyote came back at
night to the place from which he started in the morning.
The next morning, Coyote asked Pokoh to show him the trail. Pokoh showed
him, and Coyote travelled all day and came back at night to the same
But the third day, Coyote started early and went out on the trail to the
edge of the world and sat down on the hole where the sun came up. While
waiting for the sun he pointed with his bow and arrow at different
places and pretended to shoot. He also pretended not to see the sun.
When Sun came up, he told Coyote to get out of his way. Coyote told him
to go around; that it was his trail. But Sun came up under him and he
had to hitch forward a little. After Sun came up a little farther, it
began to get hot on Coyote's shoulder, so he spit on his paw and rubbed
his shoulder. Then he wanted to ride up with the sun. Sun said, "Oh, no";
but Coyote insisted. So Coyote climbed up on Sun, and Sun started up the
trail in the sky. The trail was marked off into steps like a ladder. As
Sun went up he counted "one, two, three," and so on. By and by Coyote
became very thirsty, and he asked Sun for a drink of water. Sun gave him
an acorn-cup full. Coyote asked him why he had no more. About noontime,
Coyote became very impatient. It was very hot. Sun told him to shut his
eyes. Coyote shut them, but opened them again. He kept opening and
shutting them all the afternoon. At night, when Sun came down, Coyote
took hold of a tree. Then he clambered off Sun and climbed down to the
The Course of the Sun
Sia (New Mexico)
Sussistinnako, the spider, said to the sun, "My son, you will ascend and
pass over the world above. You will go from north to south. Return and
tell me what you think of it."
The sun said, on his return, "Mother, I did as you bade me, and I did
not like the road."
Spider told him to ascend and pass over the world from west to the east.
On his return, the sun said,
"It may be good for some, mother, but I did not like it."
Spider said, "You will again ascend and pass over the straight road from
the east to the west. Return and tell me what you think of it."
That night the sun said, "I am much contented. I like that road much."
Sussistinnako said, "My son, you will ascend each day and pass over the
world from east to west."
Upon each day's journey the sun stops midway from the east to the centre
of the world to eat his breakfast. In the centre he stops to eat his
dinner. Halfway from the centre to the west he stops to eat his supper.
He never fails to eat these three meals each day, and always stops at
the same points.
The sun wears a shirt of dressed deerskin, with leggings of the same
reaching to his thighs. The shirt and leggings are fringed. His
moccasins are also of deerskin and embroidered in yellow, red, and
turkis beads. He wears a kilt of deerskin, having a snake painted upon
it. He carries a bow and arrows, the quiver being of cougar skin,
hanging over his shoulder, and he holds his bow in his left hand and an
arrow in his right. He always wears the mask which protects him from the
sight of the people of Ha-arts.
At the top of the mask is an eagle plume with parrot plumes; an eagle
plume is at each side, and one at the bottom of the mask. The hair
around the head and face is red like fire, and when it moves and shakes
people cannot look closely at the mask. It is not intended that they
should observe closely, else they would know that instead of seeing the
sun they see only his mask.
The moon came to the upper world with the sun and he also wears a mask.
Each night the sun passes by the house of Sussistinnako, the spider, who
asks him, "How are my children above? How many have died to-day? How
many have been born to-day?" The sun lingers only long enough to answer
his questions. He then passes on to his house in the east.
The Foxes and the Sun
Yurok (near Klamath River, Cal.)
Once upon a time, the Foxes were angry with Sun. They held a council
about the matter. Then twelve Foxes were selected - twelve of the
bravest to catch Sun and tie him down. They made ropes of sinew; then
the twelve watched until the Sun, as he followed the downward trail in
the sky, touched the top of a certain hill. Then the Foxes caught Sun,
and tied him fast to the hill. But the Indians saw them, and they killed
the Foxes with arrows. Then they cut the sinews. But the Sun had burned
a great hole in the ground. The Indians know the story is true, because
they can see the hole which Sun burned.
The Theft of Fire
Karok (near Klamath River, Cal.)
There was no fire on earth and the Karoks were cold and miserable. Far
away to the east, hidden in a treasure box, was fire which Kareya had
made and given to two old hags, lest the Karoks should steal it. So
Coyote decided to steal fire for the Indians.
Coyote called a great council of the animals. After the council he
stationed a line from the land of the Karoks to the distant land where
the fire was kept. Lion was nearest the Fire Land, and Frog was nearest
the Karok land. Lion was strongest and Frog was weakest, and the other
animals took their places, according to the power given them by Man.
Then Coyote took an Indian with him and went to the hill top, but he hid
the Indian under the hill. Coyote went to the tepee of the hags. He
said, "Good-evening." They replied, "Good-evening."
Coyote said, "It is cold out here. Can you let me sit by the fire?" So
they let him sit by the fire. He was only a coyote. He stretched his
nose out along his forepaws and pretended to go to sleep, but he kept
the corner of one eye open watching. So he spent all night watching and
thinking, but he had no chance to get a piece of the fire.
The next morning Coyote held a council with the Indian. He told him when
he, Coyote, was within the tepee, to attack it. Then Coyote went back to
the fire. The hags let him in again. He was only a Coyote. But Coyote
stood close by the casket of fire. The Indian made a dash at the tepee.
The hags rushed out after him, and Coyote seized a fire brand in his
teeth and flew over the ground. The hags saw the sparks flying and gave
chase. But Coyote reached Lion, who ran with it to Grizzly Bear. Grizzly
Bear ran with it to Cinnamon Bear; he ran with it to Wolf, and at last
the fire came to Ground- Squirrel. Squirrel took the brand and ran so
fast that his tail caught fire. He curled it up over his back, and
burned the black spot in his shoulders. You can see it even to-day.
Squirrel came to Frog, but Frog couldn't run. He opened his mouth wide
and swallowed the fire. Then he jumped but the hags caught his tail.
Frog jumped again, but the hags kept his tail. That is why Frogs have no
tail, even to this day. Frog swam under water, and came up on a pile of
driftwood. He spat out the fire into the dry wood, and that is why there
is fire in dry wood even to-day. When an Indian rubs two pieces
together, the fire comes out.
The Theft of Fire
Sia (New Mexico)
Along, long time ago, the people became tired of feeding on grass, like
deer and wild animals, and they talked together how fire might be found.
The Ti-amoni said, "Coyote is the best man to steal fire from the world
below," so he sent for Coyote.
When Coyote came, the Ti-amoni said, "The people wish for fire. We are
tired of feeding on grass. You must go to the world below and bring the
Coyote said, "It is well, father. I will go."
So Coyote slipped stealthily to the house of Sussistinnako. It was the
middle of the night. Snake, who guarded the first door, was asleep, and
he slipped quickly and quietly by. Cougar, who guarded the second door,
was asleep, and Coyote slipped by. Bear, who guarded the third door, was
also sleeping. At the fourth door, Coyote found the guardian of the fire
asleep. Slipping through into the room of Sussistinnako, he found him
Coyote quickly lighted the cedar brand which was attached to his tail
and hurried out. Spider awoke, just enough to know some one was leaving
the room. "Who is there?" he cried. Then he called, "Some one has been
here." But before he could waken the sleeping Bear and Cougar and Snake,
Coyote had almost reached the upper world.
The Earth-Hardening After the Flood
Sia (New Mexico)
After the flood, the Sia returned to Ha-arts, the earth. They came
through an opening in the far north. After they had remained at their
first village a year, they wished to pass on, but the earth was very
moist and Utset was puzzled how to harden it.
Utset called Cougar. She said, "Have you any medicine to harden the road
so that we may pass over it?" Cougar replied, "I will try, mother." But
after going a short distance over the road, he sank to his shoulders in
the wet earth. He returned much afraid and told Utset that he could go
Then she sent for Bear. She said, "Have you any medicine to harden the
road?" Bear started out, but he sank to his shoulders, and returned
saying, "I can do nothing."
Then Utset called Badger, and he tried. She called Shrew, and he failed.
She called Wolf, and he failed.
Then Utset returned to the lower world and asked Sussistinnako what she
could do to harden the earth so that her people might travel over it. He
asked, "Have you no medicine to make the earth firm? Have you asked
Cougar and Wolf, Bear and Badger and Wolf to use their medicines to
harden the earth?"
Utset said, "I have tried all these."
Then Sussistinnako said, "Others will understand." He told her to have a
woman of the Kapina (spider) clan try to harden the earth.
When the woman arrived, Utset said, "My mother, Sussistinnako tells me
the Kapina society understand how to harden the earth."
The woman said, "I do not know how to make the earth hard."
Three times Utset asked the woman about hardening the earth, and three
times the woman said, "I do not know." The fourth time the woman said,
"Well, I guess I know. I will try."
So she called together the members of the Spider society, the Kapina,
"Our mother, Sussistinnako, bids us work for her and harden the earth so
that the people may pass over it." The spider woman first made a road of
fine cotton which she produced from her own body, and suspended it a few
feet above the earth. Then she told the people they could travel on
that. But the people were afraid to trust themselves to such a frail
Then Utset said, "I wish a man and not a woman of the Spider society to
work for me."
Then he came. He threw out a charm of wood, latticed so it could be
expanded or contracted. When it was extended it reached to the middle of
the earth. He threw it to the south, to the east, and to the west; then
he threw it toward the people in the north.
So the earth was made firm that the people might travel upon it.
Soon after Utset said, "I will soon leave you. I will, return to the
home from which I came."
Then she selected a man of the Corn clan. She said to him, "You will be
known as Ti-amoni (arch-ruler). You will be to my people as myself. You
will pass with them over the straight road. I give to you all my wisdom,
my thoughts, my heart, and all. I fill your mind with my mind."
He replied: "It is well, mother. I will do as you say."
The Origins of the Totems and of Names
Zuni (New Mexico)
Now the Twain Beloved and the priest-fathers gathered in council for the
naming and selection of man-groups and creature-kinds, and things. So
they called the people of the southern space the Children of Summer, and
those who loved the sun most became the Sun people. Others who loved the
water became the Toad people, or Turtle people, or Frog people. Others
loved the seeds of the earth and became the Seed people, or the people
of the First-growing grass, or of the Tobacco. Those who loved warmth
were the Fire or Badger people. According to their natures they chose
And so also did the People of Winter, or the People of the North. Some
were known as the Bear people, or the Coyote people, or Deer people;
others as the Crane people, Turkey people, or Grouse people. So the
Badger people dwelt in a warm place, even as the badgers on the sunny
side of hills burrow, finding a dwelling amongst the dry roots whence is
Traditions of Wanderings
After the Hopi had been taught to build stone houses, they took
separate ways. My people were the Snake people. They lived in snake
skins, each family occupying a separate snake skin bag. All were hung on
the end of a rainbow which swung around until the end touched Navajo
Mountain. Then the bags dropped from it. Wherever a bag dropped, there
was their house. After they arranged their bags they came out from them
as men and women, and they then built a stone house which had five
sides. Then a brilliant star arose in the southeast. It would shine for
a while and disappear.
The old men said, "'Beneath that star there must be people." They
decided to travel to it. They cut a staff and set it in the ground and
watched until the star reached its top. Then they started and travelled
as long as the star shone. When it disappeared they halted. But the star
did not shine every night. Sometimes many years passed before it
appeared again. When this occurred, the people built houses during their
halt. They built round houses and square houses, and all the ruins
between here and Navajo Mountain mark the places where our people lived.
They waited until the star came to the top of the staff again, but when
they moved on, many people remained in those houses.
When our people reached Waipho (a spring a few miles from Walpi) the
star vanished. It has never been seen since. They built a house there,
but Masauwu, the God of the Face of the Earth, came and compelled the
people to move about halfway between the East Mesa and the Middle Mesa
and there they stayed many plantings. One time when the old men were
assembled, the god came among them, looking like a horrible skeleton and
rattling his bones. But he could not frighten them. So he said, "I have
lost my wager. All that I have is yours. Ask for anything you want and I
will give it to you."
At that time, our people's house was beside the water course. The god
said, "Why do you sit there in the mud? Go up yonder where it is dry."
So they went across to the west side of the mesa near the point and
built a house and lived there.
Again when the old men assembled two demons came among them, but the old
men took the great Baho and chased them away.
Other Hopi (Hopituh) came into this country from time to time and old
people said, "Build here," or "Build there," and portioned the land
among the newcomers.
The Migration of the Water People
In the long ago, the Snake, Horn, and Eagle people lived here (in
Tusayan) but their corn grew only a span high and when they sang for
rain, the Cloud god sent only a thin mist. My people lived then in the
distant Pa-lat Kwa-bi in the South. There was a very bad old man there.
When he met any one he would spit in their faces. . . . He did all
manner of evil. Baholihonga got angry at this and turned the world
upside down. Water spouted up through the kivas and through the fire
places in the houses. The earth was rent in great chasms, and water
covered everything except one narrow ridge of mud. Across this the
Serpent-god told all the people to travel. As they journeyed across, the
feet of the bad slipped and they fell into the dark water. The good
people, after many days, reached dry land.
While the water was rising around the village, the old people got on top
of the houses. They thought they could not struggle across with the
younger people. But Baholihonga clothed them with the skins of turkeys.
They spread their wings out and floated in the air just above the
surface of the water, and in this way they got across. There were saved
of us, the Water people, the Corn people, the Lizard, Horned-toad, and
Sand peoples, two families of Rabbit, and the Tobacco people. The turkey
tail dragged in the water. That is why there is white on the turkey's
tail now. This is also the reason why old people use turkey-feathers at
the religious ceremonies.
Coyote and the Mesquite Beans
After the waters of the flood had gone down, Elder Brother said to
Coyote, "Do not touch that black bug; and do not eat the mesquite beans.
It is dangerous to harm anything that came safe through the flood."
So Coyote went on, but presently he came to the black bug. He stopped
and ate it up. Then he went on to the mesquite beans. He stopped and
looked at them a while, and then said, "I will just taste one and that
will be all." But he stood there and ate and ate until he had eaten them
all up. And the bug and the beans swelled up in his stomach and killed
Origin of the Sierra Nevadas and Coast Range
Yokuts (near Fresno, Cal.)
Once there was a time when there was nothing in the world but water.
About the place where Tulare Lake is now, there was a pole standing far
up out of the water, and on this pole perched Hawk and Crow. First Hawk
would sit on the pole a while, then Crow would knock him off and sit on
it himself. Thus they sat on the top of the pole above the water for
many ages. At last they created the birds which prey on fish. They
created Kingfisher, Eagle, Pelican, and others. They created also Duck.
Duck was very small but she dived to the bottom of the water, took a
beakful of mud, and then died in coming to the top of the water. Duck
lay dead floating on the water. Then Hawk and Crow took the mud from
Duck's beak, and began making the mountains.
They began at the place now known as Ta-hi-cha-pa Pass, and Hawk made
the east range. Crow made the west one. They pushed the mud down hard
into the water and then piled it high. They worked toward the north. At
last Hawk and Crow met at Mount Shasta. Then their work was done. But
when they looked at their mountains, Crow's range was much larger than
Hawk said to Crow, "How did this happen, you rascal? You have been
stealing earth from my bill. That is why your mountains are the
biggest." Crow laughed.
Then Hawk chewed some Indian tobacco. That made him wise. At once he
took hold of the mountains and turned them around almost in a circle. He
put his range where Crow's had been. That is why the Sierra Nevada Range
is larger than the Coast Range.
Mr. Stephen Powers claims that there is no such word in the Miwok
language as Yosemite. The valley has always been known to them, and is
to this day, when speaking among themselves, as A-wa'-ni. This, it is
true, is only the name of one of the ancient villages which it
contained; but by prominence it gave its name to the valley, and in
accordance with Indian usage almost everywhere, to the inhabitants of
the same. The word Yosemite is simply a very beautiful and sonorous
corruption of the word for grizzly bear. On the Stanislaus and north of
it, the word is u-zu'-mai-ti; at Little Gap, o-so'-mai-ti; in Yosemite
itself, u-zu'-mai-ti; on the South Fork of the Merced, uh-zu'-mai-tuh. .
"In the following list, the signification of the name is given whenever
there is any known to the Indians:
"Wa-kal'-la (the river), Merced River.
"Lung-u-tu-ku'-ya, Ribbon Fall.
"Po'-ho-no, Po-ho'-no (though the first is probably the more correct),
Bridal-Veil Fall. . . . This word is said to signify 'evil wind.' The
only 'evil wind' that an Indian knows of is a whirlwind, which is
poi-i'-cha or Kan'-u-ma.
"Tu-tok-a-nu'-la, El Capitan. 'Measuring-worm stone.' [Legend is given
"Ko-su'-ko, Cathedral Rock.
"Pu-si'-na, and Chuk'-ka (the squirrel and the acorn-cache), a tall,
sharp needle, with a smaller one at its base, just east of Cathedral
Rock. . . . The savages . . . imagined here a squirrel nibbling at the
base of an acorn granary.
"Loi'-a, Sentinel Rock.
"Sak'-ka-du-eh, Sentinel Dome.
"Cho'-lok (the fall), Yosemite Fall. This is the generic word for 'fall.'
"Ma'-ta (the canon), Indian canon. A generic word, in explaining which
the Indians hold up both hands to denote perpendicular walls.
"Ham'-mo-ko (usually contracted to Ham'-moak), . . . broken debris lying
at the foot of the walls.
"U-zu'-mai-ti La'-wa-tuh (grizzly bear skin), Glacier Rock . . . from
the grayish, grizzled appearance of the wall.
"Cho-ko-nip'-o-deh (baby-basket), Royal Arches. This . . . canopy-rock
bears no little resemblance to an Indian baby-basket. Another form is
cho-ko'-ni, . . . literally . . . 'dog-house.'
"Pai-wai'-ak (white water?), Vernal Fall.
"Yo-wai-yi, Nevada Fall. In this word is detected the root of Awaia, 'a
lake' or body of water.
"Tis-se'-yak, South Dome. [See legend elsewhere.]
"To-ko'-ye, North Dome, husband of Tisseyak. [See legend elsewhere.]
"Shun'-ta, Hun'-ta (the eye), Watching Eye.
"A-wai'-a (a lake), Mirror Lake.
"Sa-wah' (a gap), a name occurring frequently.
"Wa-ha'-ka, a village which stood at the base of Three Brothers; also
the rock itself. This was the westernmost village in the valley.
"There were nine villages in Yosemite Valley and . . . formerly others
extending as far down as the Bridal Veil Fall, which were destroyed in
wars that occurred before the whites came."
(3) The explanation given above is that made by Mr. Stephen Powers, in
Vol. 3, U. S. Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain
region, Part 2, Contributions to North American Ethnology, 1877.
Legend of Tu-Tok-A-Nu'-La (El Capitan)
Here were once two little boys living in the valley who went down to the
river to swim. After paddling and splashing about to their hearts'
content, they went on shore and crept up on a huge boulder which stood
beside the water. They lay down in the warm sunshine to dry themselves,
but fell asleep. They slept so soundly that they knew nothing, though
the great boulder grew day by day, and rose night by night, until it
lifted them up beyond the sight of their tribe, who looked for them
The rock grew until the boys were lifted high into the heaven, even far
up above the blue sky, until they scraped their faces against the moon.
And still, year after year, among the clouds they slept.
Then there was held a great council of all the animals to bring the boys
down from the top of the great rock. Every animal leaped as high as he
could up the face of the rocky wall. Mouse could only jump as high as
one's hand; Rat, twice as high. Then Raccoon tried; he could jump a
little farther. One after another of the animals tried, and Grizzly Bear
made a great leap far up the wall, but fell back. Last of all Lion
tried, and he jumped farther than any other animal, but fell down upon
his back. Then came tiny Measuring-Worm, and began to creep up the rock.
Soon he reached as high as Raccoon had jumped, then as high as Bear,
then as high as Lion's leap, and by and by he was out of sight, climbing
up the face of the rock. For one whole snow, Measuring-Worm climbed the
rock, and at last he reached the top. Then he wakened the boys, and came
down the same way he went up, and brought them down safely to the
ground. Therefore the rock is called Tutokanula, the measuring worm. But
white men call it El Capitan.
Legend of Tis-Se'-Yak (South Dome and North Dome)
Tisseyak and her husband journeyed from a country very far off, and
entered the valley of the Yosemite foot-sore from travel. She bore a
great heavy conical basket, strapped across her head. Tisseyak came
first. Her husband followed with a rude staff and a light roll of skins
on his back. They were thirsty after their long journey across the
mountains. They hurried forward to drink of the waters, and the woman
was still in advance when she reached Lake Awaia. Then she dipped up the
water in her basket and drank of it. She drank up all the water. The
lake was dry before her husband reached it. And because the woman drank
all the water, there came a drought. The earth dried tip. There was no
grass, nor any green thing.
But the man was angry because he had no water to drink. He beat the
woman with his staff and she fled, but he followed and beat her even
more. Then the woman wept. In her anger she turned and flung her basket
at the man. And even then they were changed into stone. The woman's
basket lies upturned beside the man. The woman's face is tear-stained,
with long dark lines trailing down.
South Dome is the woman and North Dome is the husband. The Indian woman
cuts her hair straight across the forehead, and allows the sides to drop
along her cheeks, forming a square face.
Historic Tradition of the Upper Tuolumne
(As given by Mr. Stephen Powers, 1877.)(4)
There is a lake-like expansion of the Upper Tuolumne some four miles
long and from a half mile to a mile wide, directly north of Hatchatchie
Valley (erroneously spelled Hetch Hetchy). It appears to have no name
among Americans, but the Indians call it 0-wai-a-nuh, which is
manifestly a dialectic variation of a-wai'-a, the generic word for
"lake." Nat. Screech, a veteran mountaineer and hunter, states that he
visited this region in 1850, and at that time there was a valley along
the river having the same dimensions that this lake now has. Again, in
1855, he happened to pass that way and discovered that the lake had been
formed as it now exists. He was at a loss to account for its origin; but
subsequently he acquired the Miwok language as spoken at Little Gap, and
while listening to the Indians one day he overheard them casually refer
to the formation of this lake in an extraordinary manner. On being
questioned they stated that there had been a tremendous cataclysm in
that valley, the bottom of it having fallen out apparently, whereby
the entire valley was submerged in the waters of the river. As nearly
as he could ascertain from their imperfect methods of reckoning time,
this occurred in 1851; and in that year, while in the town of Sonora,
Screech and many others remembered to have heard a huge explosion in
that direction which they then supposed was caused by a local earthquake.
On Drew's Ranch, Middle Fork of the Tuolumne, lives an aged squaw called
Dish-i, who was in the valley when this remarkable event occurred.
According to her account the earth dropped in beneath their feet, and
waters of the river leaped up and came rushing upon them in a vast,
roaring flood, almost perpendicular like a wall of rock. At first the
Indians were stricken dumb, and motionless with terror, but when they
saw the waters coming, they escaped for life, though thirty or forty
were overtaken and drowned. Another squaw named Isabel says that the
stubs of trees, which are still plainly visible deep down in the
pellucid waters, are considered by the old superstitious Indians to be
evil spirits, the demons of the place, reaching up their arms, and that
they fear them greatly.
(4) (Vol. 3, Part 2, U. S. Geographical and Geological Survey of the
Rocky Mountain region: Contributions to North American Ethnology, 1877.)
California Big Trees
Pai Utes (near Kern River, Cal.)
The California big trees are sacred to the Monos, who call them
"woh-woh-nau," a word formed in imitation of the hoot of the owl. The
owl is the guardian spirit and the god of the big trees. Bad luck comes
to those who cut down the big trees, or shoot at an owl, or shoot in the
presence of the owl.
In old days the Indians tried to persuade the white men not to cut down
the big trees. When they see the trees cut down they call after the
white men. They say the owl will bring them evil.
The Children of Cloud
When the Hohokam dwelt on the Gila River and tilled their farms around
the great temple which we call Casa Grande, there was a beautiful young
woman in the pueblo who had two twin sons. Their father was Cloud, and
he lived far away.
One day the boys came to their mother, as she was weaving mats. "Who is.
our father?" they asked. "We have no one to run to when he returns from
the hunt, or from war, to shout to him."
The mother answered: "In the morning, look toward the sunrise and you
will see a white Cloud standing upright. He is your father."
"Can we visit our father?" they asked.
"Yes," said their mother. You may visit him, but you must make the
journey without stopping. First you will reach Wind, who is your
father's eldest brother. Behind him you will find your father."
The boys travelled four days and came to the house of Wind.
"Are you our father?" they asked.
"No, I am your Uncle,"answered Wind." Your father lives in the next
house. Go on to him."
They travelled on to Cloud. But Cloud drove them away. He said, "Go to
your uncle Wind. He will tell you something." But Wind sent them back to
Cloud again. Thus the boys were driven away from each house four times.
Then Cloud said to them, "Prove to me you are my sons. If you are, you
can do what I do."
The younger boy sent chain lightning across the sky with sharp,
crackling thunder. The elder boy sent the heat lightning with its
distant rumble of thunder.
"You are my children," said Cloud. "You have power like mine."
But again he tested them. He took them to a house near by where a flood
of rain had drowned the people. "If I they are my sons," he said, "they
will not be harmed."
Then Cloud sent the rain and the storm. The water rose higher and
higher, but the two boys were not harmed. The water could not drown
them. Then Cloud took them to his home and there they stayed a long,
But after a long time, the boys wished to see their mother again. Then
Cloud made them some bows and arrows differing from any they had ever
seen, and sent them to their mother. He told them he would watch over
them as they travelled but they must speak to no one they met on their
So the boys travelled to the setting sun. First they met Raven. They
remembered their father's command and turned aside so as not to meet
him. Then they met Roadrunner, and turned aside to avoid him. Next came
Hawk and Eagle.
Eagle said, "Let's scare those boys." So he swooped down over their
heads until they cried from fright.
"We were just teasing you," said Eagle. "We will not do you any harm."
Then Eagle flew on.
Next they met Coyote. They tried to avoid him, but Coyote ran around and
put himself in their way. Cloud was watching and he sent down thunder
and lightning. And the boys sent out their magic thunder and lightning
also, until Coyote was frightened and ran away.
Now this happened on the mountain top, and one boy was standing on each
side of the trail. After Coyote ran away, they were changed into mescal
- the very largest mescal ever known. The place was near Tucson. This is
the reason why mescal grows on the mountains, and why thunder and
lightning go from place to place - because the children did. That is why
it rains when we gather mescal.
The Cloud People
Sia (New Mexico)
Now all the Cloud People, the Lightning People, the Thunder and Rainbow
Peoples followed the Sia into the upper world. But all the people of
Tinia, the middle world, did not leave the lower world. Only a portion
were sent by the Spider to work for the people of the upper world. The
Cloud People are so many that, although the demands of the earth people
are so great, there are always many passing about over Tinia for
pleasure. These Cloud People ride on wheels, small wheels being used by
the little Cloud children and large wheels by the older ones. (5)
The Cloud People keep always behind their masks. The shape of the mask
depends upon the number of the people and the work being done. The
Henati are the floating white clouds behind which the Cloud People pass
for pleasure. The Heash are clouds like the plains and behind these the
Cloud People are laboring to water the earth. Water is brought by the
Cloud People, from the springs at the base of the mountains, in gourds
and jugs and vases by the men, women, and children. They rise from the
springs and pass through the trunk of the tree to its top, which reaches
Tinia. They pass on to the point to be sprinkled.
The priest of the Cloud People is above even the priests of the Thunder,
Lightning, and Rainbow Peoples. The Cloud People have ceremonials, just
like those of the Sia. On the altars of the Sia may be seen figures
arranged just as the Cloud People sit in their ceremonials.
When a priest of the Cloud People wishes assistance from the Thunder and
Lightning Peoples, he notifies their priests, but keeps a supervision of
all things himself.
Then the Lightning People shoot their arrows to make it rain the harder.
The smaller flashes come from the bows of the children. The Thunder
People have human forms, with wings of knives, and by flapping these
wings they make a great noise. Thus they frighten the Cloud and
Lightning People into working the harder.
The Rainbow People were created to work in Tinia to make it more
beautiful for the people of Ha-arts, the earth, to look upon. The elders
make the beautiful rainbows, but the children assist. The Sia have no
idea of what or how these bows are made. They do know, however, that war
heroes always travel upon the rainbows.
(5) The Indians say the Americans also ride wheels, therefore they must
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