Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest
Katharine Berry Judson
Part 2 out of 2
have known about the Cloud People.
Sia (New Mexico)
We, the ancient ones, ascended from the middle of the world below,
through the door of the entrance to the lower world, we hold our songs
to the Cloud, Lightning, and Thunder Peoples as we hold our own hearts.
Our medicine is precious.
(Addressing the people of Tinia:)
We entreat you to send your thoughts to us so that we may sing your
songs straight, so that they will pass over the straight road to the
Cloud priests that they may cover the earth with water, so that she may
bear all that is good for us.
Lightning People, send your arrows to the middle of the earth. Hear the
echo! Who is it? The People of the Spruce of the North. All your people
and your thoughts come to us. Who is it? People of the white floating
Clouds. Your thoughts come to us. All your people and your thoughts come
to us. Who is it? The Lightning People. Your thoughts come to us. Who is
it? Cloud People at the horizon. All your people and your thoughts come
White floating clouds. Clouds, like the plains, come and water the
earth. Sun, embrace the earth that she may be fruitful. Moon, lion of
the north, bear of the west, badger of the south, wolf of the east,
eagle of the heavens, shrew of the earth, elder war hero, younger war
hero, warriors of the six mountains of the world, intercede with the
Cloud People for us that they may water the earth. Medicine bowl, cloud
bowl, and water vase give us your hearts, that the earth may be watered.
I make the ancient road of meal that my song may pass straight over it -
the ancient road. White shell bead woman who lives where the sun goes
down, mother whirlwind, father Sussistinnako, mother Yaya, creator of
good thoughts, yellow woman of the north, blue woman of the west, red
woman of the south, white woman of the east, slightly yellow woman of
the zenith, and dark woman of the nadir, I ask your intercession with
the Cloud People.
Sia (New Mexico)
Let the white floating clouds - the clouds like the plains - the
lightning, thunder, rainbow, and cloud peoples, water the earth. Let the
people of the white floating clouds,- the people of the clouds like the
plains - the lightning, thunder, rain bow, and cloud peoples -come and
work for us, and water the earth.
The Corn Maidens
Zuni (New Mexico)
After long ages of wandering, the precious Seed-things rested over the
Middle at Zuni, and men turned their hearts to the cherishing of their
corn and the Corn Maidens instead of warring with strange men.
But there was complaint by the people of the customs followed. Some said
the music was not that of the olden time. Far better was that which of
nights they often heard as they wandered up and down the river trail.
(6) Wonderful music, as of liquid voices in caverns, or the echo of
women's laughter in water-vases. And the music was timed with a
deep-toned drum from the Mountain of Thunder. Others thought the music
was that of the ghosts of ancient men, but it was far more beautiful
than the music when danced the Corn Maidens. Others said light clouds
rolled upward from the grotto in Thunder Mountain like to the mists that
leave behind them the dew, but lo! even as they faded the bright
garments of the Rainbow women might be seen fluttering, and the broidery
and paintings of these dancers of the mist were more beautiful than the
costumes of the Corn Maidens.
Then the priests of the people said, "It may well be Paiyatuma, the
liquid voices his flute and the flutes of his players."
Now when the time of ripening corn was near, the fathers ordered
preparation for the dance of the Corn Maidens. They sent the two
Master-Priests of the Bow to the grotto at Thunder Mountains, saying.,
"If you behold Paiyatuma, and his maidens, perhaps they will give us the
help of their customs."
Then up the river trail, the priests heard the sound of a drum and
strains of song. It was Paiyatuma and his seven maidens, the Maidens of
the House of Stars, sisters of the Corn Maidens.
The God of Dawn and Music lifted his flute and took his place in the
line of dancers. The drum sounded until the cavern shook as with
thunder. The flutes sang and sighed as the wind in a wooded canon while
still the storm is distant. White mists floated up from the wands of the
Maidens, above which fluttered the butterflies of Summer-land about the
dress of the Rainbows in the strange blue light of the night.
Then Paiyatuma, smiling, said, "Go the way before, telling the fathers
of our custom, and straightway we will follow."
Soon the sound of music was heard, coming from up the river, and soon
the Flute People and singers and maidens of the Flute dance. Up rose the
fathers and all the watching people, greeting the God of Dawn with
outstretched hand and offering of prayer meal. Then the singers took
their places and sounded their drum, flutes, and song of clear waters,
while the Maidens of the Dew danced their Flute dance. Greatly marvelled
the people, when from the wands they bore forth came white clouds, and
fine cool mists descended.
Now when the dance was ended and the Dew Maidens had retired, out came
the beautiful Mothers of Corn. And when the players of the flutes saw
them, they were enamoured of their beauty and gazed upon them so
intently that the Maidens let fall their hair and cast down their eyes.
And jealous and bolder grew the mortal youths, and in the morning dawn,
in rivalry, the dancers sought all too freely the presence of the Corn
Maidens, no longer holding them so precious as in the olden time. And
the matrons, intent on the new dance, heeded naught else. But behold!
The mists increased greatly, surrounding dancers and watchers alike,
until within them, the Maidens of Corn, all in white garments, became
invisible. 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 thereupon, as mothers lay soft kilting over their
babes. Then even as the mists became they, and with the mists drifting,
fled away, to the far south Summer-land.
(6) The mists and the dawn breeze on the river and in the grotto.
The Search for the Corn Maidens
Zuni (New Mexico)
Then the people in their trouble called the two Master-Priests and said:
"Who, now, think ye, should journey to seek our precious Maidens?
Bethink ye! Who amongst the Beings is even as ye are, strong of will and
good of eyes? There is our great elder brother and father, Eagle, he of
the floating down and of the terraced tail-fan. Surely he is enduring of
will and surpassing of sight."
"Yea. Most surely," said the fathers. "Go ye forth and beseech him."
Then the two sped north to Twin Mountain, where in a grotto high up
among the crags, with his mate and his young, dwelt the Eagle of the
They climbed the mountain, but behold! Only the eaglets were there. They
screamed lustily and tried to hide themselves in the dark recesses.
"Pull not our feathers, ye of hurtful touch, but wait. When we are older
we will drop them for you even from the clouds."
"Hush," said the warriors. "Wait in peace. We seek not ye but thy
Then from afar, with a frown, came old Eagle. "Why disturb ye my
featherlings?" he cried.
"Behold! Father and elder brother, we come seeking only the light of thy
Then they told him of the lost Maidens of the Corn, and begged him to
search for them.
"Be it well with thy wishes," said Eagle. "Go ye before contentedly."
So the warriors returned to the council. But Eagle winged his way high
into the sky. High, high, he rose, until he circled among the clouds,
small-seeming and swift, like seed-down in a whirlwind. Through all the
heights, to the north, to the west, to the south, and to the east, he
circled and sailed. Yet nowhere saw he trace of the Corn Maidens. Then
he flew lower, returning. Before the warriors were rested, people heard
the roar of his wings. As he alighted, the fathers said, "Enter thou and
sit, oh brother, and say to us what thou hast to say." And they offered
him the cigarette of the space relations.
When they had puffed the smoke toward the four points of the compass,
and Eagle had purified his breath with smoke, and had blown smoke over
sacred things, he spoke.
"Far have I journeyed, scanning all the regions. Neither bluebird nor
woodrat can hide from my seeing," he said, snapping his beak. "Neither
of them, unless they hide under bushes. Yet I have failed to see
anything of the Maidens ye seek for. Send for my younger brother, the
Falcon. Strong of flight is he, yet not so strong as I, and nearer the
ground he takes his way ere sunrise."
Then the Eagle spread his wings and flew away to Twin Mountain. The
Warrior-Priests of the Bow sped again fleetly over the plain to the
westward for his younger brother, Falcon.
Sitting on an ant hill, so the warriors found Falcon. He paused as they
approached, crying, "If ye have snare strings, I will be off like the
flight of an arrow well plumed of our feathers! "
"No," said the priests. "Thy elder brother hath bidden us seek thee."
Then they told Falcon what had happened, and how Eagle had failed to
find the Corn Maidens, so white and beautiful.
"Failed!" said Falcon. "Of course he failed. He climbs aloft to the
clouds and thinks he can see under every bush and into every shadow, as
sees the Sunfather who sees not with eyes. Go ye before."
Before the Warrior-Priests had turned toward the town, the Falcon had
spread his sharp wings and was skimming off over the tops of the trees
and bushes as though verily seeking for field mice or birds' nests. And
the Warriors returned to tell the fathers and to await his coming.
But after Falcon had searched over the world, to the north and west, to
the east and south, he too returned and was received as had been Eagle.
He settled on the edge of a tray before the altar, as on the ant hill he
settles today. When he had smoked and had been smoked, as had been
Eagle, he told the sorrowing fathers and mothers that he had looked
behind every copse and cliff shadow, but of the Maidens he had found no
"They are hidden more closely than ever sparrow hid," he said. Then he,
too, flew away to his hills in the west.
"Our beautiful Maiden Mothers," cried the matrons. "Lost, lost as the
dead are they!"
"Yes," said the others. "Where now shall we seek them? The far-seeing
Eagle and the close-searching Falcon alike have failed to find them."
"Stay now your feet with patience," said the fathers. Some of them had
heard Raven, who sought food in the refuse and dirt at the edge of town,
"Look now," they said. "There is Heavy-nose, whose beak never fails to
find the substance of seed itself, however little or well hidden it be.
He surely must know of the Corn Maidens. Let us call him."
So the warriors went to the river side. When they found Raven, they
raised their hands, all weaponless.
"We carry no pricking quills," they called. "Blackbanded father, we seek
your aid. Look now! The Mother-maidens of Seed whose substance is the
food alike of thy people and our people, have fled away. Neither our
grandfather the Eagle, nor his younger brother the Falcon, can trace
them. We beg you to aid us or counsel us."
"Ka! ka!" cried the Raven. "Too hungry am I to go abroad fasting on
business for ye. Ye are stingy! Here have I been since perching time,
trying to find a throatful, but ye pick thy bones and lick thy bowls too
clean for that, be sure."
"Come in, then, poor grandfather. We will give thee food to cat. Yea,
and a cigarette to smoke, with all the ceremony."
"Say ye so?" said the Raven. He ruffled his collar and opened his mouth
so wide with a lusty kaw-la-ka- that he might well have swallowed his
own head. "Go ye before," he said, and followed them into the court of
He was not ill to look upon. Upon his shoulders were bands of white
cotton, and his back was blue, gleaming like the hair of a maiden dancer
in the sunlight. The Master-Priest greeted Raven, bidding him sit and
"Ha! There is corn in this, else why the stalk of it?" said the Raven,
when he took the cane cigarette of the far spaces and noticed the joint
of it. Then he did as he had seen the Master-Priest do, only more
greedily. He sucked in such a throatful of the smoke, fire and all, that
it almost strangled him. He coughed and grew giddy, and the smoke all
hot and stinging went through every part of him. It filled all his
feathers, making even his brown eyes bluer and blacker, in rings. It is
not to be wondered at, the blueness of flesh, blackness of dress, and
skinniness, yes, and tearfulness of eye which we see in the Raven
to-day. And they are all as greedy of corn food as ever, for behold! No
sooner had the old Raven recovered than he espied one of the ears of
corn half hidden under the mantle-covers of the trays. He leaped from
his place laughing. They always laugh when they find anything, these
ravens. Then he caught up the ear of corn and made off with it over the
heads of the people and the tops of the houses, crying.
"Ha! ha! In this wise and in no other will ye find thy Seed Maidens."
But after a while he came back, saying, "A sharp eye have I for the
flesh of the Maidens. But who might see their breathing-beings, ye
dolts, except by the help of the Father of Dawn-Mist himself, whose
breath makes breath of others seem as itself." Then he flew away cawing.
Then the elders said to each other, "It is our fault, so how dare we
prevail on our father Paiyatuma to aid us? He warned us of this in the
Suddenly, for the sun was rising, they heard Paiyatuma in his daylight
mood and transformation. Thoughtless and loud, uncouth in speech, he
walked along the outskirts of the village. He joked fearlessly even of
fearful things, for all his words and deeds were the reverse of his
sacred being. He sat down on a heap of vile refuse, saying he would have
"My poor little children," he said. But he spoke to aged priests and
"Good-night to you all," he said, though it was in full dawning. So he
perplexed them with his speeches.
"We beseech thy favor, oh father, and thy aid, in finding our beautiful
Maidens." So the priests mourned.
"Oh, that is all, is it? But why find that which is not lost, or summon
those who will not come?"
Then he reproached them for not preparing the sacred plumes, and picked
up the very plumes he had said were not there.
Then the wise Pekwinna, the Speaker of the Sun, took two plumes and the
banded wing-tips of the turkey, and approaching Paiyatuma stroked him
with the tips of the feathers and then laid the feathers upon his lips.
. . .
Then Paiyatuma became aged and grand and straight, as is a tall tree
shorn by lightning. He said to the father:
"Thou are wise of thought and good of heart. Therefore I will summon
from Summer-land the beautiful Maidens that ye may look upon them once
more and make offering of plumes in sacrifice for them, but they are
lost as dwellers amongst ye."
Then he told them of the song lines and the sacred speeches and of the
offering of the sacred plume wands, and then turned him about and sped
away so fleetly that none saw him.
Beyond the first valley of the high plain to the southward Paiyatuma
planted the four plume wands. First he planted the yellow, bending over
it and watching it. When it ceased to flutter, the soft down on it
leaned northward but moved not. Then he set the blue wand and watched
it; then the white wand. The eagle down on them leaned to right and left
and still northward, yet moved not. Then farther on he planted the red
wand, and bending low, without breathing, watched it closely. The soft
down plumes began to wave as though blown by the breath of some small
creature. Backward and forward, northward and southward they swayed, as
if in time to the breath of one resting.
"'T is the breath of my Maidens in Summer-land, for the plumes of the
southland sway soft to their gentle breathing. So shall it ever be. When
I set the down of my mists on the plains and scatter my bright beads in
the northland(7), summer shall go thither from afar, borne on the breath
of the Seed Maidens. Where they breathe, warmth, showers, and fertility
shall follow with the birds of Summer-land, and the butterflies,
northward over the world."
Then Paiyatuma arose and sped by the magic of his knowledge into the
countries of Summer-land, - fled swiftly and silently as the soft breath
he sought for, bearing his painted flute before him. And when he paused
to rest, he played on his painted flute and the butterflies and birds
sought him. So he sent them to seek the Maidens, following swiftly, and
long before he found them he greeted them with the music of his
songsound, even as the People of the Seed now greet them in the song of
When the Maidens heard his music and saw his tall form in their great
fields of corn, they plucked ears, each of her own kind, and with them
filled their colored trays and over all spread embroidered
mantles, - embroidered in all the bright colors and with the
creature-songs of Summer-land. So they sallied forth to meet him and
welcome him. Then he greeted them, each with the touch of his hands and
the breath of his flute, and bade them follow him to the northland home
of their deserted children.
So by the magic of their knowledge they sped back as the stars speed
over the world at night time, toward the home of our ancients. Only at
night and dawn they journeyed, as the dead do, and the stars also. So
they came at evening in the full of the last moon to the Place of the
Middle, bearing their trays of seed.
Glorious was Paiyatuma, as he walked into the courts of the dancers in
the dusk of the evening and stood with folded arms at the foot of the
bow-fringed ladder of priestly council, he and his follower Shutsukya.
He was tall and beautiful and banded with his own mists, and carried the
banded wings of the turkeys with which he had winged his flight from
afar, leading the Maidens, and followed as by his own shadow by the
black being of the corn-soot, Shutsukya, who cries with the voice of the
frost wind when the corn has grown aged and the harvest is taken away.
And surpassingly beautiful were the Maidens clothed in the white cotton
and embroidered garments of Summer-land.
Then after long praying and chanting by the priests, the fathers of the
people, and those of the Seed and Water, and the keepers of sacred
things, the Maiden-mother of the North advanced to the foot of the
ladder. She lifted from her head the beautiful tray of yellow corn and
Paiyatama took it. He pointed it to the regions, each in turn, and the
Priest of the North came and received the tray of sacred seed.
Then the Maiden of the West advanced and gave up her tray of blue corn.
So each in turn the Maidens gave up their trays of precious seed. The
Maiden of the South, the red seed; the Maiden of the East, the white
seed; then the Maiden with the black seed, and lastly, the tray of
all-color seed which the Priestess of Seed-and-All herself received.
And now, behold! The Maidens stood as before, she of the North at the
northern end, but with her face southward far looking; she of the West,
next, and lo! so all of them, with the seventh and last, looking
southward. And standing thus, the darkness of the 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. And Paiyatuma stood
alone, for Shutsukya walked now behind the Maidens, whistling shrilly,
as the frost wind whistles when the corn is gathered away, among the
lone canes and dry leaves of a gleaned field.
(7) Dew drops.
Hasjelti and Hostjoghon
Navajo (New Mexico)
Hasjelti was the son of the white corn, and Hostjoghon the son of the
yellow corn. They were born on the mountains where the fogs meet. These
two became the great song-makers of the world.
To the mountain where they were born (Henry Mountain, Utah), they gave
two songs and two prayers. Then they went to Sierra Blanca (Colorado)
and made two songs and prayers and dressed the mountain in clothing of
white shell with two eagle plumes upon its head. They visited San Mateo
Mountain (New Mexico) and gave to it two songs and prayers, and dressed
it in turquoise, even to leggings and moccasins, and placed two eagle
plumes upon its head. Then they went to San Francisco Mountain (Arizona)
and made two songs and prayers and dressed that mountain in abalone
shells with two eagle plumes upon its head. They then visited Ute
Mountain and gave to it two songs and prayers and dressed it in black
beads. Then they returned to their own mountain where the fogs meet and
said, "We two have made all these songs."
Other brothers were born of the white corn and yellow corn, and two
brothers were placed on each mountain. They are the spirits of the
mountains and to them the clouds come first. All the brothers together
made game, the deer and elk and buffalo, and so game was created.
Navajos pray for rain and snow to Hasjelti and Hostjoghon. They stand
upon the mountain tops and call the clouds to gather around them.
Hasjelti prays to the sun, for the Navajos.
"Father, give me the light of your mind that my mind may be strong. Give
me your strength, that my arm may be strong. Give me your rays, that
corn and other vegetation may grow."
The most important prayers are addressed to Hasjelti and the most
valuable gifts made to him. He talks to the Navajos through the birds,
and for this reason the choicest feathers and plumes are placed in the
cigarettes and attached to the prayer sticks offered to him.
Navajo (New Mexico)
A man sat thinking. "Let me see. My songs are too short. I want more
songs. Where shall I go to find them?"
Hasjelti appeared and perceiving his thoughts, said, "I know where you
can get more songs."
"Well, I want to get more. So I will follow you."
They went to a certain point in a box canon in the Big Colorado River
and here they found four gods, the Hostjobokon, at work, hewing
Hasjelti said, "This will not do. Cottonwood becomes water-soaked. You
must use pine instead of cottonwood."
The Hostjobokon began boring the pine with flint, but Hasjelti said,
"That is slow work." He commanded a whirlwind to hollow the log. A
cross, joining at the exact middle of each log, a solid one and the
hollow one, was formed. The arms of the cross were equal.
The song-hunter entered the hollow log and Hasjelti closed the end with
a cloud so that water would not enter when the logs were launched upon
the great waters. The logs floated off. The Hostjobokon, accompanied by
their wives, rode upon the logs, one couple sitting upon each arm.
Hasjelti, Hostjoghon, and the two Naaskiddi walked upon the banks to
keep the logs off shore. Hasjelti carried a squirrel skin filled with
tobacco, with which to supply the gods on their journey. Hostjoghon
carried a staff ornamented with eagle and turkey plumes and a gaming
ring with two humming birds tied to it with white cotton cord. The two
Naaskiddi carried staffs of lightning. The Naaskiddi had clouds upon
their backs in which the seeds of all corn and grasses were carried.
After floating a long distance down the river, they came to waters that
had a shore on one side only. Here they landed. Here they found a people
like themselves. When these people learned of the Song-hunter, they gave
him many songs and they painted pictures on a cotton blanket and said,
"These pictures must go with the songs. If we give this blanket to you,
you will lose it. We will give you white earth and black coals which you
will grind together to make black paint, and we will give you white
sand, yellow sand, and red sand. For the blue paint you will take white
sand and black coals with a very little red and yellow sand. These will
give you blue."
And so the Navajo people make blue, even to this day.
The Song-hunter remained with these people until the corn was ripe.
There he learned to eat corn and he carried some back with him to the
Navajos, who had not seen corn before, and he taught them how to raise
it and how to eat it.
When he wished to return home, the logs would not float upstream. Four
sunbeams attached themselves to the logs, one to each cross arm, and so
drew the Song-hunter back to the box canon from which he had started.
When he reached that point, he separated the logs. He placed the end of
the solid log into the hollow end of the other and planted this great
pole in the river. It may be seen there to-day by the venturesome. In
early days many went there to pray and make offerings.
Sand Painting of the Song-Hunter
(Explanatory of frontispiece)
The black cross bars denote pine logs; the white lines the froth of the
water; the yellow, vegetable debris gathered by the logs; the blue and
red lines, sunbeams. The blue spot in the centre of the cross denotes
water. There are four Hostjobokon, with their wives, the Hostjoboard.
Each couple sits upon one of the cross arms of the logs. The gods carry
in their right hands a rattle, and in their left sprigs of pinon; the
goddesses carry pinon sprigs in both hands.
Hasjelti is to the east of the painting. He carries a squirrel skin
filled with tobacco. His shirt is white cotton and very elastic. The
leggings are of white deerskin, fringed, and his head is ornamented with
an eagle's tail; at the tip of each plume there is a fluffy feather from
the breast of the eagle. The projection on the right of the throat is a
Hostjoghon is at the west. His shirt is invisible, the dark being the
dark of the body. His staff is colored black from a charred plant. Two
strips of beaver skin tipped with six quills of the porcupine are
attached to the right of the throat. The four colored stars on the body
are bead ornaments. The top of the staff is ornamented with a turkey's
tail. Eagle and turkey plumes are alternately attached to the staff.
The Naaskiddi are north and south of the painting. They carry staffs of
lightning ornamented with eagle plumes and sunbeams. Their bodies are
nude except the loin skirt. The hunch upon the back is a black cloud and
the three groups of white lines indicate corn and other seeds. Five
eagle plumes are attached to the cloud-back, since eagles live among the
clouds. The body is surrounded by sunlight. The lines of blue and red
which border the cloud-back denote sunbeams penetrating storm clouds.
The black circle zig-zagged with white around the head is a cloud basket
filled with corn and seeds of grass. On each side of the head are five
feathers of the red-shafted flicker.
The Rainbow goddess, upon which these gods often travel, partly
encircles and completes the picture.
These sand pictures are drawn upon common yellow sand, brought in
blankets and laid in squares about three inches thick and four feet in
diameter. The colors used in decoration were yellow, red, and white,
secured from sand stones, black from charcoal, and a grayish blue made
from white sand and charcoal mixed with a very small quantity of yellow
and red sands.
(From eighth annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology, abridged from
description of James Stevenson.)
The Guiding Duck and the Lake of Death
Zuni (New Mexico)
Now K-yak-lu, the all-hearing and wise of speech, all alone had been
journeying afar in the North Land of cold and white loneliness. He was
lost, for the world in which he wandered was buried in the snow which
lies spread there forever. So cold he was that his face became wan and
white from the frozen mists of his own breath, white as become all
creatures who dwell there. So cold at night and dreary of heart, so lost
by day and blinded by the light was he that he wept, and died of heart
and became transformed as are the gods. Yet his lips called continually
and his voice grew shrill and dry-sounding, like the voice of far-flying
water-fowl. As he cried, wandering blindly, the water birds flocking
around him peered curiously at him, calling meanwhile to their comrades.
But wise though he was of all speeches, and their meanings plain to him,
yet none told him the way to his country and people.
Now the Duck heard his cry and it was like her own. She was of all
regions the traveller and searcher, knowing all the ways, whether above
or below the waters, whether in the north, the west, the south, or the
east, and was the most knowing of all creatures. Thus the wisdom of the
one understood the knowledge of the other.
And the All-wise cried to her, "The mountains are white and the valleys;
all plains are like others in whiteness, and even the light of our
Father the Sun, makes all ways more hidden of whiteness! In brightness
my eyes see but darkness."
The Duck answered:
"Think no longer sad thoughts. Thou hearest all as I see all. Give me
tinkling shells from thy girdle and place them on my neck and in my
beak. I may guide thee with my seeing if thou hear and follow my trail.
Well I know the way to thy country. Each year I lead thither the wild
geese and the cranes who flee there as winter follows."
So the All-wise placed his talking shells on the neck of the Duck, and
the singing shells in her beak, and though painfully and lamely, yet he
followed the sound she made with the shells. From place to place with
swift flight she sped, then awaiting him, ducking her head that the
shells might call loudly. By and by they came to the country of thick
rains and mists on the borders of the Snow World, and passed from water
to water, until wider water lay in their path. In vain the Duck called
and jingled the shells from the midst of the waters. K-yak-lu could
neither swim nor fly as could the Duck.
Now the Rainbow-worm was near in that land of mists and waters and he
heard the sound of the sacred shells.
"These be my grandchildren," he said, and called, "Why mourn ye? Give me
plumes of the spaces. I will bear you on my shoulders."
Then the All-wise took two of the lightest plumewands, and the Duck her
two strong feathers. And he fastened them together and breathed on them
while the Rainbow-worm drew near. The Rainbow unbent himself that
K-yak-lu might mount, then he arched himself high among the clouds. Like
an arrow he straightened himself forward, and followed until his face
looked into the Lake of the Ancients. And there the All-wise descended,
and sat there alone, in the plain beyond the mountains. The Duck had
spread her wings in flight to the south to take counsel of the gods.
Then the Duck, even as the gods had directed, prepared a litter of poles
and reeds, and before the morning came, with the litter they went,
singing a quaint and pleasant song, down the northern plain. And when
they found the All-wise, he looked upon them in the starlight and wept.
But the father of the gods stood over him and chanted the sad dirge
rite. Then K-yak-lu sat down in the great soft litter they bore for him.
They lifted it upon their shoulders, bearing it lightly, singing loudly
as they went, to the shores of the deep black lake, where gleamed from
the middle the lights of the dead.
Out over the magic ladder of rushes and canes which reared itself over
the water, they bore him. And K-yak-lu, scattering sacred prayer meal
before him, stepped down the way, slowly, like a blind man. No sooner
had he taken four steps than the ladder lowered into the deep. And the
All-wise entered the council room of the gods.
The gods sent out their runners, to summon all beings, and called in
dancers for the Dance of Good. And with these came the little ones who
had sunk beneath the waters, well and beautiful and all seemingly clad
in cotton mantles and precious neck jewels.
The Boy Who Became A God
Navajo (New Mexico)
The Tolchini, a clan of the Navajos, lived at Wind Mountains. One of
them used to take long visits into the country. His brothers thought he
was crazy. The first time on his return, he brought with him a pine
bough; the second time, corn. Each time he returned he brought something
new and had a strange story to tell. His brothers said: "He is crazy. He
does not know what he is talking about."
Now the Tolchini left Wind Mountains and went to a rocky foothill east
of the San Mateo Mountain. They had nothing to eat but seed grass. The
eldest brother said, "Let us go hunting," but they told the youngest
brother not to leave camp. But five days and five nights passed, and
there was no word. So he followed them.
After a day's travel he camped near a canon, in a cavelike place. There
was much snow but no water so he made a fire and heated a rock, and made
a hole in the ground. The hot rock heated the snow and gave him water to
drink. just then he heard a tumult over his head, like people passing.
He went out to see what made the noise and saw many crows crossing back
and forth over the canon. This was the home of the crow, but there were
other feathered people there, and the chaparral cock. He saw many fires
made by the crows on each side of the ca–on. Two crows flew down near
him and the youth listened to hear what was the matter.
The two crows cried out, "Somebody says. Somebody says."
The youth did not know what to make of this.
A crow on the opposite side called out, "What is the matter? Tell us!
Tell us! What is wrong?"
The first two cried out, "Two of us got killed. We met two of our men
who told us."
Then they told the crows how two men who were out hunting killed twelve
deer, and a party of the Crow People went to the deer after they were
shot. They said, "Two of us who went after the blood of the deer were
The crows on the other side of the ca–on called, "Which men got killed?"
"The chaparral cock, who sat on the horn of the deer, and the crow who
sat on its backbone."
The others called out, "We are not surprised they were killed. That is
what we tell you all the time. If you go after dead deer you must expect
to be killed."
"We will not think of them longer," so the two crows replied. "They are
dead and gone. We are talking of things of long ago."
But the youth sat quietly below and listened to everything that was
After a while the crows on the other side of the canon made a great
noise and began to dance. They had many songs at that time. The youth
listened all the time. After the dance a great fire was made and he
could see black objects moving, but he could not distinguish any people.
He recognized the voice of Hasjelti. He remembered everything in his
heart. He even remembered the words of the songs that continued all
night. He remembered every word of every song. He said to himself, "I
will listen until daylight."
The Crow People did not remain on the side of the canon where the fires
were first built. They crossed and recrossed the canon in their dance.
They danced back and forth until daylight. Then all the crows and the
other birds flew away to the west. All that was left was the fires and
Then the youth started for his brothers' camp. They saw him coming. They
said, "He will have lots of stories to tell. He will say he saw
something no one ever saw."
But the brother-in-law who was with them said, "Let him alone. When he
comes into camp he will tell us all. I believe these things do happen
for he could not make up these things all the time."
Now the camp was surrounded by pinon brush and a large fire was burning
in the centre. There was much meat roasting over the fire. When the
youth reached the camp, he raked over the coals and said. "I feel cold."
Brother-in-law replied, "It is cold. When people camp together, they
tell stories to one another in the morning. We have told ours, now you
The youth said, "Where I stopped last night was the worst camp I ever
had." The brothers paid no attention but the brother-in-law listened.
The youth said, "I never heard such a noise." Then he told his story.
Brother-in-law asked what kind of people made the noise.
The youth said, "I do not know. They were strange people to me, but they
danced all night back and forth across the canon and I heard them say my
brothers killed twelve deer and afterwards killed two of their people
who went for the blood of the deer. I heard them say, "'That is what
must be expected. If you go to such places, you must expect to be
The elder brother began thinking. He said, "How many deer did you say
Elder brother said, "I never believed you before, but this story I do
believe. How do you find out all these things? What is the matter with
you that you know them?"
The boy said, "I do not know. They come into my mind and to my eyes."
Then they started homeward, carrying the meat. The youth helped them.
As they were descending a mesa, they sat down on the edge to rest. Far
down the mesa were four mountain sheep. The brothers told the youth to
The youth hid in the sage brush and when the sheep came directly toward
him, he aimed his arrow at them. But his arm stiffened and became dead.
The sheep passed by.
He headed them off again by hiding in the stalks of a large yucca. The
sheep passed within five steps of him, but again his arm stiffened as he
drew the bow.
He followed the sheep and got ahead of them and hid behind a birch tree
in bloom. He had his bow ready, but as they neared him they became gods.
The first was Hasjelti, the second was Hostjoghon, the third Naaskiddi,
and the fourth Hadatchishi. Then the youth fell senseless to the ground.
The four gods stood one on each side of him, each with a rattle. They
traced with their rattles in the sand the figure of a man, drawing lines
at his head and feet. Then the youth recovered and the gods again became
sheep. They said, "Why did you try to shoot us? You see you are one of
us." For the youth had become a sheep.
The gods said, "There is to be a dance, far off to the north beyond the
Ute Mountain. We want you to go with us. We will dress you like
ourselves and teach you to dance. Then we will wander over the world."
Now the brothers watched from the top of the mesa but they could not see
what the trouble was. They saw the youth lying on the ground, but when
they reached the place, all the sheep were gone. They began crying,
saying, "For a long time we would not believe him, and now he has gone
off with the sheep."
They tried to head off the sheep, but failed. They said, "If we had
believed him, he would not have gone off with the sheep. But perhaps
some day we will see him again."
At the dance, the five sheep found seven others. This made their number
twelve. They journeyed all around the world. All people let them see
their dances and learn their songs. Then the eleven talked together and
"There is no use keeping this youth with us longer. He has learned
everything. He may as well go back to his people and teach them to do as
So the youth was taught to have twelve in the dance, six gods and six
goddesses, with Hasjelti to lead them. He was told to have his people
make masks to represent the gods.
So the youth returned to his brothers, carrying with him all songs, all
medicines, and clothing.
Origin of Clear Lake
Patwin (Sacramento Valley, Cal.)
Before anything was created at all, Old Frog and Old Badger lived alone
together. Old Badger wanted to drink, so Old Frog gnawed into a tree,
drew out all the sap and put it in a hollow place. Then he created
Little Frogs to help him, and working together they dug out the lake.
Then Old Frog made the little flat whitefish. Some of them lived in the
lake, but others swam down Cache Creek, and turned into the salmon,
pike, and sturgeon which swim in the Sacramento.
The Great Fire
Patwin (Sacramento Valley, Cal.)
Long ago a man loved two women and wished to marry both of them. But the
women were magpies and they laughed at him. Therefore the man went to
the north, and made for himself a tule boat. Then he set the world on
fire, and himself escaped to sea in his boat.
But the fire burned with terrible speed. It ate its way into the south.
It licked up all things on earth, men, trees, rocks, animals, water, and
even the ground itself.
Now Old Coyote saw the burning and the smoke from his place far in the
south, and he ran with all his might to put it out. He put two little
boys in a sack and ran north like the wind. He took honey-dew into his
mouth, chewed it up, spat on the fire, and so put it out. Now the fire
was out, but there was no water and Coyote was thirsty. So he took
Indian sugar again, chewed it up, dug a hole in the bottom of the creek,
covered up the sugar in it, and it turned to water and filled the creek.
So the earth had water again.
But the two little boys cried because they were lonesome, for there was
nobody left on earth. Then Coyote made a sweat house, and split a number
of sticks, and laid them in the sweat house over night. In the morning
they had all turned into men and women.
Origin of the Raven and the Macaw
(Totems of summer and winter)
Zuni (New Mexico)
The priest who was named Yanauluha carried ever in his hand a staff
which now in the daylight was plumed and covered with feathers - yellow,
blue-green, red, white, black, and varied. Attached to it were shells,
which made a song-like tinkle. The people when they saw it stretched out
their hands and asked many questions.
Then the priest balanced it in his hand, and struck with it a hard
place, and blew upon it. Amid the plumes appeared four round things-mere
eggs they were. Two were blue like the sky and two dun-red like the
flesh of the Earth-mother.
Then the people asked many questions.,
"These," said the priests, "are the seed of living beings. Choose which
ye will follow. From two eggs shall come beings of beautiful plumage,
colored like the grass and fruits of summer. Where they fly and ye
follow, shall always be summer. Without toil, fields of food shall
flourish. And from the other two eggs shall come evil beings, piebald,
with white, without colors. And where these two shall fly and ye shall
follow, winter strives with summer. Only by labor shall the fields yield
fruit, and your children and theirs shall strive for the fruits. Which
do ye choose?"
"The blue! The blue!" cried the people, and those who were strongest
carried off the blue eggs, leaving the red eggs to those who waited.
They laid the blue eggs with much gentleness in soft sand on the sunny
side of a hill, watching day by day. They were precious of color; surely
they would be the precious birds of the Summer-land. Then the eggs
cracked and the birds came out, with open eyes and pin feathers under
"We chose wisely," said the people. "Yellow and blue, red and green, are
their dresses, even seen through their skins." So they fed them freely
of all the foods which men favor. Thus they taught them to eat all
desirable food. But when the feathers appeared, they were black with
white bandings. They were ravens. And they flew away croaking hoarse
laughs and mocking our fathers.
But the other eggs became beautiful macaws, and were wafted by a toss of
the priest's wand to the faraway Summer-land.
So those who had chosen the raven, became the Raven People. They were
the Winter People and they were many and strong. But those who had
chosen the macaw, became the Macaw People. They were the Summer People,
and few in number, and less strong, but they were wiser because they
were more deliberate. The priest Yanauluha, being wise, became their
father, even as the Sun-father is among the little moons of the sky. He
and his sisters were the ancestors of the priest-keepers of things.
Coyote and the Hare
Sia (New Mexico)
One day Coyote was passing about when he saw Hare sitting before his
house. Coyote thought, "In a minute I will catch you," and he sprang and
Hare cried, "Man Coyote, do not eat me. Wait just a minute; I have
something to tell you - something you will be glad to hear - something
you must hear."
"Well," said Coyote, "I will wait."
"Let me sit at the entrance of my house," said Hare. "Then I can talk to
Coyote allowed Hare to take his seat at the entrance.
Hare said, What are you thinking of, Coyote?
"Nothing," said Coyote.
"Listen, then," said Hare. "I am a hare and I am very much afraid of
people. When they come carrying arrows, I am afraid of them. When they
see me they aim their arrows at me and I am afraid, and oh! how I
Hare began trembling violently until he saw Coyote a little off his
guard, then he began to run. It took Coyote a minute to think and then
he ran after Hare, but always a little behind. Hare raced away and soon
entered a house, just in time to escape Coyote. Coyote tried to enter
the house but found it was hard stone. He became very angry.
Coyote cried, "I was very stupid! Why did I allow this Hare to fool me?
I must have him. But this house is so strong, how can I open it?"
Coyote began to work, but after a while he said to himself, "The stone
is so strong I cannot open it."
Presently Hare called, "Man Coyote, how are you going to kill me?"
"I know how," said Coyote. "I will kill you with fire."
"Where is the wood?" asked Hare, for he knew there was no wood at his
"I will bring grass," said Coyote, "and set fire to it. The fire will
enter your house and kill you."
"Oh," said Hare, "but the grass is mine. It is my food; it will not kill
me. It is my friend. The grass will not kill me."
"Then," said Coyote, "I will bring all the trees of the wood and set
fire to them."
"All the trees know me," said Hare. "They are my friends. They will not
kill me. They are my food." Coyote thought a minute. Then he said, "I
will bring the gum of the0 pinon and set fire to that."
Hare said, "Now I am afraid. I do not eat that. It is not my friend."
Coyote rejoiced that he had thought of a plan for getting the hare. He
hurried and brought all the gum he could carry and placed it at the door
of Hare's house and set fire to it. In a short time the gum boiled like
hot grease, and Hare cried,
"Now I know I shall die! What shall I do?" Yet all the time he knew what
he would do.
But Coyote was glad Hare was afraid. After a while Hare called, "The
fire is entering my house," and Coyote answered, "'Blow it out!"
But Coyote drew nearer and blew with all his might to blow the flame
into Hare's house
Hare cried, "You are so close you are blowing the fire on me and I will
soon be burned."
Coyote was so happy that he drew closer and blew harder, and drew still
closer so that his face was very close to Hare's face. Then Hare
suddenly threw the boiling gum into Coyote's face and escaped from his
It took Coyote a long time to remove the gum from his face, and he felt
very sorrowful. He said, "I am very, very stupid."
Coyote and the Quails
Once upon a time, long ago, Coyote was sleeping so soundly that a covey
of quails came along and cut pieces of fat meat out of his flesh without
arousing him. Then they went on. After they had camped for the
evening, and were cooking the meat, Coyote came up the trail.
Coyote said, "Where did you get that nice, fat meat? Give me some."
Quails gave him all he wanted. Then he went farther up the trail. After
he had gone a little way, Quails called to him,
"Coyote, you were eating your own flesh."
Coyote said, "What did you say?"
Quails said, "Oh, nothing. We heard something calling behind the
Soon the quails called again: "Coyote, you ate your own meat."
"What did you say?"
"Oh, nothing. We heard somebody pounding his grinding-stone. "
So Coyote went on. But at last he began to feel where he had been cut.
Then he knew what the quails meant. He turned back down the trail and
told Quails he would eat them up. He began to chase them. The quails
flew above ground and Coyote ran about under them. At last they got
tired, but Coyote did not because he was so angry.
By and by Quails came to a hole, and one of the keenest-witted picked up
a piece of prickly cholla cactus and pushed it into the hole; then they
all ran in after it. But Coyote dug out the hole and reached them. When
he came to the first quail he said,
"Was it you who told me I ate my own flesh?"
Quail said, "No."
So Coyote let him go and he flew away. When Coyote came to the second
quail, he asked the same question. Quail said, "No," and then flew away.
So Coyote asked every quail, until the last quail was gone, and then he
came to the cactus branch. Now the prickly cactus branch was so covered
with feathers that it looked just like a quail. Coyote asked it the same
question, but the cactus branch did not answer. Then Coyote said,
"I know it was you because you do not answer."
So Coyote bit very hard into the hard, prickly branch, and it killed
Coyote and the Fawns
Sia (New Mexico)
Another day when he was travelling around, Coyote met a deer with two
fawns. The fawns were beautifully spotted, and he said to the deer, "How
did you paint your children? They are so beautiful!"
Deer replied, "I painted them with fire from the cedar."
"And how did you do the work?" asked Coyote.
"I put my children into a cave and built a fire of cedar in front of it.
Every time a spark flew from the fire it struck my children, making a
"Oh," said Coyote, "I will do the same thing. Then I will make my
He hurried to his house and put his children in a cave. Then he built a
fire of cedar in front of it and stood off to watch the fire. But the
children cried because the fire was very hot. Coyote kept calling to
them not to cry because they would be beautiful like the deer. After a
time the crying ceased and Coyote was pleased. But when the fire died
down, he found they were burned to death. Coyote expected to find them
beautiful, but instead they were dead.
Then he was enraged with the deer and ran away to hunt her, but he could
not find her anywhere. He was much distressed to think the deer had
fooled him so easily.
How the Bluebird Got its Color
A long time ago, the bluebird was a very ugly color. But Bluebird knew
of a lake where no river flowed in or out, and he bathed in this four
times every morning for four mornings. Every morning he sang a magic
"There's a blue water. It lies there.
I went in.
I am all blue."
On the fourth morning Bluebird shed all his feathers and came out of the
lake just in his skin. But the next morning when he came out of the lake
he was covered with blue feathers.
Now all this while Coyote had been watching Bluebird. He wanted to jump
in and get him to eat, but he was afraid of the water. But on that last
morning Coyote said,
"How is it you have lost all your ugly color, and now you are blue and
gay and beautiful? You are more beautiful than anything that flies in
the air. I want to be blue, too." Now Coyote at that time was a bright
"I only went in four times on four mornings," said Bluebird. He taught
Coyote the magic song, and he went in four times, and the fifth time he
came out as blue as the little bird.
Then Coyote was very, very proud because he was a blue coyote. He was so
proud that as he walked along he looked around on every side to see if
anybody was looking at him now that he was a blue coyote and so
beautiful. He looked to see if his shadow was blue, too. But Coyote was
so busy watching to see if others were noticing him that he did not
watch the trail. By and by he ran into a stump so hard that it threw him
down in the dirt and he was covered with dust all over. You may know
this is true because even to-day coyotes are the color of dirt.
When Coyote was travelling about one day, he saw a small bird. The bird
was hopping about contentedly and Coyote thought,
"What a beautiful bird. It moves about so gracefully."
He drew nearer to the bird and asked, "What beautiful things are you
working with?" but the bird could not understand Coyote. After a while
the bird took out his two eyes and threw them straight up into the air,
like two stones. It looked upward but had no eyes. Then the bird said,
"Come, my eyes. Come quickly, down into my head." The eyes fell down
into the bird's head, just where they belonged, but were much brighter
Coyote thought he could brighten his eyes. He asked the bird to take out
his eyes. The bird took out Coyote's eyes, held them for a moment in his
hands, and threw them straight up into the air. Coyote looked up and
"Come back, my eyes. Come quickly." They at once fell back into his head
and were much brighter than before. Coyote wanted to try it again, but
the bird did not wish to. But Coyote persisted. Then the bird said,
"Why should I work for you, Coyote? No, I will work no more for you."
But Coyote still persisted, and the bird took out his eyes and threw
them up. Coyote cried,
"Come, my eyes, come back to me."
But his eyes continued to rise into the air, and the bird began to go
away. Coyote began to weep. But the bird was annoyed, and called back,
"Go away now. I am tired of you. Go away and get other eyes."
But Coyote refused to go and entreated the bird to find eyes for him. At
last the bird gathered gum from a pinon tree and rolled it between his
hands and put it in Coyote's eye holes, so that he could see. But his
eyes had been black and very bright. His new eyes were yellow.
"Now," said the bird, it "go away. You cannot stay here any longer."
Coyote and the Tortillas
Once upon a time, a river rose very high and spread all over the land.
An Indian woman was going along the trail by the river side with a
basket of tortillas on her head, but she was wading in water up to her
waist. Now Coyote was afraid of the water, so he had climbed into a
cottonwood tree. When the woman came up the trail, Coyote called,
"Oh, come to this tree and give me some of those nice tortillas."
The woman said, "No. I can't give them to you; they are for somebody
"If you do not come here I will shoot you," said Coyote, and the woman
really thought he had a bow. So she came to the tree and said, "You must
come down and get them. I can't climb trees."
Coyote came down as far as he dared, but he was afraid of the deep
water. The woman laughed at him. She said, "Just see how shallow it is.
It's only up to my ankles." But she was standing on a big stump. Coyote
looked at the water. It seemed shallow and safe enough, so he jumped.
But the water was deep and he was drowned. Then the woman went on up the
Coyote as a Hunter
Sia (New Mexico)
Coyote travelled a long distance and in the middle of the day it was
very hot. He sat down and rested, and thought, as he looked up to Tinia,
"How I wish the Cloud People would freshen my path and make it cool."
In just a little while the Cloud People gathered over the trail Coyote
was following and he was glad that his path was to be cool and shady.
After he travelled some distance further, he sat down again and looking
upward said, "I wish the Cloud People would send rain. My road would be
cooler and fresher." In a little while a shower came and Coyote was
But in a short time he again sat down and wished that the road could be
very moist, that it would be fresh to his feet, and almost immediately
the trail was as wet as though a river had passed over it. Again Coyote
But after a while he took his seat again. He said to himself, "I guess I
will talk again to the Cloud People." Then he looked up and said to
"I wish for water over my road-water to my elbows, that I may travel on
my hands and feet in the cool waters; then I shall be refreshed and
In a short time his road was covered with water, and he moved on. But
again he wished for something more, and said to the Cloud People,
"I wish much for water to my shoulders. Then I will be happy and
In a moment the waters arose as he wished, yet after a while he looked
up and said, "If you will only give me water so high that my eyes, nose,
mouth and ears are above it, I will be happy. Then indeed my road will
But even this did not satisfy him, and after travelling a while longer
he implored the Cloud People to give him a river that he might float
over the trail, and immediately a river appeared and Coyote floated down
stream. Now be had been high in the mountains and wished to go to Hare
After floating a long distance, he at last came to Hare Land and saw
many Hares a little distance off, on both sides of the river. Coyote lay
down in the mud as though he were dead and listened. Soon a woman
ka-wate (mephitis) came along with a vase and a gourd for water.
She said, "Here is a dead coyote. Where did he come from? I guess from
the mountains above. I guess he fell into the water and died."
Coyote looked up and said, "Come here, woman."
She said, "What do you want?"
Coyote said, "I know the Hares and other small animals well. In a little
while they will come here and think I am dead and be happy. What do you
think about it?"
Ka-wate said, "I have no thoughts at all."
So Coyote explained his plan. . . .
So Coyote lay as dead, and all the Hares and small animals saw him lying
in the river, and rejoiced that he was dead. The Hares decided to go in
a body and see the dead Coyote. Rejoicing over his death, they struck
him with their hands and kicked him. There were crowds of Hares and they
decided to have a great dance. Now and then a dancing Hare would stamp
upon Coyote who lay as if dead. During the dance the Hares clapped their
hands over their mouth and gave a whoop like a war-whoop.
Then Coyote rose quickly and took two clubs which the ka-wate had given
him, and together they killed all of the Hares. There was a great number
and they were piled up like stones.
Coyote said, "Where shall I find fire to cook the hares? Ah," he said,
pointing across to a high rock, "that rock gives good shade and it is
cool. I will find fire and cook my meat in the shade of that rock."
So they carried all the hares to that point and Coyote made a large fire
and threw them into it. When he had done this he was very warm and
tired. He lay down close to the rock in the shade.
After a while he said to Ka-wate, "We will run a race. The one who wins
will have all the hares."
She said, "How could I beat you? Your feet are so much larger than
Coyote said, "I will allow you the start of me." He made a torch of the
inner shreds of cedar bark and wrapped it with yucca thread and lighted
it. Then he tied this torch to the end of his tail. He did this to see
that the ka-wate did not escape him.
Ka-wate started first, but when out of sight of Coyots, she slipped into
the house of Badger. Then Coyote started with the fire attached to his
tail. Wherever he touched the grass, he set fire to it. But Ka-wate
hurried back to the rock, carried all the hares on top except four tiny
ones, and then climbed up on the rock.
Coyote was surprised not to overtake her. He said, "She must be very
quick. How could she run so fast?" Then he returned to the rock, but did
not see her.
He was tired and sat down in the shade of the rock. "Why does n't she
come?" he said. "Perhaps she will not come before night, her feet are so
Ka-wate sat on the rock above and heard all he said. She watched him
take a stick and look into the mound for the hares. He pulled out a
small one which he threw away. But the second was smaller than the
first. Then a third and a fourth, each tiny, and all he threw away. "I
do not care for the smaller ones," he said. "There are so many here, I
will not eat the little ones." But he hunted and hunted in the mound of
ashes for the hares. All were gone.
He said, "That woman has robbed me." Then he picked up the four little
ones and ate them. He looked about for Ka-wate but did not see her
because he did not look up. Then as he was tired and lay down to rest,
he looked up and saw her, with the cooked hares piled beside her.
Coyote was hungry. He begged her to throw one down. She threw a very
small one. Then Coyote became angry. And he was still more angry because
he could not climb the rock. She had gone where he could not go.
How the Rattlesnake Learned to Bite
After people and the animals were created, they all lived together.
Rattlesnake was there, and was called Soft Child because he was so soft
in his motions. The people liked to hear him rattle and little rest did
he get because they continually poked and scratched him so that he would
shake the rattles in his tail. At last Rattlesnake went to Elder Brother
to ask help. Elder Brother pulled a hair from his own lip, cut it in
short pieces, and made it into teeth for Soft Child.
"If any one bothers you," he said, "bite him."
That very evening Ta-api, Rabbit, came to Soft Child as he had done
before and scratched him. Soft Child raised his head and bit Rabbit.
Rabbit was angry and scratched again. Soft Child bit him again. Then
Rabbit ran about saying that Soft Child was angry and had bitten him.
Then he went to Rattlesnake again, and twice more he was bitten.
The bites made Rabbit very sick. He asked for a bed of cool sea sand.
Coyote was sent to the sea for the cool, damp sand. Then Rabbit asked
for the shade of bushes that he might feel the cool breeze. But at last
Rabbit died. He was the first creature which had died in this new world.
Then the people were troubled because they did not know what to do with
the body of Rabbit. One said, "If we bury him, Coyote will surely dig
Another said, "If we hide him, Coyote will surely find him."
And another said, "If we put him in a tree, Coyote will surely climb
So they decided to burn the body of Rabbit, and yet there was no fire on
Blue Fly said, "Go to Sun and get some of the fire which he keeps in his
house," So Coyote scampered away, but he was sure the people were trying
to get rid of him so he kept looking back.
Then Blue Fly made the first fire drill. Taking a stick like an arrow he
twirled it in his hands, letting the lower end rest on a flat stick that
lay on the ground. Soon smoke began to arise, and then fire came. The
people gathered fuel and began their duty.
But Coyote, looking back, saw fire ascending. He turned and ran back as
fast as he could go. When the people saw him coming, they formed a ring,
but he raced around the circle until he saw two short men standing
together. He jumped over them, and seized the heart of Rabbit. But he
burned his mouth doing it, and it is black to this day.
Coyote and the Rattlesnake
Sia (New Mexico)
Coyote's house was not far from Rattlesnake's home. One morning when
they were out walking together, Coyote said to Rattlesnake,
"To-morrow come to my house."
In the morning Rattlesnake went to Coyote's house. He moved slowly along
the floor, shaking his rattle. Coyote sat at one side, very much
frightened. The movements of the snake and the rattle frightened him.
Coyote had a pot of rabbit meat on the fire, which he placed in front of
the snake, saying,
"I will not eat your meat. I do not understand your food," said
"What food do you eat?"
"I eat the yellow flowers of the corn."
Coyote at once began to search for the yellow corn flowers. When he
found some, Rattlesnake said,
"Put some on top of my head so that I may eat it."
Coyote stood as far off as he could and placed the pollen on the snake's
The snake said, "Come nearer and put enough on my head so that I may
Coyote was very much afraid, but after a while he came nearer and did as
he was told.
Then the snake went away, saying,
"Companion, to-morrow you come to my house."
"All right," said Coyote. To-morrow I will come."
Coyote sat down and thought about the morrow. He thought a good deal
about what the snake might do. So he made a small rattle by placing tiny
pebbles in a gourd and fastened it to the end of his tail. He shook it a
while and was much pleased with it.
The next morning he started for the snake's house. He shook the rattle
on the end of his tail and smiled, and said to himself,
"This is good. When I go into Rattlesnake's house, he will be very much
afraid of me."
Coyote did not walk into Snake's house, but moved like a snake. But
Coyote could not shake his rattle as the snake shook his. He had to hold
it in his hand. But when he shook his rattle, the snake seemed much
afraid, and said,
"Companion, I am afraid of you."
Now Rattlesnake had a stew of rats on the fire, and he placed some
before Coyote. But Coyote said,
"I do not understand your food. I cannot eat it because I do not
Rattlesnake insisted upon his eating, but Coyote refused. He said,
"If you put some of the flower of the corn on my head, I will eat. I
understand that food."
The snake took some corn pollen, but he pretended to be afraid of Coyote
and stood off some distance. Coyote said,
"Come nearer and place it on top my head."
Snake replied, "I am afraid of you."
Coyote said, "Come nearer. I am not bad."
Then the snake came closer and put the pollen on top of Coyote's head.
But Coyote did not have the long tongue of the snake and he could not
get the pollen off the top of his head. He put out his tongue first on
one side of his nose and then on the other, but he could only reach to
the side of his nose. His efforts made the snake laugh, but the snake
put his hand over his mouth so Coyote should not see him laugh. Really,
the snake hid his head in his body.
At last Coyote went home. As he left the snake's house, he held his tail
in his hand and shook the rattle.
Snake cried, "Oh, companion! I am so afraid of you!" but really the
snake shook with laughter.
When Coyote reached his home he said to himself,
"I was such a fool. Rattlesnake had much food to eat and I would not
take it. Now I am very hungry."
Then he went out in search of food.
Origin of the Saguaro and Palo Verde Cacti
Once upon a time an old Indian woman had two grandchildren. Every day
she ground wheat and corn between the grinding stones to make porridge
for them. One day as she put the water-olla on the fire outside the
house to heat the water, she told the children not to quarrel because
they might upset the olla. But the children began to quarrel. They upset
the olla and spilled the water and their grandmother spanked them.
Then the children were angry and ran away. They ran far away over the
mountains. The grandmother heard them whistling and she ran after them
and followed them from place to place. but she could not catch up with
At last the older boy said, "I will turn into a saguaro, so that I shall
live forever and bear fruit every summer."
The younger said, "Then I will turn into a palo verde and stand there
forever. These mountains are so bare and have nothing on them but rocks,
I will make them green."
The old woman heard the cactus whistling and recognized the voice of her
grandson. So she went up to it and tried to take the prickly thing into
her arms, but the thorns killed her.
That is how the saguaro and the palo verde came to be on the mountains
and the desert.
The Thirsty Quails
A Quail once had more than twenty children, and with them she wandered
over the whole country in search of water and could not find it. It was
very hot and they were all crying, "Where can we get some water? Where
can we get some water?" but for a long time they could find none.
At last, way in the north, under a mesquite tree, the mother quail saw a
pond of water, but it was very muddy and not fit to drink. But the
little quails had been wandering so many days and were so tired they
stopped under the shade of the mesquite tree, and by and by, one by one,
they went down to the water and 'drank it. But the water was so bad they
The Boy and the Beast
Once an old woman lived with her daughter and son-in-law and their
little boy. They were following the trail of the Apache Indians. Now
whenever a Pima Indian sees the trail of an Apache he draws a ring
around it; then he can catch him sooner. And these Pimas drew circles
around the trail of the Apaches they were following, but one night when
they were asleep, the Apaches came down upon them. They took the man and
younger woman by the hair and shook them out of their skins, just as one
would shake corn out of a sack. So the boy and the old woman were left
Now these two had to live on berries and anything they could find, and
they wandered from place to place. In one place a strange beast, big
enough to swallow people, camped in the bushes near them. The
grand-mother told the boy not to go near these bushes. But the boy took
some sharp stones in his hands, and went toward them. As he came near,
the great monster began to breathe. He began to suck in his breath and
he sucked the boy right into his stomach. But with his sharp stones the
boy began to cut the beast, so that he died. Then the boy made a hole
large enough to climb out of.
When his grandmother came to look for him, the boy met her and said, "I
have killed that monster."
The grandmother said, "Oh, no. Such a little boy as you are to kill such
a great monster!"
The boy said, "But I was inside of him. just look at the stones I cut
Then the grandmother went softly up to the bushes, and looked at the
monster. It was full of holes, just as the little boy had said.
Then they moved down among the berry bushes and had all they wanted to
Why the Apaches are Fierce
Elder Brother, Coyote, and Earth Doctor, after the flood vanished, began
to create people and animals. Coyote made all the animals, Elder Brother
made the people, and Earth Doctor made queer creatures which had only
one leg, or immense ears, or many fingers, and some having flames of
fire in their knees.
Elder Brother divided his figures of people into four groups. One of the
Apaches came to life first. He shivered and said, "Oh, it's very cold,"
and began to sway back and forth. Then Elder Brother said, "I did n't
think you would be the first to awake," and he took all the Apaches up
in his hand and threw them over the mountains. That made them angry, and
that is why they have always been so fierce.
Speech on the Warpath
We have come thus far, my brothers. In the east there is White Gopher,
who gnaws with his strong teeth. He was friendly and came to me. On his
way he came to the surface from the underground four times. Looking in
all four directions, he saw a magic whitish trail. Slowly following
this, he neared the enemy, coming to the surface from the underground
four times during the journey. Their power stood in their land like a
mountain, but he bit it off short, and he sank their springs by biting
them. He saw that the wind of the enemy was strong and he cut it up with
his teeth. He gnawed in short pieces their clouds. They had good dreams
and bright false-seeing, good bow strings and straight-flying reeds, but
these he grasped and bit off short. The different belongings lying about
he took with him, turning around homeward. On his way homeward over the
whitish trail, he came to the surface four times, and magic fire
appeared around the edges. Then he came to his bed. He felt that the
land roared rejoicingly with him.
In the south was Blue Coyote and there I sent my cry. He was friendly
and came to me from his blue darkness, circling around and shouting,
four times, on his journey, making magic fire everywhere. When he
arrived, he looked in four directions, then understood. A whitish magic
trail lay before him. He cast his blue darkness upon the enemy and
slowly approached them, circling around and shouting four times on the
way. Like a mountain was their power in the land, and he sucked it in.
The springs of water under the trees he sucked in. The wind that was
blowing he inhaled. He sucked in the clouds. The people dreamed of a
white thing, and their dreams he sucked in, with their best bow strings
and the straight-flying reeds. All the different belongings which lay
around he gathered and slowly turned back. Hidden in the blue darkness,
he came to me, circling around, shouting, four times on his journey.
Then he homeward took his way, circling, howling, four times, and
shouting reached his bed. With pleasure he felt all directions thud. The
In the sunset direction was Black Kangaroo Mouse, an expert robber. To
him I sent my cry. He was friendly to me and came hidden in black
darkness, sitting down four times upon his way. Magic fire covered the
edges of his trail. When he reached me. he looked in all directions. The
magic trail brightly lay before him. He threw black darkness around him
and slowly reached the enemy, sitting down four times upon the trail. He
found a bag of the enemy, with much prized possessions. It was tied one
knot on top of another) but he bit them off. He took from it the blue
necklaces, blue earrings, and the different belongings lying around
gathered up with him. Then he slowly took his way back on the magic
trail, with magic fire everywhere. Hidden in his yellow darkness, he
returned to me. He left the others at the council and in darkness took
his homeward way, resting four times. He sat on his bed and felt all
directions of the earth rustling in the darkness. Darkness lay all
I called on Owl, the white blood-sucker. To him I sent my cry. He was
friendly and came down to me with four thin flys (sailing) on the way.
He looked in all directions. The magic trail brightly before him lay. He
flew, with four thin flys, toward the enemy. The mountain of their power
which stood in the land he bit off short. The springs he bit off, and
their very good dreams. The best bow strings and the straight-flying
reeds he grasped and cut very short. He bit off their flesh and made
holes in their bones. From the things gathered, he made a belt from a
bowstring. Then he returned. He came through the whitish mist of dawn in
four flights. The people held a council. Leaving them there, he after
four thin flys reached his bed in the gray dawn mist. Then in all
directions he heard the darkness rattling, as he lay there.
The Spirit Land
Gallinomero (Russian River, Cal.)
When the flames burn low on the funeral pyres of the Gallinomero, Indian
mourners gather up handfuls of ashes and scatter them high in air. Thus
the good mount up into the air, or go to the Happy Western Land beyond
the Big Water.
But the bad Indians go to an island in the Bitter Waters, an island
naked and barren and desolate, covered only with brine-spattered stone,
swept with cold winds and the biting sea-spray. Here they live always,
breaking stone upon one another, with no food but the broken stones and
no drink but the salt sea water.
Song of the Ghost Dance
Pai Ute (Kern River, Cal.)
The snow lies there - ro-rani!
The snow lies there - ro-rani!
The snow lies there - ro-rani!
The snow lies there - ro-rani!
The Milky Way lies there.
The Milky Way lies there.
"This is one of the favorite songs of the Paiute Ghost dance. . . . It
must be remembered that the dance is held in the open air at night, with
the stars shining down on the wide-extending plain walled in by the
giant Sierras, fringed at the base with dark pines, and with their peaks
white with eternal snows. Under such circumstances this song of the snow
lying white upon the mountains, and the Milky Way stretching across the
clear sky, brings up to the Paiute the same patriotic home love that
comes from lyrics of singing birds and leafy trees and still waters to
the people of more favored regions. . . . The Milky Way is the road of
the dead to the spirit world."
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