Folklore Tales and Legends of The American Indian

 

A selection of Native American folklore tales and legends, from pages in  vintage publications

 

 

 

 

 

SEDNA, MISTRESS OF THE UNDERWORLD

(Eskimo: Boas, Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, vi, 583)

Once upon a time there lived on a solitary shore an Inung with his daughter Sedna. His wife had been dead for some time and the two led a quiet life. Sedna grew up to be a handsome girl and the youths came from all around to sue for her hand, but none of them could touch her proud heart. Finally, at the breaking up of the ice in the spring a fulmar flew from over the ice and wooed Sedna with enticing song. "Come to me," it said; "come into the land of the birds, where there is never hunger, where my tent is made of the most beautiful skins. You shall rest on soft bearskins. My fellows, the fulmars, shall bring you all your heart may desire; their feathers shall clothe you; your lamp shall always be filled with oil, your pot with meat." Sedna could not long resist such wooing and they went together over the vast sea[3]. When at last they reached the country of the fulmar, after a long and hard journey, Sedna discovered that her spouse had shamefully deceived her. Her new home was not built of beautiful pelts, but was covered with wretched fishskins, full of holes, that gave free entrance to wind and snow. Instead of soft reindeer skins her bed was made of hard walrus hides and she had to live on miserable fish, which the birds brought her. Too soon she discovered that she had thrown away her opportunities when in her foolish pride she had rejected the Inuit youth. In her woe she sang: "Aja. O father, if you knew how wretched I am you would come to me and we would hurry away in your boat over the waters. The birds look unkindly upon me the stranger; cold winds roar about my bed; they give me but miserable food. O come and take me back home. Aja."

When a year had passed and the sea was again stirred by warmer winds, the father left his country to visit Sedna. His daughter greeted him joyfully and besought him to take her

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back home. The father, hearing of the outrages wrought upon his daughter, determined upon revenge. He killed the fulmar, took Sedna into his boat, and they quickly left the country which had brought so much sorrow to Sedna. When the other fulmars came home and found their companion dead and his wife gone, they all flew away in search of the fugitives. They were very sad over the death of their poor murdered comrade and continue to mourn and cry until this day.[4]

Having flown a short distance they discerned the boat and stirred up a heavy storm. The sea rose in immense waves that threatened the pair with destruction. In this mortal peril the father determined to offer Sedna to the birds and flung her overboard. She clung to the edge of the boat with a death grip. The cruel father then took a knife and cut off the first joints of her fingers. Falling into the sea they were transformed into whales, the nails turning into whalebone. Sedna holding on to the boat more tightly, the second finger joints fell under the sharp knife and swam away as seals; when the father cut off the stumps of the fingers they became ground seals.

Meantime the storm subsided, for the fulmars thought Sedna was drowned. The father then allowed her to come into the boat again. But from that time she cherished a deadly hatred against him and swore bitter revenge. After they got ashore, she called her dogs and let them gnaw off the feet and hands of her father while he was asleep. Upon this he cursed himself, his daughter, and the dogs which had maimed him; whereupon the earth opened and swallowed the hut, the father, the daughter, and the dogs. They have since lived in the land of Adlivun,[5] of which Sedna is the mistress.

SUN SISTER AND MOON BROTHER[6]

(ESKIMO: Boas, Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, vi, 597)

In olden times a brother and his sister lived in a large village in which there was a singing house, and every night the sister with her playfellows enjoyed themselves in this house. Once upon a time, when all the lamps in the singing house were extinguished, somebody came in and outraged her. She was unable to recognize him; but she blackened her hands with soot and when the same again happened besmeared the man's back with it.[7] When the lamps were relighted she saw that the

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violator was her brother.[8] In great anger she sharpened a knife and cut off her breasts, which she offered to him, saying: "Since you seem to relish me, eat this." Her brother fell into a passion and she fled from him, running about the room. She seized a piece of wood (with which the lamps are kept in order) which was burning brightly and rushed out of the house. The brother took another one, but in his pursuit he fell down and extinguished his light, which continued to glow only faintly. Gradually both were lifted up and continued their course in the sky, the sister being transformed into the sun, the brother into the moon.[9]Whenever the new moon first appears she sings:

Aningaga tapika, takirn tapika qaumidjatedlirpoq; qaumatitaudle.
Aningaga tapika, tikipoq tapika.

(My brother up there, the moon up there begins to shine; he will be bright.
My brother up there, he is coming up there.

GLOOSCAP[10]

(MICMAC: Rand, Legends of the Micmacs, p. 232, No. 35)

The tradition respecting Glooscap is that he came to this country from the east,--far across the great sea; that he was a divine being, though in the form of a man. He was not far from any of the Indians (this is the identical rendering of the Indian words used by my friend Stephen in relating the sketches of his history here given). When Glooscap went away, he went toward the west.[11] There he is still tented; and two important personages are near him, who are called Kuhkw and Coolpujot,--of whom more anon.

Glooscap was the friend and teacher of the Indians; all they knew of the arts he taught them.[12] He taught them the names of the constellations and stars; he taught them how to hunt and fish, and cure what they took; how to cultivate the ground, as far as they were trained in husbandry. When he first came, he brought a woman with him, whom he ever addressed as Grandmother,[13]--a very general epithet for an old woman. She was not his wife, nor did he ever have a wife. He was always sober, grave, and good; all that the Indians knew of what was wise and good he taught them.

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His canoe was a granite rock.[14] On one occasion he put to sea in this craft, and took a young woman with him as a passenger. She proved to be a bad girl; and this was manifested by the troubles that ensued. A storm arose, and the waves dashed wildly over the canoe; he accused her of being the cause, through her evil deeds, and so he determined to rid himself of her. For this purpose he stood in for the land, leaped ashore, but would not allow her to follow; putting his foot against the heavy craft, he pushed it off to sea again with the girl on it, telling her to become whatever she desired to be. She was transformed into a large, ferocious fish, called by the Indians keeganibe, said to have a huge dorsal fin,--like the sail of a boat, it is so large and high out of the water.

The Indians sometimes visit Glooscap at his present residence, so says tradition; this is in a beautiful land in the west. He taught them when he was with them that there was such a place, and led them to look forward to a residence there, and to call it their beautiful home in the far west,--where, if good, they would go at death.

The journey to that fair region far away is long, difficult, and dangerous; the way back is short and easy. Some years ago, seven stout-hearted young men attempted the journey, and succeeded. Before reaching the place, they had to pass over a mountain, the ascent of which was up a perpendicular bluff, and the descent on the other side was still more difficult, for the top hung far over the base. The fearful and unbelieving could not pass at all; but the good and confident could travel it with ease and safety, as though it were a level path.

Having crossed the mountain, the road ran between the heads of two huge serpents, which lay just opposite each other; and they darted out their tongues, so as to destroy whomsoever they hit. But the good and the firm of heart could dart past between the strokes of their tongues, so as to evade them.[113b] One more difficulty remained; it was a wall, as of a thick, heavy cloud, that separated the present world from that beautiful region beyond. This cloudy wall rose and fell at intervals, and struck the ground with such force that whatever was caught under it would be crushed to atoms; but the good could dart under when it rose, and come out on the other side unscathed.[15]

This our seven young heroes succeeded in doing. There they found three wigwams,--one for Glooscap, one for Coolpujot,

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and one for Kuhkw. These are all mighty personages, but Glooscap is supreme; the other two are subordinates. Coolpujot has no bones. He cannot move himself, but is rolled over each spring and fall by Glooscap's order, being turned with handspikes; hence the name Coolpujot (rolled over by handspikes). In the autumn he is turned towards the west, in the spring towards the east; and this is a figure of speech, denoting the revolving seasons of the year,[16]--his mighty breath and looks, by which he can sweep down whole armies and work wonders on a grand scale, indicating the weather: frost, snow, ice, and sunshine. (Such was Stephen's very satisfactory explanation.)

Kuhkw means Earthquake; this mighty personage can pass along under the surface of the ground, making all things shake and tremble by his power.

All these seven visitors had requests to proffer, and each received what he asked for;[17] though the gift did not always correspond with the spirit of the request, it oftentimes agreed with the letter. For instance, one of these seven visitors was wonderfully enamoured of a fine country, and expressed a desire to remain there, and to live long; whereupon, at Glooscap's direction, Earthquake took him and stood him up, and he became a cedar-tree.[18] When the wind blew through its boughs, they were bent and broken with great fracas,--making a thunder-storm that rolled far and wide over the country, accompanied by strong winds, which scattered the cedar-boughs and seeds in all directions, producing all the cedar-groves that exist in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and elsewhere.

The other men started, and reached home in a short time.

One of them had asked for a medicine that would be effectual in curing disease. This he obtained; but, neglecting to follow implicitly the directions given, he lost it before he reached home. It was carefully wrapped up in a piece of paper, and he was charged not to undo the parcel until he reached home. His curiosity got the better of his judgment; he could not see what difference it could make if he just looked at his prize as he was going along. So he undid the parcel, and presto! the medicine slipped out on the ground, spread and slid in all directions, covering up the face of the earth, and vanishing from sight.[19]

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On another occasion several young men went to see Glooscap in his present abode. One of them went to obtain the power of winning the heart of some fair one, which all his unaided skill had failed hitherto to do; an hundred times he had tried to get a wife, but the girls all shunned him. Many of the party who started on this perilous expedition failed to overcome the difficulties that lay in their way, and turned back, baffled and defeated; but several of them succeeded. They were all hospitably entertained; all presented their requests, and were favorably heard. The man who sought power to captivate some female heart was the last to proffer his petition. Glooscap and his two subordinates conferred together in a whisper, and then Earthquake informed him that his ugly looks and still more ugly manners were the chief hindrances to his success; but they must try to help him. So he was handed a small parcel, and directed not to open it until he reached his own village; this he took, and they all set off for home together. The night before they arrived, he could restrain his curiosity no longer; he opened the parcel, the foolish fellow! Out flew young women by the scores and hundreds, covering the face of the earth, piling themselves in towering heaps, and burying the poor fellow, crushing him to the earth under the accumulating weight of their bodies. His comrades had cautioned him against disobeying the mandate, and had begged him not to undo the parcel; but he had not heeded the caution. They now heard him calling for help, but he called in vain, they could not help him; and his cries became fainter and fainter, and finally ceased altogether. Morning came at last. The young women had all vanished, and the fragments of their comrade were scattered over the ground; he had been killed and ground to atoms as the result of his unbridled curiosity and disobedience.

 

MANABOZHO'S BIRTH

(MENOMINI: Skinner and Satterlee, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, xiii, 239)

In the beginning, there was a lone old woman living on this island. Nobody knows where she came from, nor how she got here, but it is true that she dwelt in a wigwam with her only daughter. Wild potatoes were the only food of the two women.

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Every day the old woman took her wooden hoe and went out to gather them. She packed them home and dried them in the sun, for in those days, there was no such thing as fire in that part of the world.

One day her daughter begged to go with her. "Mother, let me go and help you; between us we can dig more potatoes than you can alone." "No, my daughter, you stay here," said the old woman; "I don't want you to go. Your place is at home caring for the lodge." "Oh dear! I don't like to stay here alone all day," teased the girl; "it's so lonely when you are gone! I'd much rather go with you. There is another old hoe here that I can use. Please let me go too."

At last, the old woman consented to her daughter's pleading; the two armed themselves with their tools and set out. After a little journey they came to a damp ravine. "Here is the place where I always come to gather the potatoes," cried the mother; "you can dig here too. But there is one thing that I must warn you about, when you are digging these potatoes; I want you to face the south. Be sure not to forget this. It was because I was afraid that you could not be trusted to remember that I never brought you here before." "Oh, that's all right, I won't forget," cried the girl. "Very well then, you stay right here and work; I am going to dig over there."

The girl set to work with a will, and enjoyed her task very much. "Oh how nice it is to dig potatoes!" she said, and kept up a running stream of conversation with her mother as she labored. As the time passed by, the daughter gradually forgot her promise and at last turned round and faced in the opposite direction as she dug. All at once there came a great rushing, roaring noise from the heavens and the wind swept down where she stood and whirled her round and round. "Oh, mother! Help! Come quick!" she screamed. Her mother dropped everything and rushed to her aid. "Grab me by the back and hold me down!" cried the girl in terror. The old lady seized her with one hand and steadied herself, meanwhile, by catching hold of some bushes. "Hold me as tightly as you can!" she gasped. "Now you see why I told you to stay at home! You are being properly punished for your disobedience."

Suddenly the wind stopped. The air was as calm as though nothing had ever happened. The two women hastily gathered up their potatoes and hurried home. After that the old woman

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worked alone. Everything went well for a while, and then, one day the daughter complained. "I feel very strange and different, mother; there seems to be something within me." The old woman scrutinized the girl narrowly, but made no answer, for she knew that her daughter was pregnant." At last, she was brought to bed and gave birth to three children. The first of these was Manabozho, the second was a little wolf, Muh'wäse, and the last was a sharp flint stone. When the unfortunate mother gave issue to the rock, it cut her and she died. The old woman mourned her daughter greatly. In a paroxysm of rage and grief, she threw away the flint stone, but Manabozho[*] and Muh'wäse she cherished and cared for until they grew to be children.

B. MANABOZHO'S WOLF BROTHER

(MENOMINI: Hoffman, Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, xiv, 115)

When Manabozho had accomplished the works for which Kishä' Ma'nido[22] sent him down to the earth, he went far away and built his wigwam on the northeastern shore of a large lake, where he took up his abode. As he was alone, the good manidos concluded to give him for a companion his twin brother, whom they brought to life and called Naq'pote (which signifies an expert marksman). He was formed like a human being, but, being a manido, could assume the shape of a wolf, in which form he hunted for food. Manabozho was aware of the anger of the bad manidos who dwelt beneath the earth, and warned his brother, the Wolf, never to return home by crossing the lake, but always to go around along the shore. Once after the Wolf had been hunting all day long he found himself directly opposite his wigwam, and being tired, concluded to cross the lake. He had not gone halfway across when the ice broke, so the Wolf was seized by the bad manidos, and destroyed.[23]

Manabozho at once knew what had befallen his brother, and in his distress mourned for four days. Every time that Manabozho sighed the earth trembled, which caused the hills and ridges to form over its surface. Then the shade of Moquaio, the Wolf, appeared before Manabozho, and knowing that his brother could not be restored Manabozho told him to follow the path of the setting sun and become the chief of the shades in

[*. The hero's name appears in many forms. In this collection it is standardized.]

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the Hereafter where all would meet.[24] Manabozho then secreted himself in a large rock near Mackinaw. Here his uncles, the people, for many years visited Manabozho, and always built a long lodge, the mitä'wiko'mik, where they sang; so when Manabozho did not wish to see them in his human form he appeared to them in the form of a little white rabbit, with trembling ears, just as he had first appeared to Nokomis.

 

THE WOMAN WHO FELL FROM THE SKY[27]

(SENECA: Curtin and Hewitt, Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, xxxii, 460, No. 98)

A long time ago human beings lived high up in what is now called heaven. They had a great and illustrious chief.

It so happened that this chief's daughter was taken very ill with a strange affection. All the people were very anxious as to the outcome of her illness. Every known remedy was tried in an attempt to cure her, but none had any effect.

Near the lodge of this chief stood a great tree, which every year bore corn used for food. One of the friends of the chief had a dream, in which he was advised to tell the chief that in order to cure his daughter he must lay her beside this tree, and that he must have the tree dug up. This advice was carried out to the letter. While the people were at work and the young woman lay there, a young man came along. He was very angry and said: "It is not at all right to destroy this tree. Its fruit is all that we have to live on." With this remark he gave the young woman who lay there ill a shove with his foot, causing her to fall into the hole that had been dug.

Now, that hole opened into this world,[28] which was then all water,[29] on which floated waterfowl of many kinds. There was no land at that time. It came to pass that as these waterfowl saw this young woman falling they shouted, "Let us receive her," whereupon they, at least some of them, joined their bodies together, and the young woman fell on this platform of bodies. When these were wearied they asked, "Who will volunteer to care for this woman?" The great Turtle then took her, and when he got tired of holding her, he in turn asked who would take his place. At last the question arose as to what they should do to provide her with a permanent resting place in this world. Finally it was decided to prepare the earth, on which

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she would live in the future. To do this it was determined that soil from the bottom of the primal sea should be brought up and placed on the broad, firm carapace of the Turtle, where it would increase in size to such an extent that it would accommodate all the creatures that should be produced thereafter. After much discussion the toad was finally persuaded to dive to the bottom of the waters in search of soil. Bravely making the attempt, he succeeded in bringing up soil from the depths of the sea.[30] This was carefully spread over the carapace of the Turtle,[31] and at once both began to grow in size and depth.

After the young woman recovered from the illness from which she suffered when she was cast down from the upper world, she built herself a shelter, in which she lived quite contentedly. In the course of time she brought forth a girl baby, who grew rapidly in size and intelligence.

When the daughter had grown to young womanhood, the mother and she were accustomed to go out to dig wild potatoes. Her mother had said to her that in doing this she must face the West at all times. Before long the young daughter gave signs that she was about to become a mother. Her mother reproved her, saying that she had violated the injunction not to face the east, as her condition showed that she had faced the wrong way while digging potatoes. It is said that the breath of the West Wind had entered her person, causing conceptions When the days of her delivery were at hand, she overheard twins within her body in a hot debate as to which should be born first and as to the proper place of exit, one declaring that he was going to emerge through the armpit of his mother, the other saying that he would emerge in the natural way.[33] The first one born, who was of a reddish color, was called Othagwenda; that is, Flint. The other, who was light in color, was called Djuskaha; that is, the Little Sprout.

The grandmother of the twins liked Djuskaha and hated the other; so they cast Othagwenda into a hollow tree some distance from the lodge.[34]

The boy that remained in the lodge grew very rapidly, and soon was able to make himself bows and arrows and to go out to hunt in the vicinity. Finally, for several days he returned home without his bow and arrows. At last he was asked why he had to have a new bow and arrows every morning. He replied

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that there was a young boy in a hollow tree in the neighborhood who used them. The grandmother inquired where the tree stood, and he told her; whereupon then they went there and brought the other boy home again.

When the boys had grown to man's estate, they decided that it was necessary for them to increase the size of their island, so they agreed to start out together, afterward separating to create forests and lakes and other things. They parted as agreed, Othagwenda going westward and Djuskaha eastward. In the course of time, on returning, they met in their shelter or lodge at night, then agreeing to go the next day to see what each had made. First they went west to see what Othagwenda had made. It was found that he had made the country all rocks and full of ledges, and also a mosquito which was very large. Djuskaha asked the mosquito to run, in order that he might see 'whether the insect could fight. The mosquito ran, and sticking his bill through a sapling, thereby made it fall, at which Djuskaha said, "That will not be right, for you would kill the people who are about to come." So, seizing him, he rubbed him down in his hands, causing him to become very small. then he blew on the mosquito, whereupon he flew away. He also modified some of the other animals which his brother had made. After returning to their lodge, they agreed to go the next day to see what Djuskaha had fashioned. On visiting the east the next day, they found that Djuskaha had made a large number of animals which were so fat that they could hardly move; that he had made the sugar-maple trees to drop syrup; that he had made the sycamore tree to bear fine fruit; that the rivers were so formed that half the water flowed upstream and the other half downstream. Then the reddish colored brother, Othagwenda, was greatly displeased with what his brother had made, saying that the people who were about to come would live too easily and be too happy. So he shook violently the various animals--the bears, deer, and turkeys--causing them to become small at once, a characteristic which attached itself to their descendants. He also caused the sugar maple to drop sweetened water only, and the fruit of the sycamore to become small and useless; and lastly he caused the water of the rivers to flow in only one direction, because the original plan would make it too easy for the human beings who were about to come to navigate the streams.

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The inspection of each other's work resulted in a deadly disagreement between the brothers,[35] who finally came to grips and blows, and Othagwenda was killed in the fierce struggle.

 

THE BEGINNING OF NEWNESS[36]

(Zuni: Cushing, Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, xiii, 379)

Before the beginning of the new-making, Awonawilona (the Maker and Container of All, the All-father Father), solely had being. There was nothing else whatsoever throughout the great space of the ages save everywhere black darkness in it, and everywhere void desolation.

In the beginning of the new-made, Awonawilona conceived within himself and thought outward in space, whereby mists of increase, steams potent of growth, were evolved and uplifted. Thus, by means of his innate knowledge, the All-container made himself in person and form of the Sun whom we hold to be our father and who thus came to exist and appear. With his appearance came the brightening of the spaces with light, and with the brightening of the spaces the great mist-clouds were thickened together and fell, whereby was evolved water in water; yea, and the world-holding sea.

With his substance of flesh outdrawn from the surface of his person, the Sun-father formed the seed-stuff of twain worlds, impregnating therewith the great waters, and lo! in the heat of his light these waters of the sea grew green and scums rose upon them, waxing wide and weighty until, behold! they became Awitelin Tsita, the "Four-fold Containing Mother-earth," and Apoyan Tä'chu, the "All-covering Father-sky."[37]

From the lying together of these twain upon the great world-waters, so vitalizing, terrestrial life was conceived; whence began all beings of earth, men and the creatures, in the Fourfold womb of the World.

Thereupon the Earth-mother repulsed the Sky-father, growing big and sinking deep into the embrace of the waters below, thus separating from the Sky-father in the embrace of the waters above. As a woman forebodes evil for her first-born ere born, even so did the Earth-mother forebode, long withholding from birth her myriad progeny and meantime seeking counsel with the Sky-father. "How," said they to one another, "shall our children when brought forth, know one place from another, even by the white light of the Sun-father?"

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Now like all the surpassing beings the Earth-mother and the Sky-father were changeable, even as smoke in the wind; transmutable at thought, manifesting themselves in any form at will, like as dancers may by mask-making.

Thus, as a man and woman, spake they, one to the other. "Behold!" said the Earth-mother as a great terraced bowl appeared at hand and within it water, "this is as upon me the homes of my tiny children shall be. On the rim of each world-country they wander in, terraced mountains shall stand, making in one region many, whereby country shall be known from country, and within each, place from place. Behold, again!" said she as she spat on the water and rapidly smote and stirred it with her fingers. Foam formed, gathering about the terraced rim, mounting higher and higher. "Yea," said she, "and from my bosom they shall draw nourishment, for in such as this shall they find the substance of life whence we were ourselves sustained, for see!" Then with her warm breath she blew across the terraces; white flecks of the foam broke away, and, floating over above the water, were shattered by the cold breath of the Sky-father attending, and forthwith shed downward abundantly fine mist and spray! "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 horizons be borne aloft and abroad by the breaths of the surpassing of soul-beings, and of the children, and shall hardened and broken be by thy cold, shedding downward, in rain-spray, the water of life, even into the hollow places of my lap! For therein chiefly shall nestle our children mankind and creature-kind, for warmth in thy coldness."

Lo! even the trees on high mountains near the clouds and the Sky-father crouch low toward the Earth-mother for warmth and protection! Warm is the Earth-mother, cold the Sky-father, even as woman is the warm, man the cold being!

"Even so!" said the Sky-father; "Yet not alone shalt thou helpful be unto our children, for behold!" and he spread his hand abroad with the palm downward and into all the wrinkles and crevices thereof he set the semblance of shining yellow corn-grains; in the dark of the early world-dawn they gleamed like sparks of fire, and moved as his hand was moved over the bowl, shining up from and also moving in the depths of the water therein. "See!" said he, pointing to the seven grains

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clasped by his thumb and four fingers, "by such shall our children be guided; for behold, when the Sun-father is not nigh, and thy terraces are as the dark itself (being all hidden therein), then shall our children be guided by lights--like to these lights of all the six regions turning round the midmost one--as in and around the midmost place, where these our children shall abide, lie all the other regions of space! Yea! and even as these grains gleam up from the water, so shall seed-grains like to them, yet numberless, spring up from thy bosom when touched by my waters, to nourish our children." Thus and in other ways many devised they for their offspring.

THE CREATION[47]

(MAIDU: Dixon, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, xvii, 39, No. 1)

In the beginning there was no sun, no moon, no stars. All was dark, and everywhere there was only water.[29] A raft came floating on the water. It came from the north, and in it were two persons,--Turtle and Father-of-the-Secret-Society. The stream flowed very rapidly. Then from the sky a rope of feathers,[48] was let down, and down it came Earth-Initiate. When he reached the end of the rope, he tied it to the bow of the raft, and stepped in. His face was covered and was never seen, but his body shone like the sun. He sat down, and for a long time said nothing.

[*. Pronunciation approximately represented in English by "Chemsem."]

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At last Turtle said, "Where do you come from?" and earth Initiate answered, "I come from above." Then Turtle said, "Brother, can you not make for me some good dry land so that I may sometimes come up out of the water?" Then he asked another time, "Are there going to be any people in the world?" Earth-Initiate thought awhile, then said, "Yes." Turtle asked, "How long before you are going to make people?" Earth-Initiate replied, "I don't know. You want to have some dry land: well, how am I going to get any earth to make it of?"

Turtle answered, "If you will tie a rock about my left arm, I'll dive for some."[30] Earth-Initiate did as Turtle asked, and then, reaching around, took the end of a rope from somewhere, and tied it to Turtle. When Earth-Initiate came to the raft, there was no rope there: he just reached out and found one. Turtle said, "If the rope is not long enough, I'll jerk it once, and you must haul me up; if it is long enough, I'll give two jerks, and then you must pull me up quickly, as I shall have all the earth that I can carry." Just as Turtle went over the side of the boat, Father-of-the-Secret-Society began to shout loudly.

Turtle was gone a long time. He was gone six years; and when he came up, he was covered with green slime, he had been down so long. When he reached the top of the water, the only earth he had was a very little under his nails: the rest had all washed away. Earth-Initiate took with his right hand a stone knife from under his left armpit, and carefully scraped the earth out from under Turtle's nails. He put the earth in the palm of his hand, and rolled it about till it was round; it was as large as a small pebble. He laid it on the stern of the raft. By and by he went to look at it: it had not grown at all. The third time that he went to look at it, it had grown so that it could be spanned by the arms. The fourth time he looked, it was as big as the world, the raft was aground, and all around were mountains as far as he could see. The raft came ashore at Ta'doikö, and the place can be seen to-day.

When the raft had come to land, Turtle said, "I can't stay in the dark all the time. Can't you make a light, so that I can see?" Earth-Initiate replied, "Let us get out of the raft, and then we will see what we can do." So all three got out. Then Earth-Initiate said, "Look that way, to the east! I am going to tell my sister to come up." Then it began to grow light, and

{p. 26}

day began to break; then Father-of-the-Secret-Society began to shout loudly, and the sun came up. Turtle said, "Which way is the sun going to travel?" Earth-Initiate answered, "I'll tell her to go this way, and go down there." After the sun went down, Father-of-the-Secret-Society began to cry and shout again, and it grew very dark. Earth-Initiate said, "I'll tell my brother to come up." Then the moon rose. Then Earth-Initiate asked Turtle and Father-of-the-Secret-Society, "How do you like it?" and they both answered, "It is very good." Then Turtle asked, "Is that all you are going to do for us?" and Earth-Initiate answered, "No, I am going to do more yet." Then he called the stars each by its name, and they came out. When this was done, Turtle asked, "Now what shall we do?" Earth-Initiate replied, "Wait, and I'll show you." Then he made a tree grow at Ta'doikö,--the tree called Hu'kiimtsa; and Earth-Initiate and Turtle and Father-of-the-Secret-Society sat in its shade for two days. The tree was very large, and had twelve different kinds of acorns growing on it.

After they had sat for two days under the tree, they all went off to see the world that Earth-Initiate had made. They started at sunrise, and were back by sunset. Earth-Initiate traveled so fast that all they could see was a ball of fire flashing about under the ground and the water. While they were gone, Coyote and his dog Rattlesnake came up out of the ground. It is said that Coyote could see Earth-Initiate's face. When Earth-Initiate and the others came back, they found Coyote at Ta'doikö. All five of them then built huts for themselves, and lived there at Ta'doikö, but no one could go inside of Earth-Initiate's house. Soon after the travelers came back, Earth-Initiate called the birds from the air, and made the trees and then the animals. He took some mud, and of this made first a deer; after that, he made all the other animals. Sometimes Turtle would say, "That does not look well: can't you make it some other way?"

Some time after this, Earth-Initiate and Coyote were at Marysville Buttes. Earth-Initiate said, "I am going to make people." In the middle of the afternoon he began, for he had returned to Ta'doikö. He took dark red earth, mixed it with water, and made two figures,--one a man, and one a woman. He laid the man on his right side, and the woman on his left, inside his house. Then he lay down himself, flat on his back,

{p. 27}

with his arms stretched out. He lay thus and sweated all the afternoon and night. Early in the morning the woman began to tickle him in the side. He kept very still, did not laugh. By and by he got up, thrust a piece of pitch-wood into the ground, and fire burst out. The two people were very white. No one to-day is as white as they were. Their eyes were pink, their hair was black, their teeth shone brightly, and they were very handsome. It is said that Earth-Initiate did not finish the hands of the people, as he did not know how it would be best to do it. Coyote saw the people, and suggested that they ought to have hands like his. Earth-Initiate said, "No, their hands shall be like mine." Then he finished them. When Coyote asked why their hands were to be like that, Earth-Initiate answered, " So that, if they are chased by bears, they can climb trees." This first man was called Ku'ksuu; and the woman, Morning-Star Woman.

When Coyote had seen the two people, he asked Earth-Initiate how he had made them. When he was told, he thought, "That is not difficult. I'll do it myself." He did just as Earth-Initiate had told him, but could not help laughing, when, early in the morning, the woman poked him in the ribs. As a result of his failing to keep still, the people were glass-eyed. Earth-Initiate said, "I told you not to laugh," but Coyote declared he had not. This was the first lie.

By and by there came to be a good many people. Earth-Initiate had wanted to have everything comfortable and easy for people, so that none of them should have to work. All fruits were easy to obtain, no one was ever to get sick and die. As the people grew numerous, Earth-Initiate did not come as often as formerly, he only came to see Ku'ksuu in the night. One night he said to him, "To-morrow morning you must go to the little lake near here. Take all the people with you. I'll make you a very old man before you get to the lake." So in the morning Ku'ksuu collected all the people, and went to the lake. By the time he had reached it, he was a very old man. He fell into the lake, and sank down out of sight. Pretty soon the ground began to shake, the waves overflowed the shore, and there was a great roaring under the water, like thunder. By and by Ku'ksuu came up out of the water, but young again, just like a young, man.[50] Then Earth-Initiate came and spoke to the people, and said, "If you do as I tell you, everything will

{p. 28}

be well. When any of you grow old, so old that you cannot walk, come to this lake, or get some one to bring you here. You must then go down into the water as you have seen Ku'ksuu do, and you will come out young again." When he had said this, he went away. He left in the night, and went up above.

All this time food had been easy to get, as Earth-Initiate had wished. The women set out baskets at night, and in the morning they found them full of food, all ready to eat, and lukewarm. One day Coyote came along. He asked the people how they lived, and they told him that all they had to do was to eat and sleep. Coyote replied, "That is no way to do: I can show you something better." Then he told them how he and Earth-Initiate had had a discussion before men had been made; how Earth-Initiate wanted everything easy, and that there should be no sickness or death, but how he had thought it would be better to have people work, get sick, and die.[51] He said, "We'll have a burning." The people did not know what he meant; but Coyote said, "I'll show you. It is better to have a burning, for then the widows can be free." So he took all the baskets and things that the people had, hung them up on poles, made everything all ready. When all was prepared, Coyote said, "At this time you must always have games." So he fixed the moon during which these games were to be played.

Coyote told them to start the games with a foot-race, and every one got ready to run. Ku'ksuu did not come, however. He sat in his hut alone, and was sad, for he knew what was going to occur. just at this moment Rattlesnake came to Ku'ksuu, and said, "What shall we do now? Everything is spoiled!" Ku'ksuu did not answer, so Rattlesnake said, "Well, I'll do what I think is best." Then he went out and along the course that the racers were to go over, and hid himself, leaving his head just sticking out of a hole. By this time all the racers had started, and among them Coyote's son. He was Coyote's only child, and was very quick. He soon began to outstrip all the runners, and was in the lead. As he passed the spot where Rattlesnake had hidden himself, however, Rattlesnake raised his head and bit the boy in the ankle. In a minute the boy was dead.

Coyote was dancing about the home-stake. He was very happy, and was shouting at his son and praising him. When Rattlesnake bit the boy, and he fell dead, every one laughed at

{p. 29}

Coyote, and said, "Your son has fallen down, and is so ashamed that he does not dare to get up." Coyote said, "No, that is not it. He is dead." This was the first death. The people, however, did not understand, and picked the boy up, and brought him to Coyote. Then Coyote began to cry,[52] and every one did the same. These were the first tears. Then Coyote took his son's body and carried it to the lake of which Earth-Initiate had told them, and threw the body in. But there was no noise, and nothing happened, and the body drifted about for four days on the surface, like a log. On the fifth day Coyote took four sacks of beads and brought them to Ku'ksuu, begging him to restore his son to life. Ku'ksuu did not answer. For five days Coyote begged, then Ku'ksuu came out of his house bringing all his bead and bear-skins, and calling to all the people to come and watch him. He laid the body on a bear-skin, dressed it, and wrapped it up carefully. Then he dug a grave, put the body into it, and covered it up. Then he told the people, "From now on, this is what you must do. This is the way you must do till the world shall be made over."

About a year after this, in the spring, all was changed. Up to this time everybody spoke the same language. The people were having a burning, everything was ready for the next day, when in the night everybody suddenly began to speak a different language. Each man and his wife, however, spoke the same. Earth-Initiate had come in the night to Ku'ksuu, and had told him about it all, and given him instructions for the next day. So, when morning came, Ku'ksuu called all the people together, for he was able to speak all the languages. He told them each the names of the different animals, etc., in their languages, taught them how to cook and to hunt ' gave them all their laws, and set the time for all their dances and festivals. Then he called each tribe by name, and sent them off in different directions, telling them where they were to live.[54] He sent the warriors to the north, the singers to the west, the flute-players to the east, and the dancers to the south. So all the people went away, and left Ku'ksuu and his, wife alone at Ta'doikö. By and by his wife went away, leaving in the night, and going first to Marysville Buttes. Ku'ksuu staid a little while longer, and then he also left. He too went to the Buttes, went into the spirit house, and sat down on the south side. He found Coyote's son there, sitting on the north side. The door was on the west.

{p. 30}

Coyote had been trying to find out where Ku'ksuu had gone, and where his own son had gone, and at last found the tracks, and followed them to the spirit house. Here he saw Ku'ksuu and his son, the latter eating spirit food. Coyote wanted to go in, but Ku'ksuu said, "No, wait there. You have just what you wanted, it is your own fault. Every man will now have all kinds of troubles and accidents, will have to work to get his food, and will die and be buried. This must go on till the time is out, and Earth-Initiate comes again,[55] and everything will be made over. You must go home, and tell all the people that you have seen your son, that he is not dead." Coyote said he would go, but that he was hungry, and wanted some of the food. Ku'ksuu replied, "You cannot eat that. Only ghosts may eat that food." Then Coyote went away and told all the people, "I saw my son and Ku'ksuu, and he told me to kill myself." So he climbed up to the top of a tall tree, jumped off, and was killed. Then he went to the spirit house, thinking he could now have some of the food; but there was no one there, nothing at all, and so he went out, and walked away to the west,[11] and was never seen again. Ku'ksuu and Coyote's son, however, had gone up above.

 

DETERMINATION OF THE SEASONS

(TAHLTAN: Teit, .Journal of American Folk-Lore, xxxii, 226)

Once Porcupine and Beaver quarrelled about the seasons. Porcupine wanted five winter months. He held up one hand and showed his five fingers. He said, Let the winter months be the same in number as the fingers on my hand." Beaver said, "No," and held up his tail, which had many cracks or scratches on it. He said, "Let the winter months be the same in number as the scratches on my tail." Now they quarrelled and argued. Porcupine got angry and bit off his thumb. Then, holding up his hand with the four fingers, he said emphatically, "There must be only four winter months." Beaver became a little afraid, and gave in. For this reason porcupines have four claws on each foot now.

Since Porcupine won, the winter remained four months in length, until later Raven changed it a little. Raven considered what Porcupine and Beaver had said about the winters, and decided that Porcupine had done right. He said, "Porcupine was right. If the winters were made too long, people could not live. Henceforth the winters will be about this length, but they will be variable. I will tell you of the gaxewisa month, when people will meet together and talk. At that time of the year

{p. 39}

people will ask questions (or propound riddles), and others will answer. If the riddle is answered correctly, then the person who propounded it must answer, "Fool-hen." Raven chose this word because the fool-hen has a shorter beak than any other gamebird. "If people guess riddles correctly at this time of year, then the winter will be short, and the spring come early."

 

DETERMINATION OF NIGHT AND DAY[62]

(IROQUOIS: Smith, Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, ii, 80)

Once upon a time the porcupine was appointed to be the leader of all the animals. Soon after his appointment he called them and presented the question, "Shall we have night and darkness, or daylight with its sunshine?"

{p. 40}

This was a very important question, and a violent discussion arose, some wishing for daylight and the sun to rule, and others for continual night.

The chipmunk wished for night and day, weeks and months, and night to be separate from the day, so he began singing, "The light will come; we must have light," which he continued to repeat. Meanwhile the bear began singing, "Night is best; we must have darkness."

While the chipmunk was singing, the day began to dawn. Then the other party saw that the chipmunk was prevailing, and were very angry; and their leader, the bear, pursued the chipmunk, who managed to escape uninjured, the huge paw of the bear simply grazing his back as he entered his hole in a hollow tree, leaving its black imprint, which the chipmunk has ever since retained. But night and day have ever continued to alternate.

 

THE THEFT OF FIRE[62]

(MAIDU: Dixon, Bulletin of the .American Museum of Natural History, xvii, 65, No. 5)

At one time the people had found fire, and were going to use it; but Thunder wanted to take it away from them, as he desired to be the only one who should have fire. He thought that if he could do this, he would be able to kill all the people. After a time he succeeded, and carried the fire home with him, far to the south. He put Woswosim (a small bird) to guard the fire, and see that no one should steal it. Thunder thought that people would die after he had stolen their fire, for they would not be able to cook their food; but the people managed to get along. They ate most of their food raw, and sometimes got Toyeskom (another small bird) to look for a long time at a piece of meat; and as he had a red eye, this after a long time would cook the meat almost as well as a fire. Only the chiefs had their food cooked in this way. All the people lived together in a big sweat-house. The house was as big as a mountain.

Among the people was Lizard and his brother; and they were always the first in the morning to go outside and sun themselves on the roof of the sweat-house. One morning as they lay there sunning themselves, they looked west, toward the Coast Range, and saw smoke. They called to all the other people, saying that they had seen smoke far away to the west. The

{p. 41}

people, however, would not believe them, and Coyote came out, and threw a lot of dirt and dust over the two. One of the people did not like this. He said to Coyote, " Why do you trouble people? Why don't you let others alone? Why don't you behave? You are always the first to start a quarrel. You always want to kill people without any reason." Then the other people felt sorry. They asked the two Lizards about what they had seen, and asked them to point out the smoke. The Lizards did so, and all could see the- thin column rising up far to the west. One person said, "How shall we get that fire back? How shall we get it away from Thunder? He is a bad man. I don't know whether we had better try to get it or not." Then the chief said, "The best one among you had better try to get it. Even if Thunder is a bad man, we must try to get the fire. When we get there, I don't know how we shall get in but the one who is the best, who thinks he can get in, let him try." Mouse, Deer, Dog, and Coyote were the ones who were to try, but all the other people went too. They took a flute with them for they meant to put the fire in it.

They traveled a long time, and finally reached the place where the fire was. They were within a little distance of Thunder's house, when they all stopped to see what they would do. Woswosim, who was supposed to guard the fire in the house, began to sing, "I am the man who never sleeps. I am the man who never sleeps." Thunder had paid him for his work in beads, and he wore them about his neck and around his waist. He sat on the top of the sweat-house, by the smoke-hole.

After a while Mouse was sent up to try and see if he could get in. He crept up slowly till he got close to Woswosim, and then saw that his eyes were shut. He was asleep, in spite of the song that he sang. When Mouse saw that the watcher was asleep, he crawled to the opening and went in. Thunder had several daughters, and they were lying there asleep. Mouse stole up quietly, and untied the waist-string of each one's apron, so that should the alarm be given, and they jump up, these aprons or skirts would fall off, and they would have to stop to fix them. This done, Mouse took the flute, filled it with fire, then crept out, and rejoined the other people who were waiting outside.

Some of the fire was taken out and put in the Dog's ear, the remainder in the flute being given to the swiftest runner to

{p. 42}

carry. Deer, however, took a little, which he carried on the hock of his leg, where to-day there is a reddish spot. For a while all went well, but when they were about half-way back, Thunder woke up, suspected that something was wrong, and asked, "What is the matter with my fire?" Then he jumped up with a roar of thunder, and his daughters were thus awakened, and also jumped up; but their aprons fell off as they did so, and they had to sit down again to put them on. After they were all ready, they went out with Thunder to give chase. They carried with them a heavy wind and a great rain and a hailstorm, so that they might put out any fire the people had. Thunder and his daughters hurried along, and soon caught up with the fugitives, and were about to catch them, when Skunk shot at Thunder and killed him. Then Skunk called out, "After this you must never try to follow and kill people. You must stay up in the sky, and be the thunder. That is what you will be." The daughters of Thunder did not follow any farther; so the people went on safely, and got home with their fire, and people have had it ever since.

 

THE MAN IN THE MOON[69]

(LILLOOET: Teit, Journal of American Folk-Lore, xxv, 298, No. 3)

The three Frog sisters had a house in a swamp, where they lived together. Not very far away lived a number of people in another house. Among them were Snake and Beaver, who were friends. They were well-grown lads, and wished to marry the Frog girls.

One night Snake went to Frog's house, and, crawling up to one of the sisters, put his hand on her face. She awoke, and asked him who he was. Learning that he was Snake, she said she would not marry him, and told him to leave at once. She called him hard names, such as, "slimy-fellow," "small-eyes," etc. Snake returned, and told his friend of his failure.

Next night Beaver went to try, and, crawling up to one of the sisters, he put his hand on her face. She awoke, and, finding out who he was, she told him to be gone. She called him names, such as, "short-legs," "big-belly," "big-buttocks." Beaver felt hurt, and, going home, began to cry. His father asked him what the matter was, and the boy told him. He said, "That is nothing. Don't cry! It will rain too much." But young Beaver said, "I will cry."

As he continued to cry, much rain fell, and soon the swamp where the Frogs lived was flooded.[67] Their house was under

{p. 46}

the water, which covered the tops of the tall swamp-grass. The Frogs got cold, and went to Beaver's house, and said to him, "We wish to marry your sons." But old Beaver said, "No! You called us hard names."

The water was now running in a regular stream. So the Frogs swam away downstream until they reached a whirlpool, which sucked them in, and they descended to the house of the Moon. The latter invited them to warm themselves at the fire; but they said, "No. We do not wish to sit by the fire. We wish to sit there," pointing at him. He said, "Here?" at the same time pointing at his feet. They said, "No, not there." Then he pointed to one part of his body after another, until he reached his brow. When he said, "Will you sit here?" they all cried out, "Yes," and jumped on his face, thus spoiling his beauty. The Frog's sisters may be seen on the moon's face at the present day.

 

 

THE BIRD WHOSE WINGS MADE THE WIND[74]

(MICMAC: Rand, Legends of the Micmacs, p. 360, No. 68)

An Indian family resided on the sea-shore. They had two sons, the oldest of whom was married and had a family of small children. They lived principally by fishing, and their favorite food was eels.

Now it came to pass at a certain time that the weather was so stormy they could not fish. The wind blew fiercely night and day, and they were greatly reduced by hunger. Finally the old father told his boys to walk along the shore, and perhaps they might find a fish that had floated ashore, as sometimes happened. So one of the young men started off to try his luck in this line; when he reached a point where the wind blew so fiercely that he could hardly stand against it, he saw the cause of all the trouble. At the end of the point there was a ledge of rocks, called Rocky Point, extending far out; at low water the rocks were separated from one another by the shallow water, but were nearly all covered when the tide was in. On the farthest rock a large bird, the storm-king, was standing, flapping his wings and causing all the trouble by the wind he raised. The

{p. 49}

Indian planned to outwit him. He called to the big bird, and addressing him as "my grandfather," said, "Are you cold?" He answered, "No." The man replied, "You are cold; let me carry you ashore on my back." "Do so," was the answer. So the man waded over to the rock on which the bird was sitting, took him on his back, and carefully carried him from rock to rock, wading over the intervening spaces of shoal water. In going down the last rock, he stumbled on purpose, but pretended that it was an accident; and the poor old bird fell and broke one of his wings. The man seemed very sorry, and immediately proceeded to set the bone and bind up the wing. He then directed the old fellow to keep quiet and not move his wings until the wounded one healed. He now inquired if it pained him much, and was told that it did not. "Remain there and I will visit you again soon, and bring you some food." He now returned home, and found that the wind had all died away; there was a dead calm, so that before long they were supplied with a great abundance of food, as the eels were plenty and easily taken. But there can be too much even of a good thing. Calm weather continued for a succession of days, causing the salt water to be covered with a sort of scum. The Indians say it is the result of sickness and vomiting among the larger fish; this scum prevents the fishermen from seeing into the water, and consequently is adverse to eel-spearing. This took place on the occasion referred to, and so they sought for a remedy. The big bird was visited and his wing examined. It was sufficiently recovered to admit of motion, and he was told to keep both his wings going, but that the motion must be steady and gentle. This produced the desired effect.

 

THE ORIGIN OF CORN

(ABABNAKI: Brown, Journal of American Folk-Lore, iii, 214)

A long time ago, when Indians were first made, there lived one alone, far, far from any others. He knew not of fire, and subsisted on roots, barks, and nuts. This Indian became very lonesome for company. He grew tired of digging roots, lost his appetite, and for several days lay dreaming in the sunshine; when he awoke he saw something standing near, at which, at first, he was very much frightened. But when it spoke, his heart was glad, for it was a beautiful woman with long light hair, very unlike any Indian. He asked her to come to him, but

{p. 52}

she would not, and if he tried to approach her she seemed to go farther away; he sang to her of his loneliness and besought her not to leave him; at last she told him, if he would do just as she should say, he would always have her with him. He promised that he would.

She led him to where there was some very dry grass, told him to get two very dry sticks, rub them together quickly, holding them in the grass. Soon a spark flew out; the grass caught it, and quick as an arrow the ground was burned over. Then she said, "When the sun sets, take me by the hair and drag me over the burned ground." He did not like to do this, but she told him that wherever he dragged her something like grass would spring up, and he would see her hair coming from between the leaves; then the seeds would be ready for his use. He did as she said, and to this day, when they see the silk (hair) on the cornstalk, the Indians know she has not forgotten them.

 

 

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