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Creation Myths of Primitive America, by Jeremiah Curtin, [1898], at

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THIS myth and all that follow it belong to the Yanas, a nation of Indians described in the notes. The nine preceding myths are of the Wintus, neighbors of the Yanas.

The languages of these two nations are radically different.


After each name is given that of the creature or thing into which the personage was changed subsequently.

Chuhna, spider; Halai Auna, morning star; Igupa Topa, ----; Ochúl Márimi, mountain lion; Pul Miauna, colored bow, the rainbow; Pun Miaupa, son of rainbow; Tuina, the sun; Utjamhji, mock sun; Wakara, the moon; Wediko, meteor; Marimi means woman.


Old Pul Miauna had a son, Pun Miaupa, a wife, and two daughters.

Pun Miaupa had a quarrel with his father and made up his mind to leave him. "I am going away," said he to his father and mother one day.

"I am tired of living here."

The mother began to cry.

"Which way are you going?" asked the father.

Pun Miaupa gave no answer; wouldn't tell his father where he was going. The father stood up and walked out of the house. The mother stopped crying and said,--

"I want you to go straight to my brother, your uncle Igupa Topa. Tell him where you are going. Do not go without seeing him."

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Pun Miaupa left his mother, went to his uncle's, stood on the roof of the sweat-house. The old man was very busy throwing out grass that day. A great many people had gambled at his house a day earlier; they had left much grass in it.

"Uncle, are you alive?" asked Pun Miaupa.

The old uncle looked up and saw his nephew, who said,--

"Uncle, I am full grown. I am going on a very long journey, I am going far away. My mother told me to come here and see you."

"Where are you going, my nephew?"

"To the north."

"I thought so," said the old man, who knew that his nephew would go to get Wakara's youngest daughter.

Wakara took all his daughter's suitors to Tuina's sweat-house, and they were killed there. Igupa Topa knew this and said, "Wait a little, nephew, I will go with you."

"Uncle," said Pun Miaupa, "you are too old. I don't want you to go; the journey would kill you. I want to travel very fast on this journey."

"I will go at my own pace, I will go as I like," said the uncle.

"Well, come with me if you can go fast."

Igupa Topa dressed, took a staff, and looked very old. "Go on, I am ready," said he.

Pun Miaupa started. He turned around to look at his uncle, and saw the old man; saw him fall while coming out of the sweat-house. Pun Miaupa

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stopped, held down his head, and thought, "He will not go, even as far as Wajami."

The uncle rose and followed on.

"You are too old, uncle; you cannot walk well. Stay at home; that is better for you."

"Go ahead," said the old man; "walk fast. I will come as I can."

Pun Miaupa went on; his uncle followed. Igupa Topa stumbled every few steps, fell, hurt himself, tore his skin. Pun Miaupa looked back very often. The uncle was always tumbling. "He must be bruised and broken from these falls," thought the nephew.

Pun Miaupa was on a hill beyond Chichipana. He sat down and smoked. His uncle came up while he was sitting there.

"Let me smoke; then I want to see you jump to that mountain over there," said the old man, pointing to it.

"I shall leave you behind if I do that."

"Leave me to myself," said the old man.

Pun Miaupa put on deerskin leggings and a beaded shirt,--a splendid dress. He went then with one spring to the top of the opposite mountain and looked back to see his uncle; but old Igupa Topa had jumped too. He was just passing Pun Miaupa and went far beyond him.

"I thought you were too old to jump," said Pun Miaupa, coming up to him.

They jumped again, jumped to a second mountain, and the uncle was ahead the second time. After that they walked on. The old man fell

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very often, but Pun Miaupa did not pity him any longer; he laughed when his uncle fell. They travelled a good while, travelled fast, and when both reached Wajami Mountain, they sat down to rest there.

"I want Wakara to send out his youngest daughter for wood," said Pun Miaupa in his mind; and the next minute Wakara, who was far away in his own sweat-house, told his youngest daughter to take a basket and go for wood. This daughter was Halai Auna.

At that moment, too, Wakara's wife, Ochul Marimi, said to the girl: "Why do you lie asleep all the time and not help me? I want you to get me leaves for acorn bread."

Halai Auna took the basket and went upon the mountain side to find wood and leaves. Pun Miaupa saw the girl filling her basket.

"That is Wakara's daughter," said he to his uncle.

"Stop! Be careful!" said Igupa Topa.

The uncle put himself into his nephew's heart now to strengthen him. There was only one person to be seen. Igupa Topa went into his nephew, went in because he knew that Tuina killed all men who tried to get Halai Auna, and he wished to save his sister's son, Pun Miaupa.

When the girl had her basket full and turned to place it on her back, she saw Pun Miaupa behind her; she could not move, she was so frightened.

"Why are you afraid? Am I so ugly?" asked Pun Miaupa.

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He pleased her; but she said not a word, just ran, hurried home with the basket, and threw it down at the door.

"What is your trouble?" asked the mother. "You don't like to work, I think."

"What is the matter?" asked Wakara. "You are frightened."

"I saw a man on the mountain, a man with woodpecker scalps on his head."

"The southern people wear woodpecker scalps," said Wakara; "that must be one of the southern people."

Pun Miaupa sprang through the air, came down in front of Wakara's sweat-house, went in and sat near Halai Auna on a bear-skin. Nice food was brought for all, and when they had finished eating, Wakara said,--

"Now, my daughters, and you, my wife, Ochul Marima, make ready; let us go. I wish to see my brother, Tuina, and hear what he says of Halai Auna's new husband."

They dressed, put on beads, and put red paint on their faces. Halai Auna said nothing. She sat with her head down; she was sorry; she liked Pun Miaupa, she felt sure that they would kill him.

When all were ready, Wakara took his wife's hand and danced around the fire with her. He had two unmarried daughters besides Halai Auna; one of these took her father's hand, the other took Halai Auna's, and all danced around the fire and circled about Pun Miaupa. They put him in the middle and danced in a circle; they began to sing,

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and rose in the air then and danced right up out of the sweat-house, went through the smoke-hole and moved westward, singing as they went,--

"I-nó, i-nó, i-nó, no-má
 I-nó, i-nó, i-nó, no-má."

They moved faster as they went, and danced all the time. It was dark when they danced up through the roof of the sweat-house; no one saw them, though there were many people round about. Old Wakara's sons-in-law lived in that place; all the stars were his daughters, and his daughters were married, except Halai Auna and the two who danced around the fire. Wakara went without being seen. He would let no one have Halai Auna unless one whom Tuina could not kill.

Now, a little before daylight they reached Tuina's house. Wakara stood on the roof of the sweat-house and called, "My brother, I want you to spring out of bed."

Tuina was asleep in the sweat-house- He had three daughters and no son. The daughters were called Wediko, and his wife was Utjamhji. Wakara went down into the sweat-house and sat at the side of Tuina. Tuina took a bear-skin and put it down at his other hand, and told Halai Auna and her husband to sit on it. Tuina took up a big sack of tobacco and a large pipe cut out of maple wood. The tobacco was made of his own hair, rolled and cut fine. He put this in the pipe and gave it to Pun Miaupa. Wakara and Tuina watched now, and looked at him. The young man smoked all the tobacco and gave back the pipe.

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Tuina filled the pipe now with a different, a stronger tobacco. He used to rub his skin often, and what he rubbed off he dried and made fine. This was his tobacco of the second kind. He had a sackful of this stored away, and he filled his pipe now with it.

Pun Miaupa smoked, seemed to swallow the smoke. It was not he who was smoking, though, but the uncle in his heart. He emptied the pipe and returned it. Tuina took now tobacco of a third kind,--his own flesh dried and rubbed fine. He filled the pipe, gave it to Pun Miaupa, and waited to see him fall dead at the second if not at the first whiff.

The country outside the sweat-house was full of dead people, all killed by Tuina's tobacco. Some of the bodies were fresh, others decayed; some were sound skeletons, others a few old bones.

Pun Miaupa smoked out this pipe, gave it back empty. Tuina handed him a fourth pipe. The tobacco was made of his own brains, dried and rubbed fine. Pun Miaupa smoked this and gave the empty pipe back to Tuina.

Tuina now tried the fifth pipe. He filled it with marrow from his own bones, gave it to Halai Auna's husband. Wakara, and Tuina watched now, waiting to see him fall. Pun Miaupa swallowed all and gave the pipe back.

Tuina had no other kind of tobacco and could do no more. He dropped his head. "I don't know what kind of person this is," thought he. All at once he remembered old Igupa Topa, and thought:

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[paragraph continues] "This may be a young one of that kind. I can do nothing with him, he has beaten me."

Halai Auna was very glad to have such a husband. This was the first man of all who had come to see her who had not been killed by Tuina. She laughed all this time in her mind.

Pun Miaupa went out, killed five deer, and brought them in. The women cooked a great deal that day. Wakara and Tuina sat in the house, talked and ate Pun Miaupa's fresh venison. The next night all slept. Igupa Topa went out of Pun Miaupa's heart, went about midnight, and sat north of the pillar in the side of the house, sat without saying a word. He had a white-feather in his head, and looked very angry and greatly dissatisfied.

Early next morning Tuina and Wakara were up and saw the old man sitting there with that big feather in his head, and they looked at him.

"Oh," said Tuina. "I know now why Halai Auna's husband can smoke my tobacco. I know that old Igupa Topa this long time. I know what that old fellow can do."

They put plenty of food before Igupa Topa, but he would eat none of it. Pun Miaupa killed five deer that morning and brought them in. The two old men were glad to see such nice venison, and see so much of it. Igupa Topa sat by himself, and ate nothing.

"Uncle, why do you not eat?" asked Pun Miaupa.

He made no answer, but watched till all were

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asleep; then he stood up and ate, ate the whole night through, ate all the acorn bread, all the roots, ate all that there was in the house, except venison. That was not his kind of food; he would not touch it. He sat down on the north side of the central pillar when he had finished eating.

"You must work hard to cook food enough," said Tuina next morning to the women. "Some one in this house must be very hungry."

The women worked hard all that day; in the evening the house was full of good food again. Pun Miaupa's uncle would not eat a morsel placed before him, but when night came he ate everything there was except venison.

"There must be some one in this house who is very hungry," said Tuina, when he rose the next morning. "Make ready more food to-day, work hard, my daughters."

"We will not work to-day; that nasty old fellow eats everything in the night time. We will not carry wood and water all day and have nothing to eat the next morning."

"I don't like him, either," said Tuina; "he will go very soon, I hope."

Igupa Topa heard these words and remembered them. Tuina's wife and Wakara's wife, both old women, had to work that day without assistance. In the middle of the forenoon a great cloud rose in the south. Pun Miaupa's uncle raised it. "Let rain come, thick heavy rain," said he in his mind. "I want darkness, I want a big storm and cold rain."

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The cloud was black; it covered all the sky; every one came in, and soon the rain began. It rained in streams, in rivers; it filled the valleys, filled all places. The water reached Tuina's sweat-house, rushed in, and filled the whole place; all had to stand in water; and the rain was very cold.

Old Tuina and Wakara were shivering; their teeth knocked together; their wives and daughters were crying. Igupa Topa had taken his nephew and Halai Auna up to his place on the north side, near the roof of his sweat-house, where they were dry.

The sweat-house was nearly full of water. All were crying now. Some time before daylight one of Tuina's daughters was drowned, and then the other two, and Wakara's two daughters. About dawn Tuina and Wakara with their two wives were drowned. All were dead in the sweat-house except Igupa Topa, his nephew, and Halai Auna. At daylight the rain stopped, the water began to go down, and all the bodies floated out through the doorway. The place was dry. Pun Miaupa made a fire. Halai Auna came to the fire and began to cry for her father, her mother and sisters.

"You must not cry," said Pun Miaupa; "my uncle did this. He will bring all to life again quickly."

But Halai Auna was afraid, and she cried for some time.

Just after midday Igupa Topa went outside, saw the dead bodies, and said: "Why sleep all day?

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[paragraph continues] It is time to be up, you two old men and you five young girls!"

Tuina and Wakara sprang up, went to the creek, and swam. "No one but Igupa Topa could have done this to us," said they.

All the women rose up as if they had been only sleeping.

"My brother, I shall go home to-morrow," said Wakara. "It is time for me."

Very early next morning Wakara and his wife began to dance, then the two daughters, then Halai Auna and her husband. They danced out by the smoke-hole, rose through the air, sang, and danced themselves home.

Wakara had been five days away, and all his daughters' husbands were saying: "Where is our father-in-law? He may have been killed." All were very glad when they saw old Wakara in the sweat-house next morning.

Before leaving Tuina's sweat-house Igupa Topa had gone into his nephew's heart again. When Wakara came home, he took his new son-in-law to try a sport which he had. The old man had made a great pole out of deer sinews. This pole was fixed in the ground and was taller than the highest tree. Wakara played in this way: A man climbed the pole, a second bent it down and brought the top as near the foot as possible. He let the top go then, and it shot into the air. If the man on the pole held firmly, he was safe; if he lost his grip he was hurled up high, then fell and was killed.

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"Come, my son-in-law," said Wakara one day, "I will show you the place where I play sometimes pleasantly."

They went to the place. The old man climbed first, grasped the pole near the top. Pun Miaupa pulled it down; his uncle was in his heart, and he was very strong. He brought the top toward the ground, did not draw very hard, and let the pole fly back again. It sprang into the air. Wakara was not hurled away; he held firmly. Pun Miaupa brought down the pole a second time, he brought it down rather softly, and let it go. Wakara held his place yet. He tried a third time. Wakara was unshaken.

"That will do for me," said Wakara. "Go up now; it is your time."

Pun Miaupa went on the pole and held with his uncle's power. It was not he who held the pole, but Igupa Topa. "I will end you this time," thought Wakara. He bent the pole close to the ground and let go. Wakara looked sharply to see his son-in-law shoot through the air,--looked a good while, did not see him. "My son-in-law has gone very high," thought he. He looked a while yet in the sky; at last he looked at the pole, and there was his son-in-law.

He bent the pole a second time, bent it lower than before; then let it fly. This time Wakara looked at the pole, and Pun Miaupa was on the top of it.

Wakara was angry. He bent the pole to the ground, bent angrily, and let it go. "He will fly

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away this time, surely," thought he, and looked to the sky to see Pun Miaupa, did not see him; looked at the pole, he was on it. "What kind of person is my son-in-law?" thought Wakara.

It was Wakara's turn now to go on the pole, and he climbed it. Pun Miaupa gave his father-in-law a harder pull this time, but he held his place. The second time Pun Miaupa spoke to Wakara in his own mind: "You don't like me, I don't like you; you want to kill me. I will send you high now."

He bent the pole, brought the top almost to the foot of it, and let it fly. He looked to the top, Wakara was gone. He had been hurled up to the sky, and he stayed there.

Pun Miaupa laughed. "Now, my father-in-law," said he, "you will never come down here to live again; you will stay where you are now forever, you will become small and die, then you will come to life and grow large. You will be that way always, growing old and becoming young again."

Pun Miaupa went home alone.

Wakara's daughters waited for their father, and when he didn't come back they began to cry. At last, when it was dark and they saw their father far up in the sky, they cried very bitterly.

Next morning Pun Miaupa took Halai Auna, his wife, and his uncle, and went to his father's house.

Chuhna, the greatest spinner in the world, lived among Wakara's daughters. All day those women cried and lamented.

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"What shall we do?" said they; "we want to go and live near our father. Who can take us up to him?"

"I will take you up to him," said Chuhna, the spinner, who had a great rope fastened to the sky.

Chuhna made an immense basket, put in all the daughters with their husbands, and drew them up till they reached the sky; and Wakara's daughters, the stars, are there on the sky yet.

Next: The Hakas and the Tennas