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

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

Chíchepa, spotted chicken-hawk; Chikpina, weasel; Hapawila, water snake; Jewinna, chicken-hawk; Jewinpa, young chicken-hawk; Kedila, soaproot plant; Matsklila, turkey buzzard; Pakálai Jáwichi, water lizard; Tirúkala, lamprey eel; Wirula, red fox. Weanmauna means the hidden one.


Tirukala lived near Jamahdi, on the Juka Mapti Mountain, and he was thinking, thinking for a long time, how to change this world, how to make it better.

"I have to fix this country. I will fix it now," said Tirukala. "I will make it better to live in."

When he had said this he went off walking and began to sing. All the mountains stood too near together at that time, and Tirukala pushed the mountains apart from one another, made room between them. He put creeks everywhere, and big and little rivers. He made springs in different places and swamps. He put salmon and other fish into rivers and creeks, plenty of them everywhere.

Tirukala had two persons to help him, Pakalai Jawichi and Hapawila. The three lived together, working and making the world better to live in.

Tirukala never ate anything; never took food of any kind. He worked always, and sang while at

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work. Hapawila made salmon traps and caught many salmon. Just like Tirukala, he sang all the time. After a while two young girls heard this singing. They were the two daughters of Kedila. They went out to get wood one day and heard the singing.

They filled their baskets and went home, put the wood down, then went out and listened to the singing. They thought it was very sweet and beautiful.

"Let us go nearer to the singing," said the younger sister.

They went a little way from the house, sat down, and listened. Again they stood up and went on. Two or three times they did this, going farther and farther. Soon they came in sight of a salmon trap and went up to it.

"I see no one here," said each of the sisters. "Who can be singing?"

They looked on all sides of the trap and saw no one. They looked up and down the river. There was no one in sight. They sat down near the trap, watched and listened. At last the younger girl saw who was singing. She saw Hapawila in the river, where he was singing.

When he saw the girls sitting and listening, Hapawila came out to them.

"Which way are you going?" asked he.

"We heard singing, and came out to listen. That is why we are here," answered the elder.

"Let us go home," said the younger.

"Take some of my salmon to your father," said Hapawila; and he gave them two very nice salmon.

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They took the salmon home to their father.

"Where did you get these salmon?" asked Kedila.

"A man who sings and has salmon-traps sent them to you."

That evening Hapawila went to old Kedila's house. The girls saw him coming and were frightened. They liked his singing, but they did not like his appearance. They ran away, found a great tree, climbed it, and thought to spend the night there. But Hapawila tracked them, came to the foot of the tree, looked up, and saw the two sisters near the top. He walked around, and looked at the tree.

"Let him come up," said the elder sister, "let him talk a while: we may like him better if he talks to us."

"No," said the younger sister, "I don't like him; I don't want to talk with him."

He tried to climb the tree, but could not. The trunk was smooth, and the tree had no branches except at the top. Now the elder sister fixed the tree so that he could climb to them; she wished for branches on the trunk--they were there at once, and Hapawila climbed up to Kedila's two daughters.

The younger sister was angry at this; hurried down the tree, ran home, and told her father that her sister and Hapawila were talking to each other in the tree-top.

Old Kedila said nothing, and went to bed. A few minutes later the elder sister was at home. She, too, ran from Hapawila when she saw him the third time.

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Early next morning Kedila was very angry. He caught his elder daughter, thrust her into the fire, burned her, and threw her out of doors. The younger sister took up her sister's body, and cried bitterly. After a while she carried it to a spring, crying as she carried it. She washed her sister's body in the water. It lay one night in the spring. At daylight next morning the elder sister came out of the water alive, with all her burns cured and not a sore left on her.

"Where can we go now? Our father is angry; he will kill us if we go home," said the younger sister.

Both started west, singing as they travelled.

"I wish that I had a basket with every kind of nice food in it," said the younger sister toward evening. Soon a basket was right there. It dropped down in front of her. She looked. There were pine nuts in the basket, different roots, and nice food to eat.

Now, Jewinna lived in the west. He had a very large sweat-house and many people. His youngest and only living son he kept wrapped up and hidden away in a bearskin.

At sunset the two girls came to Jewinna's house, and put down their basket of roots near the doorway. Jewinna's wife went out and brought in the two girls. Jewinna himself spread out a bearskin and told the girls to sit on it. He said to his son, who was wrapped up and hidden away,--

"Come out and sit down with these two young girls who have come to us."

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The youth looked through a small hole in his bearskin; saw the two women, but said nothing; didn't come out. When night fell, the two girls went to sleep. Next morning they rose, washed, dressed, and combed nicely. Then they went eastward, went toward their father's house.

Jewinna's son, Jewinpa, came out soon after, swam, dressed, ate, and followed the two girls. They went very fast, went without stopping; but Jewinpa caught up and went with them to their father's house.

Kedila was pleased with Jewinpa, and treated both his own daughters well. He spoke to them as if nothing had happened.

Old Jewinna in the west called all his people and said: "I want you, my people, to sweat and swim, then come here and listen to me."

After they had done this, Jewinna said: "I am sorry that my son has gone. I must follow him to-morrow. I don't know why he went. I do not wish him to go far from this place. Be ready, all of you, and we will go to-morrow."

Jewinna rose before daylight, called all his people, and said:--"I cannot eat. I am sorry that my son has gone."

All took plenty of arrows and beads and otter-skins and red-headed woodpecker scalps, and started to follow the young man. As he started, Jewinna sang,--

"I-no-hó, i-no-hó no-hi, i-no-hó!"

A great many followed and repeated,--

"I-no-hó, i-no-hó no-hi, i-no-hó!"

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They went on all day, went quickly, and at sunset they were on a smooth plain, not far from Kedila's place. Kedila had a large, rich sweat-house, and it was full of people. The old chief had a great many sons-in-law, and a great many people to serve him.

Jewinna and his men reached the place some time before nightfall, and Kedila went to the top of his sweat-house and said to the strangers,--

"I want you all to come in and enjoy yourselves. Perhaps my house is small; we will make it bigger."

He blew toward all the four sides then, and said, "Be bigger, my sweat-house, be bigger!"

The sweat-house stretched out and was very large. There was room for every one, and all came in.

"Bring food, my sons-in-law, for Jewinna. and his people," said Kedila.

They brought in all kinds of good food, and fed every one gladly.

"Bring your beads, otter-skins, and red-headed woodpecker scalps, and put them down here at this side of the sweat-house," said Jewinna to his people.

All were brought in and given to Kedila. He took these rich things gladly, and put them away.

Kedila put down on his part wolf-skins with deerskins and gave them to Jewinna.

"Let ten of you go out and hunt squirrels," said Jewinna to his people next morning; "let others fix heads on their arrows."

One of the ten saw a squirrel on a tree; he took a club, climbed after the squirrel, and killed it; he saw another and another; the tree was filled with

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squirrels. A second man saw squirrels in a second tree, and, then a third and a fourth in other trees. Right away the ten were killing squirrels on ten trees, and soon they had ten piles of squirrels, each pile as large as one man could carry.

The two chiefs were delighted when they saw the ten loads of game, and 'there was a great feast of squirrel flesh that day at Kedila's.

Both sides sat down then to gamble, played with sticks, gambled all day, played till sunset. They bet all kinds of skins. Jewinna's men won a great many things, and won more than the presents.

Next morning Kedila's sons-in-law wanted to win back the beautiful skins and other things which they had played away, but before noon they had lost everything. When all was gone, Kedila's men were angry.

"You don't play fairly," said they to Jewinna's men; "you shall not have these things."

"We have won everything fairly," said Jewinna's men, "and we will take these things home with us."

They began to fight at once. Kedila's sons-in-law attacked Jewinna's men as soon as they were outside the sweat-house.

"We are here to fight if there is need," said Jewinna; "go ahead, my men, you are likely to die, every one of you."

Jewinna's men fought, going westward, fought carrying with them what they had won. Jewinna fought bravely, and sang as he fought. Kedila's people followed.

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They fought till near sunset. All were killed now but eight men, four on each side,--Jewinna, his half-brother, and two more western people. Kedila and three others of the eastern people were alive yet.

These eight closed once more in fight; both chiefs fell with Jewinna's half-brother and Kedila's youngest son-in-law. Matsklila was so sorry for this last one that he threw away bow and arrows and fell to the ground crying bitterly. Seeing this, Chikpina picked up a rock and beat Matsklila's brains out. Wirula on Kedila's side killed Chikpina, and there were only two left,--Chichepa, the last of Jewinna's men. and Wirula, the last on Kedila's side.

"Now," said Wirula, "we have fought enough. You are alone. Go home and tell the women that your people are all killed. I am alone. I will go home and say that all our people are dead."

Jewinna had taken his son with him when he left Kedila's house, and he, too, had been killed in the struggle.

Now Wirula and Chichepa started off in opposite directions; went a little way; lay down and rolled along the ground, crying and lamenting. Wirula sprang up and said,--

"I will kill that Chichepa. I will kill him surely, and there will not be one left of our enemies."

Wirula turned and followed Chichepa slowly; drew his bow and sent an arrow after him. But Chichepa dodged; the arrow missed. Then Wirula ran away.

"I will kill that Wirula now," said Chichepa.

He turned and followed carefully, cautiously;

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came up with him, and struck him fairly on the skull. Wirula dropped dead.

Chichepa turned homeward now, crying all the time. When he was near home, the women saw him stagger, then saw him fall. When he reached the top of the sweat-house, he fell in, rolled along the floor, and cried. He ate nothing that night; he was too sorry for his people. He slept a while and then woke up crying.

Early next morning he took ten otter-skins; went back to the dead people, pulled one hair from the head of each one of them, and filled the ten otter-skins with the hairs. He had the work done before sunset.

"Build a good fire," said he to the women when he reached home that night. "Give me four big water-baskets." They gave the baskets. He filled these with water, and put hot rocks in them. Then he emptied the ten otter-skins into the water.

"Stay all night in your houses. Let no one put a head out. I will stay in the sweat-house," said he.

The four baskets boiled hard. Just at daylight the largest basket fell over; then the second, the third, and the fourth fell. After that there were voices all around the sweat-house, hundreds upon hundreds of them.

"We are cold; open the door," cried the voices.

When full daylight had come, Chichepa opened the door, and all hurried in. Jewinna came first, and with him his son. All followed them, dressed as they had been when they went to Kedila's; all alive

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and well, strong and healthy. Jewinna laughed. He was glad.

On the way home Kedila's two daughters had two sons, the sons of Jewinpa. The boys were born the next day after Jewinpa had looked on their mothers. They had come from the eyes of their father. He had just looked through his fingers at Kedila's two daughters.

After Jewinna's son had been killed and then brought to life by Chichepa, he went east to Kedila's great sweat-house, stayed five days and nights there, then took his two wives and two sons and went back to his father's.

Kedila's youngest son, born when his father was old, came to life. He had sat always at the central pillar, at the edge of the ashes, and had always kept moving his arms, but he had never danced on that or on any floor. He had burned his face because he had sat so near the fire, and had sweated often from being so near it.

Every one laughed at him; jeered at that "Burnt Face," who sat night and day in the ashes. He spat always in one place. Kedila's eldest son had said many times,--

"If we are killed, we shall come back to life again."

"I don't think that you will," said Burnt Face; "but when I am killed I shall live again through my own power."

Burnt Face went out to fight, and was killed with the others. Now a little baby came right up out of the spittle of Burnt Face, a boy. The

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women took him and washed him. In one hour he had grown a good deal, in two hours still more. On the following day he had full growth.

Then this young man who had risen from the spittle went out of the house. He followed the course of the struggle, found all Kedila's people dead, struck each with his foot, turned him over. All came to life and rose up, as well as ever.

When Jewinna came for his wives, their brothers and brothers-in-law gave the women presents; but when his two wives and two sons went home with him and old Jewinna saw them coming, he took two bearskins quickly, and when they were on top of the sweat-house, he caught the young boys, put them into the bearskins, rolled them up, and put them away to be Weanmauna.

Next: Sukonia's Wives And The Ichpul Sisters