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The Dawn of the World, by C. Hart Merriam, [1910], at

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As told at Ta'-la-sā'-na in the Tuolumne foothills near Bald Rock.


Os-sā'-le the Coyote-man, whose name was changed to Kat'-wah

Pe-tā'-le the Little Lizard who gave man five fingers

Loo'-loo-e the White-footed Mouse, who stole the fire

We-pi-ah'-gah the Golden Eagle, chief of the Valley People

Wek'-wek the Falcon

Sah'-win-ne the Hail Storm

Nuk'-kah the Thunder Shower

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ALL the world was dark.

Os-sā'-le the Coyote-man and Pe-tā'-le the Lizard-man were First People. They tried to make Indian people, each like himself. Os-sā'-le said he was going to make man just like himself.

Pe-tā'-le said that would be absurd; "How could man eat or take hold of anything if he had no fingers?"

So they quarrelled, and Os-sā'-le tried to kill Pe-tā'-le; but Pe-tā'-le slid into a crack in a rock where Os-sā'-le could not reach him. Then they talked and argued for a long time. After a while Pe-tā'-le came out ahead and when they made people he gave them five fingers.

The world was dark and everybody wanted light and fire. By and by Pe-tā'-le the Lizard said, "I see smoke down in the valley; who will go and get it. Loo'-loo-e the White-footed Mouse runs fast and plays the flute well; he had better go." So Loo'-loo-e went with his flute (loo'-lah) and found the home of the Valley People and played

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for them. They liked his music and gave a big feast and asked him to come into the roundhouse and play so that everyone might hear him.

We'-pi-ah'-gah the Eagle was chief of the Valley People and Wek'-wek the Falcon lived with him. When all the people had assembled and Loo'-loo-e the Mouse was there with his flute, Captain We-pi-ah'-gah took the big feather blanket called kook'-si-u, made of feathers of Mol'-luk the Condor, and closed the doorway with it and made it very tight, for he had a feeling that Loo'-loo-e might try to steal something and run off with it.

Then Loo'-loo-e took his flute and began to play; he lay on his back and rocked to and fro and played for a long time. Everyone liked the music and felt happy. In a little while they all became sleepy. Soon Loo'-loo-e looked around and saw that they were asleep; but he kept on playing till everybody was sound asleep. Then he got up and went to the fire and stole it all--two small coals--and put them in his flute and started to run away. But he could not get out of the roundhouse because of the thick feather blanket which We-pi-ah'-gah had hung over the doorway. So he stopped and cut a hole through it with his teeth and then ran out and hurried toward the mountains.

After a while the people awoke and found that the fire was gone. They were sure that Loo'-loo-e the Mouse had stolen it, and said, "Whom can we

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send who is fast enough to overtake him? Of all our people only Sah'-win-ne the Hail and Nuk'-kah the Shower are fast enough." So they sent these two to catch him. They rushed off toward the mountains and overtook him.

He saw them coming and put one coal in the oo'-noo tree (buckeye) and threw the other in the water. When Sah'-win-ne and Nuk'-kah caught him they could not find the coals. He told them to look, he had nothing. They looked and found nothing, and went back and told the Valley People.

Then Loo'-loo-e took the coal from the oo'noo tree and put it back in his flute and ran up into the mountains with it and gave it to his people, and they put it in the middle of the roundhouse. Before this their country was dark, and they had always eaten their food raw. Now they could see and could cook meat.

Then Os-sā'-le the Coyote-man brought the intestines of a deer and put them on the fire, covering it up and nearly putting it out. Because of his selfishness in doing this the people changed his name from Os-sā'-le to Kat'-wah (greedy), which they call him to this day.

Then the people felt cold, and only those in the middle of the roundhouse could talk as they had talked before. Those around the sides were so cold that their teeth chattered and they could not talk plainly. They separated into four groups on the four sides of the house--one on the north, one

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on the south, one on the east, and one on the west--and each group began to speak differently from the others, and also differently from the one in the middle. This is the way the speech of the people began to break up into five languages, and this is the way the five tribes 10 began--the people being driven apart by the selfishness of Coyote.


64:10 The Me'wah knew only five tribes: their own; the people to the north, whom they call Tam-moo-lek or Tah-mah-lā'-ko (from Tah'-mah, north); those on the east, whom they call Mo'-nok or He'-sah-duk (from He'-sum, east); those on the south, whom they call Choo'-mat-tuk (from Choo'-match, south), and those on the west, whom they call O'-loo-kuk or Ol'-lo-kuk (from O'-lo-win or O'-lo-win, meaning down west--in the valley).

Next: The Birth of Wek'-wek and the Creation of Man