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

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The Wi'-pā lived on No'-yoop Island between the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, east of Suisun Bay. They are now extinct. The last survivor, an old woman named E'-non-na-too-yā, to whom the author is indebted for the following remarkable story, died during the winter of 1908-1909.


O-lā'-nah the Coyote-man

Wek'-wek the Falcon, Chief of the Bird People

Ho'-pah the White-headed Eagle

Lo'-wut the Gray Goose, wife of Wek'-wek

To-to'-kol the Sandhill Crane, mother of Lo'-wut

Soo'-choo-koo the Spoon-bill Duck

Yu-koo'-le the Meadowlark

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WEK'-WEK the Falcon-man was Chief and Captain of all the bird-people. He used to hunt birds for food and also used to catch birds alive to bring back to his han-nā'-boo (roundhouse) where he kept them locked up until he could turn them into people. O-lā'-nah the Coyote-man stood guard at the door of the han-nā'-boo.

Wek'-wek the Falcon-man and Ho'-pah the White-headed Eagle-man had the power to make people out of birds. For this reason they were jealous of one another. Besides, Ho'-pah was in love with Wek'-wek's wife, Lo'-wut, the Gray Goose-woman. So Wek'-wek had cause to be jealous.

Once when he went out to go hunting he hid and watched and saw Ho'-pah and Lo'-wut together. This made him very angry. When he came back he asked Lo'-wut, his wife, "Have you anything ready to eat? I'm hungry."

"Yes," she replied.

"Bring me some water first," he said, "I'm thirsty; bring good water; don't get it from the

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edge of the river; go out where it is deep and get it there."

Lo'-wut did as she was told and came back with good clear water, but when she reached the house with it, it had turned into snakes and frogs and other water animals. 14 Five times she went out into the river for water, each time with the same result. The last time she waded out till the water was above her waist.

While she was gone, Wek'-wek went to her bed and fixed in it four long spear points of flint with the points up. When she came the fifth time with snakes and frogs instead of water, Wek'-wek seized her and threw her down on the bed and the four spear points pierced her body and killed her.

To-to'-kol the Sandhill Crane-woman was Lo'wut's mother; she was very angry because Wek'wek had killed her daughter, and wanted to punish him.

O-lā'-nah the Coyote-man and Soo'-choo-koo the Spoon-bill Duck came to carry Lo'wut's dead body to the han-nā'-boo, but when they lifted it they saw on the breast the black marks which Ho'-pah her lover had painted there. Wek'-wek had seen these before and knew. So O-lā'-nah and Soo'-choo-koo took the dead body and buried it.

When Lo'-wut died she left two children, a baby and a little boy. Their grandmother, To-to'-kol,

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Funeral of <i>Lo'-wuk</i>, wife of <i>Wek'-wek</i>
Click to enlarge

Funeral of Lo'-wuk, wife of Wek'-wek


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took care of them and every day sent the little boy with the baby to the roundhouse to be fed--and for four days Lo'-wut the dead mother came each day to the han-nā'-boo to give milk to her young child.

On the fourth day Wek'-wek asked his little boy where he went every day with the little one. The boy, afraid to tell the truth, said he took the child to give it milk of the milkweed plant.

Wek'-wek hid in the top of an oak tree and watched. He saw his dead wife Lo'-wut come to the roundhouse to give breast to the child; and saw her rise from the ground and shake the earth of the grave out of her hair.

Then Wek'-wek found that he loved her still, although she had been unfaithful to him. So he went into the roundhouse and caught her in his arms and hugged her.

"Let me go," she said, "You can't get me back; I'm not well as I used to be."

"That doesn't make any difference," he said, "I'll cure you." And he took her away to his own roundhouse, where the other bird-people were. It was dark when they arrived.

Yu-koo'-le the Meadowlark was there. He had never liked Wek'-wek's wife and had quarrelled with her. Now he made a great fuss and noise.

"Hoo," he said, "light a light; I smell something like a dead body."

At that very moment Wek'-wek was sitting in the

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middle of the roundhouse holding the body of his wife, whom he was bringing back to life. But when Yu-koo'-le spoke and said what he did, the dead woman disappeared.

Wek'-wek was very angry. He spoke and said to the rest of the birds (all of whom were going to be people): "This now is the way it will be with us all. When we die we shall die forever. Had it not been for Yu-koo'-le we would live again after the fourth day and be alive forever, the same as before."

When Wek'-wek had said this he seized Yu-koo'-le and tore his mouth open and killed him, and to this day you can see under the meadowlark's throat the black mark where his mouth was torn down, and the marks on his head where the skull was crushed.

Then Wek'-wek sent all the bird-people away, but before they went he spoke to them and said: "Now you will never be people but will be real birds; if Yu-koo'-le had not said what he did my wife would have lived and all of you would have turned into people."

All the bird-people in the roundhouse were angry at what Yu-koo'-le had done. They said, "Were it not for Yu-koo'-le we would turn into people; now we must turn into animals." Then they came out of the roundhouse, one at a time, and as each came out it sang the song of the kind of bird it was to be, and became that kind, and went away.


128:14 Wek'-wek made this happen, for he was a magician or witch doctor.

Next: The Defeat of O-la'-nah the Coyote-Man