Sacred Texts  Native American  California  Index  Previous  Next 


(Elko, Nevada. Shoshoni)

At one time the sky was too low; it burned everything. The people would say "üdü üdü üdü, it is too hot."

Cottontail said that he would kill Sun. He and Sand Rabbit walked toward the east. They went over mountains, mountains, mountains, mountains. Always the Sun came up over the next mountain to the east. They went over many mountains. Finally, they came to the big water and could go no farther. Here they stopped.

Cottontail told Sand Rabbit to make a tunnel, to make the tunnel twist in every direction, to make it go down, and go this way and that way and up and down. Sand Rabbit did not listen to his, brother and made the tunnel his own way. He made it straight. Cottontail made a tunnel that twisted in all directions.

Cottontail and Sand Rabbit stayed in their holes all day. Sun came up but they did not come out. They stayed in their holes for 7, 8, or 9 days.

Cottontail had many arrows that he was going to shoot at Sun. When Sun came over, he made ready to shoot. He shot at Sun and then jumped back in his hole. But the arrow burned up before reaching Sun. He had plenty of arrows and shot them all; but they all burned up and did not hit Sun. Then Cottontail took a roll of sage bark (i. e., slow match) that was about as long as from his fingertips to his elbow. He shot this at Sun. Sun fell down dead. When Sun came down there was a great conflagration. Everything caught fire and water boiled all over the earth. Cottontail had jumped back into his hole and kicked dirt behind him to keep out the fire. Just enough fire got to him to burn his neck, wrists, and ankles. Sand Rabbit had only dug down about 6 inches under the ground in his straight hole. He was roasted to death.

Cottontail wished to make a new Sun. He cut out Sun's gall and tried to make a new Sun of it, but it had green spots on it, so

p. 279

he made the moon out of it. Then he took Sun's bladder and made a new Sun of it. It had two holes in it where he had shot through it, but he patched them up and made a fine, new Sun. Sand Rabbit lay dead while Cottontail made the new Sun. Sand Rabbit had burned to death.

Cottontail pushed the sky up with his head and then threw the now Sun up to it. The sun was no longer too hot.

The sun went west and Cottontail started west, too. He was lonesome. He was ashamed and kept his head down.

After a while, Cottontail came to some people who had no mouths. They had a fire, and leaned their faces over it to inhale grease through their noses. Their noses were all black. Cottontail took a piece of flint and cut a mouth on one of them. After this, they all took flint and cut each other's mouth. They all began to talk.

Cottontail left these people and went on alone toward the west. After a while, he heard someone yelling and shooting. There was snow. He made tracks in it under rose bushes. Then he made a long hole, about 300 feet long. One person said, "Here are Cottontail's tracks." Another one said, "There are his ears. I can see them sticking up out of that hole." They all made fun of him. One said, "I am the best shot. Let me shoot him." They quarreled about who was to shoot him. Someone aimed at Cottontail, but as soon as he released the arrow, Cottontail jumped down his hole. They looked everywhere for him, but could not find him.

Cottontail went on toward his home. His sister was there. When he arrived, he asked her for some of the paint that she used on her face. He wanted to paint his own face. He took the paint and made stripes around his eyes. Then he went into a house where there were some girls. He sat opposite the door. When the girls' brothers came home, they looked in the house and saw Cottontail with the paint on his face. They were afraid to come in, and said, "ünü ünü ünü ünü." Then the girls said, "Take that paint off your face and let our brothers come in. Wipe it off."

The boys came in and pushed Cottontail around toward the door. He took the girls on his lap and held them.

They all roasted cottontail rabbits in the fire, a big fire in the middle of the house. Each person had a cottontail rabbit. After the rabbits had cooked for a while, Cottontail took a piece of rye grass and shot it into his roasted rabbit's head. He dragged the rabbit out of the fire. The others shot, as Cottontail had done, and dragged their rabbits out. When Cottontail started to cut open his rabbit, he wished that all the f at on the other rabbits were on his own. When be cut open its belly, the fat was fine and thick. When the others cut their rabbits open, they were skinny without any fat.

p. 280

After this, all the people remained around the fire and sang until late in the evening. Then they all tried to go to sleep, but Cottontail sang, "Tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu," in a squeaky voice. The girls said, "You keep still and let our brothers go to sleep."

The girls were lying by the door. The boys were lying on the other side of the house. When everyone was asleep, Cottontail tied the long braids of each boy to those of the boy next to him. Then he set fire to the house and carried out all the girls under one arm. The girls said, "You are no good. You have burned up our brothers." This made him angry, and he threw the girls into the fire.

Cottontail came on from that place. He came along and along and along. He found an old woman making a basketry water jug. He said to her, "Mother, let me try that. Old Lady, let me try." He took the basket; then he gave it back to her; then he took it again. They exchanged it every few minutes. Cottontail wove the jug with the woman inside. He left her there. She died, and he went on his way.

Cottontail was lonesome. As he traveled along, some people looked at him and laughed. They said, "Oh, look at Cottontail. He killed Sun. He is a funny little short fellow. He killed Sun!" Cottontail looked up and saw that there were some pretty women in the rocks above him. He went up toward the rocks, and the women said, "Cottontail is ugly. He is coming up here." They all ran into cracks m the rock. Cottontail was angry. He found some brush and put it in all the cracks. He set fire to it. The women called, "Cottontail"; but none of them came out. Cottontail said to them, "You will be good to eat. You will be groundhogs. My people will eat you when you turn into groundhogs."

Cottontail went on. He thought, "What am I doing? I have no friends. I am all alone." He kept on traveling and saw many snow birds (gaim). He killed 8 or 10 of them. After this he came to Coyote. Coyote said to him, "Where did you get the birds? I am hungry. I want some." Cottontail said, "I pulled out my hair here" (indicating his pubic hairs) "and tossed them out. They turned into birds and I got them. Do not try to get too many." Coyote pulled out a few hairs, and they turned into birds. He picked them up. Then he tried to get some more, but pulled out his guts and killed himself.

Cottontail went on. He walked slowly; he was coming away, coming away, coming away, coming away. He found two girls digging roots (nap:). He made himself small, like a water baby, and walked toward them. He staggered. The girls said, "Look at this." They picked him up, and held him close in their arms, like a baby, to keep him warm. They fed him and were very good to him. That night they kept him between them to keep him warm. He felt at their

p. 281

breasts to try to get milk. He tried all night to nurse them. In the morning they cooked roots (nap:) for him, but it was too hard and he could not eat it. He wanted to nurse the girls; he wanted milk. He felt them again, but there was no milk. The next night Cottontail tried again to get milk from the girls, but they did not have any.

The girls' camp was near a spring with a hill behind it. In the morning Cottontail said, "Where is your digging stick? I want to dig some roots. Give me your big stick." The girls said, "It is too heavy for you." Cottontail said, "No." He dragged the big stick along; he was not strong. He fell over trying to drag it. He pulled the stick out of sight over the hill, and began to dig a ditch. He dug it all the way around the camp and then turned the ground [i. e., the entire camp] over and killed the girls.

Cottontail came on toward the west. He came a long way. He was coming in this direction. He crossed a hill and met some men whose hair was all shaved off except on their pates ["like Chinamen"]. He said to them, "Friends. You are my friends." He did not stop with them, because he thought that he must be good to them. He went on past these men and did not harm or kill them.

Cottontail continued to come west. He came to where there were Rattlesnakes. He saw them, but went on past. Rattlesnakes tried to shoot him. Cottontail became angry and killed them. He roasted them in a fire, and said, "You will be rattlesnakes, out in the hills, but not in the valleys." 25

Cottontail went on and found two boys camped by a creek. The boys said, "Here is our brother coming." They called him ăŋgatasump: [ăŋga, "red," + tasump:, "a plant"], a flattering name. They said to him, "We are having a difficult time with this water here. It fights us. The wood fights us and drops on us. The willows make trouble for us." Cottontail said, "You try them again and I will see." The boys tried to get water, but it turned into ice. Cottontail shot it. They tried to get willow sugar (suhuviha), but the willows dropped on their heads. Cottontail remedied that. These boys were Hummingbirds. Cottontail said, "That is a good name they called me. It is the first time I have been spoken to pleasantly." 26

Kaŋgwusi gweak: (Wood rat's tail, pulled off).


281:25 B. G. said that he had probably omitted one or two episodes in this portion of the story.

281:26 B. G. regarded this as the Shoshoni classic, the one important myth that explained everything, the "Shoshoni bible."

Next: The Length of Winter; Coyote is Bitten (Saline Valley, California. Shoshoni)