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Yana Texts, by Edward Sapir, [1910], at


p. 88

Women (were formerly men and) used to go hunting deer but came back home without having killed anything. The women, (now men), stayed at home, making acorn meal and acorn bread. Again the men went out to hunt deer, but did not succeed in killing any. The women were finished with their acorn pounding when the sun came up in the east. They killed only one deer. There were thirty men, and similarly there were thirty women. The people had no fresh meat to eat, for no deer were killed by the men. (Said Gray Squirrel and Cottontail Rabbit to one another,) "It is bad. What shall we do?" said the women. "The men have not killed any deer." "Let us make men out of these women. Yes!" The men arrived home. The men were angry, and whipped their wives. "It is bad. Let us make women out of the men, and let us make men out of the women."

At daybreak they went off to hunt deer. In the east a certain person 132 was building a fire on the ground. Now the men came, hunting deer. The one that was building the fire sat there. He took smooth round stones and put them into the fire. Those who were hunting deer sat around the fire in a circle. That one person also sat there, but the men did not see the fire, did not see the stones. Suddenly the stones burst off from the fire. They popped about in every direction. "S*!" said those who had till then been men, who were there in great numbers. Their private parts were cleft by bursting stones.

"Let us make men of those there." So it was, and they now became men, while those who had formerly been men had now become women. Now they stayed at home, pounding acorns and

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making acorn bread. Now the men went out hunting deer and killed many deer. Cottontail Rabbit was standing there and said: "Hehehê! Yes! Now it is good. It is good," said he, looking on while they killed deer. The women made acorn bread and pounded acorns. Hehe?! The people did not die, the people were very numerous. Coyote said, "I do not wish the people to be numerous. There are too many women and too many men in every direction, there are too many children in every direction. The people do not die, they grow old. There is no poisoning by magic, there is nobody to cry in winter," thus he spoke. There was nobody that knew about death. Cottontail Rabbit knew about it, Gray Squirrel knew about it, Lizard knew about it. 133 That many there were who knew about death.

Their hands were this way, round, not divided into fingers. "Let us cut through the hands," they said to everybody, for people did not have fingers. "I shall make fingers," said Lizard. "What are you going to make fingers for? Our hands are good as they are," said Coyote, talking to Lizard. "What are we going to do if we shoot arrows, if we go out to hunt deer, if we go out to hunt small game?" said Lizard. Coyote sat here to the north; here to the south sat Cottontail Rabbit, Lizard, and Gray Squirrel. "Bad are our hands," they said to Coyote. "What are the women going to do when they pound acorns, for the people have no fingers. They will be able to take hold of the pestle if they have fingers. Let us make fingers," said Lizard, talking to Coyote. "They will use their elbows as pestles. They will hold the acorn mortar down with their legs whenever they Pound acorns, whenever they pound sunflower seeds, whenever they pound anything," said Coyote. "M‘! m‘! m‘! m‘! This is how they will do," said Coyote. "Hê!" said Lizard, "it is bad. Will they not hurt themselves in that way, if they use their elbows as pestles?" "It is bad," said Cottontail Rabbit. "I shall make fingers, so that it will be good for all the people in that way, and when they go out hunting they will be able to do

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well when they shoot, if they have fingers. Why do you talk about intending to change things around?" said Coyote. "I want to change things around because I don't like them as they are. Bad are the hands, they cannot do things well in that way."

It was good weather as it is now, 134 the sun came out shining through the clouds. Lizard went down hill for a short distance to the south, all alone. He sat down and leaned his back against the rock. He looked around on the ground and saw small fragments of flint. Lizard picked up a fragment of flint and cut through his hand, making fingers. He cut his hands up into fingers. Many were the people at the village; no one saw him sitting to the south on the side of the hill. Lizard looked back up to the north, looked at his hand. He waved his hand around, did like this. "Hī'! Look, all of you, at my hand." They looked at Lizard's hand. "Hī'! Here is my hand!" The people looked at him while Lizard quickly moved his hand back to the ground among the rocks, for he did not want the people to see his hand all at once. "Well, well! Hu'i!" whispered the women, the children, the men; everybody saw the hand. Three times he quickly raised it up in that way, three times he quickly moved his hand back to the ground. "Hu'i!" they whispered, "he has fixed it, he has fixed his hand." But Coyote did not see it, did not know anything about it.

"People will do thus," (said Lizard). "Look how they will bend their bows." "Fix mine too. Cut through my hand," said one man, and Lizard did so. He cut through them, made five fingers in the people's hands. "Look how people will kill deer, how they will kill salmon, how the women will do when they have fingers. This is how women will do when they pound. They will hold the pestle in their hand. Now we have good hands." He came back up hill from the south and cut all of their hands. Coyote saw it. "How did you manage to get fingers? M‘! Do so to me also! Cut through my hands!" said he to Lizard. "No!" said Lizard. "Let your hands be as they are!" and Coyote said nothing in reply. Now the people went hunting deer, killing deer with arrows, bows, and flints, for they

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now had fingers. Lizard said, "When women will have a baby, it will be born with fingers." Now he finished working at their hands. "It is good now. Our hands are good now," said all the people. "Why should we want to say more about it, for our hands are good now." For Coyote he made no fingers. Coyote sat on the north side of the sweat-house and did like this, hung his head down.

The people were very numerous, they were like blackbirds in number. There was no one who died, there was no poisoning by magic, there was no one that wept. The men grew old, but they did not die; the women grew old, but they did not die. It rained, and all the people went in together into the sweat-house. Then it snowed. Coyote had a son. He said, "Let us cause people to die." He spoke thus to the three men who were sitting here on the south side of the sweat-house. Lizard was holding his head down; there with him were Cottontail Rabbit and Gray Squirrel. All three men held their heads down, listening to Coyote's words, "It will be good if people die." Now Cottontail Rabbit, Gray Squirrel, and Lizard spoke, "M‘! ?m! ?m'!" said Lizard. "People shall not die, we do not want to cry when people die," said Lizard. "It is true that people will die, but they will come back to life again. We will bury them in the ground when they die, and they will move up out again. In burying them when they die, we shall not bury them very deep." "Why should they come back to life again?" said Coyote. "When they die, let them die. If any one dies, we shall weep. (Imitating sound of weeping): That is what people will say, people will weep. If one's brother dies he will weep; if one's sister dies, he will weep; if one's child dies, he will weep: Hû! Like this they will put pitch on their eyes, they will put on white clay, like this; they will mourn. 'Wai! Wai! Wai!' that is how people will do when they weep. What could Lizard say, for he was beaten out?

It was snowing now, and the trees were all covered with snow. Lizard, Gray Squirrel, and Cottontail Rabbit whispered to one another. The people did not go out of the house, being afraid to go out because of the snow. The people were crowded in the

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sweat-house. A certain man became sick, Lizard himself having made him so. The sick man died. Coyote said nothing. One man is dead, but the people did not weep because of his dying there. "What shall we do with this dead man?" said Cottontail Rabbit. "Let us bury him." "Where is it that we shall bury him? There is too much snow outside." "Bury him here in the sweat-house, on the south side of the floor." They dug a hole and put him down into it, but not very deep. They covered him over with earth, while the snow was still falling. 135 After he had been buried and they had caused him to lie down in his grave, the grave moved slightly. Coyote sat there, looking at the grave. The man who had died acted in that way, he kept moving his grave. The dead man was trying to come back to life again, so he kept moving it. Coyote looked at him as he moved it about, kept looking at him intently. The dead man moved up thus much from the grave. Coyote leaped up, jumped on the dead man and pushed him down into the grave. "Die!" said Coyote. He raised his foot and did thus, trampled down upon the dead man. "What are you coming back to life for? Die! Die!" Thus he did, trampling him down with his feet. The people did not say anything. Coyote went back to where he had been sitting before, he took his seat again on the south side. He still looked at the grave, but it no longer moved. Indeed he was dead for good now. "Now!" said Coyote, "Cry! Weep! Now that person is dead. We shall never see him again. Go ahead! Mourn with pitch! Go ahead! Smear pitch all over your faces! Go ahead!"

The people finished mourning. "Well! Let us go to hunt deer," said the people. A young man, Coyote's son, went along with them to hunt deer. "What shall we do to him? Let us make Coyote cry," said the people. There was a trail that ran to the east. A short distance to the east there was a yellow pine. and the trail to the east passed close by the yellow pine. "What shall we do? Let us make a rattlesnake." "Yes," they said. So a rattlesnake was made in the east. Here he was, curled

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around a tree. They told the rattlesnake what to do, and he said "Yes." There where the yellow pine was standing they laid him down. Now young Coyote came walking from the west along that trail. Indeed there was a rattlesnake there now, they had put it down there for young Coyote. Now young Coyote came close to the rattlesnake, when suddenly the rattlesnake jumped up upon him. He curled around young Coyote's legs. He shouted while the rattlesnake pulled him about and bit him. The rattlesnake killed young Coyote, so that he died. "Your child is dead," Coyote was told by the people. "Where?" "He lies dead to the east, he has been bitten by a rattlesnake." Coyote said, "Indeed!" as he wept. Coyote was now dancing around, putting dirt on his face. He acted like crazy, while the people carried young Coyote home to his house. Coyote said, "Well, my friend!" thus he said, speaking to Lizard, dancing around with grief. "Wai! Wai! Wai! My friend, you said that you would let people come back to life again after they die. Let my son come back to life again. I do not like to cry much. Let him come back to life." "‘M ‘m'!" said Cottontail Rabbit. "Cry! Cry! You said that you would cry. Weep! Weep! Put white clay on your face. You said that you would weep if your brother died. That is what you told us. Cry! Cry!"


77:131 This myth, given by Sam Bat‘wī as one connected narrative, contains three distinct episodes: the mutual change of sex of the first men and women, the fashioning of their hands by Lizard, and the introduction of death through Coyote's willfulness. The second episode finds parallels in Curtin's "First Battle in the World and the making of the Yana," p. 479 (where the model for men's hands is made by Pakalai Jawichi = p‘ā'galai djā'witc!i, "water lizard"), and in Dixon's "Maidu Myths," p. 42 (where Lizard is replaced by Earth Initiate). For the third episode cf. Dixon, l.c., pp. 42-44. The scene of this, as of the preceding, myth is laid at Wamā'rawi (see note 111).

88:132 i.e., Cottontail Rabbit.

89:133 Cottontail Rabbit, Gray Squirrel, and Lizard form a sort of creative trinity corresponding perhaps to the Maidu Turtle, Father-of-the-Secret-Society, and Earth-Initiate (see Dixon, op. cit., p. 39). They are collectively opposed by Coyote, as is Earth-Initiate of the Maidu myth.

90:134 i.e., When the myth was being dictated.

92:135 The Indians would sometimes bury a dead man in the sweat-house when it snowed too hard and rebury him outside as soon as a favorable opportunity presented itself.

Next: VII. Coyote and his Sister