Creation Myths of Primitive America, by Jeremiah Curtin, , at sacred-texts.com
After each name is given that of the beast, bird, or thing into which the personage was changed subsequently.
Dokos, flint; Hus, turkey buzzard, Klak, rattlesnake; Sedit, coyote; Wima, grizzly bear.
THERE were two brothers Hus in Olelpanti, and Olelbis had given them a place in his sweat-house. Now, when Olelbis had made up his mind to send all things down to the earth, the people in Olelpanti were talking and saying,--
"What shall we do now? How will it be in the 'world? Dokos Herit, Klak Loimis, and Wima Loimis have done wrong. They are angry and think bad things. They will make trouble."
"Come into the sweat-house, you my people," said Olelbis, "and talk. Say what you think is best to do."
All who were in Olelpanti at that time went into the sweat-house, where they talked five nights and five days. On the sixth morning Olelbis called the two Hus brothers and said,--
"I have a great work for you. Go down to Tsarauheril, where the first tree is. Right there a people will come up out of the earth, and they will come soon. A little above that place, you two
brothers must go to work and make a stone road from the earth up here to Olelpanti. You will find stones and pile them firmly. Make the building very strong. The road itself will be like steps, one higher than another. When you have built half-way up to Olelpanti, you will make a place in which people may spend a night. Put good water there. When you have finished the whole road, people will come up out of the earth, and when they have come up they will go around on the earth everywhere, and live and grow old. When they are old, they can go to the beginning of the road made by you and climb the steps. When they are at the water, which is half-way, they will drink of it, rest one night, and next day travel on till they come here to Olelpanti.
"I will put two springs of water at this end, one for them to bathe in, the other to drink. If an old man is coming up, he will drink of the water half-way, he will drink and feel better, and when he reaches this end and comes to the water here, he will bathe in one spring, drink from the other, and come out young, fresh, and strong. If an old woman comes, she will drink and bathe and come out a young girl. Then they will go down to the earth again young and healthy. When they grow old a second time, they will come up, drink, and bathe again, and be young a second time; and it will be this way forever. Nobody will die. No man will have a wife, no woman a husband; all will be as brothers and sisters. When the trees grow large which are small now, there will be no limbs
except at the top, and the acorns on those trees will have no shells. They will be ready to eat without husking or cracking, and it will be so on all trees,--no husks or shells on the acorns; nobody will need to climb; the nuts will fall ready to be eaten."
When Olelbis had finished talking, he sent away the two brothers. "Go now," said he, "and make that great road."
The two brothers started. They came down at Sonomyai, looked around), and said,--
"This must be the place of which Olelbis told us. This must be the place where we are to work: we will begin here."
"My brother," said the elder Hus, "I will bring stones to you; plenty of them; big stones. You will put them together,--lay them in order and make the walls."
They began to work. On the first day they piled the road up as high as a big house. Next day they piled all day; made the road as high as a tall tree. The third day it was very high; the fourth still higher. It was rising very fast. The brothers worked well, and had great power. The building was already the largest ever seen on this earth. On the fifth day the top could hardly be seen. On the sixth day it was touching the clouds.
A little before noon of the sixth day the two brothers saw something moving from the southwest. When it came near they saw a man with mempak around his neck. He wore an otter-skin headband, an otter-skin quiver, and a Sedit skin, which he wore like a coat. He had on buckskin
leggings ornamented with kobalus, and his shirt was stuck full of kobalus, the sharp end of the shell out. He was dressed beautifully. When this man had come near, he watched the two brothers at work. They did not speak to him.
This was Sedit. At last he said,--
"My grandsons, stop work; rest awhile; come and tell me what you are doing. Come and sit awhile here with me, and we will talk. When an uncle or a grandfather comes, people always stop work and talk with their relative."
The brothers made no answer; kept on at their work; paid no heed to Sedit.
"Grandsons," said he again, "stop awhile; come and talk with me; tell me what you are doing. I want to learn, come and tell me what you know; rest awhile. I might tell you something better than what you know. Perhaps you think, grandsons, that I don't know anything. Come and sit down and I will tell you something wise. If you don't come, I will spoil your work. I will destroy what you are doing."
When the two brothers heard this, they were frightened; they thought that he might injure their work, and they came. When they reached the ground and walked up to Sedit, they asked,--
"Which way did you come, grandfather? Where do you live?"
"My grandsons," said Sedit, "I came from a place not very far from this. I was walking around to see if I could see something. I heard people talking last night about you. They said that you
were making a road, and I thought that I would come here to look at your work, and talk to you."
"Very well," said the brothers. "This work which we are doing is not for us. It is for others. Perhaps you think this work is for us; it is not, it is done at command of another. This work is for Olelbis. Olelbis sent us down here to make this great road."
"What!" cried Sedit, "are you working for Olelbis? Did he send you down here to do this? Did he tell you to make this road, and have you come here to make it for him, my grandsons? Do you believe what Olelbis says to you? Do you believe what he says to other people? Do you mind him and work for him? I don't believe in Olelbis. I don't believe what he says, I don't care for what he says."
"My grandfather," said the elder Hus, "hold on, stop talking. I don't like to hear you say such words, I don't like to hear you talk in that way. I am going to tell you why all this work is done, why this road is made. I have told you nothing."
Sedit sat down and said: "Well, tell me. I am glad to hear what you say. I am glad to hear why you are making this road."
The elder brother began: "Olelbis says that a new people will come on this earth soon, that they will live and go around, and after a while they will grow old. When very old, they will come to this road to go to Olelpanti and be young again. When half-way up, it will be evening. They will drink water from a spring and pass the night there. Next
day they will go on, and be at the end of the road in the evening,--they will be in Olelpanti, where Olelbis lives. They will find water there. They will drink from one spring and bathe in the water of another. When they come out, they will be young. Next day they will come down half-way, drink of the water, stay one night, then come to the earth, and be young and fresh as they were at first.
"No man will have a wife, no woman a husband. They will be to one another as brothers and sisters. That is what Olelbis wishes, and because he wishes it he has sent us to make this road. When the road is built to Olelpanti, where Olelbis lives, these trees around here, which are small now, will be large. They will grow up and be very tall. They will have no limbs except those near the top, where branches will run out. On those branches acorns will come, and the acorns will have no shells on them. They will be all ready and fit to eat. The people who are to come out of the earth will not be able to climb these trees, and they will have no need to climb, for the acorns will fall, and the people will pick them up and have plenty of food without work, without trouble."
Sedit listened and looked at the elder Hus brother. Then he turned to the younger Hus and said sneeringly,--
"Hu! Do you believe all that? Do you think that every word is true which Olelbis says? Do you think it is wise? Do you think it is good? Now, my grandsons, you wait awhile, and I will tell you something. You ought to know that an old
man like me has words to speak,--that he knows something wise. I have something to tell you which is better than all this. I will tell you what it is. I will tell you now. Suppose an old man goes up this road all alone, drinks from one spring, bathes in the other, and comes down young. He will be all alone just as he was when he went up."
Suppose an old woman and an old man go up, go alone, one after the other, and come back alone, young. They will be alone as before, and will grow old a second time, and go up again and come back young, but they will be alone, just the same as at first. They will have nothing on earth to be glad about. They will never have any friends, any children; they will never have any fun in the world; they will never have anything to do but to go up this road old and come back down young again.
"Now, my grandsons, I will tell you something better, and you will like what I tell you. I like it because it is good. I am going to say something wiser than anything Olelbis has told you yet. It will be better, very much better if trees have limbs to the ground, and if acorns have husks and shells on them. When trees have limbs to the ground, a man can climb them, take a long stick in his hand, and knock acorns to the ground. Others will come under the tree and gather them. When the acorns fall, women will jump and say, 'Oh! oh!' and laugh and talk and be glad and feel well. I think that is better. People can take the acorns home and put them on the ground. Then they will say, I Come, let us husk these acorns.' Men and women will go
and sit down and husk the acorns. When they are doing this, they will throw husks back and forth at each other. They will have fun and laugh and be pleased and feel well. I think that this is better; I know that you will like it.
"Besides, what are people to eat if nothing dies? Deer will not die, fish will not die; the coming people cannot kill them. What are they to eat? They will have nothing to eat except acorns.
"I think it is better for women and men--young men and young women--to marry, live day and night with each other. When they get up in the morning, the man will work for the woman, the woman will work for the man, and they will help each other. I think that the better way. If a man has a wife, he will catch fish and kill deer, he will bring them in, and give them to his wife to cook. She will cook them, and both will eat. I think that is the right way. If people live in this manner, and a woman has a child, her neighbors will say, 'There is a nice baby over there,' and they will go to see it, and will say, 'What a nice baby that woman has!' I think this is better than anything Olelbis told you.
"When that baby grows up and another baby grows up, they will be a man and a woman, and the two will get married and have children themselves, and in that way there will be plenty of people always; new people, young people. When a man grows old, he will die; when a woman grows old, she will die. When they die, others will go around and tell their neighbors about it, and say, 'A woman died over there,' or 'A man died over here. They will bury
him to-morrow.' Then all the people will make ready to help the relatives of the dead man; they will cry, the dead man's relatives will cry and mourn. I think this is better. When a man dies, his nearest relatives will cut their hair very close, paint the face black; and when people see one of them coming or going, they will say, 'His father is dead,' or 'His wife is dead,' or 'His mother is dead,' and they will talk about that man and his dead father, or dead mother, or dead wife, and say, 'Poor man, he has lost his father, or his mother, or his wife.' I think this is better.
"When an old woman dies, she will leave a daughter, and that daughter will have a daughter, or an old man dies, he will leave a son, and that son will have a son. As men and women grow old, they will die, and their places will be taken by young people. I think this is the right way. I think this is the best way. All living things should go this way,--all should grow old and then die. When the new people come on this earth, they ought to go this way. When those people come and live all around on this earth, they will die in many ways,--they will fight with each other and die; when trees grow old, they will die and fall down; everything will die in like manner.
"When a man dies, his friends will put mempak on him, like this which I have around my neck, and an otter-skin band around his head, and give him a quiver, dress him, and then put him in the ground. When a man goes to some place, a grizzly bear may catch and kill him, or a rattlesnake will
bite and kill him, and when people fight they will use flint and kill one another. People will get angry and fight. When there is a gathering, somebody will come running in and say, 'People over there are fighting.' Those inside will hurry to see, and will find a man killed, and say, 'A good man is killed;' then they will punish the others for killing him."
The two brothers sat there, made no answer.
"Well, my grandsons," continued Sedit, "I know that what I tell you is right. What do you think?"
The brothers said nothing at first. They thought and thought. After a while the elder looked at Sedit and said,--
"I think what you say is better. I think that it is right. I suppose it is true. I believe that you are old enough and ought to know. I think that you are right."
"Grandfather," said the younger brother, "would you like to die, too, the same as others, and be lying in the ground and not rise any more; never go around with an otter-skin band on your head, and a beautiful quiver at your back, and fine things such as you are wearing to-day? You want others to die; you want death in the world. What would you say if you had to die yourself? You want all the coming people to die, and all living things hereafter to die and be gone from here. Olelbis does not want any one to die, but you want all living things on this earth to die. You want to spoil all the work which Olelbis sent us down here to do."
When the younger brother said this, the two stood up and walked off a little way, and Sedit said,--
"My grandsons, come back, come back. We have not finished talking yet. We must talk more. We will talk this all over again. Come back, my grandsons, come back."
But the two brothers did not turn back; they walked on, walked toward the east always--said nothing. After a time they turned and went to where their road was. They pulled out some great stones, and the whole road fell to the ground.
The two brothers flew up then, circling around for a while. They went higher and higher, till at last they disappeared and went to Olelpanti.
Sedit saw them fly up, watched them till they disappeared. He stood looking around for a long time. At last he said,--
"What am I to do now? I wish I had not said all that, I wish I had not said so much. I wish I had not said anything."
He stood around there and kept repeating: "What am I to do now? I am sorry. Why did I talk so much? Hus asked me if I wanted to die. He said that all on earth here will have to die now. That is what Hus said. I don't know what to do. What can I do?"
He looked around and found a plant with long, broad leaves, the wild sunflower. He found this plant in great plenty, and took many leaves from it. He pulled off all his fine clothes, threw them aside, then stuck the leaves into his body, all the way up and down his legs, body, and arms, and said,--
"Now I will go up to Olelpanti. I am not going to stay down here where people die. I am going up to the place where the Hus brothers went."
He made a tail of leaves; then he rose and flew around and around, rose pretty high; the leaves began to get dry and break one after another. After awhile Sedit, whirling round and round, came down with great force, struck the ground, and was crushed to pieces.
The Hus brothers went up to Olelpanti. Olelbis said,--
"There are rocks at the south not far from the sweat-house; go there and stay."
Olelbis looked down, and saw Sedit trying to fly to Olelpanti; he saw him fall.
"It is his own fault," said Olelbis. "Sedit is the first to die, killed by his own words; hereafter all his people will fall around and die and be found dead at roadsides and places where people pass. The people to come will see them there."
The name of the place where the ruined road was is Sonomyai.
Our Wintu people say that ever since white men settled in the country they have been drawing away the stones which the Hus brothers piled up. They have taken them as far as fifteen miles to build chimneys.