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Creation Myths of Primitive America, by Jeremiah Curtin, [1898], at

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After each name is given that of the creature or thing into which the personage was changed subsequently.

Ahalamila, gray wolf; Demauna, pine marten; Gowila, lizard; Ilhataina, lightning; Jul Kurula, woodgrub; Jupka, butterfly of the wild silkworm; Tsoré Jowá, a kind of eagle.


Near Jigulmatu lived Tsore Jowa, a very old woman. Once in the spring she went west to dig roots, and found a great clump of them. "I'll come to-morrow and dig these," thought she, and went home.

Next morning she went to get the roots. She dug around the whole clump, but could not pull it up. She dug deeper, pulled and tugged; at last the roots came, and on them a little boy with eyes staring out of his head. She pushed the eyes back, cured him, put him in a rabbit-skin blanket which she wore, and went home. She washed the boy all day, and did not sleep at night. She washed him all the time. When five days old, he had grown a good deal. On the sixth day he crept; on the ninth he walked. When fifteen days old, he was a strong but very small boy.

"I want a bow and arrows," said he.

"You must not go out," said the old woman, "you must not leave my sight."

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He teased till at last she gave him a bow and said, "You must stay on the housetop, and not go away."

While he was on the house a bird flew up, perched on a tree-top, and asked, "Why doesn't your mother nurse you?"

The bird repeated this and flew away. The boy cried; came down and told his grandmother.

"Where are our people? Tell me," said he.

"Our people were many," said she, "but Gowila killed them all. We have no people now."

"Who is Gowila?"

"Oh, he is strong and terrible; you must not see Gowila."

The boy walked around the house then, looked at the walls, and asked, "May I have that bow hanging there?"

"You may if you like," said she, "but you are too weak to use it. You are very small, a little fellow."

He started at the east side of the sweat-house and went northward, tried the first bow, broke it; went on, took another, broke that. Then he went around the whole house, breaking every bow that he came to, till on the south side he reached the last bow. It was made of deer sinew. He bent that, tried his best, tried again and again, could not break it. "What kind of a bow is this?" thought he. "It is the ugliest, the oldest, but I cannot break it." He took the bow and a big stone to crush it. The bow flew out of his hand, and the stone fell.

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"How did the man die who used this bow?" asked the boy.

"Gowila killed him, and those who had the other bows," answered the old woman.

"I will go for wood now and sweat."

"Do not go far," said Tsore Jowa.

The boy ran off to the east, seized a big pine-tree, tore it up with one pull, and took it home in one hand. He made a big fire and put stones on it.

"Bring water, my grandmother," said he; "then I will tell you what to do." The old woman filled a great basket with water. The stones were dropped in when red-hot, and the water boiled quickly.

"Grandmother, put me into the boiling water."

The old woman was frightened, but did what he told her.

"Cover me closely," said the boy.

She covered him with another tight basket. He lay in the water till the cover flew from the basket, and he was thrown through the opening in the top of the sweat-house and dropped on the roof outside. He ran down, swam in the river close by, and then went back and talked with the old woman.

"You will be very strong," said she. "You will be called Ilhataina."

He ran east a second time; brought sugar-pines. He did not sleep, he sang without stopping. Rocks were made hot as before, and dropped into a bigger basket. The old woman put in Ilhataina, and covered him with four closely woven baskets. He was in the boiling water till the four covers burst off,

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and he flew up through the opening in the top of the sweat-house. He ran down again to the river, and while swimming talked to himself, saying.--

"I will meet Gowila to-day, I will meet Gowila to-day."

At sunrise he went home. "Grandmother, I am going out a short way," said he, taking down his old bow and one arrow.

"Oh, grandson, you must not go far; you must not leave my sight," said the old woman.

He counted twenty otter-skin quivers filled with arrows, and said, "I will take these."

She cooked roots for his breakfast, and brought a small basket full for him to take with him. He went west to a grove of trees, made a fire there, and caused salmon to hang all around on the tree branches. Crowds of men and women were heard talking and laughing near by. He made it so. There were no people in the place. He made the noise to entice Gowila.

He began to dig roots then. He dug without raising his head, dug and worked on, singing songs as he worked. Soon a big ugly old man from the north came. This was Gowila. He had a great dog, and a deer head was hanging at his back, with long horns on each side of it.

"You sing a nice song," said he.

Ilhataina never looked up.

"Come to the fire," said Gowila.

The boy said nothing; dug all the time.

"Come to the fire; I am hungry," said Gowila.

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After a time Ilhataina went to the fire.

"You sing well," said Gowila. "Where did you come from?"

"From Jigulmatu. People sing well at Jigulmatu, and they dance well."

Gowila sat down near the fire. "Put roots in my mouth. Put in more," said he, when the boy gave him some.

The boy fed Gowila until he had eaten all the roots in the basket.

"How many people are digging roots around here?" asked he.

"I do not know; a great many," said Ilhataina.

A loud noise of people was heard a short distance away,--a noise of men and women laughing and talking. Gowila saw blankets and baskets near the fire. Ilhataina, made the appearance of them. There was nothing there but the twenty otter-skin quivers and the ugly old bow and one arrow in his hand.

"Give me your bow," said Gowila; "let me look at it."

He asked again and again till the boy gave the bow. Gowila threw it into the fire.

"Why do that?" asked Ilhataina, snatching his bow from the fire. "Let me see your bow."

Gowila handed the bow to him. Ilhataina broke it with his left hand, and then sprang toward the east. Gowila was very angry, and said "Teh!" to his dog. The dog rushed at the boy. Ilhataina shot and hit the dog. He shot all the arrows but one from ten quivers. Every arrow hit but did no

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harm to the dog. Just then one of the seven stars (the Pleiades) called to Ilhataina,--

"Shoot him in the little toe and he will die."

The boy hit the dog's little toe. He fell dead.

Ilhataina ran to the fire where Gowila was standing. "You cannot kill me," said he to Gowila "you are big and strong, but you cannot hurt me."

"I will kill you," said Gowila; and he sent an arrow at him. It missed.

Ilhataina shot his arrow and it struck. Every arrow that he sent went into Gowila, but no arrow struck Ilhataina. All the arrows but one were gone from the second ten quivers. That moment one of the seven stars called to Ilhataina,--

"Shoot at his little toe. If you hit him there, he will die."

Ilhataina struck Gowila's little toe, and he dropped dead.

Ilhataina skinned Gowila, stripped him from head to foot, put the skin on himself, and became just like his enemy. Next he struck the dog with a red rose switch, and the dog jumped up alive and glad to see his master. Ilhataina hung the deer head behind his shoulders, took his quivers, and went home. Gowila's dog followed him. When near the house, he made heavy steps, and the old woman looked out.

"Oh, Gowila is coming! Gowila is coming!" cried she, terribly frightened.

"Grandmother, don't be afraid; it is I. Gowila is dead. I have killed him. I am wearing his skin. I am as big and as ugly as he was. I will go to his

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house to-night, I think. I have brought his liver and lights with me."

"Go, grandson, go. I fear nobody now."

Ilhataina went away, saying, "I will be here about sunrise to-morrow."

He went north to Gowila's sweat-house, went a long way, went quickly, walked up to the house, was just like Gowila. A great many people lived in that house. All kinds of snake people were there,--rattlesnakes, bull-snakes, water-snakes, striped snakes, all kinds of snakes.

He hung Gowila's liver and lights outside, went in, and sat down between Gowila's two wives. The dog lay down in his own place. The wives were Pupila women, two sisters.

"Bring in the meat which I hung up outside and cook it," said Ilhataina to the elder wife.

He cut the liver and lights into small bits, and the two women boiled them. There was a great steam and a strong smell from these pieces. All in the house were blind except the two wives, and only one of the blind people spoke, Gowila's younger brother. "I smell Gowila's flesh," said he.

"How could you smell Gowila's flesh when I am Gowila?"

Ilhataina was very angry, and dashed live coals through the house. All were terrified. All ate of the meat except Gowila's younger brother. He was very wise and wouldn't touch it.

Ilhataina went out and found a great many legs around the house. Gowila had eaten the bodies of thousands of people and thrown the legs away.

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[paragraph continues] Ilhataina gathered these into one place and went back to the house.

"Blind people," said he, "I wish you would sing, and you, my wives, dance for me. I'll go to sleep then."

"We will sing," said they, "and dance."

The blind people sang, and the two women danced. Soon the men and the two women stopped. Ilhataina made them all drowsy, and they fell asleep. Then he went out, fastened the door, and said,--

"I want the walls of this house to be covered with pitch."

The whole house was covered with pitch, and then he set fire to it. Soon he heard terrible screaming inside and crowds running around in the sweat-house. None could get out, and all were burned to death quickly.

Ilhataina tied the legs together with a long grapevine and carried them home. He was there about daylight. He placed them all in the river and went to the sweat-house.

"Hide me, and then lie on your face with your arms under your head," said he to his grandmother.

The old woman put him in one basket and covered him with another, then lay herself as he had directed.

In the middle of the forenoon there was a great noise of people rising out of the river. They came in through the top of the sweat-house. When all were inside, the old woman stood up. All her people were alive there before her,--Demauna,. Jupka, and others; all had come back.

"Who brought us to life again?" asked Demauna. "Show me the person."

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The old woman took Ilhataina out of the basket and carried him to them. Demauna caught him in his arms. "Well done, my brother!" said he. All the rest called him brother.

"Let me have him," said Ahalamila.

"No," answered Demauna; "I will keep him myself"

They asked the old woman where she had found Ilhataina. She would not tell.

"Will you sweat?" asked Ilhataina.

"Yes," said all the people.

"I will bring wood," said he.

When he ran out, the sweat-house danced in its place. All thought he was too small to carry wood, but when he snatched a tall fir the earth trembled. When he touched a big sugar-pine, he crushed it. He brought great trees in a moment, and when he put them down the place shivered. All were in terror.

When Ilhataina talked the whole world was afraid, and when he moved the ground which he walked on was quivering.

All sweated, swam in the river, and went back to the old woman's. Ilhataina walked across the house, and his heart shook as if it would jump from his body.

"I am not going to stay here," said he.

When Demauna heard this, he cried, and the old woman cried.

"My brother," said Demauna, "I should like to know where you are going. I wish you would stay with us."

Ilhataina made no answer.

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"My brother," said Jupka, "if you will not stay here, I wish you would go to the sky. Now," said Jupka, "will you take beads as a gift from me?




"Wolf robes?"


"Wildcat robes?"


"Foxskin robes?"


Jupka wore an old ragged rabbit-skin robe. He had worn it a long time. "I think you like this," said he.

"Yes," answered Ilhataina, "that's what I want." He took the old robe and tied it with weeds around his waist. "Now I am ready to leave you. Come out and see me go."

There was a black cloud in the sky. Ilhataina had brought it there. "I will go up to that place," said he. "Whenever rain comes in future, it will be water falling from my rabbit robe."

All hurried out. Jupka's son, Jul Kurula, who was wrapped in a black bearskin, came down into the sweat-house and cried; he didn't wish to lose Ilhataina.

"Now, my friends," said Ilhataina, "I leave you; hereafter when you see me travel I shall go like this;" and he went with a flash to the black cloud.

He was taken into it. and now he stays there.

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