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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.

Hitchinna, wildcat; Hitchín Marimi, wildcat woman, his wife; Hitchinpa, young wildcat; Metsi coyote; Putokya, skull people, or head people.


Hitchinna had a wife and a son a few days old. Hitchinpa, the little son, was sleeping, and Hitchin Marimi, the wife, was taking care of her child. Hitchinna had dreamed the night before, and his dream was a bad one.

"I had a dream last night," said he to his wife, "a very bad dream."

"What did you dream?" asked she.

"I dreamed that I climbed a big pine-tree; the tree was full of cones. I was throwing them down, had thrown down a great many, when at last I threw down my right arm. I dreamed then that I threw down my left arm."

He told her no more. That morning early, before he had talked of his dream, the woman said,--

"I should like to have pine-nuts; I want to eat pine-nuts; I am hungry for pine-nuts."

He went out to find the nuts, and she went with him, taking the baby. They came to a large pine-tree, and he climbed it. Hitchin Marimi put the

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baby aside on the ground, and made a fire at some distance to roast the pine-cones.

Hitchinna threw down cones; she roasted them to get out the nuts. He threw down a great many cones. She roasted these cones and pounded the nuts out.

After a while Hitchinna's right arm fell off; he threw that to the ground, then he threw down his left arm. His left leg came off; he threw it down. Next his right leg dropped off, and he threw that to the ground.

The woman was roasting and pounding the pinecones; she did not look around for a good while. At last she went to the tree, found blood on it, and looking up, saw that her husband was throwing himself down, that there was not much left of his body.

Hitchin Marimi was scared half to death; she ran away home. She was so terrified that she left the little child behind, forgot all about it. When she reached home, she called the people together and said,--

"My husband went up into a pine-tree; he threw down a great many pine-cones. Then he began to throw himself down; first he threw one arm, then the other. We must hurry and hide somewhere; he will be bad very soon; he will kill us all if he finds us."

The people asked, "Where can we go to hide from him,--north, south, east, or west?"

"I know a good place," said one man, "and it is not too far from here,--Wamarawi."

"Well, we must go to that place, and go very

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quickly," said Hitchinna's wife; and all the people agreed with her.

The people ran to Wamarawi, which is a round mountain; they ran the whole way and went into a cave in the mountain. When all were inside, they closed the entrance very firmly, shut it up tight. Nothing could get in through that door.

After his wife had run home, Hitchinna threw down his ribs one by one, and kept asking his wife if she was there. He got no answer. She was gone and he did not know it. He threw down first all the ribs of his right side, then all of his left side. Every time he threw a rib he cried, "Uh! Uh!" to his wife.

At last there was nothing left of him on the tree but his head, and that came down soon after. His eyes were very big now, sticking out, staring with a wild and mad look. The head lay under the tree a while. Hitchinna had become another kind of people. He had become a Putokya. He was one of the skull people, a very bad terrible people. Each one of them is nothing but a skull.

Putokya is new now. He has a new mind, new wishes. He is under the tree, and lies there a little while. He cannot walk any more. He can only roll on the ground like a ball. After resting and thinking a while, he starts to find his wife; rolls till he comes to the fire. There is no woman there. He looks around, cannot find her, looks again, and sees the baby. He rolls to the baby, catches it in his mouth, eats up the baby in one moment. The head talks then, and says,

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"I dreamed last night that I ate up my own son."

He is dreadful now. He scatters the pine-cones, quenches the fire, rages, roars awfully, a real Putokya. He rolls, bounds, knocks against a tree, cuts it down, breaks it to pieces, scatters it.

Next he starts for the village, springing and bounding along like a football, making a terrible wind as he goes, reaches the house, looks through it. All are gone from the house and from the village. All have run off to Wamarawi.

First he knocks against his own house, breaks it, smashes it to pieces, and then he breaks all the other houses in the same way, one after another. He scatters and smashes up everything, wrecks the whole village, just as if a strong whirlwind had gone through it. The people are all in Wamarawi, in the stone cave in the mountain, a very great crowd of them.

Putokya looks around, finds tracks, follows the people southward, goes with a terrible roar, raising a storm as he moves. He breaks everything he strikes, except rocks. From these he bounds off like a football.

He follows the people of the village, follows on their tracks, stops before Wamarawi, rolls up to the entrance, listens quietly, hears a sound inside like the buzzing of bees. Putokya is glad. He stops a while and thinks what to do. "You cannot go from me now," says he.

All the people were inside except Metsi; he had gone north somewhere.

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"I will break in the cave," said Putokya.

He began at the west side, went back a whole mile, bounded, rushed, hurled himself at the mountain, whistled through the air with a noise like the loudest wind, struck the mountain, made a great hole in it, but could not go through to the cave. Putokya felt sure that he could break through. He went back a whole mile again from the north side, bounded, rushed forward, made a tremendous hole in the north side; but he could not go through, and the rock closed again.

The people inside are glad now; they are laughing, they think themselves safe,--jeer at Putokya. Putokya hears them. He is angrier than ever, he is raging. "I will try the east side," said he; "that is better."

He went back as before, bounded forward, made a deep hole in the east, but it closed again, and he left it. He tried the south. It was just like the other sides. Putokya stops a while, is afraid that he cannot get in, that he cannot get at the people.

"The Yana are not very wise," said he. "I should like to know who told them what to do. They did not know themselves. Who told them to go to Wamarawi?"

He tried to go to the top of the mountain and make a hole there. He could not roll up in any way. He fell back each time that he tried. He could travel on level ground only, he could only rise by bounding.

"I cannot go up there, I am not able," said he.

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He lay down close to the entrance of the cave and thought a while. He made up his mind to bound like a ball, to spring from point to point, higher and higher, on neighboring mountains, till he got very high, and then come down on the top of Wamarawi. He did this, went far up on the top of other and higher mountains till at last he was very high; then with a great bound he came down on the top of Wamarawi, came down with a terrible crash. He made an awfully big hole in it, bigger than all the four holes he had made in the sides put together; and this hole did not close, but it did not reach the cave.

After that blow he came again to level ground. He lay there and said to himself: "I have tried five times to get at those people. I will try once more. I may get at them this time."

He went high up in the sky, higher than before. He was angrier and madder than ever, and he came down with a louder crash; the whole mountain shook and trembled. No one inside the cave was laughing now; all the people were terrified.

Putokya went almost through to the cave. The rock above the people was very thin after this blow, and the hole did not close again.

"I will not try any more," said Putokya; "I cannot get at the people." He was discouraged, and left Wamarawi.

All the people within were in terror. "If he tries once more, we are lost," said they. "He will burst through and eat us, eat every one of us."

The great hole remained on that mountain top,

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and people say that there is a lake up there now with goldfish in it.

Putokya started north, went toward Pulshu Aina, his own village. As he went toward home, he made a great roaring and wind, cut down trees and brush, people, beasts, everything that he met; he left a clean road behind. He swept through Pulshu Aina, and went farther north, went almost to Jigulmatu.

Metsi was coming down to the south, along the same trail; he was very well dressed. Metsi always dressed well. He wore a splendid elkskin belt and a hair net; he was fine-looking.

Metsi was right in the middle of the trail. He had learned that Putokya was out killing people in the south; he heard. the roar a great way off, and said to himself,--

"I hear Putokya; he is killing all the people."

Metsi thought over what he was to do. "I will meet him. I will say to this Putokya, 'You are smart, you are good, but you are sick. I will cure you.'"

Metsi took off all his fine clothes in a hurry and hid them, made himself naked. "I must be quick," said he "the noise and wind are coming nearer and nearer. I wish a rusty old basket to be here before me." The basket was there. He wished for an old strap to carry it. The old strap was there with the basket.

Metsi made buckskin rings around his arms and legs, turned himself into an old, very old woman, all bent and wrinkled, with a buckskin petticoat. He put the rusty basket on his back.

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Putokya was hurrying on; the roar grew louder and nearer. Metsi knew that Putokya was very dangerous, and that he must be careful. He took white clay, painted his face, made a regular old woman of himself. Putokya came near. Metsi was ready, the basket on his back and a stick in his hand. He was walking along slowly, a very old woman and decrepit. The old woman began to cry, "En, en, en!"

Putokya stopped on the road, made no noise, listened to the old woman.

"He has stopped; he is listening to me," said Metsi; and he cried more, cried in a louder voice and more pitifully.

Putokya was quiet. Metsi walked right up to him. looked at him, and said, "I came near stepping on you." Metsi was crying more quietly now.

"Are you a dead person?" asked Metsi.

Putokya was silent.

"I heard you from where I was," said Metsi "when you had a bad dream, I heard you in the south, heard you everywhere, heard you when you turned to be a Putokya, one of the head people, and wanted to kill everybody. You used to be good, you used to be wise, but now you are sick; you will die, and be among people no longer unless, you are cured. That is why I started to come south; I started south to find you, to see you. It is a good thing that you came up here; now I see you. I am your relative, your cousin. I want you to be healthy, to be as you were before; to have! your

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arms and legs again, to feel well. I want to cure you."

Metsi was sobbing all this time. He pretended to be awfully sorry; he wasn't, for Metsi wasn't sorry for any one, didn't care for any one on earth; he only wanted to put Putokya out of the way, to kill him. Metsi was a great cheat.

"A good while ago," said Metsi, "I met a man like you. He had had a dream, and he was nothing but a head, just like you. I travelled then as I am travelling to-day, and met this man just as I meet you now on this road. If you believe what I tell you, all right; if you don't believe, it's all the same to me. I will tell you what I did for that man, how I cured him. Do you want me to tell you what I did for him?"

Putokya was looking all the time with great wildcat eyes at the old woman. Now he spoke, saying: "Talk more, tell me all, old woman. I want to hear what you have to say."

"Well, I made a man of that head," said the old woman. "I cured that Putokya; I made him over. I made him new, and he walked around as well as before; I gave him legs and arms; all the bad went out of him; I made him clean and sound and good again."

"How did you do that, old woman?" asked Putokya. "How can you make a man over again? I want to see that."

"I will tell you how I do it. I will fix you; I will fix you right here on this road, just as I fixed that other man. I made a hole in the ground; a

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long hole, a pretty big one. I lined it with rocks; I made a little fire of manzanita wood, and when it was nice and warm in the hole, I put plenty of pitch in, and put the man on top of the pitch. It was good and soft for him, and nice and pleasant on the pitch. I put a flat rock over the hole. He stayed there a while and was cured."

Putokya believed all this; had full faith in Metsi, and said,--

"Very well, you fix me as you fixed that other man; make me new again, just as I used to be."

Metsi added: "I put pitch very thick, one foot all around, and put him in the warm hole; covered him up. Pretty soon he began to stretch and grow; grew till he was as good as ever. That is how I cured that man."

"That is good," said Putokya. "Fix me in that way; fix me just as you fixed him."

"I will," said Metsi. "I will fix you just as I fixed that man, and you will come out just as he did; you will be in the right way and have no more trouble; you will never be sick again."

Metsi did everything as he had said; made a long deep hole, put in fire and a great deal of pitch, a foot thick of it.

He placed Putokya on the pitch; put a wide flat stone over him, put on others; put the stones on very quickly, till there was a great pile of them.

The pitch began to burn well, to grow hot, to seethe, to boil, to blaze, to burn Putokya.

He struggled to bound out of the pitch; the

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stones kept him down, the pitch stuck to him. He died a dreadful death.

If Putokya had got out of the hole there would have been hard times in this world for Metsi.

When Putokya was dead under the pile of rocks, Metsi threw away his old things, his basket and buckskin petticoat, put on his nice clothes, and went along on his journey.

Metsi was a great cheat. He could change himself always, and he fooled people whenever he had a chance; but he did a good thing that time, when he burned up Putokya.

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