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The Dawn of the World, by C. Hart Merriam, [1910], at

p. 48



The Mountain People lived in the Sierra near the Mokelumne River, which they called Ut'-ta Wah-kah'-loo, meaning big river. They had no fire and the world was dark.

The Valley People lived on the San Joaquin Plain, which they called Ol-law'-win. Their roundhouse was not far from the spot now occupied by the city of Stockton. They had a small fire in the middle of the roundhouse and Wit'-tab-bah the Robin was its keeper.


O-lā-choo the Coyote-man

Tol'-le-loo the flute-player who became the White-footed Mouse

Wek'-wek a Chief of the Valley People, who became the Falcon

We-pi-ah'-gah a Chief of the Valley People, who became the Golden Eagle

Mol'-luk who became the Condor

Hoo'-a-zoo who became the Turkey Buzzard

Hoo-loo'-e who became the Dove

Te-wi'-yu who became the Red-shafted Flicker

Wit'-tab-bah Keeper of the Fire, who became the Robin

Hah-ki'-ah who became the Elk

Hal'-loo-zoo who became the Antelope

Sahk'-mum-chah who became the Cinnamon Bear

Le'-che-che who became the Humming-bird

Le-che-koo'-tah-mah who became another small bird with a long bill.

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WEK'-WEK the Falcon and We'-pi-ah'-gah the Golden Eagle were Chiefs of the Valley People. Among the members of their tribe were Mol'-luk the Condor; Hoo'-a-zoo the Turkey Buzzard; Hoo-loo'-e the Dove; Te-wi'-yu the Red-shafted Flicker, who must have been very close to the fire--as any one can see from the red under his wings and tail, and Wit'-tab-bah the red-breasted Robin, who was keeper of the fire. There were also Hah-ki'-ah the Elk, Hal'-loo-zoo the Antelope, Sahk'-mum-chah the Cinnamon Bear, and others.

The Mountain People were in darkness and wanted fire but did not know where it was or how to get it. O-lā-choo the Coyote-man tried hard to find it but did not succeed. After a while Tol'-le-loo the White-footed Mouse discovered the fire and the Mountain People sent him to steal it.

Tol'-le-loo took his flute (loo'-lah) of elderberry wood and went down into the Valley and found the big roundhouse of Wek'-wek and We-pi-ah'-gah and began to play. The people liked the music and asked him to come inside. So he went in and played for them. Soon all the people felt

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sleepy. Wit'-tab-bah the Robin was sure that Tol'-le-loo had come to steal the fire, so he spread himself over it and covered it all up in order to hide it, and it turned his breast red. But Tol'-le-loo kept on playing his flute--and in a little while all the people were sound asleep; even Wit'-tab-bah could not keep awake.

Then Tol'-le-loo ran up to Wit'-tab-bah and cut a little hole in his wing and crawled through and stole the fire and put it inside his flute. When he had done this he ran out with it and climbed up to the top of the high mountain called Oo'-yum-bel'-le (Mount Diablo) and made a great fire which lighted up all the country till even the blue mountains far away in the east [the Sierra Nevada range] could be seen. Before this all the world was dark.

When Wek'-wek awoke he saw the fire on Oo'-yum-bel'-le and knew that Tol'-le-loo had stolen it. So he ran out and followed him and after a while caught him.

Tol'-le-loo said, "Look and see if I have the fire."

Wek'-wek looked but could not find it, for it was inside the flute. Then Wek'-wek pitched Tot'-le-loo into the water and let him go.

Tol'-le-loo got out and went east into the mountains and carried the fire in his flute to the Mountain People; then he took it out of the flute and put it on the ground and covered it with leaves and pine needles and tied it up in a small bundle.

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<i>Tol'-le-loo</i> the Mouse playing his flute and putting the Valley People to sleep so he can steal the Fire
Click to enlarge

Tol'-le-loo the Mouse playing his flute and putting the Valley People to sleep so he can steal the Fire


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[paragraph continues] O-lā'-choo the Coyote smelled it and wanted to steal it. He came up and pushed it with his nose and was going to swallow it when it suddenly shot up into the sky and became the Sun.

O-lā'-choo sent Le'-che-che the Humming-bird, and another bird, named Le-che-koo'-tah-mah, who also had a long bill, after it, but they could not catch it and came back without it.

The people took the fire that was left and put it into two trees, oo'-noo the buckeye and mon'-o-go the incense cedar, where it still is and where it can be had by anyone who wants it.

NOTE--This story has been told me by several Mewuk Indians independently. The only variation of consequence is that, in one version, Wek'-wek and We-pi-ah'-gah gave a feast and invited the Mountain People to come; and it was while they were there that Tol'-le-loo put the Valley People to sleep with his flute and ran off with the fire. The story is called Oo'-ten-nas'-se-sa, though of course this is only a part.

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