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


The following myths were obtained in 1907 as part of the Ethnological and Archaeological Survey of California conducted by the Department of Anthropology of the University of California. Numbers I-IX were obtained in December near Redding, the county seat of Shasta county, numbers X-XXII were obtained in July and August between Round Mountain and Montgomery creek in the same county (see notes 3a and 202 of text). The two sets of texts represent two not very different but clearly distinct dialects, the Northern Yana (garī'?i) and the Central Yana (gat‘ā'?i), of which the former may be considered more specialized phonetically. The territory formerly occupied by these dialects may be defined as that part of Shasta county, California, that stretches south of Pit river from and including Montgomery creek, a southern affluent of that stream, west to a point on Pit river between Copper City and Woodman, then south to Woodman on Little Cow creek, along the eastern bank of that stream and Cow creek to the Sacramento river, southeast to Battle creek, east along, or some distance north of, Battle creek and North fork of Battle creek to the mountainous country southwest of the headwaters of Hat creek, and northwest back to Montgomery creek in a line that fell short of Crater

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peak and Burney creek. Of this country only that small portion that lies northeast of Bullskin ridge, in other words the region of Montgomery and Cedar creeks, belonged to the Northern Yana or garī'?i dialect. The territory defined above formed roughly the northern half of the country occupied by the whole Yanan stock. A third, now extinct and apparently rather divergent, dialect was spoken in the region bounded by the Sacramento river, a line drawn from opposite Tehama east along Mill creek to and including Lassen peak, a line running northwest to the headwaters of Battle creek, and the valley of Battle creek west to the Sacramento. These boundaries are somewhat uncertain, it remaining doubtful whether the Yanas reached the Sacramento. The Yanas were surrounded by the Achomâ'wi (Pit River Indians) to the north; the Achomâ'wi, Hat Creek or Atsugê'wi Indians (of Shastan stock), and Northeast Maidu ("Big Meadows Indians") to the east; the Northwest Maidu to the south; and the Wintun to the west.

Nothing has hitherto been published on the Yana language except a few notes in Dixon and Kroeber's "Native Languages of California"; 1 the authors place Yana in a morphological class by itself, it showing little or no grammatical resemblance to the Central Californian type of languages (such as Maidu or Wintun). Yana mythology has fared better. Pages 281-484 of Jeremiah Curtin's "Creation Myths of Primitive America" (Boston, 1903) consist of thirteen Yana myths, some of which are closely parallel forms of myths published in this volume. Unfortunately Curtin fails to give the names either of his informants or of the places at which the myths were procured; it would have been desirable to have definite information on this point, as the Yana myths undoubtedly appeared in several distinct forms (cf., e.g., Curtin's "Theft of Fire" with Sam Bat‘wī's version below). Information secured from my informants, Sam Bat‘wī and Betty Brown, indicates that Curtin's material was derived partly at Round Mountain from the now dead chief Round Mountain Jack (Buī'yas*i), partly near Redding from an old Indian, since deceased, known as "The Governor," for whom

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[paragraph continues] Sam Bat‘wī acted as interpreter. Notes on Yana myths obtained by Dr. Dixon are to be found in his "Northern Maidu." 2 The published Yana mythologic material is briefly summarized and discussed by Dr. Kroeber in "Myths of South Central California." 3

Thanks are due Mrs. Curtin and Little, Brown and Company for permission to reprint in this volume Curtin's myth of "The Theft of Fire" an Indian translation of which was secured from Betty Brown. Thanks are also due to Dr. R. B. Dixon for kindly consenting to have his manuscript Yana material incorporated with my own; this material was collected for the American Museum of Natural History in the late fall and early winter of 1900, partly from Sam Bat‘wī and partly from Round Mountain Jack.



a short as in Ger. Mann,

ā long as in Ger. Bahn.

e short and open as in Eng. met.

ê long and open as in Fr. fête, approximately as in Eng. there, but without final "r vanish."

i short and open as in Eng. it.

ī close as in Eng. eat. Not necessarily long unless accented.

o short and open as in Ger. dort.

ô long and open as in Eng. saw.

u short and open as in Eng. put.

û close as in Eng. spoon. Generally long.

ē close as in Fr. été, and ō close as in Fr. chapeau, are not true Yana sounds and of very doubtful occurrence.

ä as in Eng. hat. Of rare occurrence.

ü approximately like short and open Ger. ü in Mütze. Rarely occurs as variant of yu.

Superior vowels (a, i, u, rarely e and o) are whispered and accompanied by aspiration of preceding consonant. Less frequently syllables consisting of voiced consonant and vowel are written superior to indicate whispering, e.g.,


ai as in Eng. night. Apt to split up into a-i.

au as in Eng. house. Apt to split up into a-u.

oi (of rare occurrence), ui, and uī, are o+i, u+i, and u+ī.

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b, d, dj, g with considerably less sonancy than corresponding Eng. consonants (dj = Eng. j in judge); best considered as intermediate between surds and sonants.

p, t, tc (or ts*), k unaspirated surds (tc = Eng. ch in church). These are of secondary origin.

p‘, t‘, tc‘ (or ts*‘ ), k‘ distinctly aspirated surds.

p!, t!, tc! (or ts*!), k! "fortis" in articulation. Pronounced with sudden release of tongue and accompanying stricture of glottis. Distinct from, though similar to, p?, t?, ---, k?.

w as in Eng. wine.

w unvoiced w, approximately as in Eng. what. Occurs only as syllabic final.

c, s as in Eng. ship and sip respectively. These are variants of s* acoustically midway between them and which also occurs as second member of affricative ts*.

ts* t with slight s*-affection following. Sometimes heard as variant of t‘ before dj.

j as in Eng. azure or, better, acoustically midway between z and j (in Fr. jour). It practically never occurs except as second member of affricative dj.

l, m, n as in English.

l, m, n unvoiced l, m, and n. These occur generally before? (glottal stop).

r pronounced with tip of tongue and rather weakly trilled, so as frequently to sound like sonant d.

r unvoiced r with fairly strong aspiration. It goes back etymologically to r (sonant d).

rt?, rt‘ differing from ordinary t?, t‘ by peculiar voiceless-r quality of dental surd (rt? seems often to be acoustic variant of r). They are related to ordinary dental surds as r (sonant d) is to ordinary d.

h, x as in Ger. Hand and Dach, except that x is considerably weaker than Ger. guttural spirant ch. They are variants of one sound.

y as in Eng. yes.

x* as in Ger. ich. Rarely heard as variant of whispered y.

? glottal stop, produced by complete stricture of glottis.

‘ aspiration of preceding consonant or vowel. Before initial vowels it denotes very weak aspiration (‘ī-, e.g., is apt to be heard now as ī-, now as hī-).

w very weak w-attack of initial u, ū, o, or ô. One often doubts whether he hears, e.g., ‘ô- or wô-.

n indicates nasalization of preceding vowel. Found only in interjections.

' stressed vowel.

secondarily stressed vowel.

+ denotes prolongation of preceding consonant or vowel.

- sometimes placed between vowels to show that they are to be separately pronounced.

( ) enclose words not in Indian text.

NOTE.--Doubled -ll-, -nn-, -mm- should be pronounced as l+l, n+n, m+m; they are in no case equivalent to -l-, -n-, -m-. Distinguish carefully also between -td- and -t‘d-, and correspondingly for other stops. Final consonants should be pronounced with vowel of following word; e.g., p‘ad a'idja is to be syllabified p‘a-da'i-dja.


3:1 Amer. Anthropologist, N. S., V, 7, 12, 15.

4:2 Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., XVII, 339, 340, 342.

4:3 Univ. Calif. Publ. Am. Arch. Ethn., IV, 148-9.

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