Sacred Texts  Native American  California  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

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


p. 153

"Do you all come together! I intend to move north the day after tomorrow; I want to camp out for a dance in the north. Get food together! Tomorrow we shall eat before starting out. Dance! Try it now! Let us go to camp out for a dance, let us go out to camp in the north country. Let us go to eat their salmon. They must be getting salmon already." (Thus spoke the chief of the Geese people.) They danced. "Try it! You are going to have a dance. Get ready to start when it is daylight! Get ready your feathers, get ready your aprons fringed with pine-nut shells. Get ready your ‘ū'miyauna aprons. What shall stay over night at Cī'p!a; 242 you will have a dance there, you will practice there, as it is a very good place. You will dig for annis roots at that place, and you will take them along as food. You will dig also for da'mna roots. There we shall remain for two nights. After that we shall start to move along ahead to Djêwit?t‘a'urik!u 243 and to I‘da'lmadu. 244 There you will practice dancing and will get sunflower seeds. You will rest there and gather sunflower seeds, for the North people 245 are very fond of sunflower seeds." Now they proceeded

p. 154

to the north. It was Lizard 246 who had sent word for all the people to come to a dance.

(When they had come near to the north country, the chief said,) "We shall move to yonder place. Make yourselves nice and clean! Let us dance up to there! Lizard has sent word to you, 'Dance!' He has just sent for me, and has told me, 'Dance up to here!'" They started in dancing now, while Lizard shouted encouragingly to them. "It is good," said Lizard. There were all sorts of Geese people there from every place. "Be seated here!" said Lizard. "You will eat soon," he said. "Soon you will have a dance. I have killed a person, that is why I am having a good time." (The chief of the Geese people) spoke in reply, "Yes, that is why I have come hither. I like to have a good time. These children like to have a dance, and that is why I have brought them hither from the south." "It is very good," said Lizard. "I rejoice to see you," said the chief of the Geese people. (Lizard said,) "I have a large sweat-house; they will have much salmon to eat, for I am wont to catch them. Soon you will have a dance."

(Lizard said to his people,) "Go for some kindling wood, so that we may have a fire to give light. Do you people cut wood, so that these people may cook." They all went off together to get kindling wood. (The chief of the Geese said to his people,) "Give them annis roots as food, you have brought along sunflower seeds."

Lizard had sent word to every place. He had sent all over for people to come to his dance, and Heron Woman heard about it. (Coyote, her husband, said to her,) "You should go to spear salmon, I should like to eat some fresh salmon. I am always eating ma'ls*unna roots." "Yes, indeed I shall do so. I shall go to the river to look for salmon. You, for your part, will go to tap around for gophers' holes, while I go tomorrow to get salmon."

She held her salmon spear and looked into the river, waiting

p. 155

for salmon. All at once a sucker came swimming from the west. "Go on east to K!a'‘djadê, 247 to Cību'p‘k!aimadu." 247 Soon another sucker came swimming from the west. "I do not like you," (she said,) "your bones might get stuck in my throat. Swim on east to Cību'p‘k!aimadu." All at once a salmon came swimming from the west. She speared the salmon. Then another one came swimming from the west and, (after spearing it she ceased. Now she built a fire and cut open the salmon. Then she put it on the fire to roast. After some time she took it off again and ate the salmon, dipping it into acorn mush. When she had finished eating she put the remains away into a basket, and cleaned everything up nice and smooth. (She said to the salmon remains,) "Pray do not smell. Coyote might smell it." She put them away, cleaning things up nice and smooth. Now she braided tassels, making a tasseled buckskin skirt. After three days of braiding she finished her apron of white mā'ha grass, and twined a tule basket-cap and a willow basket-cap.

It was already dark when Coyote came back home with bruised legs; ugly he looked, and he was all covered with mud. She, the Heron Woman, was wont to come back home when it was dark, satiated. Coyote baked his ma'ls*unna roots and his annis roots, picked out the big ones, (and said to her), "You should eat these annis roots." "I do not care to eat them," Heron Woman was wont to reply. "Eat these roots for which I have gone far off. Why is it that you do not eat raw food? 248 What is it that you have eaten?"

Again she did so for herself. She went off early in the morning and did as before, got salmon for herself. She caught four salmon, put them down on the rocks, and dried the pounded red flesh of the salmon. She used to dry the pounded flesh and, after cleaning things up smooth, put the remains away. "Pray do not

p. 156

smell!" she said, "he might transgress your taboo." 249 When it was dark, Coyote came back home. "I feel sick," said Heron Woman, "I have a toothache." "Indeed!" said Coyote. "When was it that you became sick?" "I dreamt something, and I am always sick." "What is it that you dreamt of?" "I was just dreaming of something," said Heron Woman. "My cheeks are swollen." "Indeed!" said Coyote. "I have a toothache. Dig up tc‘i'l?awauna 250 roots, you will pound them up and put it on my cheeks." "Yes, indeed, I shall do so. You should eat baked roots; have baked ma'ls*unna roots." Coyote was wont to kill ground squirrels, he was wont to kill gophers, he was wont to kill moles. She put raw acorns into her mouth. "My cheeks are swollen," she said. "I cannot swallow. You should put hot rocks into water, so that I may be able to drink it. My throat is swollen." "I shall come back home when it is dark," said Coyote. "Pray do not come back home when it is dark, please come home somewhat earlier." "I always run about to a great distance."

Again Heron did as before. She took her raw acorns out of her mouth and put them down on the ground, where she was accustomed to sleep. Again she caught salmon. She caught five salmon, put them on the rocks to roast, and pounded up the red flesh. She never gave him any salmon to eat, she never gave him any food. When it was dark, she returned home as before. The people were having a great dance. She said, "They say that they have been having a dance for three nights. I want my swelling to burst, I want it to burst," she said, always speaking falsely. "It will be good," (said Coyote), "if your swelling burst." "Let me see!" (said Heron Woman to herself,) "I shall go to camp out where they are having a dance." She was wont to take her skirt secretly, her buckskin skirt, tasseled with mā'ha grass. "Pray do not be seen!" (she said to her skirt). She now ran off at night to stay over night where they were having a dance. "Do not build a fire," she said (to Coyote). 251

p. 157

[paragraph continues] "Pray act as though sick, as I always do; groan, build a fire when it is already daylight," (she said to her acorns). Now she went off, and danced with the people while Coyote kept on sleeping. "Here comes the fine dancer," (said Lizard,) "Coyote's widow!" 252

When it was just about to dawn, she was wont to run back home along the river. She entered her house again, put the acorns into her mouth again, and again lay down on the ground. "Where are you now? Have you gone away already? Come and build a fire for me! I feel cold." "Heh!" said Coyote, "I have been sleeping soundly." He arose and scurried about at his work. "Do look at my cheeks!" she said, "the swelling will burst." Have you not perchance heard that the people are having a dance?" (said Coyote). Lizard was having a great dance. "Indeed!" she said, "I have not heard anything about it. They did not come here to say anything about it. I have not heard," said Heron Woman.

As was his wont, Coyote went off to tap around for gophers' roots, never staying at home. Now the woman went off again to stay over night where they were having a dance. This time Coyote found it out. "Here comes the fine dancer," (Lizard was saying,) "Coyote's widow!" "Ih! My name is being called," said Coyote. "He calls it," he said. "Yes, it is good," said Coyote. "It seems that you think that you are sensible. It is I who am a sensible person, I am a great one." Now he went off when it was daylight. "You will not throw me away. So that is why, as it turns out, you reject my food! I run about in every direction, looking for food, saying to myself, 'Let her not be hungry!', and you reject it. Perchance you think you have much sense? I am one that am superior to all, I am superior to my brother chief. I am a person that has much sense. You will not rejoice." Now Coyote went off.

"I shall go for wood," said Lizard, "I shall soon come back home. The kindling wood was very good." He went for it; Lizard split up the kindling wood very fine. Suddenly Coyote came crying down hill from the south, he was weeping. (Coyote

p. 158

was dressed up as an old woman, and pretended to carry a baby. He was really carrying his penis, wrapped up like a baby.) "It seems to be Coyote, is it not?" said Lizard. "Is it you who are chopping wood?" said Coyote. "Yes, I am the one that am giving the dance. Many are the people that have come together here," said Lizard. "I have sent word to every place for all the people to come," he said. "I am coming back here," said Coyote; "this here is my orphan child; my husband has been killed." "Indeed!" said Lizard. 'Well! I shall go down to help them,' I was saying to myself. That is why I returned to this place here. Where is it that you are accustomed to go back home?" "I always go back down hill here to the north." He tied the kindling wood with rope made of tc‘ilha'imadu, with rope made of bā'ni-bark strands. "It is heavy," said Lizard. "It was never that way before," he said. (Coyote had wished to himself that the burden should be heavier than usual.) "I shall push the burden on to you. It is heavy," he said. "It is generally light. Why is it that it is that way?" he said. "Stand in front of me. Pull the burden from me on to yourself." "I might fall," said Coyote, "I shall just push it onto you." (Coyote had put down a piece of sharp flint on which Lizard would have to kneel in drawing the burden on to his shoulders.) And then Coyote pushed it on to him. "Away with all this talking!" (said Coyote to himself). Lizard did (as Coyote had intended), and the veins of his knees were cut through. Now Lizard was dead.

"Yes! I shall treat you people in that way." And then he took off Lizard's skin and put it on himself so as to resemble him. "Pray go back to our house. If she wishes to have a fire made for her, pray go and enter the house and build a fire for her. If she wishes to have a poultice put on her, put a poultice on each cheek," (said Coyote to his penis). Coyote's penis did so. It put poultices on Heron. Now Coyote took up the wood and carried it, putting Lizard's appearance on himself. Then he went back down hill to the north.

"The chief has come back home, he was out to get wood, (said the people). He stepped on top of the ladder of the sweathouse and he put down the wood, and now he entered the house. Water was poured on his face; he blinked. "That one must be

p. 159

[paragraph continues] Coyote, for he blinks," (they thought). "You will soon have a dance," he said. "I have a sore throat, because of my shouting. Soon you will all go to sleep. Dance!" he said. Just then his faithless wife came. "Amm! You will act in that way indeed, will you? Perhaps you think that you will live?" 253 he said (to himself). "So you try to fool me when I am asleep, do you? (Aloud:) "Hehê! Here comes the fine dancer, Coyote's wife! Soon you will all go to sleep," he said. "You will dance in the daytime tomorrow; you will dance till night-fall."

Now they were all asleep, sleeping all together, snoring. Now Coyote smeared pitch around the sweat-house, smeared pitch on the feet of all of them, smeared pitch on the people. "Do not run out to save yourselves!" Now Coyote went out of the house. The people in the sweat-house burned up. "That is what I always do when I am angry. Now cook for your loved one! What I do is good," he said. "So that is how you act, is it? That is why you reject food? I go far off to get roots for you, and you reject them!"

Duck alone saved himself, and with him was Goose; Goose was burnt, burnt off on one side. Then he walked flat on his feet into a lake. Duck did likewise. "Now he has taken revenge on us. Why did he act in this way to us?" With them were also Ground Squirrel and Gray Squirrel. "Whither shall we go?" they said. "If I recover," (said Goose,) "I shall go back to the south. I should not have listened to (Lizard's invitation)." "Do not speak thus," said Duck. "Go straight north to the far north! Go still further north! I shall think it out," he said. "Let me see! Go east to the Hat Creek Indians," said (Goose), "and go east to the people dwelling across the river to the north, and go east to the people of I‘t‘a'urik!u. 254 Go over to the south to the S*uk!ô'niyā," 255 he said, "go east to the rising sun. I also

p. 160

shall be wont to do so," said Goose and Crane, "I shall go straight north. I never thought that I should do that. I was very happy at home; I had plenty to eat. Never did I think that I would do that. A meteor will fall down and burst," he said, "and the water will boil. It will be that way also down the river to the west. 256 People will lie down in them if they are sick in any way." (He spoke to Ground Squirrel,) "You will be he who will always look around for food," (and to Gray Squirrel,) "while you will be he who will jump about among the yellow-pines, you will get yellow-pine nuts, and you will be satiated. I shall have my place here. I shall also be north across the river from here at Wacū'p‘di 257 for that is a very good place. To that place there will be a bridge going north across the river, and the place will be called Dīrī'p!oha. 258 That place will be heard about all over, and people will say, 'Let us go to bathe at Dīrī'p!oha.' It will be only slightly warm at Wacū'p‘di; so it will be across the river from here. Wild plums will grow in that place, mūt!s*u and ma'ls*unna roots will also grow there. Salmon will swim to the north, trout will swim to the north."


142:240 The account of the visit of the Geese people to Lizard at Big Bend (of Pit River) bears considerable resemblance to Sam Bat‘wī's account of their visit to Flint Rock at Mount Shasta (see note 67). Heron's deception of her husband Coyote is paralleled by Sam's story of Coyote and his Sister" (see note 152).

153:242 See note 51.

153:243 The garī'?i form of Djêwint‘a'urik!u (see note 201).

153:244 See note 200.

153:245 By dja'udjabiyā, "North people," are here meant those that correspond to the later Achomā'wi or Pit River Indians of Big Bend. By Big Bend is meant the land enclosed on the south by Pit River as it takes a sweep to the north and south between long. 122° 50' and 122°.

154:246 The lizard (k!uwi'lla) of this myth is not the small species (k!a'lts*!auna) of Nos. V and VI. He was described as a big, brown, long-tailed animal, whose bite is not poisonous. The name is given by Curtin (op. cit., p. 313) as Gowila.

155:247 See note 225. The place referred to is the Achomā'wi (Fall River Indian) village on Fall River near its confluence with Pit River, at the present Fall City (or Fall River Mills). The name Achomā'wi (Adjū'māwi?) refers properly only to the Fall River Indians, known by the Yanas as Cībup‘k!a'imaduyā\ (gat‘ā'?i Cībumk!a'imaduyā\).

155:248 By "raw food" is meant roots and other vegetable food as contrasted with more staple food, particularly acorn-mush, deer meat, and salmon. Distinct verb stems are used for "eat," according to whether reference is had to the former (tc‘ô-) or the latter sort of food (mô-).

156:249 It was forbidden to eat salmon at the same time as deer meat, small game, or gophers' roots. This explains Heron's refusal to eat the roots offered by Coyote and her desire to keep the odor of salmon away from him. The transgression of the taboo would mean the stopping of the salmon run.

156:250 A medicinal root used for swellings.

156:251 She did not wish to have Coyote get up early, for he might then observe her coming back from the dance.

157:252 I.e., "grass widow," divorced or unfaithful wife. Lizard's words are ironical.

159:253 The exact translation and significance of this sentence are rather doubtful.

159:254 Now known as Hot Springs Valley or Big Valley. It is in southern Modoc and northern Lassen counties and is drained by Pit River.

159:255 S*uk!ô'niyâ seems to have been of somewhat indefinite application as a term embracing Indians to the extreme east. it was used by Betty Brown to refer to the Northeast Maidu of Susanville and the Achomā'wi of Dixie Valley. Sam Bat‘wī thought it meant the "Hot Springs" and "Snake" (i.e., Shoshone) Indians. The valleys referred to in the text--Burney and Hat Creek valleys (inhabited by the Atsugē'wi or Hat Creek Indians), Fall River, Big Valley, and Dixie Valley--were formerly visited in the spring by myriads of ducks.

160:256 This explains the occurrence of hot sulphur springs in Big Valley and Big Bend.

160:257 Kosk Creek, a northern tributary of Pit River. Big Bend is directly opposite its confluence with the latter stream.

160:258 Hot Springs of Big Bend.

Next: XIII. The Finding of Fire