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

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


At Hak!ā'l?imadu, a lake near Hat creek, lived Loon Woman (Hak!ā'lisimari?mi). She had no husband. Every man that came along she killed; she would tell them, "I love you." The man would stay with her, then she would cut out his heart, dry it, and tie a string on it. She had treated ten people thus, had made beads out of their hearts, and wore them as a necklace. She was a nice-looking woman, living all alone.

She thought, "I dreamed of a man last night. I dreamt that it was Eagle's son." She dressed up with her beaded apron and basket-cap, fixed herself up nicely, painted her face, and started away. Eagle lived at Cī'p!a 347 with a great many people, he had a big sweat-house. Coyote lived there also. Loon came down, came to the sweat-house in the afternoon when the people were all dancing. They saw her coming from the east; her beaded apron made a noise "so?, so?, so?," as she walked. Meadow Lark Woman lived there also, was an old woman living alone east of the sweat-house. Loon came to her house, and called her aunt (gara'ina). Meadow Lark was in bed, but got up when she heard Loon come in. "Who is that?" she said. Meadow Lark had a long spear (lu'mi) in her bed. She seized the spear and was about to spear Loon, when Loon said, "It is I, aunt." "You must say who you are," said Meadow Lark, "or I'll spear you."

p. 229

[paragraph continues] Then Meadow Lark stuck her spear up again. Loon came in and sat down, while Meadow Lark hung her head. She felt bad, was all alone, and cried. She thought that Loon was some relation. In the big sweat-house were many people sweating and dancing about the fire. Loon said to Meadow Lark, "My aunt, I am going to see what is going on." Outside were many young women dancing, dancing for fun. Meadow Lark said, "Go, but be careful. The young people may pull you about, they may not like to have a strange woman about." "I do not want men to pull me about," said Loon.

Loon went out, sneaked among the girls who were dancing. The girls saw her coming, for it was moonlight and they could see her. She was a stranger. Every one looked at her, no one knew her. The beads about her neck looked strange, looked like the hearts of people. The girls, however, took her in and let her dance with them. Loon said to one in a whisper, "Let us go and look into the sweat-house and see the men, see how they dance." The girl said, "No, we never look in when men are sweating." Loon said, "Let us look anyway." Two women there knew who Loon was, and they were afraid. One woman said, "Let her look if she wants to. Take her up to the sweathouse."

Loon looked in, saw the men dancing. Eagle would not let his son dance, he had put him away next to the wall, put him in a black-bear skin and rolled him up. The people finished their dancing, all went out to the creek to swim. They were strung all along the creek; then they all went back to the sweat-house. Loon was among the girls again. There was an old man in the sweat-house, talking. "What did you tell me a while ago? Didn't you tell me that a stranger woman had come?" "Yes, there is one outside." Said he, "Do not play with her. I know her, I saw her make trouble in five places. I know her name. It is Hak!ā'lisimari?mi. Let her alone. If you do not play with her tonight, it will be well."

A vagrant man was walking about, saw Loon, and began to tease her, pull her about. Her head was hanging down. He put his hand on her shoulder, but she said "M+, m+," and shrugged her shoulders. Five stranger men were teasing her. Finally

p. 230

they stopped playing with her. Loon was angry, got up, and went to the sweat-house. There were many people there. She looked in, saw that the fire was low. "O you men, one of you come out and be my husband! One of you is my husband, come out," she said. No one answered. "My husband played with me only a little while ago. Why doesn't he come out? I want to go home. Hurry up." One answered, "Was it I? Do you want me?" He went out, Loon looked at him, and said, "You are not the one." He went away. She called again, "Come out." Another answered and came out, but he was not the one. This was repeated several times. By and by Loon stopped talking, went away.

She went to the creek where the men had been swimming, looked in where each man had swum. Eagle's son had been the last one, far off all alone. She looked to see if any man had lost a hair. She found one hair, pulled out one of her own hairs, and measured the two. The man's hair was shorter, so it was not her husband's. She wanted a husband whose hair was as long as her own. She hunted all along the creek, could not find one of the same length. All were too short. Finally at the last place she found a hair, and measured it. It was of just the same length as hers. "Now I have it," she said. "I thought I would find it somewhere."

She went back to the sweat-house, and as before she called on the men to come out, and as before each one that came was rejected. All had come out, young Eagle was the only one left. She kept calling. Some of Eagle's people were in there crying. She called to them not to cry, but to send out the man. They knew what she wanted, and therefore cried. Eagle said, "Well, I will give up my son's life, for I do not want my people to die. I must give up my son." He took him out. The boy was shining like gold. Loon said, "That is my husband." He came out, and would not look at her, did not want to go home with her. She said, "I want to go home tonight. I dreamed of you." Loon seized him.

The old people cried in the sweat-house. Loon and young Eagle went home, went east toward Hat creek. She said, "I do not want daylight, I wish it to be night yet. I want to sleep

p. 231

with my husband." She said to Eagle after they had gone a short distance, "I am tired, let us sleep." Eagle would not talk; Loon asked him to, but he refused. Loon fixed the bed and lay down, as did Eagle. She tried to play with him, but he did not wish to. An old man at the sweat-house had put an acorn-cup on Eagle's penis, so that he could have no connection; he had told him not to sleep. The woman wanted the young man, but he was incapacitated. Eagle blew on her and put her to sleep. She stretched out and snored. Eagle did not sleep, but watched the woman. Late in the night he got up, removing the woman's arms from him. He found a log and laid it beside the woman, put her arms about it as they had been around him. Then he ran off.

He came home and told the people that he had run away. The people said, "What shall we do? We must go to the south, we must run away." "No," said another, "Loon will catch us if we go south. Let us go to the north." "No," said another, "let us go to the east." "Let us go to the west," said another. "No, she will catch us there." "Where shall we go?" "We must go up to the sky." "How shall we go up? We must hurry before Loon gets up." "Who will take us up to the sky?" said Eagle. Spider had a rope, he 348 was the man. The people had a great sack (p!ū'gi), and they all got into this. "Hurry up," said Spider. Then Spider made the rope come down from the sky and tied it to the sack. "Who is going in first?" Coyote said, "My friend, I will be the first." "All right, but be careful." He got in, and all the rest got in after him. Spider said "Stretch!" to the sack and it did so, stretched to the north, south, east, and west, till all the people got in. Then Spider pulled the rope, pulled the sack up.

When it was half way up, Loon woke up. It was daylight. She stretched about, pulled the log about, and found out what it was. She grew angry, said "Am+! All right, you can not get away from me," said Loon to herself. "Am+, am+!" she said. She came back to the sweat-house, looked for her husband. She had a fire-drill (mi'niyauna) with fire in it. 349 She looked

p. 232

about, called into the sweat-house, but there was no answer, there was no one about. "Am+, am+!" said she to herself. She looked to the south, there was no one in sight. She looked to the east, there was no one. She looked to the west, there was no one. She looked to the north, there was no one. "You are smart, you people. I wonder where you are. You can not get away from me." She hunted all about, looking for their tracks, but she found none. She looked on the gopher piles, there were no tracks there. She began to wonder what to do. "I guess I will set fire to this place. It is the only thing to do." She broke the fire-drill, threw one-half of it to the east, and one to the south. Fire blazed up where she threw the sticks; everything burned. Loon had a big club, and stood watching the fire.

In the sack Coyote said to the people, "I want to make a peephole to see the fire down below." Spider had said that the village was burning. The people said to Coyote, "No, do not tear the sack." "Just a little," said Coyote. Coyote made up his mind to do it anyway; he did so, looked through, saw the fire. The tear began to rip, the hole grew larger, by and by the sack broke. Coyote fell out first, fell down over and over; all the rest fell after him, fell into the fire.

Loon was watching the fire. She saw a man fall into the fire. looked up, saw all the people falling. "Am+, am+!" she said, "I told you that you could not get away from me." Wildcat fell down; his eyes popped out. Loon bit the eye with her club as it popped out, knocked it back into the fire. Black Bear fell in; his eyes popped out. Loon tried to hit it back but missed it. it got away, flew far off. Lion fell in, but she missed his eye. Brown Bear fell in. Eagle fell in. The fire all burned out; all the people were burned up, except those whose eyes had escaped and who are alive today.

Loon went home. Diver, a small mud duck, did not like Loon. He lived on a lake at Cī'p!a. Diver was afraid of Loon, so he made a net, took two moons to make it. Heron (mi'mk!a) came along, came to see Diver. He said, "Why do you make a net?" "I shall use it," said Diver. Heron wanted to know, but Diver would not tell. He set a trap for Loon; Diver caught her and killed her.


228:346 See note 207. The details of this version, secured apparently from Sam Bat‘wī, differ widely enough from the Yana Loon Woman myth obtained by Curtin to justify its publication here.

228:347 See note 51.

231:348 See note 45.

231:349 See note 52.

Next: XIII. Pine Marten's Quest for Moon's Daughter