Behind The Myths
Source: Creation Myths Of Primitive America
The following notes are put in as condensed a form as possible. They
are confined to explanations of the actors or characters in the myths,
and to information concerning the meaning of names of persons and
The myths from one to nine inclusive are Wintu, from ten to the end
Yana. These two nations, though neighbors, are not related; their
languages are radically different.
* * * * *
In 1895 I made a journey to California in consequence of an
arrangement with the late Charles A. Dana, editor of "The Sun."
According to this arrangement, Mr. Dana was to publish on consecutive
Sundays such myth-tales as I might think of sufficient value to appear
in his paper. Those myths were to be found by me in California,
Mexico, and Guatemala.
I began at the source of the Sacramento River, and worked down to the
mouth, my last stopping-place being the extensive hop-fields in the
In San Francisco I wrote the following short account of the Wintus.
That done, I set out for Mexico.
In the city of Guadalajara I copied the myths obtained in California
and sent them to "The Sun." After that I worked at "Quo Vadis," the
greater part of which I translated in Guadalajara.
All the myths in this volume were published in "The Sun," and appeared
as a part of a series pertaining to Indians in California, Mexico, and
Only the California part has been published thus far.
After leaving Guadalajara I spent almost a year in Guatemala and
Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico. Among the last places which
I visited was Palenque. A view of one part of the ruins of this
remarkable and mysterious city appears as a frontispiece to the
The Wintus are a nation or stock of Indians who before the coming of
white men owned and occupied all that part of California situated on
the right bank of the Sacramento, from its source near the foot of
Mount Shasta to its mouth at the northern shore of San Francisco Bay.
These Indians extended into Trinity County on the west, and still
farther to the mountain slope which lies toward the Pacific. Only a
small number of them, however, were on the western declivity. The
great body of the nation lived on the eastern slope of the Coast Range
and in the Sacramento Valley. Some of their finest mental productions
are connected with the upper course of the Sacramento and with the
MacCloud River, or Wini Mem.
It is difficult to determine what the Wintu population was half a
century ago, but, judging from the number of houses in villages, the
names and positions of which have been given me by old men, I should
say that it could not have been less than 10,000, and might easily
have been double that number. At present there are not more than 500
Wintus in existence.
The Wintus have suffered grievously; great numbers have been killed by
white men, others have perished by diseases brought in by strangers;
but those who remain are strong and are more likely to increase than
diminish. Times of violence have passed, and the present Wintus are
willing and able to adapt themselves to modern conditions.
It may be of interest to readers of these myth tales to know something
of the present condition of the Wintus.
In 1889, when I was in California, commissioned by Major Powell for
the second time to make linguistic investigations among various tribes
of the Pacific coast, a few Wintus came to me in Redding, California,
and complained of their wretched condition. There was not a spot of
land, they said, where they could build a hut without danger of being
ordered away from it. "This country was ours once," added they, "but
the white man has taken all of it." I told them to bring their people
together, and invite also the Yanas, who had suffered more than all
other people of that region, and then explain to me what was needed.
The two peoples met on a little stony field in a brushy waste outside
the inhabited part of Redding. There they made speeches and discussed
matters for three hours the first day and as many the second. They
gave me all the points of what they wanted, which was simply that the
United States should give each man of them a piece of land, with help
to begin life on it. I jotted down in brief form what they had told
me, read it to them, and they were satisfied. Next day the paper was
copied in the form of a petition from the two nations to President
Harrison. They signed the petition before a Redding notary, and gave
it to me with a request to lay it before the President.
Early in 1890 I was in Washington. Anxious to win the case of my poor
Indian friends,--or "Diggers," as some men are pleased to call them
contemptuously,--I looked around for a Congressman of influence to go
with me to support the petition before the President. I found no
suitable person till I met my classmate and friend, Governor
Greenhalge of Massachusetts, at that time a member of Congress. When
he heard the tale of the Yana massacre and realized the sad plight of
the Wintus, he offered at once to cooperate with me. He went to the
President and explained the affair to him. Two or three days later he
accompanied me to the White House. I gave the petition to President
Harrison, who promised to favor it with his executive initiative. He
did this so earnestly and with such emphasis that an agent was
appointed very soon to find land for those Indians. The agent found
land for them in various places, but within the radius of their former
possessions. The condition of the Wintus at present is this: They have
lands which are described, but in most cases the boundaries are not
indicated by any material mark, or at least very few of them are;
white men are trespassing, and it is impossible for the Indians to
protect themselves till their boundaries are fixed tangibly. They will
not have the means to begin serious work till they receive assistance.
They are waiting now in hope that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs
will have their lands surveyed, and that Congress will make a small
appropriation for their benefit. This is the extent of their hopes and
wishes. They are very glad to have land, and the majority of them will
make fairly good use of it. When I met them in 1895, they were very
grateful for the part which I had taken in settling them in life,
adding that they could not have settled themselves unassisted. As to
me, I cannot but make an emphatic acknowledgment of the generous and
effective aid given by Governor Greenhalge.
"Olelbis," the first myth published in "The Sun" (March 29, 1896),
was preceded by the following brief introduction:--
The Wintus, with whose creation-myths I begin this series, are a very
interesting people. Their language is remarkably harmonious, rich, and
flexible. It has great power of describing the physical features of
the country in which it is spoken, as well as the beliefs and ideas of
the Wintus themselves.
The picture of Olelbis, a being who lives in the highest and sees
everything, is drawn more distinctly and with more realism than any
character in other American religious systems, so far as I know.
The theory of creation evolved by the Indians of North America is
complete, simple, and symmetrical. I have referred to it somewhat in
the introduction to "Hero Tales of Ireland," in "Myths and Folk-lore
of Ireland," and in "Myths and Folk-tales of the Russians, Western
Slavs, and Magyars." This theory is in brief as follows:--
There was a people in existence before the present race of men; in
speaking of the present race of men, the tales have in view Indians
only. This first people lived in harmony for a period of indefinite,
unimaginable duration, without division or dissension,--undifferentiated,
so to speak. This was the golden age of existence, a Nirvana preliminary
to life as we know it at present, a Nirvana of the gods, as the Buddhist
extinction of self is to be the Nirvana of just men when all shall be one
in all and one in one. At last a time came when character appeared, and
with it differences and conflicts. When the conflicts were past and the
battles fought out, the majority of the first people were turned into all
the animated things, walking, creeping, crawling, swimming, flying, that
have ever been seen on the earth, in the water, or in the air. They were
turned also into trees and plants of every kind,--some into heavenly
bodies, others into remarkable stones and rocks, just as, in the Bible,
Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt.
According to this theory, every individual existence which we see in
the world around us is a transformed or fallen god. Every beast, bird,
reptile, fish, insect, or plant was at one time a divinity of high or
low degree, an uncreated person who had lived in harmony with his
fellows from the beginning till the time when variety of character,
or individuality, appeared and brought with it difficulties, or
perhaps we might say, penalty. With individuality came conflicts; when
those conflicts were over, creation was finished.
At the end of each particular conflict the victor turned by means of a
word the vanquished into that which embodied and expressed his
character. The vanquished on his part had a similar compelling word,
and changed his opponent into the beast, bird, or other existence
which described him; in other terms, he gave his opponent the physical
form, the outward personality, which corresponded to the nature of his
hidden or at least his unapparent character. Besides these
metamorphosed or fallen divinities, there is in the Indian mythologies
a group, a small minority, which was not changed, but left this world
going out under the sky at the west to live in harmony and delight;
and they live in that way to this moment. Sometimes this group, or a
part of it, went to live above the sky.
The Indian Creation-myths all relate to the adventures and exploits of
the "first people,"--the gods; none relate to human beings, and none
touch on anything done since man appeared on earth. They are the
accounts of what took place when there was an order different from the
present, and explain how the present order rose from the first.
Such, in substance, is the foundation of American religious systems,
and the method of all of them, so far as examined. The Wintu is
different from many others in its methods and details, but the result
is the same in all cases. Olelbis, with few exceptions, disposes of
the first people, retains with himself whomsoever he likes, sends to
the earth and transforms those whom he thinks more useful below than
above, and gives the example of a single ruling divinity which,
without being represented as all-powerful or all-wise, manages through
the knowledge and services of others to bear rule over all things.
This myth contains a complete statement concerning the beginnings of
Wintu belief. Olelbis occupies the first place in the estimation of
Wintus. To understand the Wintu mind, it is indispensable to begin
with Olelbis. Other myths illustrate this one, explain parts of the
Wintu system, and help to explain the mental life of the people; but
this tale of Creation is to Indians of the western half of the
Sacramento valley what their sacred books are to historic races.
No Wintu has been converted to Christianity; hence the faith of the
nation is undimmed, and its adherence to primitive religion
unweakened. I cannot explain their position better than by giving the
words of one of the most intelligent Wintus whom I have met. After I
had collected all that I could find, and had received needful
explanations as far as was possible, I spoke some time with this man.
Referring to their religion and ideas, he said: "When I talk of these
things, I am afraid, I feel kind of scart" (scared).
That explains their position perfectly. Their faith is of the firmest;
they are full of awe; they believe that Olelbis is up there now in the
"Central Blue," in his marvellous Panti Hlut, the most beautiful
structure in the universe, and from there sees everything that
happens. That heavenly house is framed of living oak-trees, which bear
acorns continually, the Indian bread of life,--that house which has in
and around it all the flowers that have ever bloomed, flowers whose
roots can never die.
Winishuyat, mentioned in "Olelbis" and in other tales, is one of the
most interesting personages in Wintu mythology. He is described as a
little man, about the size of a thumb, and is always placed on the top
of the head by the person whom he accompanies and aids. This person
never fails to tie his own hair over Winishuyat, and thus conceals him
from every stranger. Winis means "he sees;" the literal significance
of huyat I have not been able to get at satisfactorily thus far. The
essential meaning of the whole word is that he sees in mind the
approaching danger before it is evident to the physical eye.
Winishuyat means, therefore, the prescience of danger,--seeing danger
while it is yet at some distance; not necessarily distance
geographically, for the danger may be present, but concealed in the
breast of a dissembling enemy, and some time, short or long, may be
between it and actual happening.
The peculiar thing in the case is that foresight is separated from the
hero, and is made the distinguishing quality of his little thumb-sized
attendant, just as if each power had to be connected with a
person,--no person having more than one great trait of character.
In the Yana mythology there is no name corresponding to Winishuyat,
but the same office is filled by a maternal uncle.
In the tale of "Juiwaiyu," Jupka, the uncle of the hero, makes himself
as small as a thumb, and is tied in under the hair of his nephew. In
the winning of Paiowa, at the house of Tuina, Igupatopa performs for
his sister's son the same kind of service rendered by Winishuyat,--with
this difference, that he is more active; he is not merely an adviser,
he is a helper, a strengthener; he gives counsel to make his nephew
wise, and then enters into his heart to fortify him, to render him
brave and strong.
It is curious and instructive to note in European Folk-tales the
survival of Winishuyat and his approximate equivalent, the Yana uncle.
In Slav tales this person is the mangy, miserable, neglected little
colt which, when taken outside the town, shakes itself and becomes a
marvellous magic steed, golden-haired, untiring, and wise, faithful to
its master as the sun to his course in the sky.
This steed knows what is coming, knows exactly what to do, knows the
mistakes that his master is sure to commit, knows how to correct them;
and the cumulative effect of these corrections increases immensely the
momentum of the final triumph.
The Tom Thumb of nursery tales, the mentor of his big brothers, gives
also a striking reminder of Winishuyat.
This beautiful myth, in which wind and water are the moving
characters, needs little if any explanation, save in one point, that
relating to the Hlahi, commonly called doctor by white men. The word
Shaman used in Siberia describes his position accurately. He is not
the master of spirits exactly, but he is the favorite and friend of
one or of more spirits; that is, of such spirits as promised him their
co-operation at the time when he became a Hlahi. If this person
observes the rules of life that are always imposed on him who enjoys
the friendship of this or that spirit (these rules refer mainly to
food agreeable to the spirit), and does what is needful when the
spirit is invoked (the needful, in this case, includes smoking and
dancing), together with chanting the song of this spirit (every spirit
has its own song), the spirit will come at his call.
Sanihas Yupchi smokes and dances; the Tsudi girls sing or chant. The
name Sanihas Yupchi means the archer of Sanihas; Sanihas means
daylight or the entire light of day from dawn till darkness,--in other
words, all the light that Sas the sun gives between one night and
another,--though Sanihas, daylight, is always represented as a person,
and not the product of Sas's activity. This Sanihas Yupchi, the archer
of daylight, the usher of the dawn, is no other than Tsaroki Sakahl,
who has a white stripe on his back, the messenger who was sent by
Torihas to invite Katkatchila to the hunt which caused the burning of
the world in "Olelbis." He appears also as the envoy who ran in
darkness on the gleaming sand trail to invite Hawt to Waida Dikit's
green and red house, where the world concert was held, at which Hawt
proved to be the greatest musician in existence.
In the note to "Kol Tibichi" will be found an account of how the Hlahi
receives the aid and co-operation of spirits.
Most interesting beliefs are connected with Wokwuk, the son of Olelbis
and Mem Loimis. The Wintus believe Wokwuk to be the greatest source of
power and wealth.
According to "Olelbis," different bits of Wokwuk came down to the
earth and were turned into elk and various valuable creatures; the tip
of Wokwuk's little finger became the earthly Wokwuk.
Wintus told me that if a man were to see the earthly Wokwuk, who was
made from the tip of Wokwuk's little finger, he would grow immensely
rich from the good luck which the sight would bring him. The last
Wokwuk seen appeared a little over a hundred years ago. The story of
its appearance is as follows:--
One day an old woman at a village called Tsarken, about twenty miles
north of Redding, went for wood. Soon she ran home almost breathless,
leaving her basket behind.
"Oh, my grandson," cried she to the chief, "I am frightened. My
grandfather and grandmother used to say to me when I was a girl, 'You
will see a wonderful thing some day.' I have just seen something
wonderful on the hill. I believe it is a Wokwuk. Old people told me
that if a Wokwuk is seen he will stay in one place a long time. I
think this Wokwuk will stay, and wants us to see him."
The chief made a beautiful shed of small fir-trees, covered it with
fir branches, and placed sweetly smelling herbs in it; he sent for
neighboring chiefs, and next day all went in their best array to the
Wokwuk, bearing water in the finest basket of the village, and
carrying a large oak slab and a rope. They found the Wokwuk facing
north, and went near him. The chief lighted his pipe, blew the smoke
toward every side, and said to the Wokwuk,--
"You have come to see us; we have come to salute you. You have come to
show yourself. You are a great person, and all the Wintus in the
country will hear of you; all the chiefs in every place will speak of
you. I am glad that you are here. I am glad that you have come to my
He talked more to the Wokwuk; spoke very nicely. Next he took water in
his mouth and blew it around in every direction. After that the chief
smoked a fragrant root instead of tobacco, blowing the smoke toward
the Wokwuk, speaking to him with great respect.
"Now we will take you home with us," said the chief. They carried the
oak slab to the Wokwuk; he did not stir. They pushed him onto the
slab, tied one leg to it, then took him home, placed the slab in the
shed, and untied the Wokwuk. He remained two months there, never ate
anything, never tried to escape.
Every morning they talked to the Wokwuk. During two months no one went
to hunt, no one ate venison or sucker fish. Finally, all the Wintus
were invited and all the Yanas,--a great assembly. They saluted the
Wokwuk, each chief addressed him; last of all came a chief from Wini
Mem, named Tópitot, leading a black bear. This bear walked erect like
a man. He had bands of porcupine quills around his fore and hind legs,
and a buckskin band covered with the red scalps of woodpeckers around
his head. The bear bowed down to the Wokwuk, and the chief addressed
him. When other chiefs spoke to the Wokwuk during the two previous
months, he never raised his head or gave a sign of answer; but when
Tópitot had finished, he raised his head and gave out a sound which
was loud and long.
Next morning the chief of the village wished good luck to all, then he
brought a rope, hung Wokwuk to a tree, and took his life. He plucked
him, gave the quills to the chiefs, including himself, cut off the
head, kept it; the body he carried to an ant-hill; when the ants had
taken all the flesh, the bones were separated from each other and
given to each chief.
When the chiefs went home, they spoke to the quills and bones as if
praying, at first every morning, then once a week, then once a month,
and continued this for a long time. After that each put away his bone
or his quill in a triple covering. The bone or feather was wrapped
first in a cover of the red scalps of woodpeckers sewed together;
outside that were two mats made of reeds.
The owner of a Wokwuk bone or quill does not show it to any one, not
even to his wife or children. When he dies he leaves it to a son, or,
if he has no son, to a daughter. The possession of Wokwuk relics gives
luck, but the owner must never eat venison or sucker; these are
offensive to Wokwuk.
Five years after the quills were put away only the stems of them were
left; five years later they were as fresh as if just plucked. If the
quills were to be exposed before people, the people would all die; if
to one person, that person would perish.
The owner of a quill or bone unwraps it occasionally, places water
near it, and talks to it, saying: "Give us good luck; make us well. I
give you water, you give us strength." If he points the relic and
mentions a person's name, saying, "Make him sick," that man will die
If the owner of a Wokwuk relic dies without heirs, the bone or quill
is sunk in a sacred spring; if it were buried with the owner, all
would get sick and die.
Both feathers and bones grow old in appearance, and later on they are
as fresh looking and perfect as ever.
Next to "Olelbis" stands "Norwan," both for value and interest. This
remarkable myth recalls forcibly the Helen of Troy tale, both in its
general plan and in many particulars.
The great war among the first people is caused by the woman Norwan.
Norbis Kiemila, who claims to be her husband, is descended from the
heavenly white oak which forms part of Olelpanti Hlut, the divine
mansion in the "Central Blue."
Norwan's full name is Pom Norwan en Pitchen, that is, daughter of the
land on the southern border. She has another name: Hluyuk Tikimit,
which means the dancing porcupine. Her residence, or hlut, was Norwan
Buli, Norwan Mountain. The Yana name of this mountain is Wahkanopa,
which means the son of Wahkalu. Wahkalu is Mount Shasta, and Wahkanopa
Norwan, or Hluyuk Tikimit, the dancing porcupine, has still a third
name, Bastepomas pokte, the food-giving or food-producing woman. In
her quality of producer she occupies a position in Wintu mythology
similar to that of the divine descendant of the earth and the sun in
the Algonkin religious system. This Algonkin myth is one of the most
beautiful and significant, not among creation, but among action myths.
And here I beg to call attention again to the distinction which I make
between the two classes of myths.
Creation myths relate always to what was done among the "first people
in the world which preceded this," while creation was going on, or
more correctly, perhaps, during the time of those transformations or
metamorphoses from which resulted the present world and the order of
things contained therein.
Action myths relate to ever-recurrent processes in nature which began
as soon as the sun had his course marked out for him and the physical
world around us received its present form and fashion; this happened
before all the "first people" were metamorphosed. The vast majority
had received the physical bodies which they have at present, but a few
were left, and they remained in various places till they saw or heard
the new race, the Indians. Action myths, therefore, relate to various
processes in nature which never cease. For us the most important are
those involved in the relations between the sun and the earth.
The great Algonkin sun and earth myth which has many variants and vast
wealth of detail, describes those relations more profoundly and
broadly than any other Indian myth devoted to the same subject.
The Algonkin myth in its most extended form describes the earth maiden
as becoming a mother through being looked at by the sun. She gives
birth to a daughter who is called Wakos ikwe, the fox woman; this
daughter becomes the mother of a great hero, the highest benefactor of
aboriginal man in America. He is the giver of food and of every good
gift by which life is supported.
Of this myth there is a shorter version in which the hero is born of
the earth directly; he is her son, not her grandson.
This benefactor and food-giver is no other than that warm air which we
see dancing and quivering above the earth in fine weather. Descended
from the sun and the earth, this warm air supports all things that
have vegetable or animal existence.
This myth in its more extended form, the one to which I have referred
first, is similar to that which Schoolcraft pieced together and which
Longfellow took as the foundation of his beautiful poem "Hiawatha,"
though not identical with it.
Schoolcraft, with his amazing propensity to make mistakes, with his
remarkable genius for missing the truth and confusing everything with
which he came in contact, gave the name Hiawatha to his patchwork.
Hiawatha is an Iroquois name connected with Central New York. The
Iroquois were mortal enemies of the Algonkins, and the feud between
these two stocks was the most inveterate and far reaching of any in
America. It was, in fact, the only Indian tribal hatred that rose to
historical importance, and it was by the adherence of the Iroquois,
the "Five Nations" of New York, that English dominion in North America
The Algonkin force of America was on the French side, but the Iroquois
held all water communication between Lake Erie and Ontario, the
greatest strategic position on the continent at that period. They cut
the Algonkins in two, and prevented France from receiving their
Had the whole Algonkin power aided the French, they would have had
great chances of victory. Had the Iroquois been friends of the
Algonkins and acted with them, there could have been no doubt of the
triumph of France at that juncture. But the Algonkins and Iroquois
were mortal enemies; the Algonkins were friendly to the French, the
Iroquois to the English.
In the face of all this Schoolcraft makes Hiawatha, who is peculiarly
Iroquois, the leading personage in his Algonkin conglomerate; Hiawatha
being an Iroquois character of Central New York (he is connected more
particularly with the region about Schenectady), while the actions to
which Schoolcraft relates him pertain to the Algonkin Chippewas near
It is as if Europeans of some future age were to have placed before
them a great epic narrative of French heroic adventure in which Prince
Bismarck would appear as the chief and central Gallic figure in the
glory and triumph of France. The error and absurdity would be, as the
Germans say, colossál, but not greater or more towering than in
Schoolcraft's Hiawatha. Longfellow, of course, could not free himself
from the error contained in his material; but the error, which was not
his own and which he had no means of correcting at that time, did not
prevent him from giving his work that peculiar charm which is
inseparable from everything which he did.
In the original Algonkin myth the hero to which Hiawatha has been
accommodated was a child of the sun and the earth. Whatever his names
in the numerous versions found in the twenty-eight languages of this
richest and most varied Indian stock of North America, he is always
the bounteous benefactor of man, the kindest of all divine powers that
have ever appeared upon earth. He is always in reality that warm light
which dances and quivers before us in fine weather, and through which
every man, beast, reptile, insect, fish, bird, and plant lives and
This myth has received on the Pacific coast, or more correctly on
parts of it, a different treatment from that given it east of the
Rocky Mountains. There the benefactor is a female, a daughter of the
earth. Nothing is said as to who her father was. It is significant
that she dances all day, that she is called the quivering porcupine
and the food-producing woman.
In Indian myths from New York to California the porcupine is ever
connected with light; in some cases it is the sun himself. In
"Tulchuherris" of this volume, Sas (the sun) carries a porcupine
quiver, and is advised never to lay it aside, for as long as he keeps
it on his shoulder he is safe from his children the grizzlies (the
clouds) who wish to kill him.
In California Norwan, daughter of the earth, occupies in part the
place of the Algonkin hero, the child of the sun and the earth. Her
usual life is of the housekeeping order; she has great supplies of
food in her hlut, or residence, and she goes on dancing each day until
evening. The great and characteristic event of her life, her departure
from the dance with her partner, is of the same scope and meaning as
the last journey of Hiawatha when he sails to the west and vanishes in
the regions of sunset. The hero of the Algonkin myth must go, he
cannot stay; he must vanish in the ruddy glow of evening because he is
the warm dancing air of the daytime. He must go whether he will or
not. Before he goes, however, he cheers all whom he leaves behind by
telling them that another will come from the east to take his place
and comfort them. Next morning, of course, the comforter comes, for
the life career of the Algonkin hero is included in the compass of a
single day, and a successor is bound to come as surely as he himself
is bound to go.
Norwan dances, and then goes away with her partner, to the desperate
vexation of Norbis Kiemila, her would-be husband, who wishes to have
her to himself exclusively. She dances, as she says, without knowing
it and goes away unconsciously. She dances with this partner because
she cannot help it, and departs imperceptibly to herself.
Who are the rivals for her person?
Norbis means "living in the south;" he lives in the southeast, the
land of greatest productiveness, in the region of Hlihli Piu Hlut Ton,
that most beautiful of houses on earth, and second only to the divine
mansion in the "Central Blue." He is descended from one of the white
oaks in the heavenly house.
The person who was metamorphosed afterward into the red wiu bird (Tede
Wiu) is his rival, the person with whom Norwan left the dance, thus
causing the first war in the world. Was this person the red of evening
which became Tede Wiu afterward? If we acknowledge that he was, and if
we are willing to admit Norbis as the representative of all people
living east of the west, we have at once the two parties to an
irreconcilable rivalry in the most vital of questions, the possession
of warm sunlight, and that most vital of questions is embodied in the
person of a woman. That was the cause of the first war in the world
and of fell strife. A story substantially the same as this was, we may
think, the ultimate basis of the Iliad. The mythic origin of the
particular tale from which Homer constructed his epic had been
forgotten, that may be granted, but there is little doubt that in
rustic Greece men might have found a similar tale which was mythologic
beyond peradventure; and the Helen of that tale, or her equivalent,
was a person like Norwan. With the materials at our command even now,
we have enough to indicate this, for was not Helen the daughter of
Leda and the divine swan, a person to be fought for with all available
energy in the world at that period, and to be fought for in a war
which surpassed in importance all that have ever succeeded it?
Helen of Troy, the daughter of Leda and of Zeus, the overarching
heaven, with all its light; Norwan, daughter of the earth, with
Lassen's Butte, California, for her residence; and the Algonkin hero
whose place is taken by Hiawatha, are all different representatives
of the same person, different expressions for the same phenomenon; and
that person or phenomenon is the warm air which dances above the earth
in fine weather. This air, in one case noted here, is conceived as the
greatest benefactor of man, that being who gives the choicest and most
necessary gifts to all, and, in the other two cases, as a priceless
treasure, in the form of a woman who is to be fought for with all the
valor that can possibly be summoned, and in a manner that in Helen's
case inspired the noblest epic known to the world thus far.
These three cases show clearly the methods of mythology, and prove the
absolute need of knowing that we must deal (to borrow mathematical
language) with constants and variables taken together,--knowing
clearly, meanwhile, which are constants,--and not with variables only,
supposing them to be constants, or with constants and variables mixed
together without being able to distinguish which belong to one class
and which to the other. Were some writer to deal with the prehensile
capacity in animated creatures, and describe how it is exercised, he
would find a variety in the organs used for grasping things which
would represent very well the variety of methods employed by primitive
man in mythology to represent the same phenomenon or force in nature.
If man be considered as standing on his hind feet, his fore feet (the
hands) are his grasping instruments. With the elephant the nose is
prehensile; with some monkeys the tail performs this office, in part
at least. With tigers and lions, dogs and cats, the mouth and teeth
are prehensile instruments of great force and precision. With the bear
the forepaws are almost hands. The two feet with their talons, which
correspond to the hind feet in quadrupeds, are the graspers with birds
of prey, working instruments with domestic fowl, and weapons with some
other birds, as, for instance, the ostrich.
Take another case, the teeth, one office of which is to reduce food to
fine particles; with all mammals they serve this purpose, and, in many
cases, others also. Birds have no teeth, but they have a substitute in
the gizzard, which they line with gravel and other hard particles; and
this second stomach, by contraction, grinds to pulp grain and other
food already softened in the crop or first stomach. The
boa-constrictor has no teeth and no second stomach; it chews by
crushing between its body and a tree the beast which it is to swallow.
The chewing mouth of the boa has for one jaw the tree, for the other
its own body; between those two jaws it reduces to a soft mass the
carcass of the creature to be swallowed.
In considering the various personages in mythology, it is all
important to discover, first of all, what they are, and, next, what
they do. The office filled by a certain personage in a group of myths
belonging to a given race or tribe may be filled by an entirely
different kind of character in a similar set of myths of another
tribe. This results sometimes from different geographic and climatic
conditions, and sometimes from looking at the phenomenon or process of
nature in another way. There is as much variety in the treatment of
one subject by various tribes as there is variety in prehensile
members and the use of them among grasping creatures, or as there is
difference in the manner of reducing food to fineness among
quadrupeds, birds, and boa-constrictors.
Tulchuherris resembles certain European tales more than any other in
this collection. Apart from other merits, the value of such a tale in
comparative mythology is evident.
The old woman, Nomhawena, is an earthworm now; the Indian tale-teller
says that there is no doubt on that point. Pom Pokaila, her second
name (Pom, earth; Pokaila, old woman) admits of two translations,--old
woman of the earth, or old woman Earth. In the first case it would
apply to Nomhawena, who digs the earth always, is a woman of the
earth; in the second, it would mean the earth itself. The earth is, in
fact, Tulchuherris's mother. Nomhawena is his grandmother, in a
titular sense at least. In more countries of the world than one,
grandmother is the title of a midwife; and the office of midwife was
performed by Nomhawena at the birth of Tulchuherris.
We may picture to ourselves the scenes and circumstances of
Tulchuherris's birth. Root Flat is one of those level places where
innumerable little piles of fine soil are brought to the surface by
the labor of earthworms. Over this valley, as over so many others on
the Pacific coast, fog is spread after sunrise,--fog which comes up
from the earth dug in every direction by Nomhawena's people. In this
fog is Tulchuherris, the mighty son of the earth; in other words,
lightning, electricity, that son of the earth who comes to maturity so
Kulitek Herit, brother of Tulchuherris, for whom Nomhawena mourned so
deeply, is now the white feather which appears sometimes in the black
tail of the black vulture. Komos Kulit is the Wintu name of this
vulture. There were three great feathers among the Wintus,
transformations of three great persons among the first people. The
first of these is the white feather just mentioned, which is the
metamorphosed Kulitek; the second is the longest black tail-feather of
the black vulture, which is the present form of Hamam Herit, who
fought in the Norwan struggle; the third is the longest wing-feather
of the same vulture. This feather is the metamorphosed Tubalus Herit.
The first two feathers are used on great occasions in war; the third
feather, only by doctors or Hlahis.
In Indian mythology there is a subtle, but close and firm, connection
between the sunflower and the sun, which is illustrated strikingly in
this story. The old woman, by her magic art, burns great piles of big
trees in two or three minutes, while a handful of sunflower roots is
beyond her power and keeps the fire alive for years. This
illustration, in the material world, of the Indians, reminds one of
the still, small voice in the spiritual world of the Hebrews. The
sunflower root in this Tulchuherris tale is invincible from its
connection with the sun, the one source of light and heat; the still,
small voice is considered almighty because of its connection with the
whole moral life and light that exists in the universe.
The two obsidian knives in Sas's house are an interesting reminder of
the Damocles sword.
In the case of Tichelis, now ground squirrel, and Hawt, the present
lamprey eel, we have cases of personal collision resulting in
transformation. In the Wintu mythology this is exceptional, and in
this instance one-sided, for the vanquished make no attempt to
SEDIT AND THE TWO BROTHERS HUS
Sedit was in favor of death for men, and gives his reasons. It cannot
be said that he brought death into the world, but he stopped the work
which would have kept it out.
His discourse with the Hus brothers is curious; it represents the
immortality and goodness of a weak and limited creature like man as
barren and monotonous. The comparison of this conversation with the
account of Adam and Eve before and after the Fall is not without
The critical, unbelieving, disobedient Sedit, who is so willing to
make life in the world varied and interesting through death, so long
as the question stands apart from his own immortality, and his great
concern and anxiety when he thinks that he must himself die, is
brought out in good relief.
The earnest and honest Hus brothers stand in strong contrast to the
sneering Sedit. The Hus character is a lofty one in Wintu mythology.
This may seem strange to a new student of Indian ideas, when he
remembers what a foul creature the turkey buzzard is.
The buzzard is considered as a purifier on earth, and surely in
regions like Central America the service rendered by the bird in this
regard is memorable. The buzzard is everywhere the most frequent and
striking figure in Guatemala and Southern Mexico, both in city and
country. In California there is a fine of five dollars for killing
The original Hus character is conceived by the Wintus as striving
toward religious purification as strenuously as the earthly buzzard
works at cleaning the earth of carrion of various descriptions.
The following remarks accompanied this tale when published in "The
This tale of Sedit and the Hus brothers is a splendid bit of
aboriginal American philosophy, and touches on topics which have
exercised many minds besides those of primitive America. The subject
of life and death is treated here so simply, and at the same time so
well, that I believe few readers would ask for explanation or comment.
Some statements, however, touching Sedit are not out of place, I
think. The coyote is very prominent in the mythology of every region
where he is found. The basis of his character is the same in all myths
that I have collected. He is a tremendous glutton, boastful,
talkative, cunning, exceptionally inclined to the other sex, full of
curiosity, a liar, a trickster, deceiving most adroitly, and is
deceived himself at times. He comes to grief frequently because of his
passions and peculiar qualities. He is an artful dodger, who has
points in common with the devil of European folk-lore, being in many
cases an American counterpart of this curious and interesting
Of Northern Pacific coast tribes in the United States, the Modocs have
given most distinction to the coyote. Among them the chief coyote is a
trickster on the grandest scale, and has obtained possession of the
indestructible disk of the sun, through which he is immortal, or, at
least, is renewed every day to carry that luminary. Because of his
vanity and boastfulness, the coyote undertakes various enterprises in
which he fails through his passions.
Sacred springs and small lakes in the mountains are very prominent in
the Modoc religion. A young man who hopes to be a magician or a doctor
goes to these mountain springs before he is married or knows woman.
There he fasts and watches a week or longer until he is nearly
exhausted. If he is to be a magician or doctor, spirits appear to him
in this interval. A coyote went to those mountains (in the time before
men were on earth, of course), hoping to gain great magic power, but
on the way he ate various kinds of food hateful to the spirits of the
springs. These spirits were disgusted with the odor of food that came
from him, struck him with mange, drove him away, made him hungry,
foul, and wretched forever. He ran away, howling and lamenting,
without hope of pardon. From this coyote are descended an especially
bad breed of coyotes in Oregon. They are all foul and hungry to this
day. In dark windy nights the mangy descendants of that glutton are
heard bewailing the fault of their ancestor, their own fallen state
and lost happiness.
The Shasta Indians have a long tale of a coyote whose fond grandmother
tried to make him a great sorcerer. When the time came, she sent him
to the sacred mountain and gave every instruction. He was not to stop,
eat, or drink on the road, or to speak to any one. When about
two-thirds of the distance, he passed near a house; inside was loud
thumping and hammering; a frog woman was pounding seeds and singing;
her house was full of food; coyote caught the odor of it, stopped,
could not resist the temptation to go in. He went in, ate and drank
everything put before him. In Indian mythology frog women are not
vestals; so breaking his fast and gluttony were not his only offences.
He had fallen past redemption. On leaving the frog woman's house he
went through a series of unmentionable adventures, at the end of which
there was nothing left but his head, which was in a pool by the
wayside, and just as much alive as ever.
Two sisters, afterwards ducks, who were going that way, found and
pitied the unfortunate. It was not easy to carry him, but the younger
promised to do so if he would shut his eyes and not open them till she
set him down on his grandmother's threshold. This condition was to
prevent him from seeing how she carried him. When half-way home,
curiosity overcame him. Though only a head, he opened his eyes and
fell to the ground.
The duck woman had pity again, and took him to his grandmother. Loud
was her wailing at sight of her lost and ruined grandson.
Sedit came to grief through peculiarities of character.
This myth of Hawt is very curious and subtle; it is one of the best
told tales that I have found anywhere. There is a largeness about it,
and, at the same time, a perfectly firm grasp on the part of Waida
Dikit, the master of the assembly, that produce a grand effect.
Though the story is long, it needs, I think, no explanation beyond
what is stated in the introduction and in preceding notes, except some
remarks touching the character of Hawt.
Hawt, the great musician, is identified with water; he is, as it were,
the spirit of water made visible.
In this myth, only the musical powers of Hawt are exhibited; but in
the Yana Tirukala, which means the same thing as Hawt (lamprey eel),
we see the active side of the same personage, we see him as a worker.
Original is Hawt indeed,--a living flute fingering his own body as he
would an instrument; inhaling air and blowing it out through the
apertures in his sides.
The present lamprey eel has marks, as it were, of holes in his sides.
NORWANCHAKUS AND KERIHA
This tale contains actions and a number of personages difficult to
identify, because their names are merely epithets. Eltuluma means "he
swims in;" but who it is that swims in we know not. Keriha seems
connected with ducks, from the fact that he wore a duck-skin all his
life on earth, and, when he threw off this skin, all ducks were
produced from it.
Norwanchakus means the southern end of that staff or stick to which
was attached the net with which these two brothers dragged Pui Mem and
Bohema Mem, and named each place from the thing which came into the
net in front of it.
Nodal Monoko (the little man who ate so many salmon and sturgeons, and
carried so many away in his bag) means "sweet in the south." He has
another name, Nodal Wehlinmuk, which means "salt in the south." At
first he is hostile to grizzly bears, but later has intimate relations
with them and marries one. His acts point strongly toward electricity
or lightning. His bag, in which the whole world could be put away, may
well have been a cloud bag.
Norwinte means "seen in the south;" but, again, we have no knowledge
of the person seen. Poni Norwanen Pitchen, the full name of Norwan, is
also an epithet meaning "daughter of the land on the southern border,"
and would convey no information if it stood alone; but as Norwan, in
addition to many other details, is also the dancing porcupine and the
food-producing woman, we know who she is.
The existence of Puriwa and Sanihas (darkness and daylight) before the
sun was in the world, is most interesting. This is one of many proofs
that every phenomenon was considered to be independent. Daylight is a
personage quite apart from the sun, who is merely that old Sas who
fought with Tulchuherris, and who travels through the sky every day
from east to west in utter loneliness. He carries that glowing torch
which we see as he moves on his way through the sky; but the light of
day is a separate personage. Similar considerations apply to Puriwa,
darkness or night, who is also a distinct and independent entity.
The struggle between Keriha and Hubit has much charm for Wintus; they
laugh heartily at the recital of it.
KELE AND SEDIT
Old Kele, the mountain wolf, is evidently one of the first people sent
down from the sky by Olelbis; not in part, but in person. His sons and
daughters were not his children, but his creation; he made them from
sticks, just as Jupka made the Yanas at Jigulmatu.
In the note to "Kol Tibichi" is a Wintu account of the character and
actions of Kele's sons and daughters. A very interesting and valuable
account this is; it explains the werewolf idea perfectly. The wolf man
of Northern Europe, the Lykanthropos of the Greeks, must have been
just such a person as Kele's sons and daughters, who were people
apparently when they went forth to harm Indians, but who turned into
wolves when they were discovered and rebuked. At home, in their great
sweat-house, those people are wolves; but when they go out on their
travels up and down through the world, they are exactly like Wintus,
save only the hairy foot.
In connection with this tale I add the following remarks about one of
the two modes of making doctors, and about certain spirits. These
remarks are given, as nearly as possible, in the form of the original
I have added, besides, the songs of four great existences, or gods.
Every individual existence in Indian mythology has its own song. This
song refers to what is most notable in the actions or character of
that existence. The given song is sung by a doctor immediately after
its spirit of that existence has entered him.
Kol Tibichi's yapaitu (yapaitu is another name for one of the first
people), the rainbow, would not leave him till he used a woman's red
apron as a headband, because the rainbow is connected with the
catamenial periods of Sanihas (daylight).
The yapaitu dokos (yapaitu missile), mentioned further on, is a
projection of the spirit itself of the yapaitu. Sometimes it flees
from the patient; the duty of the doctor, in such a case, is to find
the dokos. If he does not, it may return to the sick man after the
doctor has gone; and in that case the last condition of the patient is
worse than the first. Generally, however, it waits to be cast out.
THE MAKING OF DOCTORS AMONG THE WINTUS
The chief assists always in this ceremony, because a doctor can be
made only in a sweat-house. Two chiefs may consult together and agree
with old doctors in this matter, or one chief may do so if it suits
him. If doctors begin, they must consult the chief, because he owns
the sweat-house. The doctors and the chief or chiefs agree upon the
time, and then give out the news that on a certain night they are
going to create doctors. Young persons who wish to be doctors go to
the sweat-house; most of the old people stay at home.
The men heat the sweat-house, shut it up closely, and sit down. Sweat
pours from them like rain. When they have sweated sufficiently, all go
to the river and swim. After that the people, men and women, go into
the sweat-house. One doctor or two will begin to sing. Young unmarried
men or women who are candidates present themselves. The doctors suck
out of these all that is bad in them, all that is impure, unclean.
They suck the forehead, breast, back, arms. At times they suck out
blood; at times something sharp like a fine bone comes out. They suck
out everything that is evil. When they have finished sucking, the
doctor sings again, and puts a yellowhammer's feather into each ear of
the candidate. The feather may go in out of sight, or the doctor puts
it on the person's head, and the feather may sink through his skull.
Now the people dance, and especially the candidates for the dignity of
doctor. The chief goes out, stands on the housetop, and calls to all
the yapaitu in the rocks, in the water, in Olelpanti, in the trees, in
bathing springs, to come. "We are going to make doctors," says the
chief; "you must come and help my people."
After this the chief goes in, and they close every hole, every chink
in the sweat-house; close them all safely. There is no fire, no light,
inside. When they have begun to talk in the sweat-house, one doctor
calls to all the spirits of yapaitu in the east, west, north, south to
come. Pretty soon a spirit may be heard on the housetop; spirits make
a whistling noise when they come. That moment a man or woman falls
down, and all know that the spirit has gone into that person's head.
Now the doctor calls, "One more; one more!"
In a moment another whistling may be heard as the spirit touches the
housetop and goes in. Another man or woman falls; the spirit has
entered that one. The persons into whom spirits have entered know
nothing. They become as if crazy, as if they had lost their wits. They
try to go to the housetop. Some try to climb the central pole; some
want to leave the sweat-house; they know nothing for half an hour
One doctor keeps on calling spirits, and they come one at a time. Many
doctors may be made in one night, or a few, or none. There are always
many people in the sweat-house to whom spirits will not come. The
spirits never go into people unless they like them. The spirit looks
straight through a man and knows him immediately.
The people dance all night. There is no light in the sweat-house; the
place is very hot, though there is no fire there. Next day those to
whom spirits have come tell the doctors and chief what spirits are
with them. If not, the chief may give them food offensive to the
spirits, and the spirits would kill them if they ate. Some spirits may
stay two or three days with a person, who would then sit inside all
the time. The old doctors have to ask this spirit what it wishes, and
make it go away for a time, so that the person possessed may eat
something. Each spirit has its own kind of food. If we give a man
something that the spirit has never eaten, it will kill him right away
if he eats. The old doctors ask his spirit what it wants, and it
tells. The salmon spirit, for instance, likes leaves or water; a
sucker of the mountains would eat mountain pine nuts, but a valley
sucker needs nuts off the digger pine. If strange food is placed
before a spirit, it is afraid; and if the man possessed eats this
food, the spirit will kill him. Some spirits don't like buckskin, and
the man to whom they have come must not wear it.
The bad spirits are numerous; the sucker is one of these, and so is
Kele (the mountain wolf). This wolf is dangerous; it may hurt you in
this way: you may think that you see a good-looking man or woman on
the mountain or in the woods. If you go toward this person or this
person comes toward you, comes near you, speaks to you, and you agree
with it, the next thing you know this strange man or woman turns into
a wolf, runs away, and your mind is gone; the wolf has taken it. The
sucker does the same, but disappears before your eyes or turns into
There are three causes of sickness. The first is when a good yapaitu
spirit is angry with a man and strikes him with his spirit point;
second, when a bad spirit puts his missile in a man and makes him sick
(the spirit in this case does it at his own instance); third, when an
evil spirit sends his missile into a man at the request or prayer of a
When the dokos or missile that has been sent into a man is drawn out
by the spirit which assists the curing doctor, the doctor forces the
dokos to tell what yapaitu sent it, and at the prayer of what doctor.
But the dokos does not tell the truth in every case, and sometimes
accuses the wrong person. It is very difficult, therefore, to know
surely what doctor is guilty of making a man sick. A doctor, if the
spirit is in him when he comes to see a sick man, is able to look
right through the body of the patient and see where the dokos lies.
Sometimes he is not able to draw it out; he can see where the dokos
is, that is all; but if his spirit were stronger than the one who put
it there, he could draw it out and cure the patient.
There is danger, however, in drawing out a very powerful dokos by
sucking, for when it is coming out of the sick man's body it may be
sent down through the mouth of the doctor into his body by the spirit
who owns it, and the doctor is killed in this way.
A doctor may have twenty or thirty spirits, but he rarely calls on
more than two or three, and it is seldom that any great number are
fitted to work together in a given case.
The office of doctor is very dangerous, especially if the doctor is
powerful. If he has many spirits to help him, each has to be pleased
in its own special way; each has its own food, prefers certain kinds,
and dislikes others. The doctor must not eat food hateful to his
spirits: if he does, he is liable to be killed. A man who has twenty
or thirty spirits is greatly limited, therefore, in his manner of
Some spirits do not like venison, others do not eat fish; the doctor
who commands these spirits must eat neither venison nor fish, and so
with other kinds of food in the case of other spirits.
The man who seeks to be a doctor cannot choose his spirits; they come
to him; he cannot refuse to receive them, and must live in a way to
Every dokos can be extracted from a sick man's body by the aid of a
spirit stronger than the one who put it in.
Among other spirits, doctors have the spirit of the sun, the spirits
of stars and the clouds to help them. These are good spirits. Sedit's
spirit cannot help doctors much. They call it sometimes, but it
doesn't do much; it has not the power. Suku (dog) is very powerful and
bad. If Suku wants to kill a man, he does it quickly. A doctor who has
the Suku spirit in his service is great. If a man has been made sick
by Suku, he will vomit blood, or bleed from his nostrils all the time.
The Suku spirit is a good one to send to kill people. Chir (the sucker
fish) is an evil spirit too. When Chir wants to kill a man, it makes
him giddy and crazy right away. He becomes senseless and dies, unless
some doctor cures him, and generally doctors can do nothing against
Chir. The Chir sickness is the worst that spirits bring. It is called
chiruntowi, sickness from the sucker. The man who has it dies; he
cannot tell where he is troubled; he grows dizzy and senseless. No one
can cure him unless by great luck. Something tried by some doctor may
save him--just by chance, just because it happens so. Kele is also an
evil spirit. He has a song, the same which his two daughters sang on
the mountain top (see the tale "Kele and Sedit"), and which Sedit
heard far away in the west. This is a poison song, and draws people
after it. Kele is here now, suppose, in Cottonwood or in Tehama, and
sees a man up at Yreka. Kele sings, and the song goes as straight as a
string to the man. It draws him and draws him; he is drawn as water is
when people pump it. The man must follow the song; he has got to do
so, he cannot help himself, he is sick; his sickness is called
lubeluntowi (sickness from lubelis). The man will keep going and
going and going; he will not know what makes him go. Suppose I am
listening to Kele's song. I go, and it is the song that draws me. I
hear it; but nobody else does. The spirits of the Kele girls drew
Sedit to them; he couldn't help himself, he couldn't stop; he had to
go, and he never went home again; he had to stay up at Kele's. The
spirits of Chir and Kele always make people crazy.
Many Wintu women lose their minds, and are killed by Kele's sons. Many
Wintu men have been lost through Kele's daughters. Suppose I am out
here in the wood, I see a woman coming, a nice woman. She stops and
talks; I talk to her. If I have sense in me, I look at her toes to see
if she is one of those Kele women. If she is, she has a bunch of hair
on the tip of her foot, and if I see it, I say right there, "You are a
Kele!" At these words she will leave me and run. When ten feet away,
she will turn to a mountain wolf, and I shall see that Kele running
away very fast.
Suppose some woman is out in the woods. She is thinking of some man
that she likes, and right away she sees the very man she is thinking
of. He is coming to meet her. He comes up and asks, "Where are you
going?" The woman is glad to see him. She tells. He carries her to the
mountain, and never again will that woman be seen by her friends or by
others. It was one of Kele's sons who took the form of the man she was
thinking of, so as to entice her away and destroy her. If the woman
has sense she will look down at the foot of the stranger, see the tuft
of hair, and say, "You are Kele; go off." He turns to a wolf on the
spot, and runs away to the mountain. All Wintus went barefoot in old
times, and this tuft could be seen, if a person had sense enough left
to look for it. As every one wears shoes or moccasins now, it might
not be easy to find it. But to this day the Keles lead people astray.
All the Wintus know them, and are afraid.
They live on Wenempuidal, a high mountain near the left bank of the
Little Sacramento. Dekipuiwakut, a small creek, comes down from Kele's
Mountain and falls into the Sacramento. White men call it Hazel Creek.
The Keles live at the head of this creek. The whole mountain is their
sweat-house. They are up there now, and almost any night you may hear
them howling on the mountain when the evil brothers are going home.
The following four spirit songs are from my Wintu collection. Two I
give in the original, with literal translation; the other two, in
translation only. The lightning song, by referring to the connection
between lightning and the sucker, which has one of the most formidable
spirits, enables us to suspect why the sucker is so much feared by
Wintus. In the Olelbis song, the great one above is the
cloud-compeller, as in classic mythology. The tanning is described in
"Olelbis." In the Hau song, the celestial Hau is described as
travelling along the Milky Way. This is the Wintu comment on the text.
Many readers will agree, I think, that the Polar Star song, the
fourth, is composed on a scale truly immense. The lightning song
sounds wonderfully like an extract from the Sanscrit, "Rig Veda."
SONGS OF SPIRITS
1. Walokin tsawi, Lightning's Song.
Mínom tóror wéril chirchákum sáia
Dúne wérem winwar dún bohémum.
I bear the sucker-torch to the western tree-ridge.
Look at me first born (and) greatest.
2. Olelben tsawi, the Song of Olelbis.
Olél bohéma ni tsulúli káhum síka ni.
I am great above. I tan the black cloud (there).
3. Song of Hau (red fox).
"On the stone ridge east I go.
On the white road I, Hau, crouching go.
I, Hau, whistle on the road of stars."
4. Song of Waida Werris (the Polar Star).
"The circuit of earth which you see,
The scattering of stars in the sky which you see,
All that is the place for my hair."
 Hair in Indian mythology, as in other mythologies, is the
equivalent of rays of light when connected with the sun and with
As a preface to the few myths of the Yanas which have survived, I beg
to offer the following words touching this ill-fated people:
Previous to August, 1864, the Yanas numbered about three thousand, as
I have been informed on the sound authority of reliable white men.
Taking the names and population of villages given me by surviving
Indians, I should say that this estimate is not too large.
During the second half of August, 1864, the Yanas were massacred, with
the exception of a small remnant.
The Indians of California, and especially those of Sacramento Valley,
were among the most harmless of human beings. Instead of being
dangerous to settlers, they worked for them in return for fair wages.
The Yanas were distinguished beyond others for readiness to earn
money. White men occupied in tilling land knew their value, and
employed them every season in haymaking and harvesting.
At the present day the Wintus, and the few Yanas that are left, go
down the valley and labor during the season in hop-fields and
Why were the Yanas killed?
The answer is as follows: Certain Indians lived, or rather lurked,
around Mill Creek, in wild places somewhat east of Tehama and north of
Chico. These Mill Creek Indians were fugitives; outlaws from various
tribes, among others from the Yanas. To injure the latter, they went
to the Yana country about the middle of August, 1864, and killed two
white women, Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Jones. Four children also were left
for dead by them, but the children recovered. After the murders the
Mill Creeks returned home unnotic
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