Olelbis And Mem Loimis
Source: Creation Myths Of Primitive America
One character in this myth is of great importance in actual Indian
belief, the Hlahi or doctor, the sorcerer. The position and power of
the Hlahi are explained at length in the notes to this volume. Sanihas
Yupchi, the archer of Daylight, is Tsaroki Sakahl, the messenger sent
by Torihas to invite Katkatchila to hunt; he appears also as the
friend and messenger of Waida Dikit, who assembled the world concert
in which Hawt proved the greatest musician.
After each name is given that of the beast, bird, or thing into which
the personage was changed subsequently.
=Hubit=, wasp; =Hus=, buzzard; =Kahit=, wind; =Kaisus=, gray squirrel;
=Kiri├║=, loon; =Kopus=, small-horned owl; =Kuntihl├ę=, small hawk
fishes in muddy water; =Kut=, unknown; =Lutchi=, humming-bird; =Mem
Loimis=, water; =M├│ihas=, bald eagle; =P├íkchuso=, the pakchu stone;
=Patkilis=, jack rabbit; =Pori Kip├ínamas=, another name for =Kopus
S├║tunut=, black eagle; =S├ínihas=, daylight; =Sotchet=, beaver; =Toko=,
sunfish; =Tsaroki Sakahl=, green snake; =Ts├írorok=, fish-hawk;
=Tsudi=, mouse; =Tsurat=, red-headed woodpecker; =Winishuyat=,
foresight; =Wokwuk=, unknown.
* * * * *
One evening a woman came to Olelpanti. Her name was Mem Loimis.
"Why are you here?" inquired Olelbis; "and from what place have you
"I have come from my home in the earth to ask if I may live with you.
I have come from the north."
"You may live here," said Olelbis; and she stayed there. She lived
with Olelbis, became his wife, and had two sons: the first was Wokwuk,
the second Kut.
Kut was still small, when one day the woman went out a little to one
side of the house to get something, and a man came to her and said,
"Come with me--come right away!" And he took her, took her quickly,
took her toward the north, to the place where Kahi Hlut is. This man
was Kahit, and Kahi Hlut was his house.
Olelbis knew not where his wife had gone; he knew not which way she
went; he had not seen her going out and had not seen her afterward. He
inquired of every one who lived in Olelpanti. All they knew was that
she had gone west a little way to get something.
For five years after the woman was carried away the people in
Olelpanti had no water to drink. This woman had given them water, and
now some one had taken her, and without her there was no water.
"I cannot tell what to do without water," said Olelbis. "I don't think
my children can live without water. I don't know what yapaitu likes my
wife and has taken her."
The people in and around Olelpanti talked a great deal about Mem
"I don't know how we are to live now," said Toko Kiemila to Olelbis.
"Some one has taken your wife away. I cannot live without water much
Another man who lay inside the sweat-house at the west end, an old
man, stood up and said,--
"I do not know what people are to do without water. I do not know how
you, Olelbis, are to live without it. I cannot live unless I have
water. I am very dry. Why do you not try to get water again? There is
a man in Hlihli Pui Hlutton whose name is Kopus. You can see his house
from here. He is a great Hlahi. He sings and dances every night. Let
him come here to sing and dance. Perhaps he will be able to bring
water back to us."
The old man who said this was Hubit. He was suffering from thirst so
much that he had tied a belt of sinews around his waist and tightened
it till he was nearly cut in two.
Olelbis went to the top of the sweat-house and spoke to all the
"We must send for this Hlahi," said he. "Let him come here to sing and
bring water back to us. Some of you young men who walk fast must go
for him to-morrow."
That night they talked about the person who should go. One said to a
second, "You walk fast; you ought to go."
"I do not," said the second; "but you walk fast. You are the person to
And so they spoke one after another, till at last Lutchi said, "I
cannot walk fast, but I will go."
Early next morning he went out to the top of the sweat-house and said,
"I am going!" and he shot away to the southeast.
He found the old Hlahi. He had not finished his night's work yet. This
Hlahi was Kopus Kiemila.
"Old man, you must stop awhile," said Lutchi. "Olelbis lost his wife,
Mem Loimis, years ago. He has two children, and he and all the people
are very dry; they are thirsting, they are dying for want of water. He
wants you to come and see if you can tell us what to do to bring water
back to Olelpanti. Olelbis will give you five sacks of acorns for your
pay. You must sing five nights for these five sacks. They are old
"I will do that," said Kopus. "I will go with you."
Lutchi returned to Olelpanti with Kopus, who was called also Pori
Kipanamas, which means a man wearing a headband of fresh oak leaves
with two green acorns thrust in on each side. His face was painted
with acorn mould. A great many people were waiting there, all very
dry, very thirsty,--all hoping for water.
"I sent for you to come," said Olelbis, "and you must hlaha five
nights. All my people, all my children, are dry. I am dry myself. I
lost my wife five years ago. I don't know where she went, and we have
no water since she left us. I want you to sing and to dance. I want
you to find out where my wife is."
 Hlaha means, "to perform as a Hlahi, or doctor."
When night came, Olelbis gave a pipe filled with tobacco to Kopus and
said, "Now you must hlaha."
Kopus smoked, became tunindili,--that is, possessed. A Tsudi yapaitu
came to him and began to chant. The yapaitu, speaking through Kopus,
"I have looked all around the world, I have looked everywhere; every
smell has come to my nose, every sight to my eyes, every sound to my
ears, but to-night nothing comes to me. I cannot see, I cannot hear, I
cannot smell." And he stopped.
"I am going to dance the spirit dance," said Kopus. "Who will sing for
"Let these two Tsudi girls sing," said Olelbis.
Hubit was lying on the east side of the sweat-house, and he said,--
"Make haste, you two girls, and sing for that Hlahi. I am nearly dead,
almost cut in two, I am so dry."
He had tightened his belt a little that evening. Kopus danced all
night, and the two girls sang for him.
"I have not found out which way that woman went," said he, next
He danced five days and nights, and then said: "I can tell nothing. I
know nothing about this woman, Mem Loimis."
Every bola heris that was lying inside the sweat-house was terribly
thirsty. One old man got up and said,--
 Bola means "to tell one of the creation myths;" bolas means
"one of the myths;" bola heris is an actor in any of them, a
personage mentioned or described in a creation myth.
"What kind of a Hlahi have you here? What kind of a Hlahi is Kopus? He
is here five days and nights and can tell nothing, knows nothing. If
you wish to learn something, bring a Hlahi who has knowledge of
"This old Kopus knows nothing of water," said Toko. "Old Kopus is a
good Hlahi for acorns and for the Tsudi and Kaisus people; that is all
he is good for. I know this Kopus well. Get a Hlahi who knows more
than he does."
"You bola herises tell us," said Olelbis, "who is a good Hlahi for
water, and we will get him. Look at my children; they are almost dying
of thirst. Tell us where their mother, Mem Loimis, is."
"Oh, daylight, come quickly; be here right away! I am almost cut in
two I am so dry. Oh, daylight, come quickly!" groaned Hubit.
No one mentioned another Hlahi. So Olelbis talked on,--
"All the people said that Kopus was a good Hlahi. That is why I got
him; but he is not a good Hlahi for water. Now we will get Sanihas
Yupchi, the archer of daylight, who lives in the farthest east, he is
the son of Sanihas. He is small, but he is a great Hlahi. Lutchi, you
must go now for Sanihas Yupchi. Here are one hundred yellowhammer-wing
arrows for him, all red, and many others."
Lutchi went to the east end of the sweat-house, danced a little,
sprang onto the sweat-house, danced a little more, and then whizzed
away through the air. Lutchi travelled all day and all night, reached
the place about daylight next morning, and said to Sanihas,--
"Olelbis sent me here to ask your son to come and hlaha for him. He
sends you all these five hundred arrows made of kewit reed and one
hundred yellowhammer-wing arrows to come and hlaha."
"You must go," said Sanihas to her son, "and I will follow you.
Olelbis is a yapaitu himself; he ought to know where that woman
is,--he thinks that he knows everything; but you go and hlaha, and
hear what your yapaitu tells you."
Sanihas Yupchi started, and was at the sweat-house in Olelpanti next
morning just as the sun was rising. He went into the sweat-house, and
Olelbis gave him many things.
"Give me tobacco," said Sanihas Yupchi. "I am going to hlaha."
Olelbis gave him a pipe with tobacco; he smoked it out and was not
possessed. Olelbis gave him another pipeful, and he smoked it out, but
was not possessed. He smoked out ten pipefuls, and then people said,--
"I am afraid that the yapaitu will not come to him."
He smoked twenty more pipefuls, still he was not possessed; then
twenty more, did not hlaha.
"He is no Hlahi," cried people on all sides; "if he were, the yapaitu
would have come to him long ago."
"The yapaitu he is waiting for does not live near this sweat-house; he
is very far away," said Toko. "Give him more tobacco."
They gave him five pipefuls, then four, then one more,--sixty in all;
after that a yapaitu came to him.
"The yapaitu has come," said Olelbis. "I want you to look everywhere
and learn all you can; my children are nearly dead from lack of water;
you must tell where Mem Loimis is."
Sanihas Yupchi began to sing, and he said, "I will have the spirit
dance to-night; the two Tsudi girls may sing for me."
He danced twenty nights and days without saying a word,--danced twenty
days and nights more. The two Tsudi girls sang all the time. Then
Sanihas Yupchi sat down, said nothing; he had found out nothing.
Again he danced five days and nights, then four days and nights, then
one day and one night more. After that he sat down and said,--
"I am going to speak. The place of which I am going to tell is a long
way from here, but I am going to talk and let you hear what I say. Did
any one see which way this woman Mem Loimis went?"
One person answered: "She went west a short distance to get something.
That was the last seen of her."
"Was anything the matter with that woman?" asked Sanihas Yupchi. "Does
any one know?"
"Yes," said Olelbis, "she was with child."
"Well, while she was out, a man came to her and took her away with
him, took her far north and then east beyond the first Kolchiken Topi,
where the sky comes down, where the horizon is; he took her to the
place where he lives, and he lives in Waiti Kahi Pui Hlut. His name is
Kahit, and after he took her home they lived pleasantly together till
her child was born. Kahit did not claim that child as his. After a
while Mem Loimis grew angry at Kahit, left her child with him, and
went eastward, went to the other side of the second horizon. She
stayed there awhile, and gave birth to two sons, children of Kahit.
Then she went farther east to a third horizon, went to the other side
of that, stayed there, is living there now. The boy that was born when
she lived with Kahit was Sotchet. Sotchet's father was Olelbis. When
the child grew up a little, Kahit said to him: 'Your father lives in
Sanihas Yupchi told all this, and said to Wokwuk and Kut, the two sons
"Your mother has gone a long way from here. Mem Loimis is far from
you. She is very far east. If I were at home, I could go to her
quickly, but I am here. Now you must go and see your mother. In the
far east you have two brothers, Kahit's sons. When you have passed
three Kolchiken Topis, three horizons, you will see them, and they
will know you. The way to your mother and brothers is long. That is
what my yapaitu says to me--my yapaitu is the Winishuyat of Patkilis."
Sanihas Yupchi was Tsaroki Sakahl, a great person.
Wokwuk and Kut, the two sons of Olelbis by Mem Loimis, went away east.
Patkilis's Winishuyat, the yapaitu of Sanihas Yupchi, said that he
would go and help them till they had passed the second horizon. They
did not see him. He was invisible.
They travelled one day, came to the first horizon, and passed that;
then travelled a second day, reached the second horizon, and passed
that. The yapaitu, Patkilis's Winishuyat, told them then how to pass
the third horizon, and, having given every useful direction, went back
to Sanihas Yupchi.
Sanihas Yupchi was waiting all this time in Olelpanti. Olelbis's elder
son, Wokwuk, had tied the hair on top of his head with a young
grapevine and thrust a chirtchihas bone through it--his father had
given him this bone at starting. With this bone he was to raise the
sky. He put it under the edge of the sky and raised it. When he and
his brother had passed through, the sky came down with a terrible
noise. When they had passed the third sky, they could see far east.
Everything was nice there and looked clear, just as it does here at
daylight when all is bright and beautiful. After going a short
distance they saw two boys coming toward them. Soon the four met.
"Hello, brothers!" called out the other two.
"Who are you?" asked Wokwuk. "How do you know that we are your
"We know because our mother talks about you always. She told us this
morning that we must go out and play to-day. 'Perhaps you will see
your brothers,' said she to us; 'perhaps they will come, we do not
know.' You have come, and now we will go to our mother."
When they reached the house, on the third evening, the two sons of
Olelbis stood by the door while Kahit's two sons ran in and said:
"Mother, our brothers have come!"
Mem Loimis was lying at the east end of the house. She was lying on a
mem terek, water buckskin; her blanket was a mem nikahl, a water
"Well, tell them to come in."
The brothers went in. Mem Loimis rose and said,--
"Oh, my sons, I think of you always. I live far away from where you
do, and you have travelled a long road to find me." She spread the mem
terek on the ground, and said: "Sit down here and rest."
"My mother," said the elder son of Olelbis, "my brother is very dry.
We have had no water in Olelpanti for many years. Did you think that
we could live without water?"
"I could not help your loss. What could I do?" said Mem Loimis. "I was
stolen away and carried far north, and from there I came to this
place; but your father is my husband. He knows everything; he can make
anything, do anything, see everything, but he did not know that I was
here. You shall have water, my children; water in plenty."
She held a basket to her breast then and took water from it, as a
nursing mother would take milk, filled the basket, and gave it to the
boys. She gave them plenty to eat, too, and said,--
"You boys are all my children. You are sons of Mem Loimis. I am here
now; but if there should be disturbance, if trouble were to rise, my
husband Kahit would come and take me away. He told me so. Some day my
husband Olelbis will know his son in the north who is living with
Kahit. Some day my husband Olelbis will think of me; he may want me to
come to him, he may wish to see me."
Wokwuk and Kut stayed five days with their mother, then one day, and
after that one day more. Sanihas Yupchi, who was dancing and chanting
in Olelpanti continually, said after the boys had gone:
"Get me a suhi kilo" (a striped basket).
Olelbis got him the suhi kilo, a little basket about two inches
around, and very small inside. Sanihas Yupchi put it in the middle of
the sweat-house. Nine days more passed, and Sanihas Yupchi was dancing
all the time.
That morning Mem Loimis said to Kut, the youngest son of Olelbis,--
"Your uncle Mem Hui, an old man, who lives at the first horizon west
of Olelpanti, is dry. He is thirsting for water. Take water to him.
Your elder brother will stay here with me while you are gone."
Sanihas Yupchi had danced fifty-nine days. On the sixtieth evening Mem
Loimis gave Kut a basketful of water for his uncle in the west.
"Go," said she, "straight west to where the old man lives. When you
have reached Mem Hui with the water, I will go and see my son Sotchet
in the north. I hear him cry all the time. He is dry. I will carry him
She gave Kut, in a net bag before he started, ten gambling sticks cut
from grapevine. She tied the bag around his neck, and said,--
"Son of Mem Loimis, you will be a bola heris; you will be a great
Kut was a very quick traveller, and could go in one night as far as
his brother in many nights and days. He started. There were holes in
the bottom of the basket, and as he went over the sky, high above the
top of Olelpanti Hlut, the water dropped and dropped through the holes
in the basket, and just before morning one drop fell from the basket
which Kut was carrying, and dropped into the basket which Sanihas
Yupchi had placed in the middle of the sweat-house at Olelpanti.
No one saw the water come, but in the morning the little basket was
full; the one drop filled it.
"Now," said Sanihas Yupchi, "I have worked as Hlahi all this time, and
that drop of water is all that I can get. You see it in the basket."
The little basket in Olelbis's house that the one drop filled stood
there, and Olelbis said,--
"Now you are dry, all you people in this sweat-house. You are thirsty,
you are anxious for water. Here is one drop of water. We do not know
who will drink first; but there is an old man on the west side of the
sweat-house crying all the time, crying night and day, for water. Let
him come and look at it." He meant Hubit.
Hubit stood up, came, looked at the basket and said: "What good is
this to me? There is only a drop there. It will do me no good."
"Drink what there is; you talk so much about water," replied all the
others, "that you would better drink."
"That drop can do no good to any one."
"Well, take a taste, anyhow," said Olelbis; "it will not hurt you."
"I don't want a taste, I want a drink," answered Hubit.
"Take a drink, then," said Olelbis.
Hubit began to drink. He drank and drank, took his belt off about the
middle of the forenoon, put his head on the edge of the basket and
drank from morning till midday, drank till two men had to carry him
away from the water and lay him down at the upper end of the
Though Hubit drank half a day, the water in the basket was no less.
Kiriu Herit drank next. He drank long, but did not lower the water.
After him Sutunut drank till he was satisfied; then Moihas drank all
"Let all come and drink. When each has enough, let him stand aside,"
Tsararok drank, and then Kuntihle drank; then Hus and Tsurat; after
them the old women, Pakchuso Pokaila, the grandmothers of Olelbis,
drank; then Toko; then Kopus drank. But the people murmured, saying,--
"Kopus is no Hlahi; he ought not to have any of our water. He is only
good for acorns."
The two Tsudi girls, who had sung so long, drank very heartily.
Lutchi lived outside, east of the sweat-house; they called him to
drink. He took one sip and went out. Lutchi never liked water.
Now Sanihas Yupchi, who had brought the water, drank of it; and last
of all, Olelbis.
When all were satisfied, and Toko had gone back and lain down in his
place north of the sweat-house, the basket was put near him; and ever
after Toko had water in abundance, and so had every one.
There was plenty of water ever after in Olelpanti for all uses; but if
Sanihas Yupchi had not brought it, all might have perished for want of
"I will go home now," said Sanihas Yupchi, after he had drunk. He
wished well to every one and went away.
When Kut was carrying the basket westward, every drop that fell made a
spring,--wherever a drop fell a spring appeared.