Sukonia's Wives And The Ichpul Sisters
Source: Creation Myths Of Primitive America
After each name is given that of the creature or thing into which the
personage was changed subsequently.
=Chikpitpa=, young weasel; =Jahtaneno=, a kind of shell creature;
=Metsi=, coyote; =Ichpul=, frog; =Sukónia=, a name of pine martin,
whose ordinary name is Demauna; =Tsoré Jowá=, a kind of eagle.
* * * * *
Old Jahtaneno had a great many daughters, and all but two of these
At that time Sukonia was a great chief in this country about us. He
had a large sweat-house, and many people to serve him.
One day Jahtaneno called his daughters and said: "My girls, I want you
to go to Sukonia's house. I have heard that he is very rich; go and
see him. He has no wife yet; he may marry you. Rise early in the
morning, bathe, comb your hair, go and see the chief Sukonia."
The two sisters made no answer, said nothing, obeyed their father.
They rose early next morning, bathed, combed their hair, painted their
faces red (young people painted red always). Their mother gave each
girl a nice basket; she hung beads on their necks, and put food in
"If any man meets you on the road," said Jahtaneno, at parting, "do
not look at him. A man richly dressed and wearing many beads will
come toward you, will speak to you; do not look at that man; he is no
one but Metsi."
The two girls began to sing when they started, and their song was:--
"Au ni á, au ni á, mo a wé, he ló,
Au ni á, au ni á, mo a wé, he ló."
They went northeast, the way which the old man had told them to go. He
warned them further, saying,--
"There is a house this side of Sukonia's, and not very far from it;
two women live in that house, two old maids. Be sure not to stop at
that house. Do not go near these women; pass their place quickly, do
not stop before it, do not talk to the women. They are bad, evil
women. If you go into their house, you will never come out of it; if
you go, you will be killed there."
Jahtaneno's daughters started, walked away quickly, singing as they
"Au ni á, au ni á, mo a wé, he ló,
Au ni á, au ni á, mo a wé, he ló."
Metsi heard the song; he listened and said to himself: "That is a good
song, that is nice singing; I like to hear that song. I think those
two girls are going to the chief. I think they are going to visit
Sukonia Mujaupa. Now, otter-skins be here before me, and beads in
plenty, and beautiful shells."
He wished for all other things that he liked. Metsi dressed himself
richly and waited.
Jahtaneno's daughters walked and walked on without stopping, met no
one on the way till they came to where Metsi was waiting. The younger
sister was walking ahead; she saw Metsi at one side of the trail, but
would not look at him a second time. The elder sister looked a second
and a third time.
"I think that is Sukonia Mujaupa," said she.
"Your father would not say so," answered the younger sister; "that is
But the elder sister liked the stranger's appearance; she looked at
him many times.
"I think this is Sukonia," said she.
"Come on with me," said the younger sister. "Have you lost your eyes?
That is Metsi."
The younger girl was ahead now some distance; the elder stopped to
look at the stranger more closely.
"Which way are you going?" asked Metsi.
"Our father sent us to Sukonia the chief."
"Oh, I am chief," said Metsi; "you are to come with me. I will start
for home very soon."
"My sister is ahead, she is waiting. I must hurry and tell her first.
I will come back to you then."
She caught up with her sister and said: "I will go with this man; this
is Sukonia, the chief. He said he was chief."
"You must have lost your mind," answered the younger sister; "that is
Metsi. He is no chief, he is not Sukonia."
The elder sister went with the younger, but she wanted to go back to
Metsi, she wished to go with him; she liked his dress, his words
pleased her, she believed him. Both went on, though the elder went
against her will.
"You will see two black bearskins hanging over the sweat-house door,"
said the father, when his daughters were starting. "Stop there; that
is Sukonia's house, that is the house to which you are going."
Toward sunset they came near the place where the Ichpuls lived.
"Let us stop here," said the elder sister, "and get something to eat.
I am hungry."
"Our father told us to pass this house; he told us not to stop near
it, not to go to it, not to look at it," said the younger sister; and
she went on without looking, she went straight ahead.
The elder sister followed her, but followed unwillingly. At last both
came near Sukonia's, and saw the two bearskins hanging out over the
Chikpitpa, Sukonia's little brother, was on the roof, and Tsore Jowa,
his sister, was at work making a house for herself a little way off at
one side. Chikpitpa ran into the house, calling loudly,--
"Two girls are coming! Two girls are coming with baskets!"
The old man, Sukonia's father, brought bearskins for the young women
to sit on, and waited. The sisters came in and took the places shown
them. Chikpitpa was in a corner when the sisters sat down. He ran to
one and then to the other, looked at them, sat on their laps. He was
very glad that the sisters had come; he liked to be with them and talk
Old Sukonia went out and called to Tsore Jowa, "Come, my daughter;
bring food to our guests, to the young women who have come to us."
She brought deer's marrow; she brought other kinds of food, too. The
sisters had put down their baskets outside, near the door. On the way
they had said to the baskets, "Let the food in you be nice;" and when
leaving them at the door, they said, "Be large and be full."
The two small baskets stood outside now, very large and full of every
good food. Sukonia came home with, his men about sunset. Chikpitpa
sprang up to the roof of the house, and called to his brother,--
"Two guests have come to our house. Two women are sitting inside. They
are sitting in your place."
The men came in, and Sukonia sat down with the sisters. They pleased
him; he liked their looks.
"Have you brought food to our guests?" asked Sukonia.
"I brought some," said Tsore Jowa.
"Oh, give more. Bring plenty of everything!" The two baskets which
Jahtaneno's daughters had brought were carried into the house. The
sisters invited all present to try their food. All the men ate food
from the baskets and praised it. Sukonia, the chief, was pleased more
and more with the sisters that evening, and married them.
After all the people had eaten next morning, Sukonia went to hunt. He
took many men with him.
That day Sukonia's sisters showed his wives every place in the house
and outside it,--showed them where venison, roots, and acorns were
kept; showed them where the water was. The spring was in the house in
one corner, carefully covered.
After some days Sukonia said to his wives: "I want you to tell me what
your father said when you were leaving him. When does he want you to
go back? When does he wish you to visit him?"
"He did not tell us when to go to him. He did not tell us to go back
at all, he only told us to come here; but we want to see him. We want
to tell him how we live here."
"Well," said Sukonia, "go to-morrow; go to see your father. What does
he eat? What does he like?"
"He eats salmon; he likes nice beads, furs, and shells."
"I will send him some of my meat, I will send him venison. I will send
him beads and furs."
"May I go with my sisters-in-law?" asked Chikpitpa.
"No, I want you here," said Sukonia. "I want you here, my little
The two women rose early next morning, and Tsore Jowa helped them to
make ready. Sukonia gave them fat venison, and every kind of bright
beads and rich presents for their father.
They started; went as far as the Ichpul house, where the two frog
sisters lived. The two old maids were in the road and spoke to
Sukonia's wives. They were very kind and pleasant.
"Put down your baskets and sit a while with us to talk," said they.
The Jahtaneno sisters were frightened. They did not wish to stop. They
feared the Ichpul women, did not like to make them angry by refusing.
They were afraid to sit down, afraid to refuse.
"Oh, how your hair looks! let me see your head," said one Ichpul woman
to the elder sister.
"Oh, how your hair looks!" said the other to the younger sister; "let
me look at your head."
"Put your head on my lap," said each Ichpul sister to each of
Each was afraid, but still put her head on the old maid's lap. The
Ichpul sisters killed Sukonia's wives, flayed their bodies, and put
their skins on themselves.
About sunset next day the two frog women went to Sukonia's house; went
in and sat where Jahtaneno's daughters had always sat; took the place
of Sukonia's wives; looked just like them because they had their skins
About dusk Sukonia came home from the hunt. Chikpitpa, who ran ahead,
rushed into the sweat-house to see if his sisters-in-law had come back
from their father's. He saw the two women, looked at them; they seemed
like his sisters-in-law, but when he came near he cried out at once,--
"Phu! they smell like frogs! The Ichpul sisters are here: these are
the frog old maids!"
He cried and ran out to meet his brother.
"Brother," said he, "the Ichpul women are in our house. They killed my
sisters-in-law to-day. I know they did." And he kept crying, "They
killed my sisters-in-law, they killed my poor sisters-in-law!" and he
cried without stopping, cried bitterly.
The two old maids wearing the skins of Sukonia's wives were making
acorn porridge. When it was almost ready, Sukonia looked at the two
women. They seemed like his wives, and he was in doubt, till all at
once he thought: "I will ask them to bring water from the spring. If
they know where the water is, they are my wives; if not, they are
"Bring me water, my wife," said he to one of the women.
She stood up, took a water basket, turned toward the door, and said to
Chikpitpa, "Come out with me for water, my little brother-in-law."
"Wait," said Sukonia. "You need not go now."
She came back to the fire and sat down with her sister. Sukonia knew
now that those were strange women.
"Whip me," said Chikpitpa to his brother, "I will cry, roll around and
kick. I will kick those nasty frogs! I will kill them."
When the acorn porridge was boiling hard, Sukonia struck Chikpitpa
with a switch and scolded him: "Why are you crying? I can do nothing,
you cry so."
The boy rolled on the floor, cried more than ever, kicked, rolled
around, kicked as hard as he could, rolled toward the fire and
kicked, kicked one woman into the boiling porridge, kicked the other
one into the burning fire, and in this way he killed the false
Chikpitpa was glad; he laughed. Sukonia threw the two women out doors,
and mourned all that night for his wives. Next morning early he rose
and said, "Stay home to-day, all of you."
"Where are you going?" asked Chikpitpa.
"Stay here, my little brother," said Sukonia. "I am going somewhere."
Sukonia followed the trail of his wives, reached the place where the
Ichpul sisters had stopped them, and found their dead bodies. He took
out his bow-string of deer sinew, struck the two women, called them,
raised them to life.
"How were you killed?" asked Sukonia; "how did it happen? Did you go
to the Ichpul house?"
"We did not go to that house; those two women were out on the road and
they stopped us. They asked us to sit down and talk with them. We were
afraid to sit, afraid to refuse. We sat down, and they killed us."
Sukonia took his wives home. When they were in sight of the house,
Chikpitpa was on the roof watching.
"Oh, those are your sisters-in-law," said he to Tsore Jowa; and he ran
out to meet them.
"Go, now, to your father," said Sukonia, next morning. "Carry presents
and venison to him, and be here at sunset."
The two sisters rose early, took two baskets, and started. At noon
they were at their father's house. Old Jahtaneno was glad when he
looked at his daughters and saw the nice presents.
"Our husband told us to go home to-day, and we cannot stay long with
They took back many presents from their father, and were home at
sunset. They met no trouble on the way. The Ichpul sisters were dead,
and Metsi did not meet them a second time.
Next: The Finding Of Fire