Behind The Myths

: 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

lower valley.

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

present volume.


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

Lassen's Butte.

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

was established.

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

undivided assistance.

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

Lake Superior.

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

transform Tulchuherris.


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.


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.


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

Wintu narrative.

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 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

something ugly.

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

please them.

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."


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."[5]

[5] Hair in Indian mythology, as in other mythologies, is the

equivalent of rays of light when connected with the sun and with

planet luminaries.


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