Native American Creation Myths

Native American Creation Myths

by Jeremiah Curtin
     
 

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In retelling Native American creation myths, Harvard-educated linguist and ethnographer Jeremiah Curtin (1835–1906) provides readers with compelling narratives of the origin of the earth and its creatures. Accounts of conflicts, happenings, and methods by which an earlier world of man changed into the now-existing one, these tribal tales largely describe the… See more details below

Overview

In retelling Native American creation myths, Harvard-educated linguist and ethnographer Jeremiah Curtin (1835–1906) provides readers with compelling narratives of the origin of the earth and its creatures. Accounts of conflicts, happenings, and methods by which an earlier world of man changed into the now-existing one, these tribal tales largely describe the struggles between hostile parties. Metamorphoses between combatants produce entirely different characters — sometimes a bird, a plant, or an insect — but always a creature corresponding in power to some leading quality of the character it has replaced. As a collector of myths and tales, few excelled Curtin and his remarkable linguistic abilities.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780486437361
Publisher:
Dover Publications
Publication date:
09/10/2004
Series:
Native American Series
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
1,366,471
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

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NATIVE AMERICAN CREATION MYTHS


By JEREMIAH CURTAIN

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14807-6



CHAPTER 1

Ólelbis


PERSONAGES

After each name is given that of the beast, bird, or thing into which the personage was changed subsequently. Names on which accents are not placed are accented on the penult. Names of places are explained in the notes. Kiemila and Herit mean "old" and "young," respectively; they are applied to male persons. Pokaila and Loimis are applied to females; the first means "old," the second "young."


Bisus, mink; Chálilak, goose; Chuluhl, meadow-lark; Dokos, flint; Hau, red fox; Héssiha, tomtit; Hilit, house-fly; Hlihli, white oak acorn; Hus, turkey buzzard; Kahit, wind; Kahsuku, cloud dog; Kaisus, gray squirrel; Kar, gray heron; Karili, coon; Katkatchila, swift; Katsi, chicken-hawk; Kau, white crane; Kiriú, loon; Klabus, mole; Klak, rattlesnake; Kuntihlé, fish-hawk; Lutchi, humming-bird; Mem Loimis, water; Mem Tulit, beaver; Min Taitai, sap-sucker; Móihas, bald eagle; Pákchuso, the pakchu stone; Patsotchet, badger; Poháramas, shooting star; Sas, sun; Sedit, coyote; Sosini, a small web-footed bird; Sútunut, black eagle; Tede Wiu, a small bird; Tilichi, a waterbird; Tilikus, fire drill; Titchelis, ground squirrel; Toko, sunfish; Tórihas, blue crane; Tsárarok, kingfisher; Tsaroki Sakahl, green snake; Tsurat, woodpecker; Wehl Dilidili, roadrunner; Wima Loimis, grizzly bear; Wokwuk, a large bird, extinct; Yilahl, gopher; Yoholmit, frog; Yonot, buckeye bush.


The first that we know of Olelbis is that he was in Olelpanti. Whether he lived in another place is not known, but in the beginning he was in Olelpanti (on the upper side), the highest place. He was in Olelpanti before there was anything down here on the earth, and two old women were with him always. These old women he called grandmother, and each of them we call Pakchuso Pokaila.

There was a world before this one in which we are now. That world lasted a long, long time, and there were many people living in it before the present world and we, the present people, came.

One time the people of that first world who were living then in the country about here1 were talking of those who lived in one place and another. Down in the southwest was a person whose name was Katkatchila. He could kill game wonderfully, but nobody knew how he did it, nor could any one find out. He did not kill as others did; he had something that he aimed and threw; he would point a hollow stick which he had, and something would go out of it and kill the game. In that time a great many people lived about this place where we are now, and their chief was Torihas Kiemila; these people came together and talked about Katkatchila.

Some one said: "I wonder if he would come up here if we sent for him."

"Let us send for him," said Torihas; "let us ask him to come; tell him that we are going to have a great dance. To- morrow we will send some one down to invite him."

Next morning Torihas sent a messenger to invite Katkatchila; he sent Tsaroki Sakahl, a very quick traveller. Though it was far, Tsaroki went there in one day, gave the invitation, and told about Torihas and his people.

"I agree," said Katkatchila. "I will go in the morning."

Tsaroki went home in the night, and told the people that Katkatchila would come on the following day.

"What shall we do?" asked they.

"First, we will dance one night," said the chief; "then we will take him out to hunt and see how he kills things."

Katkatchila had a sister; she had a husband and one child. She never went outdoors herself. She was always in the house. Nobody ever saw the woman or her child.

When Katkatchila was ready to start he told his sister that he was going, and said to his brother-in-law: "I am going.

You must stay at home while I am gone."

The sister was Yonot. Her husband was Tilikus.

Katkatchila came to a hill up here, went to the top of it, and sat down. From the hill he could see the camp of the people who had invited him. He stayed there awhile and saw many persons dancing. It was in summer and about the middle of the afternoon. At last Katkatchila went down to where they were dancing, and stopped a little way off. Torihas, who was watching, saw him and said,—

"Come right over here, Katkatchila, and sit by me."

Olelbis was looking down from Olelpanti at this moment, and said to the old women, "My grandmothers, I see many people collected on earth; they are going to do something."

Katkatchila sat down and looked on. Soon all the people stopped dancing and went to their houses. Torihas had food brought to Katkatchila after his journey. While he was eating, Torihas said to him,—

"My grandson, I and all my people have lived here very long. My people want dance and hunt. I sent one of them to ask you to come up here. They will dance to-night and go hunting to-morrow."

Torihas stood up then and said, —

"You my people, we will all dance to-night and to-morrow morning we will go to hunt. Do not leave home, any of you. Let all stay. We will have a great hunt. Katkatchila, will you stay with us?" asked he. "I shall be glad if you go and hunt with us."

"I will go with you," said Katkatchila. "I am glad to go."

They danced all night. Next morning, after they had eaten, and just as they were starting off to hunt, the chief said to his people,—

"I will send my grandson with Katkatchila, and some of you, my sons, stay near him."

Some said to others: "When Katkatchila shoots a deer, let us run right up and take out of the deer the thing with which he killed it, and then we won't give it back to him."

"Do you stay with him, too," said Torihas to Kaisus, who was a swift runner.

The whole party, a great many people, went to Hau Buli to hunt. When they got onto the mountain they saw ten deer. Katkatchila shot without delay; as soon as he shot a deer fell, and Kaisus, who was ready, made a rush and ran up to the deer, but Katkatchila was there before him and had taken out the weapon.

He killed all ten of the deer one after another, and Kaisus ran each time to be first at the fallen body, but Katkatchila was always ahead of him. When they went home Kaisus carried one deer, and told of all they had done, saying,—

"Now you people, go and bring in the other deer. I don't believe any man among us can run as fast as Katkatchila; he is a wonderful runner. I don't know what he uses to kill game, and I don't think we can get it away from him."

That night Hau spoke up among his friends and said, "I will go with Katkatchila to-morrow and see what I can do."

A great many of the people talked about Katkatchila that night, saying,—

"We do not think that he will ever come to us again, so we must all do our best to get his weapon while he is here."

Katkatchila was ready to go home after the hunt, but Torihas persuaded him, saying: "Stay one day more. Hunt with us to-morrow."

Katkatchila agreed to stay. Next morning they went to hunt. Hau went among others, and stayed near Katkatchila all the time.

On the mountain they saw ten deer again. Katkatchila stood back to shoot. Hau was ready to spring forward to get the weapon. The moment the weapon was shot, Hau ran with all his strength, reached the deer first, took out the weapon and hid it in his ear.

That moment Katkatchila was there. "You have taken my flint!" cried he. "Give it back!"

"I have not taken it," said Hau. "I have nothing of yours. I have just come."

"You have it. I saw you take it," said Katkatchila.

"I took nothing. I only put my hand on the deer's head."

"I saw you take it."

"No, you did not. I haven't it."

Katkatchila kept asking all day for his flint, but Hau would neither give it back nor own that he had it. At last, when the sun was almost down, Katkatchila turned to Hau and said,—

"I saw you take my flint. It would be better for you to give it back to me, better for you and very much better for your people. You want to keep the flint; well, keep it. You will see something in pay for this, something that will not make you glad."

He left the hunt and went away in great anger, travelled all night and was at home next morning.

Torihas's people went back from the hunt, and Hau with the others. He went into the sweat-house, took the flint out of his ear and held it on his palm. Every one came and looked at it. It was just a small bit of a thing.

"When I took this," said Hau, "Katkatchila got very angry; he left us on the mountain and went home."

All the people stood around looking at the flint in Hau's hand.

"You have done wrong, you people," said Patsotchet. "Katkatchila is very strong and quick; you will see what he will do. He has great power, more power than you think, and he will have vengeance. He will make us suffer terribly. He is stronger than we are. He can do anything. You will see something dreadful before long."

"Now, my people," said Torihas, "come into the sweat-house and we will see what we can do with that flint."

All went in. Hau went last, for he had the flint. He held it out, showed it again, and said, "I took this because you people wanted it."

They passed the flint from one to another; all looked at it, all examined it. One old man said: "Give it to me here, let me see it." He got it in his hand, and said: "Now all go outside of the sweat-house."

This was Hilit Kiemila. They went out, leaving him alone. Patsotchet kept on repeating, "Katkatchila is angry, he is malicious; before long we shall see what will happen."

As soon as Hilit was alone in the sweat-house, he began to rub the flint with his hands and roll it with his legs (Hilit was turned afterward into a house-fly, and that is why house-flies keep rubbing their legs against each other to this day). He wanted to make the flint large. After he had rolled and rubbed the flint all night, it was four or five feet long, and as thick and wide. He let the block fall to the ground and it made a great noise, a very loud noise; people heard it for a long distance. Hilit went out then and said,—

"Go in, all you people, and look at that good flint."

They went and looked. It was almost daylight at the time, and each one said,—

"Well, I don't know what is best to do; perhaps it would be best to send this off. It may be bad for us to keep it here; bad for us to have it in the sweat-house or the village."

They did not know who could carry the great block, it was so heavy. "Perhaps Patsotchet can carry it," said they.

Torihas went outside and called Patsotchet, saying: "Come into the sweat-house a little while. You come seldom; but come now."

Patsotchet left his house, which was near by, and went into the sweat-house.

"What are you going to do?" asked he. "It is too late to do anything now. I have known a long time about Katkatchila. He is very strong. He will do something terrible as soon as daylight comes."

"Patsotchet," said Torihas, "you are a good man. I wish you would take this big flint and carry it far away off north."

"I don't want to take it," said Patsotchet. "It is too heavy."

Torihas went to Karili, who lived a little way off, and said: "Come into the sweat-house. I wish to talk with you."

Karili went in. "Take this block," said Torihas. "No one is willing to carry it away, but you are strong. Carry it north for me."

Karili took up the flint, but when he had it outside the house he said: "I cannot carry this. It is too heavy. I am not able to carry it."

Torihas called in Tichelis, and said: "My uncle, will you take this north for me?"

"Why will not others take it? Why are they unwilling to carry it?" asked Tichelis. "Well, I will take it," said he, after thinking a little; and he made ready.

"Take it and start right away," said Torihas. "Daylight is coming. Go straight. I will go, too, and when I am on the top of Toriham Pui Toror I will shout, and show you where to put the block."

Tichelis put the flint on his back and hurried away with it.

When Katkatchila reached home he told his brother-in-law, Tilikus, and his brother-in-law's brother, Poharamas, and Yonot, his sister, how his flint had been stolen.

It was just before sunrise. Tilikus and Poharamas went out in front of the house and swept a space clean and smooth; then they ran off to the east and got pine as full of pitch as they could find it. They brought a great deal of this, split some very fine, and made a large pile there on the smooth place.

Just at this time Torihas's people were in his sweat-house talking about the theft. "Nothing will happen," said most of them; "old Patsotchet is always talking in that way, foretelling trouble. We will dance to-day. Tichelis has carried that thing far away; all will be well now."

Yonot, Katkatchila's sister, had one child, a little baby which she called Pohila (fire child). The woman never left the house herself, and never let any one carry the child out.

"Now, my sister," said Katkatchila, "bring your child here; bring my nephew out, and put him on that nice, smooth place which we have swept clean; it will be pleasant there for him."

She brought the boy out, put him on the smooth place. Poharamas was on the southeast side all ready, and Tilikus on the southwest side. As soon as Yonot put down the baby, they pushed pitch-pine sticks toward it. That instant fire blazed up. When the fire had caught well Poharamas took a large burning brand of pitch-pine and rushed off to the southeast; Tilikus took another and ran to the southwest. Poharamas, when he reached the southeast where the sky comes to the earth, ran around northward close to the sky; he held the point of his burning brand on the ground, and set fire to everything as he ran. When Tilikus reached the southwest, at the place where the sky touches the earth, he ran northward near the sky. The two brothers went swiftly, leaving a line of flame behind them, and smoke rose in a cloud with the fire.

After the two had started Yonot snatched up Pohila, and as she raised the boy a great flame flashed up from the spot. She ran into the house with her son, and put him into the basket where she had kept him till that morning.

Torihas's people had begun to dance. Some time after sunrise they saw a great fire far away on the east and on the west as well.

"Oh, look at the fire on both sides!" said one.

"It is far off, and won't come here," said another.

"I feel the heat already!" cried a third.

Soon all saw that the fire was coming toward them from the east and the west like waves of high water, and the line of it was going northward quickly. The fire made a terrible roar as it burned; soon everything was seething. Everywhere people were trying to escape, all were rushing toward the north. By the middle of the forenoon the heat and burning were so great that people began to fall down, crying out,—

"Oh, I'm hot! Ah, I'm hot!"

Torihas made a rush toward the north, and reached the top of Toriham Pui Toror. When he saw the fire coming very near he called out to Tichelis, who was struggling along with the great block of flint on his back,—

"Go ahead with the flint! Go on, go on, the fire is far from here, far behind us!"

Tichelis heard the shouting, but said nothing; kept going northward steadily. When he was northeast of Bohem Puyuk, he saw the fire coming very fast, a mighty blaze roaring up to the sky. It was coming from the south, east, west. Tichelis could go no farther; there was no place for escape above ground; the fire would soon be where he was. The flint had grown very hot from the burning; he threw it down; it had skinned his back, it was so hot and heavy. He ran under the ground, went as far as he could, and lay there. Presently he heard the fire roaring above him, the ground was burning, he was barely alive; soon all blazed up, earth, rocks, everything.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from NATIVE AMERICAN CREATION MYTHS by JEREMIAH CURTAIN. Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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