The Palm Springs Cahuilla Creation Story

Palm Springs Cahuilla Creation Story




In the beginning was darkness. There was male and female, red, white, blue and brown colors. This twisted together to form two embryos which were born stillborn. Then again the lights twisted together and twins were born, Mukat and Temaiyauit.


They could not see in the darkness and argued about who was older. Mukat took a black pipe from his heart and Temaiyauit took a white pipe from his. Mukat drew black tobacco from his heart and Temaiyauit took white tobacco from his.


Still arguing about who was older, Mukat drew the sun from his heart to light the pipe. It dropped to the ground and got away. They drew the west light and the east light from their hearts and with that lit their pipes. From their hearts they drew the center post of the world and snakes and rocks to hold it up. They drew web spinning spiders which ran their webs from the top of the post in all directions.


They climbed up the pole and saw below smoke coming from their afterbirth; sickness came from it. Mukat said he would give power to cure to a man or woman for each illness. They would be doctors. Mukat drew black earth from his heart and Temaiyauit drew white. They drew black spiders and white spiders from their hearts. They drew ants from their hearts to spread the earth and two whirlwinds that completed the job.


They drew the ocean from their hearts to surround the earth. They placed water creatures in the ocean and sacred seaweed and dancing feathers. From their hearts they drew the sky and made the stars in the sky. Temaiyauit made Coyote, Mukat made Horned Owl. They both made people. Temaiyauit worked quickly and make made people with a belly on both sides and a head with eyes on the front and the back. Their hands were like paws of a dog. Mukat and Temaiyauit argued about whether there would be death. Mukat said the earth would be too small and there would not be enough to eat if there was no death.


Temaiyauit became angry and withdrew under the earth and took his creatures with him. Everything went down with him but the moon, the palm, Coyote, Wood Duck and a few others. The sun appeared. The creatures began to chatter. Mukat could only understand one, who he placed aside. He was the ancestor of the Cahuilla people.


The sun came up and burned some people black, some red and some who had been sent to the north remained white. Moon was the only female among the creatures. She taught the people how to play cat’s cradle and who would be the Coyote People and who would be the Wildcat People. She taught the people to play and sing. She put one person in the house who would be chief. She taught them to run, jump and wrestle and play at other things. She picked out some and said, “You are women.”


They all went back to the ceremonial house but one among them always kicked the rattlesnake. Mukat gave the snake fangs and the snake bit the man, who died. Then he had them make bows and arrows to shoot one another. Many died and their spirits had no place to go. A shaman with a staff bored a hole in the earth and that is where the spirits went. Mukat touched moon as she slept and in the morning she told the people that she would go away to the west. She told the people to go to the place where they used to play.


Because of all this the people decided to kill Mukat. While they slept they had lizard watch where he went. Lizard watched where Mukat defecated in the ocean. Frog waited there and caught his excrement and hexed him.


Mukat grew sick and asked some of his creatures to doctor him. They all pretended to do so but they all wanted him to die. He instructed them how to cremate his body when he died. When he died they sent Coyote to get fire. While he was away Fly made fire which they used to light the pyre.


Coyote looked back and saw the smoke of the cremation fire. He ran back and the people formed a circle to guard the body. Coyote jumped over them and grabbed the heart and ran off with it. From Mukat’s ashes grew many food and medicine plants. The people were crying and wondered how to make an image of their father. Coyote taught them how to make the image which they burned in a memorial ceremony.


Recorded by William Duncan Strong


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