Three Versions of the Kumeyaay Creation Story Recorded by Three Authors

Three versions of the Kumeyaay creation recorded by three different authors


  1. T. Waterman:

In the beginning there was nothing but saltwater. There were two brothers who lived under it. The eldest, Tcaipakomat, came to the surface with his eyes closed. The younger brother came to the surface with his eyes open and was blinded.

The elder brother saw that there was nothing so he made red ants. The ants filled up the water and made land. He then made blackbirds with flat beaks who got lost because there was no light.

So, Tcaipakomat made a ball of red, black and yellow clay and threw it against the sky. This became the moon. It was dim so he made another ball of clay and threw it against the other end of the sky. This was the sun.

With the clay he made a man and took a rib from the man and made a woman. The children of the man and the woman were the people, Ipai. They all lived at the great mountain Wikami. The spirits of dead people go there and if you put your ear to the ground you can hear them singing and dancing.

A big snake lived out in the ocean. He was the same as Tcaipakomat but had taken another form. The snake swallowed all learning – singing, dancing and all the rest. The snake lived at the Coronado Islands.

The people tried to hold a Wukeruk ceremony but didn’t know how to proceed so they sent a man for the great snake. There was another sea monster who is going to swallow everyone who went to get the great snake – so the man who went turned himself into a bubble. The monster swallowed him anyway. The man, who was a medicine man, got a blue flint, broke it to make a sharp edge and cut his way out of this monster.

The man made it to the house of the great snake and told him he had come from Wikami and they were trying to hold a Wukeruk but didn’t know how to proceed. The snake said he would come. At Wikami he stuck his head in the house and slowly pulled his length into the house, coiling. The people became afraid of his size so they lit the house on fire.

In the fire the snake burst and all the knowledge came flying out. It’s scattered about and each tribe got one part of it. Some people know the wildcat dances, some the Wukeruk, others are good at Peon.

After the house burned down the body of the snake became a ridge of rock by the Colorado River. His head became a black mountain. The people were dissatisfied so they scattered in all directions.


Leslie Spier:

Two men emerged from the sea. The first opened his eyes so he could see the sun. The second was blind. There were two foxes, a silver one and a common one that belonged to the men.

The blind man felt around and asked is this my fox? It wasn’t, even though the other man told him it was. The blind man made the coyote and the moon.

The sighted man could see fleeting reflections from the moon. He turned to find the blind man but he was gone, having disappeared where the ground open for him. The blind man causes earthquakes and the sighted one went to the sky. There he wondered how he was going to make humans. He took some clay and created some. From his place in the sky he heard people talking. He named one man and one woman.

He then went into the sky where he is now. He instructed Wildcat to teach the humans. He taught them to count the months by the cycle of the moon.

One of the clay men was sick but the big birds, Sandhill Crane, Goose and Meadowlark flew around saying he wasn’t sick. He finally died and the big birds gathered wood for his cremation. They sent coyote out to investigate fires burning in different directions. He came back each time and reported that there was no fire.

The Big Blue Fly made a fire and lit the pyre. Coyote returned to find the body all consumed by the fire except the heart. He lunged in and grabbed the heart and ran off with it to the edge of the sea where he started to eat it. One drop of blood dropped into the water which turned into a certain type of bird.

Wildcat had all the dead man’s belongings and decided to burn them, thus beginning the mourning the ceremony. They gathered wood and built the enclosure, the Keruk. They then sent Sandhill Crane to summon the great snake. When the snake arrived he coiled into the Keruk. He filled the enclosure by sundown so he told the people to make it larger. By midnight he had filled the larger enclosure and again and told them to an expand it. By daybreak he had filled it again. Wildcat said to set fire to the Keruk. The snake burned up and burst into pieces. Each piece that flew off to the people was a song. Each lineage had a different song.

The two brothers created people on Wikami. They also created Wildcat. The people migrated from there. The sea was at the base of Wikami. The brother creators told Wildcat that he would know to care for the people. Wildcat made a mourning ceremony at Wikami. He led them westward and different lineages stopped at different points. Most of them followed wildcat to the ocean to the west. Then they turned back Eastward where they are today.


  1. W. Gifford:

The earth and the sky produced five beings at the beginning of the world two of them, Chiyuk and Chiyi, went West where they took handfuls of red ants. They put them on the ground and stirred them around which dried the earth which was wet. Two of the others, Pukumat and Mastamho, were there as well. Pukumat was chief over the people. When he died Mastamho took his place.

Chiyuk and Chiyi came up from the earth. Chiyi threw earth in his brother’s eyes, blinding him. Chiyuk and Chiyi made birds. Chiyuk, because he was blind, made imperfect birds. The sick birds were put on the water where the two brothers put green leaves which healed them. The two brothers reported to Pukumat who said, “Alright.”

Chiyuk and Chiyi had foxes, a brown one for Chiyuk and a red one for Chiyi. Chiyuk went hunting and when he returned he found that Chiyi have switched the foxes. Chiyuk became angry and went under the ground. He would return to the surface every other month.

Chiyi was left on the surface and put his hands on the earth to brace it and disease came up between his fingers. Chiyuk made all the birds sick.

Chiyi made all the animals in human form but they weren’t people. He gave them to Pukumat. At night Pukumat made a fire and all the people came to it along with the moon.

Moon said that he would follow the sun and wanted to die in the East and was reborn in the West. Moon gave names to six of the months. Coyote said this was alright.

Two little birds said they would die and said people would to. Otherwise, there would be too many people on the earth. Lizard died and Pukumat told the other animals to cremate him.

Frog took a hair from Pukumat, her father. She gave it to another frog who swallowed it, making Pukumat sick. Pukumat went to four different mountains to ask the gods there to cure him. At the fourth one he died.

His blood poured out and became Mouse. Mouse told the people when to gather plants for food. People went to Wikami and when they were away Mouse stole food, becoming the first to steal.

Pukumat’s body was cremated at Wikami. Coyote went to the sun to get fire for the pyre and when he was away it was ignited. He ran back, jumped over the nonhuman persons and grabbed Pukumat’s heart and ran off with it and ate it.

Mastamho asked each person if he would like to be leader. Donkeys said he would do it but Mastamho said “No.” He told donkey he would carry water and things on his back. Donkey said “No,” and he turned into his present form. All the other people turned into animals. They all left Mastamho alone on Wikami.

Mastamho then created human beings. He first made the Yuma, then the Chemehuevi and then the Mission Indians. The Chemehuevi were pygmies. He made 10 of each kind. The pygmies grew to full size. He made them all of clay.

From the sky White Woman came down to Wikami. Mastamho gave her clothing which he told her not to burn at funerals. The people wanted everything. He told them to settle at different places. From White Woman two White People were born.

Mastamho gave them coins and swords and other European articles. She bore many more White People who scattered over the earth. He threw one of the swords into the river. The other people said they had nothing, no pottery.

Out in the ocean to the south the great snake lay. He created Chiyuk and Chiyi. He held all knowledge.

Mastamho sent a Kamia person to invite the great snake to the mourning ceremony, the Keruk, at Wikami. The great snake tried to enter the Keruk house. It could only get part of its body in. The people enlarged the house so he could enter. There was no room for the people and they had to leave.

Mastamho said to burn the Keruk house down so that the people would get the different songs from the snake’s body. The songs all issued from his body as spirit persons. The people got their different songs. Mastamho said to leave Wikami and go to their different lands.

The tribes formed different alliances. The Mission Indians was one, the Cocopa, Maricopa and Pima was another. The other was the Kamia, Yuma, Mohave, Chemehuevi and Yavapai.

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