Yokuts Creation Stories—Adapted from the telling of Frank Latta
Wuk-Chum’- Nee Yokuts creation
Originally there was only sky where a large tree grew. Eagle and his son lived there. Eagle grew tired of flying around and decided to make the world. It was covered with water. Then he made Turtle, and then the bird and animal people who swim in the water. He then made Mountain Lion, the Condor, the Prairie falcon, the wolf, the coyote, the Fox, the wildcat, the dove, and the black bear. They all lived in the tree but Eagle saw he could not live with coyote because he was mean and sneaky. Eagle and Turtle, Teal DucK, Mud Hen, and Pelican dived in the water to bring something up. None could reach the bottom. Finally Turtle said he would go to the bottom and bring something up. He struck some mud and brought it up in his claws but almost drowned. Eagle picked him up and took the mud. He mixed it with the seed of the shepherd’s purse plant. He mixed it in the ceremonial mortar and left it for six days. The animals wanted to see who would be allowed to spread it around. Wolf took it and threw it to the South, West, North, East. After seven days the water started to go away. Then the tree came down to the land and became an oak tree. Eagle made all of the rest of the bird and animal people. The Yokuts people came and the birds and animals went to the mountains and plains.
Yowl-May’-Nee Yokuts creation
First there was the sky were Eagle lived. He decided to make the world, first making it covered with water. Then he made all the birds and animals that live in the water. He decided there needed to be more so he called the heron, the teal ducK, the mallard duck, the goose, the pelican, the turtle, and all the rest. He told them they needed to dive to the bottom to bring up something to make land. Each of the animals in turn dove to the bottom but they drowned. Eagle brought them back to life and asked if they had found anything. Each said they had but they had drowned before they could bring it up. Finally, Eagle sent Teal Duck down and he came back with some mud in his paws. Eagle mixed it with seed of pa’luh and it swelled. He threw it in every direction and it became the land and all the bird and animal people. Coyote and Wolf were among them. Coyote wanted to howl but Wolf told him not to – that the land would sink. Coyote howled anyway three times and all the first bird and animal people drowned when the land sank. Eagle sent Teal Duck to dive to the bottom and bring up more mud which he mixed with pa’luh seed. More land was formed and more bird and animal people. Coyote wanted to howl again but Wolf howled first and the land was made strong. Now coyote howls whenever the Morning Star begins to fade.
Too-Lahm’-Nee Yokuts creation
Originally there was only the sky above. Eagle and Prairie falcon lived there. Coyote made the world all covered with water. Eagle made a nest in the water and laid three eggs in it. The eggs hatched into the white wolf, the coyote, and the little duck. Prairie falcon told Little Duck to dive to the bottom and get something to make the world. He dived and reached the bottom where he took some of it in his feet and in his beak. Then he drowned. Prairie falcon brought him into the nest and breathed life into him. He took the mud from Little Duck’s feet and beak and gave it to Eagle. Eagle mixed it with the seed of the shepherd’s purse plant. It began to swell and Eagle spread it in all directions where it formed a film over the water. White Wolf, Coyote and Little Duck climbed out of the nest onto the land. Lightning came and Coyote began began to howl. White Wolf told him it would cause the land the sink. Thunder came and told White Wolf to howl. He did and the earth stop shaking. Eagle made all the bird and animal people of the world except the Indians.
Dum’-Nah Yokuts creation
There were four ducks, two big ones and their children, small duck and a real little one. They swam around having a good time till they grew tired of it and asked Eagle to make a land. They dove to the bottom to bring something up that could only go about halfway down. White neck Eagle saw this. The father duck told his little one to dive to the bottom. The little one said he would drown and cried for help from the whirlpool. He swam in the whirlpool and dove to the bottom and caught some mud. He sang for the whirlpool to take him back up. He almost drowned but his father caught him and called for the White neck Eagle to come. The little duck had nearly washed all the mud from his beak and feet but White neck Eagle found a few grains and flew up to Eagle who told him to throw it in all directions to make the land, the river and trees and the old-time animal people. Coyote, Elk, Jackrabbit, Deer, and all the rest were made. A man was made who went up into the mountains but White neck Eagle and his father did not know that. One day they saw fire. White neck Eagle went to get some but the fire was too hot and burned his neck black. That’s how he is now.