Maidu Creation Story

Maidu creation story adapted from the telling of Roland Dixon.

In the beginning all was dark – there was only water and there was no sun, moon or stars. A raft drifted in from the north that held Turtle and Father of Secret Society. From the sky a rope of feathers came down with Earth Initiate on it. He tied it to the raft. For a long time he did not speak until Turtle asked him if he could create some land so that he could come out of the water. Turtledove asked whether there would be people. Earth Initiate said he did not know. Turtle told Earth Initiate to tie the rope to him as he was going to dive to the bottom. “One tug and the line is not long enough to pull me out. Two tugs I reach the bottom so pull me up.” Turtle dove and was gone six years. When he got back he had only a little earth under his nails. Earth Initiate took the earth, rolled it in his palms and put it in the stern of the raft. He checked it four times – each time it grew larger until it filled the world. The raft was a ground. Turtle asked that there be light. Earth Initiate looked to the east and said he would ask his sister to rise. She rose and set. Father of Secret Society cried because it was dark. Earth Initiate said he would ask his brother to rise. Then the moon rose. Earth Initiate called out all the stars by name. Then he made a tree grow. Turtle and Father of the Secret Society sat in the shade of the tree. It produced 12 different types of acorns. They went off to see the world. Coyote and Rattlesnake came up from under the ground. All five of them built huts and Earth Initiate made the birds and the trees and the animals. Earth Initiate made the deer and he and Coyote were at Marysville Buttes when Earth Initiate said he would make people. He made a man and a woman of red clay. They were quite handsome but he did not finish their hands. Coyote suggested they should have hands like his. Earth Initiate said no – and made hands like his own so that if they were chased by bears they could climb trees. The man was called Ku’ksu and the woman MorningStar woman. Coyote tried to make people but created glassy eyed ones. Earth Initiate told Ku’ksu to go to a lake and take all the people with him. He grew old on the way there. He fell into the lake but emerged young again. Earth Initiate told people if they grew old to come to the lake and they would be made young again. Everybody lived easily but Coyote thought it was not good. He told the people to have a burning which began with games – beginning with a foot race. Ku’ksu was sad and did not participate because he knew what was going to happen. Rattlesnake told him he knew what to do. He hid along the course of the foot race. He bit Coyote’s son. He died. That was the first death. Coyote cried and all the people cried. Coyote begged Ku’ksu to bring his son to life. He gave him beads and bear claws. Ku’ksu dug a grave and laid the body in and said that is how things were to be done. The people had a burning but started speaking different languages. Ku’ksu spoke to them all because he could speak all the languages. He called the different tribes by their names and sent them in different directions. Ku’ksu went away to his spirit house where he sat and ate with the son of Coyote. Coyote tracked him there. Coyote wanted to go in and eat spirit food. Ku’ksu said no – it was Coyote’s fault. There would be trouble and death. Only when earth Initiate comes again will everything be made over. Coyote went and told the people the way it would be but wanted to kill himself to join his son and Ku’ksu and eat spirit food. He jumped off a high place and died but when he got to the spirit house Ku’ksu and Coyote’s son had left and gone up above.

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