Atsugewi Creation Story

Atsugewi Creation Story–Adapted from the Telling of Roland Dixon

Originally all was water. In the clear sky a cloud formed. It turned into Coyote. Then a fog formed and became Silver Fox. They thought of a canoe which they made their home. They floated in it for many years till they became tired of it. Silver Fox told Coyote to lie down and go to sleep. When he did Silver Fox combed out Coyote’s hair and rubbed it between his hands flattening out and laid it on the water where it covered all the surface. He then thought of a tree and it appeared. Then he thought of shrubs and rocks and they appeared. He used the rocks to weigh down the film on the water so it did not ripple in the wind. Thus, it became the world. The canoe floated to the edge of it and Silver Fox woke up Coyote, saying that they were going to sink. Coyote woke up and saw cherries and plums overhead and heard crickets. He ate the cherries and plums and crickets. Coyote wanted to know what place it was. Silver Fox denied knowing where it was, denying that he made it. They landed and built a sweat lodge and lived in it. After a while they decided to make people, taking service berry twigs and sticking them on the inside of their house. The twigs became all the nonhuman persons, the animals, except for the deer which is like deer are today. Pine Martin was chief and Eagle, his sister was the woman chief. They went out hunting and killed a deer and had plenty to eat. The only thing was that the points of the arrows were of pine bark because they did not know where obsidian was. Ground Squirrel knew where obsidian was by a lake where Obsidian Old Man lived in a sweat house. Ground Squirrel brought the old man some roots which he liked very much. He sent Ground Squirrel to get some more. But while he was getting roots Grizzly Bear came and scared him saying, “Let me sit in your lap.” He ate the roots. Ground Squirrel went back to the sweat house, but with few roots. He told Obsidian Old Man what had happened. The old man said that he would go out the next day. They did and Ground Squirrel gathered roots and Grizzly Bear came up and sat on his lap and ate them. Obsidian Old Man came near and Grizzly Bear got up to fight. He slashed at him but cut himself to pieces. Ground Squirrel and Obsidian Old Man went home, ate the roots and went to sleep. In the morning Ground Squirrel pretended to be sick. The old man was suspicious but said he would get some wood. The old man snuck back to spy on Ground Squirrel who groaned and vomited up green substance. The old man thought he really was sick but Ground Squirrel had fooled him. The old man went for wood and Ground Squirrel stole obsidian points from him and ran off. The old man came back and found Ground Squirrel gone so he ran after him. He nearly caught him but Ground Squirrel ran down a hole. The old man dug after him and nearly caught him but he got away and ran down another hole. The old man gave up and went home. Ground Squirrel crossed the river and put down his points and went to the sweat house where he went to sleep. Cocoon slept there too. The people came in with deer and Ground Squirrel and Cocoon cut it into thin slices. Then Ground Squirrel went back and got the arrow points and gave them to everybody who tied them to the tips of their arrows.

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