Maidu Creation Story

Maidu creation story from Butte County

Originally all was dark and covered with water. A raft, being Turtle, appeared. Earth Initiate descended on a rope of feathers onto the raft. Turtle wanted to know where Earth Initiate came from. “From above,” he said. Turtle asked if he would make some land and some people. Turtle said to tie a stone around his left arm and he would dive to get some land. Turtle dived and was gone for six years. When he came up he was covered with green slime and only had little earth under his nails. The rest had washed away. Earth initiate rolled it in his palms into a ball and put it on the raft. He turned to look at it three times and found it had grown large. When he looked the fourth time it had grown to the size of the world. Turtle asked if he would make light to end the perpetual darkness. Earth Initiate told his sister to come up and she was the sun. He told her which way to travel and the sun went down. Earth Initiate told his brother to come up. It was the moon. Then he called each of the stars by name and they came up. Earth Initiate made an oak tree with 12 kinds of acorns. Then the two of them set out to travel the world. Turtle couldn’t keep up. Earth Initiate made the birds, the trees and the animals. Then he said he would make people. From red clay he made two figures, a man and a woman. He laid them at each of his sides and lay down. The woman tickled him but he didn’t laugh. He put a piece of wood in the ground and it burst into flames. He named the man Kuksu and the woman Morning Star Woman. Coyote saw the man and the woman and asked how he had made them. He told Coyote and he said he would do it too. Coyote laid the man and the woman by his side and the woman tickled him but he laughed. Because of this the new creatures had glassy eyes. Earth Initiate told him he shouldn’t have laughed. Coyote lied and said that he didn’t. It was the first lie in the world. The earth filled with people. Earth Initiate came to Kuksu and told him to take the people to a lake. He said he would make him an old man. Kuksu gathered the people and took them to the lake where he turned into an old man and fell in. There was a great turmoil in the water and when Kuksu reappeared he was a young man again. Earth Initiate told the people that when they grow old they should come to the lake and they would be made young again. Life went easy and well. Coyote said he would change that. He told the people there would be a mourning ceremony and they would burn property. The people didn’t know what he meant. He told the people to burn all the property on the poles that were erected. He said there would be games. He said to begin with a foot race. Kuksu did not attend because he knew death was coming to the world. Rattlesnake said he knew what to do. He hid along the course of the foot race. Along came Coyote’s son. Rattlesnake bit him and he died. This was the first death. People picked up Coyote’s son and brought him to Coyote who began to cry. Everyone else cried too. These were the first tears. Coyote took his son to the lake and threw him in but nothing happened. On the fifth day Coyote went to Kuksu with four sacks of beads. He begged Kuksu to return his son to life. Kuksu lowered the body on a bearskin with the beads. He said that this is how things were to be done. Then the world would be made over. The people were burning offerings to the dead when suddenly they all started speaking different languages. Earth Initiate told Kuksu what to do. Kuksu spoke to the people, for he could speak all the languages. He taught them to cook and hunt and gave them all their laws and set the dances and ceremonies. He sent the people to the four corners of the world and that is how it is today.

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