Cocopa Creation Story

Cocopa Creation Story–Adapted from the Telling of William Kelly
Sipa and Komat, the creator gods, were under the water. Komat pushed Sipa out and he became the older. They came up through the water and Komat asked Sipa how he came up. He told him – with his eyes open. The older brother became blinded because of this. There was no land so they got three kinds of ants to dig up hills of earth and the water went down.
The ground dried out here and there and the two brothers made men. They made all sorts including Indians, Mexicans, Chinese and Americans. Komat, the blind one, needed to urinate so he went over to the bushes and Sipa switch the people he had made for Komat’s because they were better. Komat came back and felt the people before him and knew that they weren’t his because they were deformed. He needed to urinate again and Sipa switched his fox for Komat’s fox. Komat could tell that the fox wasn’t his.
Komat kept on making men. When they were all made it was time to add eyes to them. Sipa wanted to put them on their toes. Komat said this would not be good because when they walk through mud or dust they would not be able to see. He said the eyes should be in the head. Sipa agreed and that’s how they were made. Sipa made a bow and arrow and shot Komat, but did not injure him seriously. Everything was dark so Sipa made a light but it was not good. Komat made a good one and threw it into the sky where it travels during the day. Sipa was going to throw his out but Komat said no and it was the moon. Sipa changed again the men Komat had made for his. This time Komat became mad, broke the sky and disappeared through a hole in the ground. Things that cause disease and death came up through the hole so Sipa covered the hole with his feet but a number of sicknesses came through.
Sipa made more people and sorted them out into the different tribes. The spot where the twins came up and these things happened is called Striped House. Sipa taught the people how to talk and live. He built a house for them of adobe that turned to stone. It is located east of Tucson. In the house the children learned to play and the Yuma boy and the Cocopa boy and the Maricopa boy fought.
Sipa gave the people various things and the Mexican and the American, who were the youngest cried because they wanted things. The Cocopa boy said to give them to them to shut them up. Sipa took everybody to Wi Kwami. Coyote took his little sister Snake and threw her around. Snake complained to Sipa. He took whiskers from his chin and thorns from a bush and put them in Snake’s mouth. He blew tobacco smoke into her mouth and put ashes on her face and told her if the coyote threw her around to bite him. She did and coyote died.
The people did not know how to cry so locust taught them how to cry. Three birds directed the cremation. The two frog sisters of coyote mourned and decided to seek revenge on Sipa for putting teeth in Snake’s mouth. The two frog sisters caught Sipa’s excrement when he defecated. Sipa became ill because of this. He vomited white, yellow, red and black. These became food plants for the people. He died and the three birds took an ember from Coyote’s cremation and hid it in the ground. Coyote had a brother who wanted to eat Sipa’s body so the birds sent him to the sun to get fire for the cremation. While he was away, Quail, who was hiding the ember, lit the funeral pyre. The old woman who is taking care of the sun asked Coyote what he wanted the fire for. He told her and she said the pyre was nearly burned down. Coyote came bounding back and the people surrounded the pyre to guard it from him. Coyote begged to be led in, finally jumping over Badger and Skunk. Coyote ran away with the heart and the nonhuman persons tried to catch him.
The people were forgetting all the things that Sipa had taught them. The three birds sent White Road Runner to find Sipa who was walking toward heaven. He told him what was going on. Sipa said he couldn’t come back. Road Runner came back and told what had happened. Badger was sent after Sipa. He came back but it could not be seen. He told the people how to live. Some people didn’t listen and they don’t live right. They steal and kill people.  

Quechan (Yuma) Creation Story

Quechan Creation Story—Adapted from the Telling of Natalie Curtis
In the beginning there was only water. Two lived beneath the water. The first one, called Kokomaht, came to the surface with his eyes closed. The second one asked how he should come to the surface. Kokomaht said he should come up with his eyes open. So he came up with his eyes open and was blinded. Kokomaht named him Bakotahl, the blind one.
Kokomaht asked where is the North? Bakotahl pointed south. “No, north is this way,” said Kokomaht, pointing north. Kokomaht stepped four steps West and then came back to center. “This is West.” He did the same with South and East, naming them South and East. He led Bakotahl and showed him the directions.
Then Kokomaht said, “I will make earth,” but bakotahl said, “No, I will do it.” Kokomaht faced North and stirred the water into a whirlpool. The water rose and then receded and revealed earth. Kokomaht sat upon it. Bakotahl sat down and tried to make a man. It came out wrong with webbed fingers and toes. He hid it behind him so that Kokomaht wouldn’t see it. Kokomaht made a man and a woman and they were perfect. He swung the man four times northward and he became a living man. He did the same with the woman and she became a living woman.
Bakotahl made seven beings. Kokomaht saw them and asked them what they were. “They are men,” answered Bakotahl. “Feel the ones I have made,” said Kokomaht. “Your creatures have no fingers or toes. What will they do if they are hurt and battle?”
Bakotahl said that they would heal themselves. Kokomaht explained that with his, if a finger is hurt you can cut it off. Saying that Bakotahl had made imperfect creatures, he kicked them into the water. Angry, Bakotahl retreated into the waters with a noise like thunder. He created a whirlwind to make a Kokomaht’s creations sick. Kokomaht put his foot upon the whirlwind but when he lifted his foot a little slipped out and that became the source of all sickness on earth.
Kokomaht was alone with his creations, the man and the woman. These were the Quechan. Then he made a man and a woman of the Cocopas, the Dieguenos and the Mohaves. He made four kinds. He thought for a moment, then made the Apaches, the Maricopas, the Pimas and the Cahuillas, four more kinds. Then he made more, until he had made 24 kinds. The last pair he made was the white people.
The first pair, the Quechans, said that they did not know how to live. Kokomaht told them to join together and create children. Kokomaht created a son, Komashtam’ho, conceived from Nothing, without a mother. He took the form of a man. The people understood and joined together and created children. Then Kokomaht decided to make light, so he made the moon and the morning star. Komashtam’ho thought that he too would create something. The different kinds of people were at different places on the earth. Kokomaht knew that his work was finished. Hanyi, Frog, decided to destroy Kokomaht. He knew this, just as he knew the thoughts of all of his creations. Kokomaht willed that he would die to show his creations how to die, just as he showed them how to live. If they did not die the earth would have too many creatures upon it.
Hanyi crept into the ground beneath Kokomaht and pulled the breath out of him. His throat became dry and he wandered this way and that, not knowing where he was at. Kokomaht sickened and lay down to die. There was no day or night, only the moon and the one star. He called his people knowing that he was dying.
The white man, the one that was made last, sat by himself in the West crying. He was crying because his hair was curled and his skin was white. To comfort him Kokomaht crossed two sticks of wood and created a horse. He told the white man that he could ride it. He comforted the white man with many gifts because he was the last one created and fussed like a little child. Kokomaht gave all good things of the earth to the white man. The Indians were older and could bear hardship better.
Kokomaht died to show people how to die. Komashtam’ho wanted to make day and night so he took some spittle and made a disk and threw it into the sky. He told the people that it was the sun and it would move from East to West. Then he pushed the sun under the earth and the darkness returned. He then took spittle on his finger and created the stars. Then he summoned from the north wood because there were no cottonwood or willow trees. With the wood he made a funeral pyre to cremate Kokomaht.
While Kokomaht was dying he called Coyote and told him to take his heart and do what was right. Coyote thought he meant to eat it. Komashtam’ho knew what coyote was thinking and sent him to the east, to the dawn, to get fire to start the cremation. While he was away, Komashtam’ho took a stick and twirled it in a piece of wood, showing the people how to make fire. With the fire he lit the funeral pyre and the people gathered round, except for the white man, who did not want to see the cremation. The people did not know how to mourn because they did not know what death was.
After the fire was burning a while Coyote returned and the nonhuman people gathered around the pyre to protect it but Coyote jumped over Badger who was the shortest one and ran off with the heart. The animals followed but could not catch him. Komashtam’ho called after him and said, “You will be no good. You will never have a home and you will steal because you will own nothing of your own. You will be killed for this.”
The people heard this and knew what Coyote was. And they began to cry because they knew what death was. Kokomaht had showed them that they would sicken and die. The people would have killed Frog because she was a sorceress so she hid out of sight. This is how frogs live today. Because of the heat of the pyre all of the land around it would be hot as it is today.
When the pyre was burned down the people were all together but the Cocopas did not want to be near the Quechans. The Maricopas wanted to be near the Cocopas. The Apaches, Mohaves and Dieguenos wanted to be near the Quechans.
The people saw a whirlwind at the spot that Kokomaht had been cremated. Komashtam’ho explained that it was the spirit of Kokomaht and to not grieve because he would not tire or be hungry; he would always be happy. When people died they are all equal. They are young and strong and the corn grows plentifully and they will be with the people who love them.
Komashtam’ho chose a man, Marhokuvek, to plan things that would be made and how and how things must be done. He declared that the animals, which were like people, should cut their hair in mourning. Komashtam’ho turned them into wild animals and wanted to kill them all but Marhokuvek told him not to.
Komashtam’ho called Rain so that he would cause a flood to destroy the animals. Many were killed but many were not. So it is that when a flood comes the people die of the cold because their land is normally hot from the funeral pyre of Kokomaht. Marhokuvek told Komashtam’ho to stop the rain. Nowadays the world is full of people and animals but they are fearful of each other.
Kokomaht had a house to the north but Komashtam’ho decided it would not continue to exist. So it is that when a person dies all of his possessions are destroyed so that they will go with him. His name is not to be spoken again. Komashtam’ho wanted to destroy Kokomaht’s house so he struck it with a pole. He stuck the pole into the earth and dragged it to the south and made a rut in which flowed water. This was the Colorado River. The web footed creatures which Bakotahl made floated upon it. They were the ducks and water creature. He tried to catch them then tried to call their fledglings. They would not come. He said they would not fly like other birds and would remain near water and would be afraid of humans.
Kahk, Crow, was a good farmer and brought corn and seeds of all kinds. Flying south towards the Gulf of California he called kahk!, kahk! and stopped four times. At each stop a mountain was formed. So it is that with the overflow of the river the people could plant the seeds and they would grow. Some say that except for the four mountains formed by crow, the other mountains were formed by Kokomaht. Others say that the waves of water splashed on the newly formed land and created the mountains.
Komashtam’ho told the Quechans that they would be under his protection. He would become the white eagle of the North, the black eagle of the West, the Brown Eagle of the South and an unseen eagle. As the four eagles komashtam’ho would protect the Quechan people and in dreams give them power from Kokomaht.
Bakotahl, who is evil, remained beneath the earth and when he moves causes earthquakes. Kokomaht helps the good but Bakotahl helps the evil, which is why Kokomaht lied to him and he was blinded by the water.
This is how things came to be as they are today.

Kamia Creation Story

Kamia Creation Story–Adapted from the Telling of E. 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.

A Version of the Cahuilla Creation Story–The Cahuilla People Ranged Over the Southern California Landscape–In the Colorado Desert, the San Jacinto Mountains and the San Gorgonio Pass

Cahuilla Creation Story—Adapted from the Telling of Lucile Hooper
The Birth of Mukat and Tamaioit
In the beginning there was only Darkness across which lightning flashed. Lightning’s passed across the darkness and met and formed two substances like the white of a egg, which lay in the stomach of Darkness.
The substances disappeared and were produced again, only to disappear again. The third time the substances grew and hatched out as two boys: Mukat and Tamaioit. Mukat was the eldest because he heard the song of their mother, Darkness, first.
They decided to create light. Mukat created a cricket, another insect, a black-and-white lizard and a person. Mukat and Tamaioit turned the creatures loose to drive away the darkness. They managed to do so a little bit but when they rushed back to Mukat the darkness returned.
Mukat and Tamaioit took tobacco and pipes from their hearts and lit them with coals which they took from their hearts. They tried to deceive each other when they passed the pipes back-and-forth in the darkness.
They took from the hearts rods, a black one from Mukat, and a white one from Tamaioit. They tried to stand them up with coiled snakes around them but this did not work. They then made spiders which made a web to the corners of the darkness. This held.
They climbed up the rods and saw smoke rising from below. It was from their afterbirth which causes sickness and disease. While on top Mukat thought about creating the earth. He sang a song and a substance flowed out of their mouths and flowed all over. It was soft and they created whirlwinds and insects to smooth it.
They then made the ocean to hold the earth in place. They made the stars in the sky. Mukat and Tamaioit argued about who was older. Mukat made dark people and Tamaioit made light ones.
Mukat made the sun so that he could see what Tamaioit had created. It slipped and went to the East so there wasn’t very much light. The two of them created the Moon. In its light Mukat could see Tamaioit’s people.
They had faces on the front and back, toes pointing in both directions and breasts on the front and back. Their fingers and toes were webbed. They quarreled about the people. amaioit wanted that the people would not die. Mukat said the earth would become overcrowded if this were true. They created Wood and Mermaid to give power to shamans to cure.
They argued some more about the form of the people they had created. Tamaioit retreated under the ground, taking his people with him. This is the source of earthquakes., He left behind Coyote, Duck, Palm and Moon.
Mukat created a place to the east where two hills move apart and back together. Through this opening the souls of the dead pass. If a person was bad the hills come together to crush them and they become a rock, a bat or butterfly. If they are good they pass through to the land beyond.
Mukat, the nonhuman persons (the animals) and human beings lived together in one big house. Moon instructed the people in the right way to live. One man danced on top of Rattlesnake’s head and made fun of him. Rattlesnake complained to Mukat. Mukat pulled whiskers out and put them in Rattlesnake’s mouth. Rattlesnake bit the man who danced on him and then ran away, being the first to leave the big house.
Mukat desired Moon. She could sense this and became sad and retreated to the sky. Coyote went to the water where she always bathed to look for her. He saw her reflection in the water and jumped in to find her.
Mukat made the people speak different languages. The sun was too hot so many ran in search of shade. He made bows and arrows. One person, Tacwich, stuck arrows through his stomach and pulled them out. They left no mark.
The people shot arrows at each other, many died. The spirits of the dead went under the ground to Tamaioit who told them that he hadn’t wanted them to die. He turned them away. They went back to Mukat and asked him to go where to go. He told them about the land between the two hills.
The sun came close to the people. The ones who it came closest to were black. The Indians were further away and were brown. The people were angry at Mukat for making Rattlesnake bite one of them, for causing Moon to leave and for making bows and arrows which killed some of them. They decided to kill Mukat. They had Lizard follow him at night. He found where he defecated. Frog went and caught his droppings.
This caused Mukat to become ill. He asked some of his people to bring help and food. They deserted him. However, Coyote stayed with him. Mukat was afraid Coyote would eat him when he died. He sang so his spirit would go to the other land between the hills.
He died and Coyote went away to get fire for his funeral pyre. While he was away Fly made fire by rubbing his feet together. Coyote ran back and grabbed a piece of Mukat’s heart from the fire. Before he died Mukat told the people to hold a fiesta once a year in memory of the dead. They were to make an effigy of each dead person. Coyote knew to make the effigies of a type of seaweed.
Coyote became the net and sang for the memorial. He divided the songs into Mukat or Wildcat songs and Tamaioit or Coyote songs. They burned the big house down and built a new one.
Out of the pit where Mukat had been cremated Buzzards saw plants growing which were for the people to eat. Tobacco for was for the old people to smoke, melons came from his skull, pumpkins from his stomach, and corn from his teeth.

The Worldview of the Chumash People

Chumash Cosmology

adapted from the telling of Thomas Blackburn from the notes of JP Harrington

There are three worlds: one above, one below and this one. We live in the center, on the biggest island. There are two snakes below, who, when they move cause of earthquakes. There is a being above, the Eagle of the Sky, that stretches its wings. This causes the phases of the moon. The water of the springs and streams of the middle world is the urine of frogs that live in them.

In the world above, the sun, the Eagle of the Sky, the Morning Star and Coyote of the Sky play peon. Moon is the referee and they stay up all night until dawn playing all year round. On Christmas Eve they count to six to see who has won. When Coyote of the Sky wins it will be a rainy year. There is a lot to eat. The sun stakes all the food plants and Coyote of the Sky, when he wins, opens the door so that all the good things fall to earth. When the sun wins he takes his winnings in human lives. Coyote of the sky wants to pay with the lives of old people but sometimes the sun takes a young person’s life.

The moon is an unmarried woman who lives near the sun. They have their jobs to do to light the sky. The morning star’s job is to light the dawn. The Sky Coyote is our father and the sun our uncle. None of them grow older. The sun lights the sky with a brand made of the inner bark of a sky tree that is like a cottonwood. The Sky Eagle creature stays in the same spot but when he gets tired he spreads his wings causing the phases of the moon and eclipses of the moon.

The sun is an old man and a widower who lives alone with his pets. His two daughters live with him too. The sun carries away people of this world and he and his daughters eat them at the end of the day. There are devil like creatures in the shape of men who come out when night falls. La Llorona, the weeping woman, cries in the trees. When you hear her someone is going to die. The swordfish creatures live in the sea and can throw a whale out of the water.

There once was a great flood and Spotted Woodpecker, the sun’s nephew, was the only survivor. He alighted at the top of the tallest tree and cried for his uncle to help him. The sun lowered his torch and the waters went down. Then he tossed some acorns to the woodpecker who ate them. To this day he eats acorns.

After the flood sky Coyote, Sun, Moon, the Morning Star and the great Sky Eagle decided to create man. Sky Coyote wanted their hands to be like his. Silently lizard listened and waited. They all gathered around a rock and just as Sky Coyote was going to stamp his hand down Lizard put his down. Sky Coyote wanted to kill Lizard but he scurried into a crack in the rock. the Sky Eagle and Sun approved of the lizard’s handprint and that is how we got the hands we have.

Sky Coyote wanted to toss men into a lake to make them young again but Matavenado said the earth would be too full of people so Coyote lost that argument as well. The sun was adored by the Indians and they also adored the elements earth, air, and water. Some say that the rainbow is a shadow of three elements – wind, rain and fire. The elements give the rainbow its colors. The sun had the morning and evening stars as his wives.

The souls of the dead stayed around for five days but someone who has been cremated has his soul go to the West and it doesn’t stay around. His soul goes to the west, as does the souls of babies. After 12 years the soul is reincarnated. It has been said that white people have been reincarnated with a different color and with different languages.

As the sun reemerges, the souls resurrect. The old people said that there were three lands to the west which were like purgatory, hell and heaven. There are two rocks that crashed together. Any living person who tried to pass them would be crushed but the souls of the dead passed on through. The souls of poisoners and evil people turn to stone from the neck on down and remain immobile, unable to progress. They are only able to watch as the other souls progress. Two monsters try to frighten the souls as they cross a pole. Those that fall off are those who have not drunk hallucinogenic toloache or who do not know about the old religion. They fall into the water and turn into a frog, a turtle, a snake or a fish. There are many such beings in the water.

Children were named for the month they were born in. The 12 different months all have names reflecting qualities they have. Men have qualities of the month they are born in.

Cabrillo’s Voyage

Relation of the voyage of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo 1542 – 1543

In: Spanish Exploration in the Southwest 1542 – 1706, edited by Herbert Eugene Bolton, Scribner’s Sons New York 1916

On the following Thursday they went about six leagues along the coast running north northwest, and discovered a port, closed and very good, which they named San Miguel. It is in thirty four and one third degrees. Having cast anchor in it, they went ashore where there were people. Three of them waited, but all the rest fled. To these three they gave some presents and they said by signs that in the interior men like the Spaniards had passed. They gave signs of great fear. On the night of this day they went ashore from the ships to fish with a net, and it appears that here there were some Indians, and they began to shoot at them with arrows and wounded three men.

Next day in the morning they went with the boat farther into the port, which is large, and brought two boys, who understood nothing by signs. They gave them both shirts and sent them away immediately.

Next day in the morning three adult Indians came to the ships and said by signs that in the interior men like us were traveling about, bearded, clothed, and armed like those of the ships. They made signs that they carried crossbows and swords; and they made gestures with the right arm as if they were throwing lances, and ran around as if they were on horseback. They made signs that they were killing many native Indians, and for this reason they were afraid. These people are comely and large. They go about covered with the skins of animals.


At daybreak on Saturday, the seventh month of October, they were at the islands which they named San Salvador and La Victoria. They anchored at one of them and went ashore with the boat to see if there were people; and when the boat came near, a great number of Indians emerged from the bushes and grass, shouting, dancing, and making signs that they should land. As they saw that the women were fleeing, from the boats they made signs that they should not be afraid. Immediately they were reassured, and laid their bows and arrows on the ground and launched into the water a good canoe which held eight or 10 Indians, and came to the ships. They gave them beads and other articles, with which they were pleased, and then they returned. Afterward the Spaniards went ashore, and they, the Indian women, and all felt very secure. Here an old Indian made signs to them that men like the Spaniards, clothed and bearded, were going about on the mainland. They remained on this island until midday.

On the following Sunday, the eighth of said month, they drew near to the mainland in a large bay which they called the Bay of Los Fumos, (Bay of the Smokes), because of the many smokes which they saw on it. Here they held a colloquy with some Indians whom they captured in a canoe, and who made signs that toward the north there were Spaniards like them. This bay is in 35° and is a good port, and the country is good, with many valleys, plains, and groves.


… We saw on the land a pueblo of Indians close to the sea, the houses being large like those of New Spain. They anchored in front of a very large valley on the coast. Here there came to the ships many very good canoes, each of which held 12 or 13 Indians; they told them of Christians who were going about in the interior. The coast runs from Northwest to Southeast. Here they gave them presents, with which they were greatly pleased. They indicated by signs that in seven days they would go to where the Spaniards were, and Juan Rodriguez decided to send two Spaniards into the interior. They also indicated that there was a great river. With these Indians they sent a letter at a venture to the Christians. They named this town the Pueblo of Los Canoas. The Indians dress in skins of animals; they are fishermen and eat raw fish; they were eating maguey also….


… All this coast which they have passed is very thickly settled. The Indians brought for them many sardines, fresh and very good. They say that in the interior there are many pueblos and abundant food. They ate no maize. They were dressed in skins, and wore their hair very long and tied up with long strings interwoven with the hair, there being attached to the strings many gew gaws of flint, bone, and wood. The country appears to be very fine.

Serrano Creation Story

The Serrano (Spanish for mountain people) ranged over the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California–Their relatives the Vanyume are little known because they were devastated by the European conquest–They ranged out over the Mojave Desert–Here is part of the Serrano creation story–It has elements found in most Southern California Creation stories–The dying god–twin gods–the cremation with Coyote eating Creator’s heart

Serrano Creation Story – – Adapted from the Telling of Ruth Benedict

In the beginning, in the darkness, the two creator god’s, Pakrokitatc and Kukitatc made the nonhuman persons, the animals. Kukitatc stayed with his people and he said that when they died they would come back.

The people decided to kill Kukitatc because the world would become overpopulated. They got a shaman to do the job. The shaman saw that Kukitatc went out every night and defecated in the ocean. He sent Frog to eat his excrement.

When Kukitatc went to the ocean he did not hear his excrement splash in the water. He knew that Frog was below and that he was going to die. He told the people to cremate him but to send Coyote to the north to gather wood. Coyote set out and the people lit the pyre. The people stood around the fire so Coyote could not get through before the body was burned.

Coyote circled the ring and until he found his opportunity: he slipped between Badger’s bowed legs and snatched Kukitatc’s heart. He ran off and ate it.

Memoirs of California from the 1820s by a Russian Visitor

Memoirs of California

KT Khlebnikov and Anatole G Mazour

Pacific Historical Review, volume 9, number 3 September 1940 pages 307 – 336

Memoirs of California by KT Khlebnikov, translated by G Mazour:

At the missions there are from 500 to 3000 Indians of both sexes. In former days under Spanish rule the governors partly equipped the military commands with Indians to whom were known the hiding places of their kinfolk; and these detachments sometimes counted nearly 100 men, who suddenly attacked the dwellings of the natives, captured and brought them to the missions for settlement. It happened more than once that these Indians would defend themselves desperately, and both sides would leave at the place of encounter several dead and injured. I have seen Indian soldiers in whose bodies were found lances of Indian bows that caused the premature death of the victims.


Formerly the care of the Indians was very poor, but with the secession from Spain the form of administration was bound to change. They received daily provisions, though not at every mission, which consist of frijol, corn, barley, and dry meat, and on Sundays fresh meat, wheat, lard, and fruit. Indians who are married and have families live in houses or grass huts built at missions, but adults who are single live in the common headquarters, men’s separate from women. Each evening the room or the dwelling of the girls is locked, and in the morning it is opened. Seizure of free Indians has now stopped; and even the older residents are allowed to go free, though the latter, not having led a nomadic life, rarely return to their native places. The plan of the government to make citizens of them and settle them throughout California will probably fail entirely and will not materialize for a very long time. Those freed by the missions, now being by the order of the governor, under no compulsion to labor, completely refuse to work and seek a livelihood by theft. The missionaries make musicians out of them; and if there are no excellent virtuosos among them, there are at least all possible instruments in use. In the better missions various shops are organized; and though not perfect, then at least satisfactorily supply all domestic demands.

According to all officials the best mission in all California is San Luis Rey. To the missionary of San Luis Rey, as the most enlightened and active of all his brethren, are ascribed many complementary qualities. It must be noted that since the missions gain no more Indians, the population on account of sickness is notably decreasing, and the women give birth from 8 to 10 children, the majority of them die during infancy. Many women it is asserted, deliberately killed their children in the womb and have abortions. Venereal diseases are spread to a large degree through the whole of California. Padre Felipe Arroyo asserted that this disease is being transmitted to the native Indians who live in the interior of the continent.


Many travelers have compared the Albion and California Indians with chattel because of their marked stupidity. It seems to me that circumstances do not necessitate their being intelligent: first composed of numerous tribes with entirely different dialects, they do not lead a social life, and their intelligence and form of expression are stunted by sheer lack of exercise. In the second place, climate and environment produce enough means for a livelihood. The oak produces acorns, which comprise the chief provision; in many places wild rye grows, the grain of which is gathered by the Indians. In the ground they find many hamsters, Siberian marmots, mice, frogs, etc., which make up their diet. Those living near the coast gather lobsters, shrimps, shells, and various sea animals. They can skillfully catch geese and other birds, also mountain sheep, goats, and deer. In the third place, they have no homes, no settled places, but find refuge in the hollows of big trees, in mountain clefts or in tents made of twigs, which are not difficult to abandon when the time comes to change places. Fire is usually obtained by rubbing dry wood, the pieces of which are saved during the moving. In the fourth place, the climate does not compel them to dress in skins or textile fabrics. Men and women go around nude; on rare occasions women wear a piece of some animal skin fasten to a grass belt which covers the groin. Then, fifth, neither barter nor trade of any kind is practiced among them. Sixth, many tribes are not warlike people at all. All their weapons consist of bows and arrows made quite skillfully, but even these are used for the most part against birds and beasts.

Since the native in his primitive condition readily finds his chief needs, food and shelter, everywhere, there is consequently no reason for exerting his intellectual capacities in improving his state; he thinks that of all that inhabitants of the entire world, those of neighboring territories or territories rumored of, he is the happiest. Perhaps it is this mode of life that is responsible for his deep ignorance. However, one cannot deny a certain degree of intelligence in the Indians: their bows tied with deer thongs are made quite ingeniously. In their arrows they place lances made of obsidian, Jasper or flint, skillfully set in; the baskets made of roots are neatly and firmly woven, decorated with red and azure feathers and blue shells. Their head decorations of feathers are also beautifully done. The Indians who live on the islands across from Santa Barbara have boats made of wood. These were probably introduced by the Spanish, for among the Indians who lived near the sea, in San Francisco, for instance, or along the bays of Great and Little Bodega, these boats are not seen. There, when the natives sail across, they use cane woven together in the form of a skiff or canvas, in which they speedily move during stormy weather, while in San Francisco soldiers are frequently transported in them to the missions. The Indians who live in the missions comprise artists and craftsmen of all kinds, even though not skilled ones; but that is, perhaps, because they have had neither systematic training nor the chance to observe. Many of them understand the Spanish language and learn to read and write.

The Indians who are settled at the missions, after being baptized and under strict surveillance of the missionaries, become accustomed to live commonly. There quartered in huts in each of which dwell two and more families. Artisans and servants of the priests are dressed in suits made of freize; but laborers ordinarily have woolen blankets with which they wrap themselves. Women wear shirts and skirts; on Sundays they all go to church and dress rather neatly. Men and women are freed of work on all holidays; they are given better food than that served on the other days. Then separate groups commonly come out to play. Men, adults, and children as well as women, form circles near or across the missions. The older ones sit around, while the frisky young men play ball. Many Indians who deserve confidence have their own cattle, hogs, and chickens, and cultivate gardens. It is strange to see how a thousand or two natives obey with profound submission a friar who is assisted by five or six soldiers who are hardly superior to the Indians. There were, however, examples of missionaries who became the victims of their own immoderate severity. One of them in Santa Cruz was hanged by the Indians on a fruit tree in the garden.


The Colorado River flows into the Red Sea, or California Bay. The source is in the Sierra Verde and runs along the distance of about 200 leagues (600 miles); the shores of the river are settled by numerous independent Indian tribes and because of the near location of the San Diego harbor, frequently come there. In 1825 the governor dispatched an official to make a survey of the river in order to establish a post highway. Early in 1826 some Indians arrived in San Diego; their leader called himself a general and two of his subordinates captains. The whole distinguish suite came nude except for a strip of cloth hanging on the belt in front. The Commandant General of California welcomed them, treated them and presented them with clothes, hoping to establish a firm friendship. But at their departure they drove away with them all the horses from the suburbs of San Diego belonging to the inhabitants of that town. A detachment sent after them returned with no success. Those Indians were tall, well-built, and bodily strong. The general, or their leader, was distinguished by a long cane with the silver cane head. Both men and women were nude. They own many cattle, and ride horses without saddles easily. In the rainy season the Colorado River becomes deep but in the summer it can be forded. The governor has firm intentions of building a post road across the river to Mexico.