Earth Diver Creation from South Central California

Earth Diver creation stories from South Central California. Folklorist Alan Dundes thinks the Earth Diver story is a case of male pregnancy envy.

Kawaiisu creation adapted after the telling of Maurice Zygmond

Originally there was water all over the world. The animals lived in the sky. Coyotes sent them down to get dirt from the bottom of the ocean. All failed including Coyote. A little bird brought up some dirt on its nails. It put it on a tray and it grew. It grew and it covered all the water. The animals came out of the sky and lived on it.

Pohonichi Miwok creation adapted after the telling of Alfred Kroeber

There was water everywhere. Coyote sent one of the ducks to dive. It at first had trouble, then went to the bottom and bit dirt. It came up and Coyote mixed the dirt with a certain kind of seed. The mixture swelled and the water disappeared. Earth was there.

Gashowu Yokuts creation adapted after the telling of Alfred Kroeber

Prairie Falcon and Raven made earth when everything was water. The beaver, the otter, the mud hen, and mallard, and another kind of duck dove and tried to reach the bottom but failed. A small duck dove, reached the bottom and brought up sand from there. As he rose it all washed away except for a little bit under its fingernail. He gave the sand to Prairie Falcon who mixed it with the tobacco. He gave half to his friend Raven. The Prairie Falcon and Raven went to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west. They dropped the sand which boiled when it hit the water. The world grew from underneath. Prairie Falcon was the first who wanted the world.

Truhohi Yokuts creation adapted from the telling of Alfred Kroeber

In the South was a mountain which was the only land. Everywhere else was water. The people were eating the earth and it was nearly gone. Coyote said to Eagle who was chief, “Can we not make mountains?” Eagle didn’t know how to. Coyote asked Magpie, “Can we obtain earth?” The magpie said it was below them. The ducks dove and tried to bring up earth. They will could not reach it and died. Finally, Mud Hen went down. It was gone for a day and at night and died and floated to the surface. When they looked at the body they found earth under its nails, in its ears and its nose. They mixed this with chiyu seeds. Wolf spread this around but Eagle said let it dry first. Coyote thought it was ready and ran along the soft earth to the east. This formed the Sierra. He ran along the soft earth to the west. This became the Coast Range. Coyote sent the people who were still animals to their places to live. They became people. Eagle told Coyote to stay. He said, “No” – he would go with Eagle. They talked for six days. The Eagle left and Coyote went with him. Now they are both in the sky.

Wukchamai Yokuts creation adapted from the telling of Alfred Kroeber

Everywhere there was water except for a small patch of ground. Coyote and Eagle were there. They sent Turtle to dive to the bottom. The turtle barely made it to the bottom and when he came up all the earth washed away except for a grain of earth that Coyote found in its nails. Eagle and Coyote laid this down. From this the earth came to be. They made six men and six women. They sent these out in pairs to the different directions. Coyote looked to see what they were doing and found that they were eating the earth. Eagle said, “Let’s make something for them to eat”. They sent Dove out and it found a single grain of meal. Eagle and Coyote put this on the ground and the earth became covered with seeds and fruits. The people ate these and spread all over. But under the world there is still water.

Yauelmami Yokuts creation adapted from the telling of Alfred Kroeber

Water was everywhere. The piece of wood grew out of the water to the sky. On the tree was a nest. In the nest was Eagle, Wolf, Coyote, Panther, Prairie Falcon, a hawk, and the Condor. Eagle wanted to make land so he called a small duck to dive to the bottom. It died on the dive but when Eagle and the others checked the body they found dirt under its fingernail. The Eagle took this dirt and mixed it with ground up seeds and made dough. He set it in the water and it swelled and spread everywhere. Eagle told his companions to take some earth. They went back to the nest. In the morning Eagle told Wolf to shout. He did and all became water again. They made the earth again from what they had taken to the nest. Eagle, again told Wolf, “Shout!” He did and the earth was shaken by an earthquake but it stood. Coyote said, I will shout to. He did and the earth shook a very little. They came out of the tree and settled by a lake.

Walapai Creation Stories

Walapai Creation Story

Adapted from the telling of Alfred Kroeber

In the old days was Wikame, the only land in the world of water. There was Matavila who decided to create people. He cut cane in the water, one piece for each nation of people. He prayed over them, they came to life and the water dried up. After Matavila created people he died. There were the Hopi, Navajo, Paiute, Walapai and Havasupai. These and others separated and went in different directions. The children played roughly in the mud. One got hurt and cried to his parents. The parents of the children began to fight. The relatives joined in. Some of the tribes were afraid to fight and fled. The Walapai and Yavapai fought it out. The Yavapai became afraid and fled to the south. The Yavapai never forgot and continued to fight the Walapai. Eventually the old people died off and the young people became friendly and the fighting stopped.

Coyote Steals Matavila’s Heart

When Matavila, who lived on Wikame, was dying he asked Coyote if when a person dies does he come back in four days? Coyote said, “No, he is gone forever.” The people, when Matavila was dead decided he should be cremated. They sent Coyote away to get fire and while he was gone they asked Fly to make fire. The piled up wood, put the body on top and lit the pyre. Coyote saw the fire and ran back, jumped over Wildcat and Badger and stole a piece of Matavila’s heart that was left. The people pursued Coyote who jumped into a hole in the rock. When the people got there the saw only Chuckawala. Perhaps Coyote had turned into Chuckawala. Coyote ran off and the people pursued. He jumped behind a stump. Perhaps Coyote turned into a stump. They couldn’t find Coyote anywhere. They returned home without Coyote.

Another Creation Story

Once, all the tribes were one. There were two gods, Hamatavila and Tudjupa. Tudjupa was the younger of the two. After the water dried up and left the mountain Wikame, the two gods emerged from under it. Hamatavila told Tudjupa that he knew nothing and that Tudjupa should rule. Tudjupa cut pieces of cane that became the Mohave, the Walapai, that Havasupai, the Hopi, the Chemehuevi and the Yavapai. These people all lived around Wikame. Hamatavila stepped on a frog despite the warning of Tudjupa. Hamatavila became ill and died because of this. Tudjupa said to the people, “We will cremate the body in four days. After four days the body will come to life.” Coyote said this was wrong, told Tudjupa to cut his hair short and burn all of Hamatavila’s property. Tudjupa said to bury the body and corn, pumpkins, watermelons and beans grew from it.

The Kiliwa Live In the Mtns of N. Baja California–Their Creation Story Is Different Than Their Neighbors’




Kiliwa Creation story–adapted from the telling of Peveril Meigs
Originally there was nothing – no sky, no mountains – only darkness. Metipa came forth and took a mouthful of water and spat it to the south. Then another to the north. He took a lot and spat it to the west, which created the dangerous sea. Then he took a little and spat to the east which became the sea with little waves. Then he smoked a cigarette and blew smoke toward the seas. Then he decided to make the sky by using his skin. He made four mountain sheep and four mountains. They were the four shaman mountains which were placed in the spaces between the four seas. He tried to create the sky from his skin but it was too fresh so he placed a mountain sheep on each of the four mountains. The horns of the mountain sheep were of different colors: brown and blue, yellow and tan, glittering and gray, red and white. He tried to rest his skin on the mountain sheep but it sagged because it was too fresh. He then made a mole that raised a ridge all around and he laid the skin on the ridge. This time the skin stayed. He made the sun by drawing it out of his elbow but it would not come. Then he tried to draw it out of his thigh but it would not come. He tried to draw it out of the top of his head but could not. Finally he drew it out of his mouth which is hot. Then he tried to make a creosote bush for shade from the sun. The heat was unbearable. He then made a rattlesnake which pushed the sun higher into the sky. Then he made a horse by getting on his hands and knees. His shadow made the horse. He had seeds of all the plants. Then he made dog, people and clothing. Having made everything, he became sick. He tried lying on a bed of herbs. It did not help and he died. He tried to lift his body but could not. A singer came forth and raised winds from the four directions. The body was raised. The singer raised the body and they burned it. This is so people would die.
Another creation story
Metipa came out of the earth. He made his four sons. Then he made the moon and put it in the east. He thought he hung it badly so he moved to the west. That is why the moon always sets in the west. Then Metipa  made the sun. He had it in his stomach. He brought it out of his mouth and put it in the sky, but he thought it hung it badly so he put it back in his stomach. He then tried to bring it out of his rectum and hung it in the east. This is why people have scorched rectums. Then he made plants, hills and animals. He named them all. Then he made the four seas. Everything was small. Everything had to grow just as a person grows. After he died and was cremated, he made a moth. This is the last animal he made. When he died he went back into the earth in his bones became veins in the rocks in the mountains. Metipa taught his four sons to make bows, arrows, arrowheads, fire, mescal nets, ollas, houses, blankets etc. He ordered his sons to make these things and to marry women and have children.
The flood
It took place in the San Felipe desert. A shaman killed jackrabbits. He put them to the side where they became people. They were his sons. His sons went ahead and the old man stayed behind. There was a fire circle hunt for rabbits which is sons participated in. The people ordered Badger to make a hole. They covered the hole with branches and ordered the boys to sit on the branches. They fell into the hole and were killed. They filled up the hole. One of the sons of Metipa killed the boys. The people on the hunt were his people. They killed the boys because they killed too many rabbits. The shaman father looked for his sons but could not find them. A bird told him who had killed his sons. He had a rabbit which he had killed and he took parts of the rabbit out and threw them in the four directions. It rained and all the people were killed by the force of the storm. The shaman and his people stayed in a cave and avoided the storm. After the rain all of the people in the cave (who were animals) went back to the places where they live. When the flood came all the people went to the north, perhaps to California where the cave was.

Imagine 95% of everybody you know dying

When Europeans came to the Americas they brought with them diseases that are endemic in their societies. These diseases largely came from domestic animals they lived in close association with. Some 10 diseases, including small pox and measles, were illnesses Native Americans had no resistance to, not having had exposure to them before. It is estimated that there was a mortality rate of 95% in some places, largely from the diseases, but also augmented by the maltreatment the conquerors inflicted. Imagine 95% of everybody you know dying.

The Religions of the Natives of Baja California

The Missions of Baja California

The first Jesuit mission in Baja California was established in 1684. A string of missions were extended through the southern and central parts of the peninsula. The Jesuits were expelled in 1767 because the government considered them to have too much wealth and power. By that time the native populations which had been reduced (Spanish “reducir”) had been decimated. After the Jesuits left an agreement between the Franciscans and the Dominicans divided California between them. The Franciscans founded the missions in Alta California and Baja California was to go to the Dominicans. Missions were founded in the northern end of Baja California by the Dominicans where the Jesuits had failed to reach. This was called the Dominican frontier. The natives in all areas of Baja California except the northern end are now extinct. At the southern tip of the peninsula were found the Pericus. Just to their north were the Guaycaru. The to the north and east of the Guaycaru you were found the Monqui and in the vast central desert region were found the Cochimi. The knowledge we have of these peoples comes from archaeology and the few Spanish records that were made before they died out.

Cochimi religion from the telling of Luis Sales 1772 – 1790

A great captain made the sky, the earth and everything in them. He was named Menichipa. He made another like himself called Togomag and a man and a woman. They had a son called Emai Cuaño. Menichipa adopted him as his own son and gave him all the power and authority. Emai Cuaño was in charge of the care of the married persons and he arranged for the marriage of men and women. Menichipa left all the created things imperfect but his adopted son perfected them. He sweetened the bitter seeds and tamed the ferocious beasts. He also brought fire from the earth so the people would not be cold. When the people complained that the earth was too hot he spat over it, creating the seas, rivers, springs and lakes. The people were angered at seeing so much water and he began to cry, his tears becoming rain. He named all things. He had created the first batch of humans with his own hands but when he grew tired he taught them how to procreate. He commanded the dances and feasts be celebrated and told them to perform funeral ceremonies for those who had died a natural death. Those who died a violent death were to be burned. Those who died bravely would go to the north where the founding fathers are. They would feed on deer, rats, rabbits and hares. He commanded that women should be subject to men and that some should be believed without question. Menichipa was wounded by men and while dying raised again. The evildoers fled and it is not known where they are. Originally Menichipa was in the North and was sad because he had no companions. That is why he set out to create companions. He created arrogant and evil people and to keep the peace shut them up under the earth. He lets them out from time to time to deceive men. In some places the arrogant people are called Chilyahs, in others Tavigol and in others Chilay. They are equivalent with the devil. The devil appears at night clad in fire and terrorizes the people to do evil deeds. The Indians protect themselves with the rosary and by planting crosses in thickets and groves and by roads.

Baja creation stories from the telling of Miguel Venegas 1758

From The Pericues

There is a lord of great power in heaven called Niparaya. He has no body like we have. His wife is Anayicoyondi. They have three sons. One of them is called Quaayayp which means “man.” He taught the southern Indians and went into the earth and brought people forth. The Indians killed him. He remains dead but remains beautiful. Blood runs from him and he has an owl that speaks for him. In heaven there are many more inhabitants than on earth. Wac or Tuparan rose against Niparaya but he was defeated in battle. Niparaya deprived Wac of his power and his pitaya cactus fruit food. He confined him and his followers in a cave guarded by whales. Niparaya does not like people to fight and those who die of an arrow or spear wound do not go to heaven. Wac Tuparan wants people to fight. Those killed in battle go to his cave. Believers in Niparaya become Christians while believers in Wac Tuparan do not. The Pericues believe the stars are shining pieces of metal and the moon was created by Cucunumic while the stars were created by Purutabui.

From The People Around Loretto

They have no word for heaven but call it notu which means “high.” In the north part of heaven lies the spirit of spirits called Gumongo who send sickness. He sent another spirit called Guyiaguai who sowed the earth with pitaya cactus and made the creeks along the coast. Other inferior spirits brought him pitaya fruit to eat and fish from the creek. He made vestiments for his priests called dicuinochos. They used tablets. The sun, moon and the morning and evening stars were men and women who fell into the sea and swam out to the east. The stars are made by a visting spirit. They fall into the sea and must be relit by him.

From The Cochimi

They have a lord in heaven who is without a mate but had a son who has two names. One imparts perfection-the other means “swift.” There is another who makes lords. There is one lord who made heaven, earth, animals, trees, fruits and men and women. They also believe in devils who revolted against the great lord. They are his enemy and the enemy of humans. When humans die these devils bury him.