Luiseño Creation Story

In the beginning, there was darkness and earth, brother and sister. Darkness was also called unoccupied, there is no one, and whitish gray (a term that referred to the Milky Way). Earth was also called empty, there is nothing there, and changing in form descending. The brother came unto the sister and they brought forth the sun, sand, flat rocks and stones, trees and shrubs, medicinal herbs and grasses, meat animals, and Wuyóot (also spelled Wiyot and Ouiot).
Wuyóot looked upon Red Legged Frog covetously. She could tell what was on his mind. When he saw that her behind was skinny and bony he lost interest. Red Legged Frog became angry and bewitched him.
He became sick and before he died said that all people will follow him in death. This is how death came to the world. However, he said he would return as the moon.
He died and was cremated; Blowfly rubbed her fire sticks together to light the pyre. They sent Coyote away to get fire from the sun. He ran back and jumped over the shortest ones guarding the body of Wuyóot. In various tellings this is either Big Cone Spruce and Incense Cedar or Badger. Brush Rabbit sang at Wuyóot’s funeral, being the first to ever sing.
A spirit, Chinigchinich, appeared and created humans. He said that those who do not obey him will be punished with “bears to bite, snakes to sting, misfortunes, infirmities and death.” Because of the similarity to the biblical God some believe that this was influenced by the missions, forming what anthropologists call syncretism or the fusing of native and external beliefs. Raven is Chinigchinich’s animal as was bear, cougar, various species of rattlesnake, stingrays, tarantula hawk (Pepsis wasp), black widow, tarantula and other spiders, ticks, scorpion and centipede. Rock crystals and tourmaline are also Chinigchinich’s and can be used to kill.
Instruction in proper behavior was given during the boys and girls initiation ceremonies. The boys took toloache to have a vision of animals. The girls took an infusion of tobacco. A ground painting showing the world and Chinigchinich’s animals was used.

The Alarcon expedition was the first into the Lower Colorado River area–They traveled up the river in 1540 and got as far as the Yuma area–Here are some excerpts:

Principal Navigation, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, Volume III Richard Hakluyt 1600, London in The Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology volume 1 number one 1979 pages 8 – 37

… Immediately an old man came with the rolls [cakes] of maize, and certain little gourds, and calling me with a loud voice and using many gestures with his body and arms came near me. Causing me to turn toward the people, and turning toward them himself, he said to them Sagueyca, and all the people answered with a great voice Hu. He offered to the Sun a little bit of everything he had there, and likewise a little more to me (although afterword he gave me all the rest) and did like to all that were with me. Calling out my interpreter, by means of him I gave them thanks, telling them that because my boats were little I had not brought many things to give them in exchange, but that I would come again another time and bring them, and that if they would go with me in my boats to my ships which I had down at the river’s mouth, I would give them many things. They answered that they would do so, being very glad in countenance.

Here, by the help of my interpreter, I sought to instruct them what the sign of the cross meant, and willed them to bring me a piece of timber, from which I caused a great cross to be made, and commanded all those that were with me that when it was made they should worship it, and beseech the Lord to grant his grace that so great a people might come to the knowledge of his holy Catholic faith. This done, I told them by my interpreter that I left them that sign in token that I took them for my brothers, and that they should keep it for me carefully until I returned, and that every morning at sunrise they should kneel before it. They took it immediately, and without suffering it to touch the ground they carried it and set it up in the midst of their houses, where all of them might behold it. I willed them always to worship it, because it would preserve them from evil. They asked me how deep they should set it in the ground, and I showed them. Great numbers of the people followed those that carried the cross, and those that stayed behind inquired of me how they should join their hands, and how they should kneel to worship the cross, and they seemed to have great desire to learn it.


They told me they burned those who died, and such as remained widows stayed half a year or a whole year before they married again. I desired what they thought of such as were dead. He told me that they went to another world, but that they had neither punishment nor glory. The greatest sickness that this people die of his vomiting blood up the mouth, and they have physicians who cure them with charms and blowing which they make.

The apparel of these people is like that of the former: they carried their pipes with them to perfume themselves, as people of New Spain use tobacco.

I inquired whether they had any governor and found that they had none, but that every family had its own master [“had their sevarall governour”]. These people have, besides their maize, certain gourds, and another grain like millet. They have grindstones and earthen pots, in which they boiled those gourds, and fish of the river, which are very good.…


… I asked him of Cevola: he told me he had been there, that it was a goodly thing, that the chief there was very well obeyed, and that there were other chiefs there about, with whom he was continually at war. I asked him whether they had silver and gold, and he, having perceived certain bells [on the boat?] said they had metal of their color. I inquired whether they made it there and he answered me, no, but that they brought it from a certain mountain, where an old woman dwelt. I demanded whether he had any knowledge of a river called Totonteac – he answered me no, that he, however, knew of another exceeding mighty river in which there were huge crocodiles that of their hides they made shields. These people worship the Sun neither more nor less than those whom I had passed, and then they offer to Him the fruits of the earth, they said “receive hereof, for Thou hast created them.”

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.