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Creation Myths of Primitive America, by Jeremiah Curtin, [1898], at

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After each name is given that of the creature or thing into which the personage was changed subsequently.

Hinwu, big owl; Kele, mountain wolf; Kleréu Lúlimet, wild lily; Pili Lúlimet, reed grass blossom; Pokok, ground owl; Pom Piweki, crooked land; Satok Pokaila, ----; Sas the sun; Tsurat, red-headed woodpecker; Tunhlucha, frog.


In Puidal Winnem lived Kele. Olelbis built a great sweat-house there, and told him to stay in it. Kele was old and lived all alone in that place; lived there a long time, thinking, making up his mind what to do,--he was lonely and thirsty. "Why did Olelbis put me here?" thought he.

Once he rose about daybreak, hurried out, went westward, went to a creek. A great clump of mountain maples stood near the bank. Kele saw a straight stick among all the others. He cut the stick, drew it out, and took off a short piece. On the way home he split the stick, smoothed it, and fixed it as he walked. He put the two sticks overhead in the sweat-house, went out a second time. found a white oak sapling, firm and strong, cut a piece two feet long from it, put it at the hearth. The next day he lay with his back to the fire, lay there all night without sleeping. Just before daybreak he heard steps, and was struck on the back.

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[paragraph continues] A minute later he was struck again in the same place. The old man rose then and made a good fire of manzanita wood.

It was daylight, and Kele said: "My children, come to the fire, warm yourselves, sweat, and then swim in the creek."

Two girls came to the fire, warmed themselves standing, and soon they were sweating from heat.

"My daughters," said Kele, "there is a creek near here. Go and swim in it."

These girls were from the stick that Kele had split in two parts and put in the house wall. The girls bathed in the creek, came back, and were good-looking. When they came in, Kele brought venison for his two daughters to eat.

"My daughters," said the old man, "I will tell you something. You must go to work, do good things. There are roots in the woods all around us, roots fit for food. You need to walk. Go out and get roots." They went out to dig wild lily roots. After that they went every morning.

Soon they began to say: "We should like to have other food; we should like to have game to eat. We saw mountain quail to-day; we saw deer." At last they talked this way every night. Kele listened, thinking what to do. These girls had a nice bed made of skins, and they talked every night to each other; but one night they went to bed early and fell asleep right away. Kele had wished them to sleep; that is why they fell asleep quickly. He hurried down to some mountain-ash trees, went to the middle of them, and cut off five sticks. He

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whittled these, made them smooth, cut each in two. He had ten smooth sticks then. Next he cut five other sticks. These he left rough; cut them also in two; had ten of them. Kele placed the twenty sticks overhead in the house on the north side, and lay with his back to the fire. The fire was a good one, a hot manzanita fire. His club of green oak was there at the fireplace.

Kele lay without sleeping and waited. He was awake and was thinking. The two girls were sound asleep all the time. just before daybreak he heard a sound as if some barefooted person had sprung from above to the floor. Next moment some one took the club and struck him. Another came down in the same way and struck him. Ten times he was struck with the club.

The ten smooth sticks had turned into people. Each man gave him a blow, went to the wall of the house, and sat there. Kele did not rise yet. He heard some one barefoot jump down and seize the club. This one hit Kele once. A second one sprang down and hit him twice, a third three times, a fourth four times, and so on to the tenth, who struck him ten times. There were twenty in all; ten from the smooth and ten from the rough sticks.

The first ten sticks he had whittled smooth, and they made ten good sons, but from the ten untrimmed sticks came ten rough, uproarious sons. Kele hadn't smoothed them, and they struck him many times. When the tenth rough son struck him the last blow, Kele stood up and made a big

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fire; he could barely move, he had been so beaten with the club. He lay down then and said,--

"Now, my boys, come here; warm yourselves, dance and sweat, then go to the creek to swim, and come here again." He sang then, and made his sons dance. The boys danced, and hurried to the creek to swim, shouting as they went. They came back to the sweat-house good-looking persons.

The two girls rose now. They knew already what their father had done.

"Go, my daughters, and cook for your brothers," said Kele.

The two sisters made the food ready and placed it before their brothers.

"Now, my sons, eat what we have," said Kele. "You will go out after that, you will hunt, and bring game."

The first ten, the smooth men, had good sense; the second ten were inferior; the ninth and tenth of the second ten were very bad. The first ten took each only one mouthful; of the second ten, the first took one mouthful, the second two, the third three, and so on to the tenth, who took ten mouthfuls. After that they sat back and made ready to go out.

"What are we to do?" asked the first ten. We have nothing to hunt with."

Kele brought out bows and quivers with arrows, and gave them to each; gave five ropes to them also, ropes of grass fibre. "You are armed now," said Kele; and he showed them where to set snares for deer.

They went far down to the foot of the mountain

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and set snares. The ten smooth brothers stood on the mountain top; the second ten, who were rough, drove the deer. "You must shout so that we can hear you all the time," said the smooth brothers. Toward evening the smooth brothers saw deer in the snares. The smooth ten took the bodies, the best of the game; the rough ten the legs, ears, horns, all the poor parts. The smooth ten took the best meat to the house; the rough ten made a great uproar--they had little sense. The two sisters cooked roots and venison for all.

Next morning Kele made a big fire of manzanita, wood. "Be up, my boys," called he. "Go and swim." That day the twenty stayed at home, and the sisters went for roots.

They lived this way a long time, the brothers hunting, the sisters digging roots and cooking, till at last the sisters wished to see other persons besides their brothers. One day when they went for roots they sat down on the mountain slope. "What are we to do?" said one sister; "we wish to see people, we see no one now but our brothers and father."

That evening, when all had lain down, the elder sister went to Kele and sat near him. "My father," said she, "I wish to know my name."

"Your name is Klereu Lulimet," said Kele; "your sister's name is Pili Lulimet."

She told her sister what their names were. Both liked the names, and were glad to have them. Every day the men sweated and swam, killed deer and snared them. The sisters dug lily roots and cooked them.

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One time instead of digging roots they went high on the mountain side and sat there, sat looking westward. They could see very far, and things seemed right there before them, though away off near the edge of the great western water.

This was the first time that the sisters had a chance to see far. Till that day they had only a mountain slope or a forest opening in front of them; now they had the whole country to look at. just after midday they saw a man going northward, going slowly.

"What a nice man that is! Look at him," said one sister to the other.

He stopped all at once, seemed to sit down and disappear through the earth. That day they saw him no more.

"Oh, we should like to see that man," said the sisters, "and talk to him." They watched, talked, and forgot to dig roots. At last, a short time before sunset, they said, "Let us go for roots!" They ran down the mountain, dug a basketful quickly, and hurried home.

"Oh, father, will you teach us how to sing?" said the younger sister to Kele that evening. "We tried all day to sing. I tried to teach my sister, she tried to teach me. We could do nothing."

"You can sing this way," said Kele, and he began,--

"O wi, no á, O wi, no í,
 O wi, no á, O wi, no í"

That is good," said she, going away. She said nothing to her sister and lay down.

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Soon after the twenty brothers came. Ten of them made a great noise. The house just trembled and shook from the uproar. The second ten had smeared themselves with deer blood, hung deer entrails around their necks. They looked wild and ferocious. When inside, they were quiet; in going out and coming in they always rushed and shouted.

Next morning Kele kept the twenty brothers in the sweat-house. "Rest a day," said he.

The sisters went to the mountain top and looked westward. Soon they saw some one go toward the north, as on the first day.

"Did our father tell you how to sing?" asked the elder sister.

"He did, but I have forgotten."

She tried to remember the song, and soon after it came to her,--

"O wi, no á, O wi, no í,
 O wi, no á, O wi, no í"

"This is the way our father sang," said she. "You try it, sister."

The elder began; soon both sang together.

"Oh, we have a nice song now," said they.

Their song went straight to where the man was, a long distance. This man was Sedit. He was getting red earth for acorn bread. Water soaked through red earth was used to moisten acorn meal. Sedit was covered with shells. He was very splendid to look at. As he dug the earth, it seemed to him that he heard something. He stopped, listened, listened with all his ears. The sisters stopped singing, and he dug again; again he heard the

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singing and stopped. When he stopped, the sisters ceased to sing; when he dug, they began again. Thus it continued the whole afternoon. They kept Sedit all day there doing little, almost nothing.

Sometime before sunset the sisters dug their roots and went home. Sedit went home too. He lived at the house of Satok Pokaila.

"What were you doing? I waited all day, forenoon and afternoon, for you. It is too late to make bread now," said Satok.

This old woman lived alone till Sedit in his wanderings came to her and worked, brought wood, and dug red earth for her.

"I got a headache," said he, "and had to lie down all day nearly."

"I am sorry," said the old woman; and she gave him food, but he did not want any. Next day Sedit went for red earth. He did not eat much that morning. He had not slept all the night. He was thinking of that song on the mountain.

That day the sisters went to the mountain top, looked westward. Soon Sedit came to the same place and worked, put two or three handfuls in his basket, heard singing, heard it plainly, stopped, strained his eyes to see who was singing, saw no one. Again he dug, again they sang; again he stopped work, again they ceased singing; again he worked, again they sang. Sedit thinks now how to follow the singers, tries to whistle their music--cannot catch it--looks around, sees no one. "Well, I must sing," says he. He sings, and this time he catches the music.

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The sisters sang now in response to him. They moved on, as he thought, and he followed. But they were not moving, they stayed in one place. They simply made their singing seem farther each time.

Sedit followed till they stopped at last, would not sing any longer. He could not tell what to do. "It is better for me to go back to my basket," said he at last. He went back, put his basket on the bank east of the pit, and said: "Now, my basket, I will leave you a while, I am going away. I place you east of the pit. Rootstick, I place you east of the basket. If Satok Pokaila asks where I am, you will move east, basket, and you will fall east, rootstick. She will know which way I went."

He went eastward, went a short distance, forgot the song, stopped, thought what to do. The song then came back to him. The sisters began to sing again. Sedit followed their song.

Satok Pokaila waited for red earth, waited till midday, then thought, "I'll go and see if Sedit has a headache." She found the basket partly filled with red earth, and the stick standing east of it. She looked in the pit where Sedit had dug, and thought, "He must he here somewhere." She searched, but could not find him.

"Where is Sedit?" asked she of the basket. "Where did he go?--Where is Sedit?" asked she of the rootstick.

The basket moved eastward till it reached the stick, the stick fell toward the east. Old Satok knew now what had happened. She took the basket

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and digging-stick home with her, put them up safely.

Sedit followed the sisters, sang himself, and listened to their song. The song went southward, went away from the mountain. He followed till he reached Tayam Norel. Sedit sat down. People asked where he came from, where he was going. He would not tell, would not talk, did not care for people's words. He thought of nothing, heard nothing but the song of Kele's daughters.

He sat only a little while, and went away singing and listening to the song of the sisters. Now it went eastward. He followed it to a mountain, where he saw an old man setting a trap. This was old Pokok.

"Uncle, where are you going in such a great hurry?" asked Pokok.

"I am going east," replied Sedit. "You will not see me pass this way again."

He hurried down the mountain, crossed a creek, and went straight up another mountain; was just at the top, when he saw a very big man coming toward him on the right hand as Sedit was going east. Sedit stopped, looked, was afraid somewhat. The two stared at each other. The stranger was very tall and very thick. Sedit was frightened. The big man never stopped, went straight ahead westward. Sedit looked at him a long time, didn't move, watched him going down the mountain. After he had gone Sedit stood a long time, and then sat down.

"Why did he not speak to me?" thought Sedit.

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[paragraph continues] "He is the first person I have met who wouldn't speak to me. Who is he? I should like to know."

Sedit sat and thought all that day about the big man. He heard the song always, at times very near him, but he thought so much about the big man that he didn't follow it. He wondered if the big man would come again, and said to himself, "I will wait and see."

About night Sedit thought, "If he comes and will not speak to me, I'll kill him." All night he waited. He rose very early, had not slept any. About sunrise he saw a man coming from afar, from the east, moving westward. Sedit watched, had his bow and arrows ready. It was he who would not speak the day before. Sedit shot him in the breast, shot again. The big man paid no heed, passed right along. Sedit shot twenty arrows. The stranger looked all the time at Sedit, said nothing. Sedit shot twenty arrows more--spent all his arrows.

After he had shot away the forty arrows, and the man had passed right close to him, Sedit sat down and thought, "Who is this that I cannot kill him?" He thought a long time, and then knew that he must be Sas Kiemila.

It was old Sas. Sas had been fooling Sedit, just as Kele's daughters had fooled him.

Sedit heard the song again, and followed it. He went to the Bohema Mem at Sawal Pom, went up Norken Mem till he came to Hin Pom where he heard a great noise. Many people were dancing there.

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"Oh. there is Sedit coming," said they. "Where is he going so fast?"

"Uncle, where are you going in such a great hurry?" asked one of the men. "What news have you? Tell us what you have seen on your journey."

"I am travelling this country to look at it. I saw no one, can give you no tidings of any one. I shall not pass this way again."

The man who spoke and the dancers were Hinwa people. Sedit rushed on, came to a flat, saw a spring, and many persons drinking water.

"My grandsons, what are you doing, why do you drink so much water? Water is bad for young people" (these people were birds of all sorts). Sedit called the place Chilchil balus (bird drinking). He went on without stopping or talking,--had no time for either. He listened, heard the singing near a hill, ran there; heard talking of many people, the Tsurats arguing about acorns.

Sedit passed these people, crossed the Norken Mem, ran along the trail, came to an old man lying across it at the foot of a mountain. Sedit, going fast, thought to jump over the old man, but he moved, and Sedit stopped. "Grandson, what are you doing?" asked Sedit. This was Pom Piweki. "I cannot tell what to do," said Pom. "I am old, I cannot travel; so I lay down here."

"I will go on," said Sedit, "and come back this way, I think." He heard the song nearer now; followed it, followed till sunset, when it ceased. He stayed all night in that place.

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Next morning, some time after sunrise, the song began again. Sedit answered, and followed it. Then it ceased; he stopped again; then the song began a second time; he followed; the song ceased. The song circled around the mountain, going a little higher gradually; sometimes it was near, sometimes it seemed far away, but he never came up to it.

After wandering ten days, perhaps, he reached the top of the mountain by going round and round the side of it. The singing was in the mountain now all the time. He was on the highest part of Kele's sweat-house. Kele, his twenty sons, and two daughters were inside, and the girls and old man knew that some one was walking on the roof of their sweat-house. Kele's sons went out each morning, and so did his daughters. Although they were many, Sedit never saw one of them,--they fooled him. At last, when Sedit was on the mountain, Kele shouted,--

"If any one is on my house, let him go down to the western door of it."

Sedit heard, and went back the way by which he came. He went to Pom Piweki and asked: "Do you know where the door to this sweat-house is?"

Pom Piweki made no answer. He stood up and pulled open a door; it seemed as though he had been lying across the entrance. When he opened the door, Sedit saw far into the house.

"Sedit, if you are here to go in, this is the way for you," said Pom Piweki. "You will see an old man lying on the east side, go to him and talk; this is his sweat-house."

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Sedit went in and sat down near Kele, said nothing. Kele rose up and gave Sedit food, talked to him, told him what kind of person he, Kele, was, and about his children, and said: "Sedit, if you have come here to stay, you must do what I tell you; you must be careful. I have rough sons; if they know that you are here, they will make trouble. I will hide you. They will make a noise, but you will not suffer if you keep quiet; if you move, they will find you, and abuse you, surely."

Kele put Sedit in a basket in the ground, hid him there, leaving a small hole to look through. "You may look out, but do not move," said Kele.

As soon as Sedit was hidden the girls came in with roots, and sat down at their sleeping-place. Sedit was near them. He thrust out his hand and pinched the younger sister. She said nothing.

"Sister, have you seen any one?" asked she, after a time; "some one pinched me."

"`Sh!" said the elder, "be quiet and say nothing; don't let our father hear."

The elder went to cook, and Kele's twenty sons came hammering and tramping.

The first ten, the smooth ones, came, as always, quietly; the second ten came with a rush and an uproar. Sedit peeped out at them.

The younger sister pushed him back. "Be still," said she.

Sedit tried to rise; she kept him down.

The first man of the second ten cried, "Pshu! I smell Sedit."

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The second said, "Pshu! I smell Sedit; throw him out!"

"Be quiet, boys; don't talk so," said Kele. "Sedit is your uncle."

"Phew! I smell Sedit," cried all the second ten.

Kele could hardly keep his sons from taking Sedit. After they had eaten they grew more excited. "Where is Sedit?" cried they. "Let us find Sedit!"

At last they found Sedit, dragged him out, played ball with him, threw him around the whole night from one side of the great house to the other. Kele could do nothing, could not stop them. He went and lay down. About sunrise Sedit screamed. He was almost dead. Kele's ten rough sons were covered with deer blood and shouted all night. The smooth ten sat still, could do nothing against the rough ten.

About sunrise Sedit could hardly breathe. He had a root under his left arm, and as he was hurled across the house it fell into the fire and made a great smoke. The odor was very pleasant. Kele's sons liked it. They threw Sedit back to where they found him, left him, and began to breathe in the smoke.

"My sons," said Kele, "I told you last night not to hurt or harm Sedit; let him alone. That root which he dropped will be good for you, and hereafter you will like it. Future people when going to hunt will take this root, tsarauhosi, hold it out, and say, 'Kele, give us deer.' They will give you the root, and you will give them deer. When they go

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hunting and have bad luck, they will make a fire, burn this root, hold it out while it smokes, and say, 'Kele, will you put deer where we can see and kill them?'" (Wintu hunters carry this root and burn it if they have bad luck in finding deer. Kele likes the odor and sends them deer). Kele rubbed Sedit with deer marrow, put him on the west side of the sweat-house, and said, "This is your place; you will stay here."

The boys went to hunt, the girls to dig roots as before.

"How did you get those sons, brother?" asked Sedit once.

"You have no need to know; I will not tell you," replied Kele.

"How did you build this house? Two old men should not live in one house. If I had a house, your sons could visit me when they wished, see their uncle's house, and stay all night, perhaps."

"I don't think you could have sons, Sedit, or keep a house. I don't believe you have strength for it; these things are hard to do," said Kele.

But Sedit talked on about sons and a sweat-house. Kele asked Sedit to sing for his sons while they danced and sweated. He sang twice and sang fairly. "I could sing well if I had a house and sons of my own," remarked Sedit.

"I will build a sweat-house for him," thought Kele, at last. "He may go through as I have. I don't think he will, but I can let him try."

The next night Kele made all sleep soundly. He went north a short distance and wished for a sweat-house.

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[paragraph continues] A mountain stood in front of him next moment. Kele went home before daylight and lay down. That day Sedit talked on as before.

"Come," said Kele; and he took him to the new mountain. "You can live here if you like. This is your house." Kele left him then.

Sedit made a fire, found a pipe and tobacco, smoked, stayed many days and nights by himself there. "I should like to know how Kele got his sons," thought he one night. "I must ask him."

"I come to tell you," said Sedit one morning, "that I am lonesome. I want to know how you got your sons and daughters."

Kele made no answer for a long time. At last he told him how he got his daughters.

Sedit went home, did exactly as Kele had done, then lay down without sleeping. Toward morning he heard some one jump to the floor; next he got a blow on the back, then a second. The two persons went away and sat down. Sedit rose, made a big fire, and began singing for a sweat-dance. Two girls stood near the fire, sweated, then went to the creek, swam, and went home. They had very long hair and were nice looking. Sedit gave them wooden combs and mink-skins for their hair, gave them food and nice baskets painted red, told each to dig roots and cook them.

Sedit lived a while with his daughters, till he thought once, "I want to have sons." He went to Kele, and Kele told how he had got sons, told carefully.

Sedit cut the sticks, did everything as Kele said,

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and lay by the fire, but he could not keep from looking up; the moment he looked all the sticks fell to the ground. Sedit put them in place again, lay by the fire, looked up. The sticks fell a second time; he put them up again, lay down, looked a third time. The sticks fell a third time. He was putting the sticks up till daylight, when he had to stop. Sedit went to Kele that day. "My sticks were falling all night," said he.

Kele knew what had happened already. "Why not do as I told you? I told you not to look up."

"I will not look any more," said Sedit.

Next night he put up sticks again and waited, took the blows till the last one of the second ten was giving him ten blows, then he sprang up and screamed. All the twenty sons dropped down and were sticks again. It was just daylight. Sedit gathered the sticks into a basket, and looked to see if the girls were awake. They were sticks as well as the others.

Sedit felt very sorry, could not tell what to do. He put the two sticks with the other twenty, took one at a time, held it up, and said, "This was my son, this was my daughter." He was sorry and wondered if he could make others. He went to Kele and said,--

"My brother, I could not stand it."

"What did I tell you?"

"Can I not make more?"

"Perhaps you cannot endure it." Kele did not want him to try.

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"I am sorry for my girls," said Sedit, "I want them back; I was fond of them."

"You may try for sons, but those girls will not come back."

Sedit tried a third time. The beating was so hard that he almost screamed; but he held out this time, and had twenty sons. Sedit's house was full of sons, but he had no daughters; the sticks would not turn to girls again, though he did with them as he had the first time.

Sedit sent his sons to hunt. "Go wherever you like," said he. "On the west side is a ridge; go on that ridge, keep in one line, and when you turn some one may see you and think, 'What a crowd of nice boys!'"

Kele's boys were hunting that day, and saw Sedit's sons in a long line. "Look at that row of men on the ridge," said they. "Those are our cousins," said one of the smooth ten; "those are Sedit's sons."

Sedit's sons went to a flat, danced and played all the day, took yellow clay, made paste of it, painted themselves yellow--that is why coyotes are yellow to this day; the paint would not wash off All went home in a line. Sedit had supper for them.

"Why do you come without deer?" asked Sedit.

"We danced on the flat and painted."

Sedit said nothing. All ate; then Sedit thought,

"I wish you boys to sleep." All fell asleep. Sedit went to Kele, woke him up, and said,--

"My sons went to hunt, but came home without deer. What shall I do with them?"

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"Let them hunt birds. Let them hunt gophers and grasshoppers in the meadows. Gophers are as good as deer."

"All right," said Sedit; and he went home and slept.

They brought grasshoppers and gophers from the hunt next day, and Sedit was satisfied.

"Let them live on that kind of food," thought he.

They told of their hunting that day. "We wanted water," said one of them, "and met an old woman. 'We are dry and cannot find water,' said we to her. 'I will give you water,' said the old woman; 'come with me.' We followed her a while. I was afraid and said to my brothers, 'Do not drink the water she gives.' One of my brothers shouted at the old woman and frightened her. She fell back and turned into a swamp with a spring in the middle of it. We didn't go near the spring, but were nearly lost in the swamp."

"That is a wicked old woman, said Sedit. "That is Tunhlucha Pokaila. She drowns people often. I met her once and she came near drowning me. Don't you go near her again. Hunt gophers and grasshoppers elsewhere."

"Now, my sons," said Sedit, some days later, "go and scatter around through this country. Whenever you want to see me come here to my sweat-house."

Sedit's sons scattered north, south, east, and west. They were at every ridge and point, in every valley and meadow, at every spring and river.

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Kele's sons stayed at their great mountain sweat-house, doing the same things, living in the same way. The two sisters never married, and all Kele's people are in that mountain now. When they go out they look like wolves; but when inside, when at home in the mountain, they are people.

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