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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.

Darí Jowá, eagle; Haka, flint; Hakayámchiwi, the whole Haka people; Ilhataina, lightning; Tenna, grizzly bear; Tsawandi Kamshu, red flint clover; Tsawandi Kamshupa, young red flint clover; Tsuwalkai, a reddish flint. Marimi means woman.


At first about two hundred people lived with the old woman, Tsuwalkai Marimi, in one great house; they were all descended from her. They were the Hakayamchiwi,--all the Haka people.

Now, there was a deadly quarrel between the Hakas and the Tennas, who lived near them, and it began in this way: The Tennas invited the Hakas to a hunt in the mountains; ten of each people were to make a party of twenty. One Tenna went early the first morning to make a fire at some distance from the sweat-house, at a meeting-place for the hunters of both sides. Ten Hakas went out early, were first at the fire; but the Tennas came, and then the twenty stood around to warm themselves,--the Tennas on the north and the Hakas on the south side of the fire.

The Hakas had flint arrow-heads, good ones; the Tennas had arrow-heads of pine bark. While they

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were warming themselves, a Tenna said to a Haka, "Let me see your arrow-point."

"Here it is," said the Haka; "look at it."

"He, he, he" laughed the Tenna; "that point is no good!" He held it out, looked at it, and laughed again. "If I put it down my throat, it won't hurt me."

"Let me see your arrow-point," said the Haka.

"Here it is, said the Tenna.

The Haka looked at the pointed pine bark, laughed, and said: "That is no arrow-head; that is nothing but pine bark. If I stab myself behind with your arrow-head, it won't hurt me. I shall not die."

"Let me see you stab yourself," said the Tenna.

"Look at me. I'll stab myself behind with it."

The Haka stabbed himself, and the Tenna's arrow-head broke; it did not hurt him a bit. "You see," said he, "I am not dying."

"Let me see your arrow-head," said the Tenna.

He gave the arrow-point, and the Tenna stabbed himself in the same way that the Haka had. The arrow-head was very sharp and went into him, cut him,--cut his intestines. He fell over and lay on the ground, lay there groaning.

"You see that my arrow-head is good; it will kill any one," said the Haka.

Right away the Tenna was dying; very soon he was dead. When the Tennas saw that their brother was dead, they rushed at the ten Hakas and killed them hand to hand before they could use arrows, before they could save themselves.

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The Tennas went home, but the Hakas did not go home that evening.

Next morning early one of the Tennas came to the house of the Hakas, and called out,--

"Come to the fire, cousins; come to the fire. We will meet you there. Oh, cousins, it is time to go hunting; be up. Your brothers who went yesterday are going again to-day."

"We will go," said the Hakas, who did not know that their brothers were killed.

The Tennas had a fire in the same place as the first day, and were there waiting. After a time the ten Hakas came and stood at the fire in the same way as their brothers had stood a day earlier. They did not quarrel now, but went to the woods soon. The Tennas had everything ready for hunting; other Tennas were hidden in the woods, and ten more Hakas were killed by them that day.

On the third morning a Tenna came to the Hakas and called,--

"Cousins, it is time to be up, time to hunt. Your brothers of yesterday and the day before are all waiting."

"We will go, we will go," said the Hakas.

The fire was ready; the Tennas were there. They came earlier, and acted just as they had acted the second day. Ten more Hakas were killed by them that day.

The Hakas would not go on the fourth day. The Tennas began now to kill Hakas whenever they found them out hunting, or fishing, whenever they saw them in the woods anywhere. When the

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[paragraph continues] Haka women went to dig roots, or find worms, or gather acorns, the Tennas killed them wherever they caught them. When the children went out to play or went to get water, they killed them. The Tennas killed on till only one old woman, Tsuwalkai Marimi, and her grandson, Tsawandi Kamshu, were left of all the Hakas.

One evening Tsawandi Kamshu hung his bow (an old bow bound around closely with deer sinew) over his bed on the south side of the sweat-house. With this bow he hung an otter-skin quiver full of arrows.

"My grandmother," said he in the night, "I may not come back to-morrow. If anything happens, the bow and the quiver and all that are with them will fall on the bed. You will know then that some one has killed me. But a child will rise from the spittle which I have left near the head of the bed; a little boy will come up from the ground."

Tsuwalkai Marimi listened, said nothing, made no answer. Tsawandi Kamshu went out the next morning at daybreak, stayed out all that day. At dusk the bow fell with the quiver.

The old woman began to cry. She cried bitterly. "All our people are dead," said she. "All our people are gone, and I am alone."

She went around crying; went along the four sides of the house; went to where the bows, arrows, and otter-skin quivers were hanging; cried all that night, cried all the next day.

The Tennas watched for the old woman, watched closely. They wanted to kill her, but they could

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not break into the house, and she would not go out to them. They wanted to kill her and put an end to the last of the Hakas.

While Tsuwalkai was crying the second night, the Tennas were near the house listening and watching.

"The old woman is laughing," said they. "She is having some feast; that is why she is laughing. She must be glad, that old woman."

Tsuwalkai heard these words of her enemies. "Oh, Tennas, do not talk that way," said she.

Something may happen yet that will hurt you. Some one may come who will make your hearts sore. You may drop tears yet, you may be sorry."

The old woman cried the third night and third day. The fourth night she dropped no tears, but she could not sleep. In the middle of the fourth night she heard crying on the ground near Tsawandi Kamshu's sleeping-place. A little baby was crying, rolling, struggling, wailing. The old woman listened, she heard "U ná, u ná." She was frightened at first.

"I must be dreaming of a baby, I must be dreaming," said she. "Oh, my people are making me dream. I hear a noise like the crying of a baby in my sweat-house. Oh, it is no baby; I am only dreaming."

The baby cried on, kept crying. The old woman went to the spot where the crying was, looked, found a baby covered with dirt, mud, and ashes. She had not carried the ashes out since her grandson had gone; she could not carry them. The Tennas were watching outside for her, watching to kill the old

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woman. The baby rolled around in the dirt and the ashes.

"I don't think any one brought that baby into this house," said the old woman to herself. "Tsawandi Kamshu said that a baby would come from the ground, would rise from his spittle. Maybe this is his spirit that has come back and is a baby again. I will call this baby Tsawandi Kamshupa."

She took up the baby, a little boy, washed him, washed him all night, the little child was so dirty. She washed him in cold water, and he grew while she washed. She washed him till morning, but gave him no food.

The Tennas heard now the noise of two people inside. Tsuwalkai Marimi felt glad, she had the company of this little boy. All day and two nights she washed the child. He ate nothing.

"I want you to live and grow large, little boy," said the old woman. "I want you to grow quickly; you will be a great help to me."

The little boy did not know what was said yet. She washed the child, talked three days and three nights to him. The little boy could creep around the house now, could creep through every part of it. She washed him in the night, in the day; washed him often. He grew very fast. In ten days he was a man full grown. He could talk now as well as any one, and one day he asked the old woman,--

"What house is this? What people live here?"

She told him the whole story of her people; told how all had been killed by the Tennas in the woods, in the fields, on the water.

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"I am sorry to hear what you tell," said he.

He asked now for a bow. She gave him a fresh one. He broke it.

"I want one to kill birds outside with it."

"You must not go out," said the old woman; "bad people are near us."

"I only want to kill birds. Whose arms are these?" asked he, pointing to knives, bows, and arrows on the walls.

"Oh, it makes me sorry to tell you, it makes me sorry to talk of them. These are the arms of many men. The Tennas killed all of them."

She went to the west side of the house and gave him bows. He broke one after another. He broke every bow on the walls except one. When he came to his own bow. his old bow, he laughed. He took it himself without asking. He tried and could not break it; tried again, laughed, and was glad.

"Tsuwalkai, whose bow is this?" asked he.

"That was the bow of a good man."

"He was a good man, I think," said Tsawandi Kamshupa; "why did he die? There was a good man in this house; he had that bow; he was a great fighter."

Tsawandi Kamshupa tried again to break the bow with his feet and hands, but he could not.

"There was a good man in this house," said the old woman, "the best man of all the Haka people. That was his bow."

"I wished to go hunting to-day, but I will go very early to-morrow. I will go before daylight,"

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said Tsawandi Kamshupa. "I am going to look around. I am going a short distance to hunt. I will come back; have no fear."

The old woman was afraid. She had lost the owner of the bow, the best of her grandsons.

"I will only go down south a little way," said he.

Early next morning he took a deerskin, wrapped it around his body, tied a belt around his waist, and took his arrows. There was dew on the grass yet. He looked down the mountain-side, saw many people near a big fire, and said,--

"I know who those people are; they are Teptewi" (Tenna women).

There were fifty of them. They had come to that swampy mountain-side early in the morning. They had come before daybreak to dig worms and gather clover. Each had a stick to dig worms with.

The young man stood watching these women, and said to himself: "What shall I do? These Tennas have killed all my people except my old grandmother. They tried to kill her. They will kill her and me if they can. What shall I do? There are a great many women there. I will kill a lone one to begin with, then hide my bow and quiver and go to those farther down."

He went along the slope somewhat, came to one Tenna woman, and killed her. The others did not see him, did not know that he was on the mountain, thought that all the Hakas were dead.

He opened the Tenna's throat, took her heart, put it inside his blanket, and left the body dead

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on the ground. The other Tenna women were working not far from a fire. These women had taken their teeth out and hung them on a tree near the fire. Whenever they were angry the women put these teeth in their mouths to bite with.

Tsawandi went along the mountain-side carefully. "I will go to that fire," thought he. Then he sprang up and stood near the fire, warmed his hands. The women did not see him yet. One looked up at the fire, but saw no one. "Hei!" cried he, "you women are out very early. Come here and warm yourselves. Cook worms for me; I am hungry, I want worms."

The women gave no answer, said nothing. They were afraid; they could not bite, for their teeth were out. "If I had my teeth, I would kill that man," thought each woman.

Tsawandi kept his eye on the teeth, which were at one end of the fire; he would let no woman come near them. "Come up! come up!" called he. At last they came up and sat near the fire, but could not get their teeth. "I did not know that women go out in the morning so early," said he. "I saw a deer some distance back here and killed it. I was in a great hurry. I took only a small piece of meat."

He took out the heart, cut it into pieces, roasted them by the fire; then he gave some to each woman. The women were hungry, and were glad to get meat.

"Have you no bread?" asked Tsawandi.

"We have no bread," said the women.

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"Well, I have acorn bread." He had no bread, but he put his hand in his bosom and thought, "I want bread of red flint meal." This bread came to his bosom, and he gave each woman a piece of it. "My grandmother makes good bread," said he. "I carry it with me always to show people and let them have some to eat. Every one likes my grandmother's bread."

The bread tasted well; all ate. He watched their teeth closely. Very soon a woman fell dead; then all fell quickly and died. He cut their hearts out--fifty hearts--and carried them under his deerskin. He went farther south now; ran quickly. He saw fifty more women working near a fire; went near the fire, sprang up to it, and cried,--

"Hu, hu! women, you are out early; why so early? It is cold; come warm your hands. Give me something to eat; give me worms and clover; give me something to eat, and I will give you something; I will give bread, I will give venison."

These women had come out to dig roots; their teeth were hanging on a tree near the fire. The Tenna women never kept their teeth in their mouths while they were working. "I wish my teeth were in my mouth," thought each woman, "I would kill that man."

All these fifty women came up to the fire, ate acorn bread as the others had eaten, and died.

From this fire Tsawandi Kamshupa went to another, and that morning he killed all the Tenna women who were out; not one was left alive, except a few who had remained at home in the sweat-house.

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[paragraph continues] He went farther south now; went to their sweat-house. It was still early morning. All the Tenna men were at home. "How shall I kill them?" thought Tsawandi. "I will go into the house and say that I am sent by my brother to invite them to a feast and a hunt. They'll believe that."

He looked down from the top of the house. There were many Tennas there. All the Tenna men were in the sweat-house. Tsawandi Kamshupa went in boldly; sat near the fire, warming his hands. The Tennas whispered to each other, "That's my blood, sister; that's my blood, brother!" meaning, he's my share; I'll eat him."

"Oh, you Tenna people, what are you talking of? I am your neighbor. I do not live very far from you, I am no stranger. I have come down here early this morning to invite you to a feast, to a hunt. Tsawandi Kamshu sent me down here to ask you; he would like to see you at his sweat-house."

"This one here looks like Tsawandi Kamshu himself," whispered some.

"Oh, no," whispered others. "Tsawandi Kamshu is dead this good while. We killed him."

"What are you telling each other?" interrupted Tsawandi Kamshupa. "I am not Tsawandi Kamshu. He does not look like me. He is my brother. He sent me to ask you to hunt. I killed some deer on the way here, but could bring only their hearts. Here are the hearts."

He cut the hearts into pieces, gave them all to the Tennas. They roasted the hearts and ate them. He gave flint bread to them, as he had to the

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women on the mountain slope. All ate the bread, praised it, asked for more, ate it very eagerly. They began soon to fall on every side. Four Tennas only would not eat the flint bread. They closed the ground door, fastened it outside, went to the top of the sweat-house, and watched. Soon every Tenna in the sweat-house was dead.

Tsawandi Kamshupa looked up and saw the four Tennas there looking down at him. Their four heads were close together, and they looked very angry.

"Why are you four looking down here so? What are you watching for, what are you trying to do up there? The people down here have all gone to sleep, and can't talk with me. I want you men to talk a while. Come down, you, and talk with me; then I'll go home."

The four Tennas said nothing.

"You want to catch me; I know that. I will show you how I can jump."

They said nothing, watched sharply, sitting opposite each other with their long teeth sticking out. When he saw that they would not leave the opening, he said again, "I will show you how I can jump."

He bent to one side a little, shot up like an arrow, darted out between the four. The next thing the Tennas saw was Tsawandi Kamshupa in the field beyond the house.

When he had passed through the opening, the Tennas closed their jaws with a snap, and almost bit each other's noses off. Their bite was too late.

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Tsawandi Kamshupa now sent three arrows from his old bow. They went through the hearts of three Tennas; they dropped dead where they stood. The fourth ran away, ran with all his strength, was never seen in that place again. He ran northwest, and from that Tenna come all that are in the world in our time.

Tsuwalkai Marimi could go out now and dig roots. She was free to go anywhere. While digging one day she saw the strong stalk of shitpayu sticking out of the ground. She dug around it and below the roots, found a little baby. The stem was growing out of the child's navel. She took the baby, twisted the stalk off, and bound up the child. She had nothing to wrap around the little one; so she took her skirt made of buckskin, the only clothing she wore, and wrapped it around the baby. Holding it close to her breast, she fondled the child and said,--

"Grow, little boy, grow quickly; you will be company yet for your grandmother."

She brought the boy home, washed him, washed him many times, put him in a wildcat skin. When Tsawandi Kamshupa came and saw Tsuwalkai with the baby, he wondered and cried,--

"Oh, grandmother, where did you find the little boy?"

She told how she had found him in the field, dug him out of the ground, and brought him home. That same day Dari Jowa, Tsawandi Kamshupa's great friend, came, and, seeing the little boy, laughed loudly.

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"Oh, my aunt," said he, "that is not your baby. Where did you find that little boy?"

She told him the same story that she had told her grandson.

The baby grew quickly, grew large in a little while.

"Oh, my aunt," said Dari Jowa, "give this boy to me. I want to hear him talk. I want him for myself I will take good care of him. I want to hear him talk, I want to hear him shout. He will be a great shouter. Oh, my aunt, give this little boy to me."

The old woman agreed at last. Dari Jowa took the boy and called him Ilhataina. One day Dari Jowa brought Ilhataina to the sweat-house and said, "Talk now."

Ilhataina began to talk, and the sweat-house trembled. He shouted; the whole earth shook. He was thundering.

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