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The Dawn of the World, by C. Hart Merriam, [1910], at

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As told by the Northern Mewuk in the Mokelumne River foothills


Oo-soo'-ma-te the Grizzly Bear-woman

O-woo'-yah the Mother Deer

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OO-SOO'-MA-TE the Grizzly Bear had a sister-in-law whose name was O-woo'-yah the Deer. Oo-soo'-ma-te took her to a place in the woods to show her a good kind of clover. When they found it O-woo'-yah began to scratch her head. Oo-soo'-ma-te said, "Let me look in your head," and seized her by the neck and killed her, and took her liver out and put it in a basket and carried it home.

O-woo'-yah the Deer was the mother of two little fawns, brothers, and Oo-soo'-ma-te was the mother of a little boy--a little bear cub.

When Oo-soo'-ma-te came home with the liver in her basket the little fawns asked, "Aunt, where is our mother?"

The Bear replied, "She is out gathering clover."

After a little they asked, "Why doesn't mother come home?" Then they saw the liver in the basket and smelled it and knew it was their mother's liver. Then they began to cry and say, "Our mother is dead, our mother is dead."

Old Oo-soo'-ma-te was outside pounding acorns. The little fawns went out and asked if they might take her baby and play with it.

She answered, "All right, but don't hurt him."

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So they took the baby bear out in the woods to play, and went to the side of a hill and dug a hole. They said to the cub, "We will go in first and you close the hole and smoke us, and when we call, you let us out. Then you go in and we will smoke you."

So they went in first and the baby bear closed the hole and made smoke go in, and when the smoke was thick the fawns called to be let out, and the cub let them out. Then the cub went in and the fawns closed the hole and made smoke go in. The cub said, "When I call, you let me out," and the fawns answered, "All right." But when the bear cub called to be let out the fawns poked more leaves and pine needles into the hole and made more smoke, and the little bear kept crying till he died. After he was dead they took him out.

Then they said, "What shall we do? What shall we tell our Aunt?"

Just then Oo-soo'-ma-te, who was still pounding acorns, called them to come home.

The fawns laid the baby bear on the ground near the house so their Aunt could see it, and told her it was asleep and they were going to play again.

She answered, "Don't go far, your mother will be here pretty soon."

The little brothers then ran off to the south as fast as they could go, so Oo-soo'-ma-te could not find them. Every time they passed a tree on the

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The Fawns asking the Mother Bear if they may play with her Baby
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The Fawns asking the Mother Bear if they may play with her Baby


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trail they peeled a little bark off and spat on the place and told it to call out when Oo-soo'-ma-te came looking for them. This they did to all the trees till they came to a big river with a high hill on the far side; then they crossed the river and climbed up the hill.

Soon the trees began to shout and the fawns knew that Oo-soo'-ma-te was coming, and after a while they saw her coming. She saw them on the far side of the river and asked how they had crossed. They told her to turn her head the other way and walk backward. Then they quickly made a hot fire and heated two big rocks with hard white chunks in them.

When Oo-soo'-ma-te was nearly across the river the older fawn went to the edge of the water and knelt down, and the younger one rolled a hot rock, which just missed his brother's knee. The older one then ran up to the fire and said, "Let me do that and you kneel down." And he took the other big hot rock, and rolled it down the hill. It grazed his brother's knee a little and then hit the old bear and she fell back in the river and was drowned.

Then the fawns began to wonder what they had better do. First they dragged the old bear out of the water and cut her hide on the back and made a long rope of it and took the rope with them. Then the younger one asked, "Where are we going now? Up east?"

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"No," answered the elder one. "Where then, going north?" "No."

"Going west?" "No." "Where then, south?" "No."

"Then where are we going, up in the sky?" asked the little one.

"No," replied the other.

"Are we going under the earth?" "Yes," said the elder brother.

Then the younger one said, "You don't know where we are going; ask me." And the elder brother asked the younger, "Are we going north?" "No," was the reply.

"West?" "No."

"South?" "No."

"Where then, under the earth?" "No."

"Where do you want to go--up in the sky?"

"Yes," answered the younger; so they went up in the sky and there they found their mother.

She was glad to see her boys. They said, "We are thirsty; where is the water?" She answered, "I have no water here, I'll go to the spring to get it." And she went to the spring and fell in and was drowned. Then the brothers let themselves

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down with the rope they had made from the hide of the Mother Bear, and came back to this world. If their mother had not drowned, the fawns would have stayed up there and there would be no deer here on the earth.

Next: The Bear and the Fawns