Achomawi - Creation Atsugewi
In the beginning there was nothing but water. Coyote and Silver-Fox lived above in the sky, where there was a world Eke this one. Silver-Fox was anxious to make things, but Coyote was opposed to the plan. Finally Silver-Fox got tired of Coyote's opposition, and sent him off one day to get wood. While he was gone, Silver-Fox took an arrow-flaker and made a hole through the upper world, and looked down on the sea below. When Coyote came back, Silver-Fox did not tell him about the hole he had made. Next day he sent Coyote off again for wood; and in his absence Silver-Fox thrust down the arrow-flaker, and found that it reached to the water, and down to the bottom even. So he descended; and as he came near the surface of the water, he made a small round island, on which he stayed.
When Coyote returned, he could not find Silver-Fox, and, after hunting for a long time, began to feel remorse. Finally he found the hole, and peeped through, seeing Silver-Fox far below on the island. He called down that he was sorry he had acted as he had, and asked how to get down. Receiving no reply, he said that Silver-Fox ought not to treat him this way; and after a while the latter put up the arrow-flaker, and Coyote came down.
The island was very small, and there was not room enough for Coyote to stretch out. For some time they slept, and when they woke were very hungry, as there was no food to be had. For five days things continued thus, Silver-Fox finally giving Coyote some sunflower- seeds. This pleased him much, and he asked where they came from, but received no answer. After five days more, Silver-Fox made the island a little larger, so that Coyote could have room to stretch out. At last he could be comfortable, and went fast asleep. At once Silver-Fox got up, dressed himself up finely, and smoked awhile, and then made a big sweat-house. When it was all done, he woke Coyote, and the latter was much surprised to find the house there. Silver-Fox then told Coyote to sweep out the house, spread grass down on the floor, and go to sleep again. He did so, and then Silver-Fox dressed up again, putting on a finely-beaded (?) shirt and leggings, and sang and smoked some more. Then, going outside, he pushed with his foot, and stretched the earth out in all directions, first to the east, then to the north, then to the west, and last to the south. For five nights he repeated this performance, until the world became as large as it is to-day.
Each day Silver-Fox told Coyote to run around the edge, and see how large it was getting.
At first he was able to do this very quickly; but after the last time he grew old and gray before he got back. Then Silver-Fox made trees and springs, and fixed the world up nicely. He also made all kinds of animals merely by thinking them. These animals, however, were like people.
When the world was all made, Coyote asked what they were going to have for food, but Silver-Fox did not reply. Coyote then said that he thought there ought to be ten moons of winter in the year, to which Silver-Fox replied that there would not be enough food for so long a winter. Coyote declared it would be better not to have much food, that people could make soup out of dirt. To this he received no answer. Silver-Fox then said that it was not right that there should be ten moons, that two were enough, and that people could then eat sunflower-seeds, roots, and berries. Coyote repeated what he had said before, and they argued about it for a long time. Finally Silver-Fox said, "You talk too much! I'm going to make four moons for the whole year. I won't talk about it any more. There are going to be two moons of winter, and one of spring, and one of autumn. That's enough."
They, Silver-Fox said, "When people get married, they will have children by taking a dentalium- shell and putting it between them, or a disk-bead: the one win make a boy, the other a girl." Coyote replied, "Hm! That's not the right way. It will be better for people to get married: they will not be satisfied any other way. People must live as man and wife: they ought not to do as you said." Silver-Fox did not want to argue the matter; and finally, after repeating what he said before, he yielded to Coyote, and said, "Let it be as you say."
Silver-Fox then went out to get some pine-nuts. He climbed a tree and shook the branches, and the nuts fell down already shelled and ready to eat. He filled a basket with them, and brought them in. Coyote had gone to get wood; and when he got back, Silver- Fox divided the pine-nuts, and gave him half. Silver-Fox ate only part of his, and put the rest away; but Coyote ate nearly all night, going out and defecating, and then returning and eating more, until he had finished them. Next morning Silver-Fox went out and looked for pines having large "witch-brooms" on them. When he found one, he would set fire to it, then walk away looking constantly on the ground, and a grouse would straightway fall out of the tree. Then he placed them in a basket, and brought them back to the house. Coyote wanted to begin eating at once, and helped him in with his load. As before, Coyote ate all his share up, whereas Silver-Fox kept most of his.
Next day Coyote asked Silver-Fox how he got his pine-nuts. He told him to go to a tree, scrape the brush away, climb up, and then shake the boughs with his foot. Coyote thought he could do this, so went out to try. He was successful, but, on coming down, ate up all the nuts. Then he went to another tree and attempted to repeat the process; but this time no nuts fell, and Coyote himself lost his footing, and was badly hurt by the fall. He came back to the house with his neck bent to one side, and in great pain. Silver-Fox knew all that had been going on, but said nothing. After a while Coyote told him what had happened.
The next day Coyote asked how the grouse had been secured, and Silver-Fox told him to set fire to the tree, and then sit with his back to the trunk, and not look up. So Coyote went off to get grouse. He was successful in his attempt, but opened his eyes and looked up, and saw the grouse falling. When he had picked them all up, he cooked and ate them on the spot, and then went to another tree to repeat the process. This time, however, it was burning branches that fell, and they hit him and burned him badly. So he ran away back to the house, crying. Silver-Fox gave him some of his food, however.
In the morning Silver-Fox went out, and, going up to a cedar-tree, pulled off the boughs, which became a sort of camas (?). He brought back a great load of these; and when he got back, as before, Coyote ate all his share at once. He then asked how to get them, and was told to make a long hook and pull the limbs off, but to keep his eyes shut all the time. As in the other cases, Coyote was very successful the first time, and ate all the roots up. When he tried to repeat the plan, however, only big limbs came down, and hit him on the head.
By and by Silver-Fox went rabbit-hunting. He built a brush fence, and drove the rabbits into it, where they all piled up. Then he killed them with a club, and carried them to the house. Just as before, Coyote ate up all his share at once. Silver-Fox could not prevent Coyote from eating up all there was in the house, except by not letting him know when he was eating. He would put pine-nuts in a milkweed-stem, and pretend to be making cord, whereas in reality he was eating the nuts. Coyote soon suspected, and asked Silver-Fox to let him help make string. He agreed, but gave Coyote the stems without any nuts in them. Next night Coyote pretended to sleep, and so caught Silver-Fox putting the nuts in the stems. He jumped up and seized Silver-Fox; but the latter swallowed quickly, and when he opened his mouth there were no nuts there. He told Coyote that before people ate nuts, they would put them in a basket, and Coyote believed him. Silver-Fox then went out to get more milkweed, as he said; and while he was gone, Coyote took a large stone and struck the roof-beams, trying to find where Silver-Fox had hidden the nuts.
Finally he found the right one, and the nuts began to pour down. He called out, "Stop! That is enough. I am a chief! That is enough." But the nuts kept falling, and by and by there was a huge pile there. Then Coyote said, "Let big baskets come! " and they were there; and he gathered up the nuts, and put them in the baskets, and then ate and ate all the nuts he could. Then he brought in some wood, and was going to say that the nuts fell down when he threw in the wood, as he had hit the beam by accident. just then Silver-Fox came in with a lot of milkweed, and began to make string. Coyote told him his story, and said that he had been scared when the nuts began to fall, that it was not right to put them in the roof-beams, but in baskets as he had now done. Silver-Fox, however, did not reply, until he said, "You eat on that side of the house, and I will eat on this." Then he went on making string; while Coyote, after eating all he could, went to sleep.
When he had finished making string, Silver-Fox got up softly, and measured Coyote's nose. Then he sat down and began to make a net. He had to measure again pretty soon; and then Coyote woke up, and asked what was the trouble. Silver-Fox said that he was only blowing ashes off Coyote's face, so he went to sleep again. Coyote woke up again later, and asked Silver-Fox what he was doing; and he said that he was making a net to catch rabbits in, so Coyote went to sleep once more. Finally the net was complete, and then Silver-Fox told Coyote to eat breakfast, to eat a big breakfast, and then they would go out and get rabbits. They started out, Silver-Fox carrying a big club. Coyote asked why he took so large a one, but Silver-Fox said that it was the right size. By and by Silver-Fox set up the net, and showed Coyote where it was. Then Silver-Fox said, "Now you run off.
When you get a little distance away, shut your eyes, and run as fast as you can." Coyote said that he would do so, and started off; and then quickly Silver-Fox took up the net, and put it where Coyote would run into it. Pretty soon Coyote came in sight, driving the rabbits slowly; and when he got only a little ways off, he shut his eyes, and ran as fast as he could. He ran squarely into the net, and this drew up; and Silver-Fox then rushed up and struck him with the club. Coyote cried out, "You are hitting me!" and Silver-Fox said, "Yes, don't mind that." He kept on hitting him until he had killed him. Then he went back to the house, and started off over the world; and wherever Coyote had urinated, Silver-Fox scraped up the ground and smoothed it over nicely. He went everywhere thus, and thought he had fixed every place. There was one, however, on a little island in a lake, that he overlooked. This lake lay far off to the northeast. Then Silver-Fox came back to the house and went to sleep. At dawn he got up, went up and looked out of the house, and listened. For a while he heard nothing, but then he heard faintly Coyote howling far away.
He then knew he had missed one place, and felt very sad. He sat down and thought, but did not know what to do. Coyote was too smart for him, he thought. Finally he heard the howling coming closer. Then he thought of a plan. He made a lot of manzanita, wild cherries, plums, etc., grow along the road that Coyote was following. Coyote was very angry, and wanted to kill Silver-Fox. He came to the manzanita, and Silver-Fox thought he would delay him thus; but Coyote only took one berry, and continued on his way. He came to the plums; and of these Coyote ate largely, as he thought he could fight better if he was not hungry. As he ate, he forgot about his anger. Then he started on again. Silver-Fox was afraid, however, and pretended to be very sick when Coyote got back. Coyote told him he had better eat some plums, that they were very good, and that it was useless to lie still all day. Finally Silver-Fox got up and ate some, and so Coyote forgot all about his revenge.
Coyote said next day that he was going out to pick fruit. He went, and picked plums and cherries and manzanita, and brought them back, saying that there was plenty of food. Silver-Fox told him to go and get some wood; and then he went out and caught some rabbits, and they cooked and ate them, and lived without quarrelling any more.
[Secured by Roland B. Dixon during the summers of 1900 and 1903, while engaged in work among the tribes of northeastern California for the Huntington Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. The chief informants were Charley Snook, Charley Green and "Old Wool."]