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A Tale of the Southern Mewuk
As told by the Mariposa Mewuk
His'-sik the Skunk was Chief of a village or rancheria of the Foothills People at a place in the lower hills of Mariposa County nearly midway between Indian Gulch and Hornitos.
His'-sik the Skunk, a greedy chief of the Foothills People
His'-sik the Skunk had a wife, and by and by a daughter, who, when she grew up, married Yu'-wel the Gray Fox. Yu'-wel was a good hunter and he and His'-sik often hunted together.
Not far from His'-sik’s place were two high hills standing side by side. In the narrow gap between them ran the trail of So'-koi the Elk. One day His'-sik told Yu'-wel to hide in this narrow place while he went down to the plain to drive up the elk. So Yu'-wel hid there and His'-sik went down near the elk and fired his terrible scent. The elk could not stand the smell and ran up the trail. Yu'-wel waited until the leader and all the others had passed up between the hills, and when the last one had gone by he stepped behind him and fired his arrow with such force that it shot through the whole band, killing them all.
When His'-sik came he was so glad that he danced. He called all the people to come and help carry the meat home; and then said to Yu'-wel: “You must pack one elk and pack me too, for I am too tired to walk.”
Yu'-wel was afraid of His'-sik and so did as he was told. He lifted a big elk on his shoulders, and His'-sik climbed up on top, and while they were on the way danced all the time on the body of the elk, and Yu'-wel carried them both to the village.
Then His'-sik told the people to skin the elk, and promised them some of the meat. They skinned the elk and cut the meat in strips and hung it up to dry. When they had done this they asked him for their share. He refused to give them any but told them that they might eat acorn mush and pinole. He then turned as if he were going to shoot his scent, and everyone was afraid.
His'-sik was so greedy that he would not give any of the meat to anyone—not even to his own wife and daughter, nor to his son-in-law who killed it—but put it all away to dry for himself.
The next day he told Yu'-wel to hunt again, and they did the same as before; and when the elk were in the narrow pass between the hills Yu'-wel shot his arrow and killed the whole bunch, as before.
Then His'-sik called the people to come and carry the elk home, and made Yu'-wel carry one, and he danced on top on the way, as before.
Again he told the people to skin the elk and he would give them meat for supper; but when they had skinned the elk and cut up the meat he told them to eat acorns and pinole, at the same time turning to frighten them, and took all the meat to dry for himself, just as he had done before.
The people were very angry, but were afraid to do anything for fear His'-sik would shoot his scent and kill them. They talked the matter over for a long time and finally a wise man said: “What are we going to do? Must we hunt for him and pack his meat and skin it for him always, and not get any? We had better kill him, but how can we do it so he will not shoot his scent and kill us?”
Then Too'-wik the Badger spoke. He said, “We can kill him.” And while His'-sik was watching his meat so no one could take any of it, Too'-wik dug a big hole, ten or fifteen feet deep, and built a fire in it.
Someone asked him why he made the fire. Too'-wik replied, “Do you not know that His'-sik is a great dancer and loves to dance? We will have fire in the hole, and cover the top over with sticks and leaves and earth so he can’t see anything, and send for him to come and dance, and when he dances he will break through and fall in and we shall kill him.”
The people answered, “All right.”
When it was dark they sent a messenger to His'-sik. He said, “You are a great dancer; we want a dance tonight and will pay you well if you will come.”)
His'-sik was pleased and answered, “All right, where shall I dance?”
They took him to the place and pointing to it said, “Right here.”
His'-sik began to dance and sing, and everyone said, “Good, you are doing well; keep on, you are doing finely; go ahead, you surely are a great dancer.” And they flattered him and he kept on and danced harder and harder, for he was proud and wanted to show what he could do.
After a while, when he was dancing hardest, the sticks broke and he fell into the hole. The people were ready. They had a big rock, a very big rock, which it had taken many people to bring. They were waiting, and the moment he fell in they pushed the rock quickly over the hole and held it down; they all climbed up on it and held it down tight so he could not get out.
The hot coals burnt his feet and made him dance. He was very angry and shot his scent so hard against the side of the hole that he pushed mountains up on that side; then he turned the other way and shot again and pushed mountains up on that side too. After this his scent was gone and the coals burnt him and killed him. Then all the people were happy.
The next day the people had a great feast and ate all the dried meat they wanted.