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Hoi-ah'-ko Tales of the Southern Mewuk

As told in the foothills of the Merced River region

The Tales

Yel'-lo-kin and Oo-wel'-lin the man-eating Giants
Oo-wel'-lin the Rock Giant
Tim-me-lā’-le the Thunder
Wek'-wek’s search for his Father
Wek'-wek’s search for his Sister
Wek'-wek’s visit to the Underworld

Principal Personages

Hoi-ah'-ko the First People
We'-pi-ahk the Golden Eagle, Chief of the First People
Tu'-pe the Kangaroo-rat, We'-pi-ahk’s wife
Yel'-lo-kin the Giant Bird who lived on top of the sky
Oo-wel'-lin the Rock Giant
Ol-lusmuk-ki'-e the Toad-woman, We'-pi-ahk’s Aunt
Ah-hā’-le the Coyote-man
Oo'-choom the Fly
Tim-me-lā’-le the Thunder
Wek'-wek the Falcon
Yi'-Yil, Wek'-wek’s father
Yow'-hah the Mallard Duck, Wek'-wek’s wife
Hoo-loo'-e the Dove, Wek'-wek’s partner
O-wah'-to the big-headed Fire Lizard
Ho'-ho the Turkey Buzzard, a wicked Chief of the South People
Koo'-choo, another wicked Chief of the South People
Lol'-luk the Woodrat, one of the firemen
No-put'-kul-lol the Screech-owl, the other fireman
Pel-pel'-nah the Nuthatch, one of the witch doctors
Choo-ta-tok'-kwe-lah the Red-headed Sapsucker, the other witch doctor
Ah'-ut the Crow, Wek'-wek’s nephew
O-hum'-mah-te the Grizzly Bear
He-le'-jah the Mountain Lion
To-to'-kon the Sandhill Crane, chief of the Underworld People

Hoi-ah'-ko Tales of the Southern Mewuk

Yel'-lo-kin and Oo-wel'-lin, the Man-eating Giants

We'-pi-ahk the Eagle was chief of the First People. He took for his wife Tu'-pe the Kangaroo-rat. She did not stay at home nights because night was the time she went out to hunt for food. We'-pi-ahk did not understand this and when she came back one morning he beat her and killed her. After that he stayed at home a month and cried and never went out. When the month was up he stopped crying and went out in the sun.

Next day Yel'-lo-kin came. Yel'-lo-kin was a giant bird—the biggest bird in the world. He was in the habit of carrying off children—boys and girls up to fourteen or fifteen years of age. He took them by the top of the head and carried them up through the hole in the middle of the sky to his home on top of the sky, where he killed and ate them.

Yel'-lo-kin had a wife. She was Ol'-lus muk-ki'-e the Toad-woman, the aunt of We'-pi-ahk the Eagle. Yel'-lo-kin had stolen her from the earth and had taken her up to his house above the sky. He did not kill her but kept her as his wife, and brought people to her to eat; but she would not eat people.

When We'-pi-ahk the Eagle had gone out in the sun Yel'-lo-kin came and caught him by the top of his head and carried him up through the hole in the sky.

A boy playing outside saw this and shouted to the people, and they all got poles and bows and arrows and tried to reach Yel'-lo-kin but could not, and Yel'-lo-kin went on up with We'-pi-ahk and took him to his house on top of the sky and left him there. When We'-pi-ahk looked around he saw his aunt, Ol'-lus muk-ki'-e the Toad-woman. She told him to look out, that in a little while Yel'-lo-kin would come back and kill him. “He will take you to a big tank of blood and ask if you want to drink,” she said. “When he does this you must answer ‘yes’ and pretend to reach down, and tell him the water is too low, you can’t reach it; you are afraid of falling in. Ask him to show you how to get it.”

“All right,“ answered We'-pi-ahk—he would do as she said.

Then she gave him a big stone knife with which to cut off Yel'-lo-kin’s head.

Soon Yel'-lo-kin returned and did exactly as his wife said he would do. When he asked We'-pi-ahk to drink, We'-pi-ahk told him he could not reach the water; he was afraid of falling in, and asked Yel'-lo-kin to show him how. Then Yel'-lo-kin leaned over and reached down deep in the tank, and We'-pi-ahk struck him with the big knife and cut off his head, whereupon Yel'-lo-kin banged around inside the tank and flapped his big wings and made a great noise, and finally flopped out and died outside. He stretched out his wings and they were as big as pine trees. Then We'-pi-ahk was free.

Ah-hā’-le the Coyote-man was down below. We'-pi-ahk the Eagle was his uncle. Ah-hā’-le asked the people, “Where is my uncle, We'-pi-ahk?”

The boys told him he had gone upthat Yel'-lo-kin had carried him up through the sky. Ah-hā’-le looked but could not see the hole they had gone through. Then he went south and looked for the south hole in the sky, but could not find it. Returning, he went north to the hole at Thunder Mountain, but could not get in that way for it was too cold. Then he came back to the village and sprang up high in the air and passed through the middle hole in the sky—the same hole that Yel'-lo-kin had gone through with We'-pi-ahk.

Just as he arrived, at that very moment We'-pi-ahk struck Yel'-lo-kin with the knife and killed him, and Ah-hā’-le saw him die.

“It is a good thing that you killed him,” Ah-hā’-le said.

We'-pi-ahk replied, “He has been stealing our boys and girls; whenever he was hungry he went down and got a boy or a girl. We lost lots of people.”

Then We'-pi-ahk showed Ah-hā’-le the tank of blood where Yel'-lo-kin had done his killing.

After a while Ah-hā’-le asked, “What are you going to do with Yel'-lo-kin?”

We'-pi-ahk said he was going to burn him, so he would not come to life again.

But Ah-hā’-le replied, “No uncle, you had better not burn him.”

Then We'-pi-ahk asked, “What are you going to do with him?”

Ah-ha'-le answered, “I think I’ll cut off his wings and take them down home.”

“What are you going to do with them?” asked We'-pi-ahk.

Ah-hā’-le replied, “I’m going to plant the big feathers and make trees. If I plant plenty of trees and everything green, there will be many people, for when I’m done planting trees I’m going to make people.”

When he had finished speaking he went down to the earth through a hole of his own, for he was a witch doctor.

After he had gone down, Yel'-lo-kin’s wife, Ol'-lus muk-ki'-e the Toad-woman, asked We'-pi-ahk how he was going to get down.

“I don’t know,” answered We'-pi-ahk.

“I’ll take you down,” said Ol'-lus muk-ki'-e.

“How,” asked We'-pi-ahk.

“You will see how,” she replied. And she gathered the strong green sword-grass called kis'-soo, that grows by the river, and made a long rope of it and with it let We'-pi-ahk down to the earth.

Ah-hā’-le the Coyote-man planted the feathers, and when they had come up watched them grow. They grew into grasses, wild oats, flowers, manzanitas, and other bushes, and into yellow pines, sugar pines, black oaks, blue oaks, and other kinds of trees. He told them all to bear seed every year so the people who were coming would have plenty to eat. He also made rivers and rocks—Yel'-lo-kin’s heart he turned into a black rock.

When he had done this he made people. These also he made by planting feathers. The people multiplied and in a short time their villages were everywhere in the land.

Next: O-wel'-lin the Rock Giant

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management