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Che-ha-lum'-che the Rock Giant catching People to eat
Che-ha-lum'-che the Rock Giant catching People to eat

THE ROCK GIANTS

Che-ha-lum'-che the Rock Giant of Calaveras County

The Northern Mewuk say:

Che-ha-lum'-che the Rock Giant carries on his back a big burden basket (che'-ka-la) which, like himself, is of rock. He lives in caves, of which there are two near Mountain Ranch or El Dorado in Calaveras County, one at Murphys, and one on Stanislaus River.

Che-ha-lum'-che comes out only at night and wanders about seeking Mewuk [people] to eat. He prefers women; of these he catches and carries off all he can find. Sometimes he makes a crying noise, hoo-oo'-oo like a baby, to lure them. If they come he seizes them and tosses them into his big pack basket and carries them to his cave, where he eats them. In the basket is a long spike which pierces their bodies when they are thrown in, so they can not escape.

In his caves are the remains of his victims—horns of deer and bones of people and different kinds of animals.

Indians never throw their dead into caves. If they did, Che-ha-lum'-che would get them. Any man who would put a dead person in a cave would be killed by the other Indians. 30


Footnotes

232:30 Many human skulls and skeletons have been found in eaves along the west slope of the middle Sierra. The presence of human remains in these caves has been interpreted to mean that the Indians now living in the region practise cave burial, or did practise it until recent times. This is an error. The Indians of this region, the Mewuk, burned their dead, and look with horror on the suggestion that they or their ancestors might ever have put their dead in caves. They ask: “Would you put your mother, or your wife, or your child, or any one you love, in a cave to be eaten by a horrible giant?” The idea is so abhorrent to them that the theory of cave burial must be abandoned as preposterous.

The mythology of the Mewuk does not admit of any migration but describes the creation of the people in the area they still inhabit. This, in connection with the fact that these Indians speak a language wholly different from any known in any other part of the world, proves that they have occupied the lands they now occupy for a very long period—a period—which in my judgment should be measured by thousands of years.

This argues a great antiquity for the cave remains, for they must be those of a people who inhabited the region before the Mewuk came—and this takes us back a very long way into the past.


Next: Oo'-le The Rock Giant of the Chowchilla Foothills

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