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Miwok Myths by Edward Winslow Gifford

Stories by Thomas Williams


“’What is the matter? What is the matter? What is the trouble that we see no deer? Have any of you seen their tracks? We do not see them.’ That is what you people say each time that you return from hunting. Mountain Lion, you go back and look.” Thus spoke a number of the people before daybreak. “Look for the tracks of the deer,” they said. “We did not see their tracks. Look for their tracks, Eagle. See if you can find them. Look for their tracks, Eagle. What shall we eat, if we do not find the deer?” So spoke the people.

“Where is Fox? Where is he? We want him to find the deer. You hunters search for the deer.” Thus spoke the people to their hunters.

All went into the hills before the sunrise. Each person went on a

hill. They went on the hills toward the north, but they saw no deer. The deer were in several large caves. They did not come forth in the morning as usual. They did not appear. The hunters searched daily for them, but found no tracks.

The people came together and said, “What is the matter with the deer? Even we cannot find their tracks.” Fox, Black Fox, Mountain Lion, and Wild Cat held a conference. “Do not you see deer tracks?” they asked each other. Each responded, “No. No. I do not see their tracks.” Thus spoke each of the hunters. Thus spoke the hunters after the deer went into hiding in eaves in the high cliffs.

Then the hunters asked, “Where is Crow? Let him search for the deer. We must find them soon, or we shall starve.”

Mountain Lion said, “Where is Fox? Let him try to find the deer, for the hunters have very nearly given up.” Fox answered, “I do not think that I can find them. It is useless for me to try. None of you hunters have found them, so what is the use of my trying?” Thus spoke Fox to the people. He did not wish to try, for all the good hunters had already tried.

While they were assembled, they asked Mountain Lion if he had seen deer tracks. The people said, “We have seen no deer. We see but one track each day, when we go out. We see no deer, but only the tracks.” Thus spoke the people. The deer were hiding in a cave. Each day one deer came forth. The deer entered the cave from either end.

Fox said, “I will try, but I fear that I shall find no deer.” Thus he spoke, when he left the people in search of the deer. He went, intending to do his best. He went to the south end of the world. Then he went around the world. He went to the place where the sun sets. Then he returned home. He told the people that he had seen no deer, that he could find none.

Again Fox, together with Crow, journeyed through the hills in search of deer. Fox returned, but Crow did not. Black Fox then went out in place of Fox. He went up a mountain and stayed there overnight. Black Fox was unsuccessful, however, for the next day he returned without having found the deer.

The people said, “Crow has not returned yet. He must have gone far. They sent Eagle and some of the people with him, saying, “You men try to find Crow, for he has not returned. Something must have happened to him.” After a while Eagle and his people returned without having, found Crow or the tracks of the deer. The people were starving. They had nothing to eat. Eagle said upon his return, “We are starving. All that we have is water.”

They next sent Wild Cat to search for the deer. Mountain Lion said to the second Crow, “You go. See if you call find the deer. I fear that if you cannot find them, we shall die. We shall starve.” Then Crow went. He climbed first to the top of a high hill. The first Crow, his brother, had not yet returned. He stood on the top of the high hill, which is at the end of the world. Then he returned. He told the people that he could not find his brother. Thus he spoke, when he returned.

The chief said nothing, for he was worrying, because his people were starving. The chief said nothing, but was worried. Finally, he said to Mountain Lion, “You go. Let us see you go.” Mountain Lion now went to locate the deer. He followed along the creek. Upon his return he said, “I do not know what is the trouble. I could not find them. I could not even find their tracks. I do not know what is the matter with them. I do not know what is the matter with Crow. What is he doing so long away?” the people asked. “Let us see you find Crow,” they said to Fox.

Then Fox departed, when the people told him to go. He went to a large rock. He returned and told the people that he could see no deer.

Then the people said that they would send the second Crow.

“Let us see you try,” they said. Then the second Crow went. He climbed a high mountain to the south. He saw nothing when he reached the summit. Then he returned and told the chief, “I saw nothing. Something must have killed my brother. I saw no deer. I do not know what is the matter with them. Perhaps they have gone somewhere. Perhaps my brother has followed them.” Then Mountain Quail went into the hills. But he, too, returned and told the chief that he saw nothing.

Then they sent the second Crow again with instructions to remain two days in the hills and to see if he could find his brother. Crow left before sunrise and climbed to the top of a high mountain before the sun rose. The sun rose after he reached the summit. Then he looked down the mountain and saw a large cave. After he had seen the cave, he went down the mountain towards the water. After reaching the water, he prepared to drink. Then he did not drink. He returned home and told the people that he had seen a cave. He said, “After I discovered the cave, I went towards the water down the hill. I intended to drink. However, I did not drink the water after I reached it. I thought about my brother and that is why I came home, I think the deer are in that cave.”

Then the chiefs discussed the matter after Crow told them of the cave. He returned to the hill before sundown. Then he saw the deer entering the cave after sundown.

The chiefs assembled the people and, while Crow remained on the mountain, they gave a dance. All of the people, all of the hunters, assembled. They said, “Chief Crow has found the cave.” Crow sang while he remained on the summit. He sang, “I bested the other hunters. I found the deer. We shall not starve now.” Thus, sang Crow after he found the deer. He returned and told the chief about the deer, told the chief about them, when he arrived at home. All of the people assembled. Chief Mountain Lion said, “We are saved now, because we have found the deer. I shall take my son. I shall put him to the test.” he said that he was going to test the courage of his son. He placed his son within the cave. He put the people all around the cave in different places. He closed the exits of the cave. He did not want the deer to escape, so he closed the exits. He placed the people all over the hills, so that they might kill the deer as they came forth from the cave.

Wolf and Coyote came to help kill the deer. After Mountain Lion had everything ready, he sent his son inside of the cave to kill the deer. Then his soil entered the cave. Young Mountain Lion went in to show his prowess. His father stayed outside. Then young Mountain Lion commenced to fight with the deer, but he fainted from the heat within the cave. His father entered and brought him out and laid him beside the, stream. While he was rescuing his son, the deer escaped. They ran out on the other side of the cave, but encountered Wolf. Wolf started to pursue them, but he collided with a rock. Next the deer encountered Coyote further down the hill. They jumped over Coyote, but he pursued them, until his legs caught on a rock and he fell backwards. Some of the deer ran up the hill, where there was a band of people. They ran over all of the people and no one killed a deer. The people were starving and one of them died.

One of them died and the others felt very weak. They did not know what to do after the deer escaped. The chief said to his people, “Let us go home.” Some of the people said to the chief, “We do not think that we shall reach home; we are starving.” Then the chief went alone. He left his son beside the creek, left him there singing.

While proceeding along the creek, the chief met Skunk. Skunk asked the chief to stop for a while. Then Skunk said to the chief, “Let me ride on your back. I will dance on your back.” The chief was not agreeable. He said, “You had better walk. I am not strong enough to carry you. I am starving. My people are dying.” Skunk said, “Do not say that. If you say that I shall die. Give me a ride on your back and I will do you a favor.”

Then the chief heard from the second Crow. The Indians were dying daily, starving to death, as they had nothing to eat. The chief said to Skunk, “I am going. I am going.” Skunk besought again, “Let me ride on your back. Then I will save some of your people.” The chief replied, “Come on, then.” They went, Skunk riding on the chief’s back.

The people were dying rapidly. Crow said, “The chief is returning.” The chief was coming. The chief told Skunk to hang on tight. He said, “I am going to wade, this river.” Skunk said, “I do not care if all your people die, so long as I get this ride on your back across the river.” The chief became angry when Skunk said that. “Get on, we are going to cross the river,” said the chief. When they reached the middle of the river, the chief pretended to stumble. He fell down and Skunk lost his hold. Skunk drowned. The chief went on across the river.

As soon as he had crossed the river, he looked up the hill. He saw the first Crow descending the hill with a load of deer. Crow told the chief, “I killed many deer on the creek.” The chief told Crow that all of the people had died. “That is Skunk’s fault,” said the chief. “He told me he would save my people.” Crow said, “Your remaining people will be saved, for we have plenty of meat now. Thus spoke Crow to the chief, when he met him on the bank of the river.

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