Music: High Mountain Medicine by Mesa Music Consort
|A Rattlesnake Kills the Chief's Daughter
A Wintu Legend
Long ago some women gathered, put a blanket on the ground, and lay down. They made their leaders, the chief's daughter, lie in the middle. And they
The chief's daughter was a good singer and many people gathered to see her. Some wanted to abduct her, but could not get close to her because she
was the chief's daughter and everyone kept an eye on her.
She was rich because her father was rich. The people who wanted to abduct her were not from the area; they had come from somewhere else. They
watched her, but there was no way of taking her because many people kept a close eye on her.
The women lay down and sang. Chief Tisasa's daughter was a good singer with a beautiful strong voice. This is not a tale, but a story about real
Indians. Tisasa was a real Indian chief who was my father's grandfather. The woman was Tisasa's daughter.
The Indians thought very highly of Tisasa and he had many sons who were good people. He helped everybody, and when he hired people to do things,
he always paid them well. The women lay down and sang many songs. At midnight they all left. But the others were still watching. They watched
those who were watching the chief's daughter. Tisasa was a real chief. His family's home was called Kensunus, "Next Below."
When the chief's daughter went to pick clover, all the women followed the "little chief" and picked clover too. She was bitten by a rattlesnake, and they
took her home. She died before many days had passed. The rattlesnake had killed her.
Her mother, the chief's wife, grieved the loss of her daughter. She made many sticks, packed them, and went out. She went west to a snake den called
Snake Rock. There she dug for rattlesnakes and killed those she saw coming out, with a long green stick. She also had a short stick with her.
She killed off all the rattlesnakes that came out and strung them on a trimmed sharp stick. She strung them and tied them up. She dug up their rocky
nest. She killed many rattlesnakes that were in the den. She killed forty rattlesnakes and strung them up on the stick. When she could not find any
more, she leveled the den. She wiped them out. Their dens stink terribly, but the woman who had lost her daughter did not give up looking for
When she found some, she killed them and strung them up. She went everywhere looking for rattlesnakes and did not give up. For five years she did
not forget to kill rattlesnakes. There were no more rattlesnakes close by, for she had killed them all. She had lost her daughter and did not want to
stop. Their home was Kensunus. They buried their daughter in an elk hide with all her belongings. She took many good beads, clamshell beads, and
things with her. They gathered everything, wrapped her in elk hide and buried her. She took much with her. That was because they were never going
to see their daughter again.
But the mother grieved so that for thirty days after her daughter's death she did not want to stay at home. She went all over the mountains, steep hills,
and rock piles, looking for rattlesnakes. When she saw a rattlesnake, she killed it. She did not kill any of the other snakes, water snakes or bull
snakes. When she saw king snakes, she did not kill them. She only killed rattlesnakes. And then after some five years she stopped. She did not hunt
rattlesnakes any more. She stopped hunting rattlesnakes.
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You have rope there already, tangled up. You untangle it. You untangle it and tie knots. You tie knots and tie it together. You pull it toward yourself
and tie it tight. You pull out more rope and tie it together twice so it won't come untied. You untie it, and if you cannot untie it, you cut the rope. And
you bring it toward you, fix it, and tie another knot. You tie it together where it was cut. You tie it together with a knot and when you are finished, you
wind it around between fingers and elbow and put it down.
Then you make a new rope. You make another strong one. You twist the rope on your knee, twisting wild riri for rope. And you make a long rope. It
will be a very strong rope that nothing can break. A deer caught in it cannot break it. It will not break. That rope is really strong. And with that rope
you can set a trap. With that rope you can trap deer. When a deer is caught in the rope, it hangs itself. You tie down a sugar pine or a fir and set a
trap that way. When a deer is driven into it, it is caught in the rope. The tree flip up and hangs the deer. It dies there, choking to death in the rope.
The Indians would take the rope home and take good care of it, not letting it get wet. In the summer they did not put it out in the sun. They hung it in
the shade. They took care of that rope. And for birds, too, they made a small, thin rope, and made the bird peck it to trap it. This time a long willow
branch is fixed so it flips up. The ends are tied down with a string and bent down to trap the bird. Acorns are put down, and when the bird pecks at
them, it is caught in that little string as if hung. That is how the Indians trapped a long time ago.
They trapped mountain quail, Steller's jays, and towhees. They ate them in winter. You cannot catch gray squirrels, though, because they quickly cut
themselves loose. When a gray squirrel is caught in a rope, it cuts it. Gray squirrels are strong. They hold on to the rope, hanging sideways, pull
themselves up with one of their paws, and cut the rope. You cannot catch gray squirrels.
That is all.
Long ago, among the real Indians, there was some kind of being nobody knew what it was. They called it Anamet. It came from the mountains and
made believe that it was a person. It carried women away on its back. It also took children who were playing outside and carried them away.
Anamet would say "K-ete p'iw!" [one jump] as it jumped away with them.
What could it have been? The Indians called it Anamet. It stole children and they would say, "Don't let children play late in the evening." they brought
all the children inside at dusk.
They also took their children along wherever they went, saying, "Don't leave them home alone," for fear of Anamet.
Once some people left home for only a short time and when they returned their children were gone. Anamet had already taken them.
They did not know what it was. It was a terrible thing; not a person.
|Bat and His Wives
A Wintu Legend
Bat was married. He was married to two mallard duck women. He went hunting all the time. He hunted in all the mountains. In the mountains he
went west and north. He went down along the creek.
He took a fir limb and lay down facing up. He turned his belly inside out, pulled out his liver, and cut it out. Then he got up. He sewed up his belly and
took the liver home. He was going to feed it to his wives. He did this all the time, bringing it home.
Then one of the women, the younger one, said, "This is bad! I don't want to eat this food any more. It tastes bad."
The Older one said, "Oh, what's the matter with you? You always talk too much!"
"Well, let's go see how many of them are hunting, and what they are killing," the younger one said.
They left. They went to watch him and he went downstream alone. They followed him.
He went downhill to the north and lay on his back. He turned his belly inside out and took out his liver. They saw that and ran home. They ran, took
their clothes, got dressed, and went floating downstream.
The man came home and noticed that the two were missing. He missed them.
He searched everywhere, went upstream and downstream. He went far. But he not meet anyone anywhere.
Then he say Gray Squirrel who was climbing, cutting fray pine cones.
Bat asked, "Have you seen my wives?"
Gray Squirrel gave no answer. He just kept on cutting pine cones. Bat spoke again: "Have you seen my wives? Have you seen anyone here?"
Gray Squirrel became angry. "Get over here under the tree, get close, look up, close your eyes and look up, and I'll tell you where your wives are!" he
"Okay," said Bat.
He went over and looked up. Gray Squirrel dropped pitch in his eyes. "I'm blind," called Bat. "Something fell into my eyes. Get me something to take
out the pitch!" He felt around, took a pine needle and poked at his eyes. "I can see. I can see a little," he said. And he left.
A Wintu Legend
Long ago there was a village filled with people. They lived in the flatlands on both the west and the east sides of the river. They younger of the chief's
two daughters had just reached puberty, and her parents were planning to call a puberty dance.
In the evening the father spoke to the other women. "Early in the morning go strip bark for a maple-bark apron," he said. "But don't take my younger
daughter with you. Go secretly."
So the women got up very early and stole away. Quite far north they went, and some even climbed uphill and crossed the ridge to the north.
Later the girl who had reached puberty woke up and, though it was forbidden, followed the others. When she reached them, they were stripping bark.
She went up to them and began cutting maple bark too.
All at once she struck her little finger with a splinter. Her older sister came up to her and wiped the blood with dead leaves. The other women said,
"When will it leave off? The blood cannot stop flowing."
Afraid of what had happened, they ran back to the village. They reached the house and told the father, "She got stuck with a splinter while stripping
bark." And the old man said, "She doesn't listen to me."
The girl and her older sister were left behind alone. The younger one, who stood downhill to the north, now sucked blood and spat it out. Then more
blood came, and though she sucked and sucked, she could not stop the flow.
Meanwhile the sun began to set. She kept on sucking until early evening, unable to help herself. Suddenly she happened to swallow blood and smelled
the fat. It tasted sweet. So she ate her little finger, and then ate her whole hand. Then devoured both her hands. Then she ate her leg, ate both her legs.
Then she ate up her whole body. Then her head alone was left. It went rolling over the ground, with her sister still beside her.
In the village the chief said, "From the north she'll come. Put on your clothes, people. Get your weapons. We must go." And the people dressed
themselves and got their weapons. And from the north they saw her come, rolling toward her father's house. She arrived in the early evening and lay
After she had rested a while, she bounced up to the west across the river to the flat on the west, where she threw the people into her mouth. Without
stopping, she turned the village upside down as she devoured them all.
Then she fell to the east across the river and lay there, and the next morning she threw the people who lived on the eastern flat into her mouth and ate
them, devoured them all. Only her eldest sister she left for a while.
And she went about the world, and when she saw people, she threw them in her mouth and ate them. Each evening she came home, each morning she
went about the world looking for people. Always she went searching.
One day she climbed up to the northern edge of the sky and looked all over the world, but she saw no one. So in the evening she came home, and the
next morning she got up and threw her sister into her mouth.
Then she went on her way until she reached the edge of a big creek which she did not know how to cross.
A man was sitting on the other side. She called to him, and he threw a bridge over. She was crossing, and when she had gone halfway he jerked it, and
it went down at Talat. And she fell into the river, and a riffle pike jumped and swallowed her. And it is finished.