Book: Some Western Shoshoni Myths
Author: Julian H. Steward

Some Western Shoshoni Myths By Julian H. Steward

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 77
Publication Date: 1943

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The Shoshoni are Native Americans of the Great Basin region, and south and east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. While the beliefs of other Shoshonean tribes are fairly well documented, there is little published information about the mythology of the Great Basin Shoshone per se. This collection reveals that the Western Shoshone, who lived in central Nevada, were very similar to the Northern Californians in this regard. Their myths are inhabited by the lusty trickster Coyote, and other primordial zoomorphic demigods.

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A long time ago, the animals were people. They had no fire in any part of this country.

Lizard was lying in the sunshine. He saw a tule ash, blown by the south wind from a long way off, fall to the ground near him. All the people came over to look at it and wondered from where it had come.

They sent Hummingbird up into the sky to find out. They watched Hummingbird fly up. Coyote said, "I can see him. He is high in the sky." Lizard said, "I can see him sitting up there." They saw that Hummingbird looked all over to see from where the ash had blown. Coyote was watching him. He saw that Hummingbird looked to the south and saw something. Hummingbird came down and told the people that there was a fire in the south.

They all started toward the south. On the way, Coyote stationed the different animals at intervals. They went on until they could see the fire. The people there were having a big celebration and dance. Coyote made himself false hair of milkweed string. He joined the people and danced with them. As he danced he moved close to the fire and leaned his head over so that his hair caught on fire. As soon as it was lighted, he ran away. The fire in the camp went out, and the people began to pursue Coyote to recover their fire.

Coyote ran to the first man he had posted and passed the fire to him. This man ran with it to the next man, and in this way they passed it along. Every time the pursuers caught one of Coyote's people they killed him. There were fewer and fewer of them left, but they kept the fire.

At last only Rabbit remained. As be ran with the fire, he caused hail to fall to stop the pursuers. Rabbit cried as he ran. Rat, who was living alone on the top of a big smooth rock, heard Rabbit crying and went down to meet him. As he ran toward Rabbit, he tore the notch in the mountains near Lida. Rat took the fire from Rabbit and ran with it to his house, which was on the summit at Lida.

The pursuers gathered around his house, but could not get into it. They all died right there. They can be seen now piled on a mountain nearby.

Rat scattered the fire all over the country.