Book: Yana Texts
Author: Edward Sapir

Yana Texts By Edward Sapir

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 125
Publication Date: 1910

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This is a collection of texts from the Yana, a native Californian people who spoke a Hokan language. The Yana lived in the north-eastern Sacramento region of California, east of Redding and north of Chico. Their mythology was very similar to their neighbors, the Maidu, the Shasta and the Wintun; the trickster, Coyote, plays a very important role. There is no cosmological origin myth recorded here. Rather the mythology starts out in a fully realized dream-time inhabited by animal spirits.

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I shall commence my myth.

The Flint people were living at Djô'djanu. The Flint people quarreled with the Grizzly Bear people. All the Flint people dwelling together had a sweat-house. They used to go to hunt deer, but four were always missing when they returned home. The Grizzly Bears lay in wait for the Flint people, the Grizzly Bears killed the Flint people. All the Flint people living together were very numerous and had a sweat-house. Some were, missing when they returned home, until the Grizzly Bears had, killed all the Flint people. There was just one that returned home. An old woman was sitting inside the sweat-house, Rock Woman, and all the Flint people living together, it is said, were her children. They did not come home from the deer hunt; indeed, they were all killed, the Grizzly Bears killed them all.

Now the old woman was weeping. "Hehe'?! Where can they all have gone?" wept that old woman, waiting for them to come back home. The Grizzly Bears had killed all the Flint people. The old woman, weeping, stayed home by herself, all alone, all her children having been killed. She had quivers hanging, many were the quivers hanging close together, with bows and arrows. Now the old woman was all alone, weeping, being the only Flint, person.

"I shall not die," had said (one of the Flint people), leaving' word behind to her. He hung up a bow, a coarse-sinewed bow up yonder on the south side, while she cried, continuing to weep, sitting inside the sweat-house. The Grizzly Bears were looking into the sweat-house. "I spit out spittle on the ground, on the south side. If I die, pray look at it, grandmother! I shall come to life again from my spittle. Pray look at it! Pray look at it!", She did so in the middle of the night, looking at it. There were no men in the sweat-house, all having been eaten up, the Grizzly Bears having eaten them up. The old woman put pitch on herself as sign of mourning. Suddenly the spittle bawled out. A person came to life again in the middle of the night. "Where is it?" she said. "Who is the child?" "Unā'! unā'!" it said. It was indeed the spittle that had already come to life again. The old woman arose, took the boy up in her arms, and wrapped him up in a blanket. The old woman washed him, carrying him about in her arms. She washed him in the night.

"Grand-mother!" "Keep quiet! There are Grizzly Bears outside."

When it was daylight he who had come back to life was crawling about; when the sun was overhead he was already grown up. "Give me a bow," he said, being already grown up. He looked to the south side, looking at the bow. "Grandmother! I shall go outside to play, grandmother." "No," she said, speaking to Flint Boy, "danger lies outside." "What is it, grandmother?" "All of our people were eaten up," she said, speaking to the young man. She would not let him go outside, saying, "Do not go outside! Outside lies danger." "What is it, grandmother?" "Do you not see that our people are not here in the sweat-house?" "I am not afraid, grandmother." He put out his hand for the bow and said, "I shall go outside. Whose bow is this?" he asked. He took down the quiver hanging on the south side. the bow was so long, short, a coarse-sinewed bow, an ugly bow. "I shall shoot arrows in play. I shall not go far off." "Yes, yes, yes," she said. She believed him.

He pulled out a bow from the quiver. He stretched it, and his bow broke. "Hê!" he said, "that was no man," for he had broken his bow. He took out another bow and stretched it also. He stretched and broke another bow, in this way breaking all the bows. "They were no men. I have broken all their bows." Now he put out his hand for the coarse-sinewed bow. He bent it to himself, it was strong. Again he bent it to himself, it was strong. It did not break, for it was strong. He laughed. "Grandmother, truly it is strong."

He laughed, and bent it to himself again, put his feet down on it, pulling at it, so as to break the bow. He put the coarse-sinewed bow down on a rock. "It is strong, grandmother," he said, while the old woman kept on weeping, crying. "This one was a man. Hêhê! Why did he die? Grandmother, I am not able to break it." He put the bow on a rock, and lifted up a big rock; he tried to break the bow by throwing the rock down on it. The coarse-sinewed bow bounced up. "Grandmother, I shall go outside. I shall go around to shoot small game outside. I shall take the bow along, grandmother. I shall not go far off." "Yes! Do not start to go far away. Danger lies outside. Grizzly Bears are waiting for you outside." Now he was the only one. "Yes, grandmother, give me three arrows. Look up the smoke-hole of the sweat-house at the jack-rabbit!" He went outside. Now he shot his arrows, went about shooting at jack-rabbits. (When he returned inside he said,) "Grandmother! What might that be looking in from above?" "What does he look like? What do his eyes look like?" "His eyes are small; he is small-eyed." "So!" she said. "Perhaps that one is dangerous. Indeed, perhaps that one is a Grizzly Bear, a small-eyed Grizzly Bear." "Grandmother! What is that above?" "What is he like?" "His eyes are big." "So! Perhaps that one is a jack-rabbit, it is jack-rabbits that have big eyes.