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Indigenous Stories

California Big Trees

Categories : Paiute , Paiute Stories

An old woman and her grandson lived together in a forest. They were poor, for the woman had no one to help her and her grandson was a little boy. The woman cried all the time. Each day she went to the forest for fire-wood and whether going or coming she cried without ceasing. She felled a tree by burning it, then, when it was on the ground, she burned the trunk and limbs into pieces short enough to carry.

One day the boy asked, "Grandmother, why do you cry?"

She didn't answer.

The next day he asked again, "Grandmother, why do you cry all the time?"

"Once," said the old woman, "I had many brothers and relatives, but now they are dead." And taking the boy by the hand she led him to a door that opened into a room he had never seen before. In the room were weapons of every kind; bows and arrows, flint knives, ball clubs, balls covered with beads, and many turtle-shell rattles.

The boy wondered at what he saw and wanted to touch the weapons. His grandmother said, "You must never touch these things or come into this room."

The next morning the old woman started for wood and as soon as she was out of sight the boy went to the room, took a ball, a club, and a rattle and went out of doors to play. He threw the ball. It went far East and he ran till he found it in a clearing. The clearing was so beautiful that the boy was glad to be there. He stayed a long lime but was home before his grandmother came with the wood.

The next day the boy played ball and was home before his grandmother came. He did this a number of days, but one day he made such a noise with the rattle that the old woman heard it. She hurried home, found the boy, scolded him, and asked, "Didn't I tell you not to touch those things?"

"Don't scold, Grandmother," said the boy, "but tell me where my father and mother and my brothers and cousins are."

"You'll never see them," answered the old woman. "There is a man, far away in the East, who carries off people and eats them. He has eaten all our relatives. His name is Dadyoendzadáses (Wolf)."

"Make me four pairs of moccasins," said the boy. "I am going to bring our relatives back."

"You are not going. You are too small," said his grandmother, but nevertheless she began to get him ready for the road.

When ready, the boy started off. He traveled many days and at last came to a broad opening in a forest. In the middle of the opening was a house and in a field close by was a man who looked like an inflated skin. He was on a platform and was swinging back and forth from north to south and watching a big strawberry patch.

The boy stopped just at the edge of the forest and calling a mole, said to it, "I want to borrow your coat for a while."

The boy took off his blanket, hid it behind a tree, made himself small, put on the skin of the mole and went under the leaves and under the ground till he came to the place where the skin man was swinging, then he called out, "Come down, my friend, I want to talk to you."

The skin man (Hadjoqdja) dropped to the ground and the boy promised to free him and give him back his body if he would tell him the secret of the opening.

Hadjoqdja said, "Wolf lives in that house over there, Every day he goes around the world. He catches and kills people, brings them home and eats them. He has three sisters, who live in the house with him. They are great witches. Each day they cook human flesh and pounded green corn, for Wolf will eat nothing else. The sisters spend most of their time driving elk out of this field. Neither Wolf nor his sisters have hearts in their bodies. No one can kill them, for their lives are in another place. In a corner of the house is a couch, under the couch is a lake, on that lake a loon is swimming around, under the right wing of the loon are four hearts. The largest heart is Wolf's, the second largest belongs to the eldest sister, the smallest belongs to the youngest sister, If you pinch one of those hearts its owner will fall to the ground, if you crush it its owner will die."

The boy gave Hadjoqdja a piece of false wampum that he had made of weeds and colored with strawberry juice, and said, "The sisters are calling you. Tell them you were making this wampum, that is why you waited so long. I will make myself like their brother and come to the house spitting blood. When I am in the house I will cause an elk to run across the strawberry patch. You must give the alarm and while the sisters are chasing the elk, I will take the hearts away from the loon."

When Hadjoqdja reached the house the sisters asked, "What have you been doing?"

"I've been making wampum."

The sisters wanted the wampum. Hadjoqdja divided it between them then told them that their brother was sick.

The boy went back to the mole and gave him his coat, then he took Wolf's form and crossed the field, spitting blood. When be went into the house the youngest sister looked at him and said, "This isn't our brother." The sisters tried the boy with different kinds of food but he wouldn't eat anything till they brought him human flesh and pounded green corn, then he ate.

While the boy was eating Hadjoqdja called, "An elk is in the strawberry patch!"

The sisters caught up their clubs and ran out to drive the elk away. The boy went to the couch and raised it up: Underneath was a lake and on the lake a loon was swimming. He called the loon to him and asked for the hearts. The loon, uncertain whether to give the hearts or not, raised its left wing.

"Oh, no," said the boy, "the hearts are under your right wing, raise that."

The loon, satisfied now, gave up the hearts. The boy took them and left the house just as the sisters were coming back from chasing the elk. Taking his own form he called to them, "I've got your hearts! I've got your hearts!"

They started after him with their clubs. As the eldest sister was about to catch him he pinched her heart and she fell to the ground; when the second sister was near he pinched her heart and she fell; the third sister he treated in the same manner. But right away they were on their feet and following him. Again he pinched their hearts and they fell.

When the boy had amused himself long enough he crushed the hearts, one after another, and the three sisters died. He cut a piece of flesh from each sister and made a stew for Wolf.

When the man-eater came and found that his sisters were not in the house, he was angry. Hadjoqdja told him that they were chasing elk that had been in the strawberry patch. He sat down to eat but found the meat so tough that he cried out, "What stuff is this?"

Hadjoqdja was bold, for the boy stood close by holding the man-eater's heart: he answered, "You are eating your sister's flesh."

"I've killed your sisters!" called out the boy.

The man-eater rushed at him; the boy ran toward a rock and as the man-eater came near he pinched his heart and he fell to the ground. When the boy stopped pinching the man-eater sprang up. Again the boy pinched the heart and again the man-eater fell. No matter how he tried, Wolf could only go as far as the boy let him. When tired of the sport, the boy struck the heart against the rock; the man-eater fell and died at once.

On every side of the rock were piles of human bones. the boy gathered the bones into one great pile, then placing Hadjoqdja, the skin man, on the ground with his head to the West, his feet to the east, he went to a tall hickory tree that stood close by, and shouted, "Rise up and run, or the tree will fall on you."

A crowd of people sprang up and ran in every direction. Hadjoqdja had his body again. The boy said to him: "In the whole world there is no such strawberry patch as the man-eater's, henceforth it belongs to you and to me."

The boy's father and mother and relatives were among the people he had raised up. Telling them to come with him he went to his grandmother's cabin. The old woman was happy now. She gathered up the clothes and weapons she had kept so long and went, with her grandson and relatives, to the strawberry patch in the opening in the forest. The other men, whom the boy had rescued, brought their families and settled close by; there were many kinds of people among them: the Otsoon and Gáqga' and others. The boy and his relatives belonged to the Otsoon people, so did Hadjoqdja, the Skin Man.

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