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1903, A Tachi Yokut family stands in front
of their Tule mat house near the Village 
of Wiu ... now the Santa Rosa Rancheria

Yokut Literature

California Creation Story
A Tachi Yokut Myth
Yokut Legends collected by A. L. Kroeber [1907]

Yokuts were originally thought to be a distinct linguistic family but are now considered a part of the large Penutian family. They occupy the entire floor of San Joaquin Valley of central California from the mouth of the San Joaquin River to the foot of the Tehachapi Mountains and adjacent to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range, up to an altitude of a few thousand feet. Their environment lends itself to agriculture and forestry. In 1770 the estimated population of the Yokuts was 18,000 and in 1910 only 600. Today dozens of small bands and villages are spread over a wide area.

Yokut Legends

Origin of the Sierra Nevadas and Coast Range

Once there was a time when there was nothing in the world but water. About the place where Tulare Lake is now, there was a pole standing far up out of the water, and on this pole perched Hawk and Crow.

First Hawk would sit on the pole a while, then Crow would knock him off and sit on it himself. Thus they sat on the top of the pole above the water for many ages. At last they created the birds which prey on fish. They created Kingfisher, Eagle, Pelican, and others. They created also Duck. Duck was very small but she dived to the bottom of the water, took a beakful of mud, and then died in coming to the top of the water. Duck lay dead floating on the water. Then Hawk and Crow took the mud from Duck's beak, and began making the mountains.

They began at the place now known as Ta-hi-cha-pa Pass, and Hawk made the east range. Crow made the west one. They pushed the mud down hard into the water and then piled it high. They worked toward the north. At last Hawk and Crow met at Mount Shasta. Then their work was done. But when they looked at their mountains, Crow's range was much larger than Hawk's.

Hawk said to Crow, "How did this happen, you rascal? You have been stealing earth from my bill. That is why your mountains are the biggest." Crow laughed.

Then Hawk chewed some Indian tobacco. That made him wise. At once he took hold of the mountains and turned them around almost in a circle. He put his range where Crow's had been. That is why the Sierra Nevada Range is larger than the Coast Range.

From: Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest
Compiled and Edited by Katharine Berry Judson, 1912

The Lizard-Hand

It was Coyote who brought it about that people die.

He made it thus because our hands are not closed like his.

He wanted our hands to be like his, but a lizard said to him:
"No, they must have my hand."

He had five fingers and Coyote had only a fist.

So now we have an open hand with five fingers.

But then Coyote said: "Well, then they will have to die."

From: Kroeber, University of California Publications in
American Archaeology and Ethnology, iv, 231, No. 38

Map: California Tribal Groups

Notes from "The North American Indian" by ES Curtis
The Piercing of the Yokut Shield
The Tachi Yokut Tribe
Yokut Indians-Dumna (Cassons) and Kachayi Band
Yokut Information to year 2000 / Links
The Yokuts (California Historical Society)

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Compiled by: Glenn Welker

Copyright @ 1993-2016

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