Pacific NW: How Kemush Created the World

Kemush (also spelled Kumush) is a creator god, and the Klamath people originally lived in Oregon around the Upper Klamath Late and along the Klamath, Sprague and Williamson rivers. You can read more about the Klamath people at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Pacific Northwest unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest, especially of Washington and Oregon, by Katharine Berry Judson (1910).

How Kemush Created the World

IN the time that was, Kemush, Old Man of the Ancients, slept in Yamsi, Lodge of the North Wind. Hard had been his work. Kemush had made the world. He had sprung quickly from the ashes of the northern lights and made the world at the call of Morning Star.

At first Kaila, the earth, had been flat and bare. Then Kemush planted in the valleys the grass, and camas roots, iba and ipo roots.

On Molaiksi, Steepness, he had set Kapka, the pine, Wako, the white pine, and Ktalo, the juniper.

On the rivers and lakes Kemush placed Weks, the mallard, and Waiwash, the white goose. Mushmush, the white-tail deer, Wan, the red fox, and Ketchkatch, the little gray fox, ran through the forest. Koil, the mountain sheep, and Luk, the grizzly bear, Kemush set on Kta-iti, place of rocks.

So made Kemush the earth. And all the earth was new except Shapashkeni, the rock, where was built the lodge of Sun and Moon.

So Kemush slept while the day was young. Then came Wanaka, the sun halo, and called to the sleeping one, Old Man of the Ancients. Kemush rose from the door of the lodge. Together they followed the trail of Shel, the sun, until they reached the edge of the dark. But Maidu, the Indian, was not yet created.

Then Kemush, with his daughter, Evening Sky, went to the Place of the Dark, to the lodges of the Munatalkni. Five nights in a great circle about a vast fire they danced with the spirits of the dark. The spirits were without number, like the leaves on the trees. But when Shel called to the world, the spirits became dry bones.

On the fifth day, when the sun was new, Kemush rose and put the dry bones into a sack. Then, as he followed the trail of Shel to the edge of the world, he threw away the bones.

He threw them away two by two. To Kta-iti, place of steepness, he threw two. To Kuyani Shaiks, the crawfish trail, to Molaiksi, steepness of snow, and to Kakasam Yama, mountain of the great blue heron, to each he threw two bones. Thus people were created. The dry bones became Maidu, the Indian, Aikspala, the people of the chipmunks, and last of all, Maklaks, the Klamath Indian.

Then Kemush followed the trail of Shel, the sun, climbing higher and higher. At the top of the trail he built his lodge. Here still lives Kemush, Old Man of the Ancients, with his daughter Evening Sky, and Wanaka, the sun halo.

The Robe of Kemush

KEMUSH, walking upon the earth after having created it, saw five lynxes sitting upon a tree. Kemush had on only a rabbit blanket. Kemush tore his blanket to pieces, saying, "The lynxes will be a good robe to me when I kill them."

Picking up a stone, he threw it at the lynxes. One lynx jumped down and ran away. Kemush said, "Oh! it will not be a good mantle."

Again he missed with a stone. Another lynx, jumping down, ran off. Kemush said, "Again one skipped away. Now my mantle will become small."

The three lynxes sitting on the tree scoffed at Kemush. Again with a stone he missed the lynxes. Another one jumped down and ran away. Kemush said, "It will only cover my back."

Picking up another stone, he missed the lynxes. Both skipping down, ran away. Kemush began crying, "Lo-t loyan loyak. Lo-loyan loyak."

Again gathering the pieces of his blanket, he pinned it together with splinters. Then putting it around himself, started off.

Not far away an antelope with an aching tooth lay on a clearing. Spreading his rabbit blanket over the antelope, Kemush kicked it. Then he began searching for a stone knife with which to skin it. An antelope behind him ran off. Looking at it, Kemush said, "This looks like my antelope."

Then the antelope of Kemush ran in front of him. Kemush saw his blanket on the antelope's back. He cried, "Stop! Stop! The people will make fun of you, wrapped in my old rabbit blanket."

(700 words)

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