Pacific NW: How Silver-Fox Created the World

The Atsugewi are sometimes referred to as the "Hat Creek Indians" because they lived near Mount Shashta along the Burney, Dixie Valley, Horse, and Hat Creeks. You can read more about the Atsugewi 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 Silver-Fox Created the World
Hat Creek Indians (Atsugewi)

IN the beginning there was nothing but water. Coyote and Silver-Fox lived above in the sky, where there was a world like this one. Silver-Fox was anxious to make things, but Coyote was opposed to this.

Finally Silver-Fox got tired of Coyote and sent him one day to get wood. While he was gone, Silver-Fox took an arrow-flaker and made a hole in the upper world and looked down on the sea below. When Coyote came back, Silver-Fox did not tell him about the hole he had made.

Next day he sent Coyote off again for wood. While he was gone, Silver-Fox thrust down the arrow-flaker and found that it reached to the water and down to the bottom of the water. So he climbed through the hole. As he came near the surface of the water, he made a little round island on which he stayed.

When Coyote returned, he could not find Silver-Fox and, after hunting a long time, he began to feel remorseful. Finally he found the hole in the sky. He peeped through and saw Silver-Fox on his island, far, far below.

He called to Silver-Fox he was sorry, and asked how to get down. Silver-Fox did not answer.

Coyote said Silver-Fox ought not to treat him so badly; then Silver-Fox put up the arrow-flaker and Coyote came down. But the island was very small, and there was not room enough for Coyote to stretch out.

For some time they slept and when they awoke they were very hungry. For five days things continued this way, until at last Silver-Fox gave Coyote some sunflower seeds. He asked where they came from. Silver-Fox did not answer.

After five days more, Silver-Fox made the island a little larger so that Coyote could have room to stretch out. At last he went comfortably asleep. At once Silver-Fox got up, dressed himself finely, and then made a big sweat house. When it was all done, he woke Coyote, who was much surprised to see the sweat house.

Silver-Fox told Coyote to sweep it out, to spread grass on the floor, and to go to sleep again. He did so, and Silver-Fox dressed up again. He put on a finely beaded shirt and leggings, and smoked and sang more. Then, going outside, he pushed with his foot and stretched out the earth in all directions, first to the east, then to the north, then to the west, and last to the south.

For five nights he repeated this until the world became as large as it is to-day. Each day Silver-Fox told Coyote to run around the edge and see how large it was growing. At first Coyote could do this very quickly, but the last time he grew old and gray before he got back.

Then Silver-Fox made trees and springs and fixed the world up nicely. He also made all kinds of animal, merely by thinking about them. These animals, however, were like people.

When the world was all made, Coyote asked what they were going to have for food. Silver-Fox did not reply.

Coyote then said he thought there ought to be ten moons of winter in the year. Silver-Fox replied there would not be enough food for so long a winter.

Coyote said it would be better not to have much food, that people could make soup out of dirt. Silver-Fox at first did not reply. Then Silver-Fox said it was not right to have ten moons of winter, that two were enough, and that people could then eat sunflower seeds, roots, and berries. Coyote repeated what he had said before, and they argued about it a long time.

Finally Silver-Fox said: "You talk too much! I am going to make four moons for the whole year. I won't talk about it any more. There will be two moons of winter, and one of spring, and one of autumn. That's enough."

(700 words)

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