Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/383

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367
THE HOUND OF THE PLAINS.


earth after two or three days, as he himself does; but the coyote was evil disposed, and declared that when men died the survivors must burn their bodies. The moon was obliged to acquiesce, but before long caused the death of the coyote's son, and insisted upon the application of the law, to the coyote's great disgust. This recalls also a myth of the Bonaks, or Bannacks (of Southern Idaho), who believe themselves to have been developed out of coyotes by the gradual loss of useless members and a slow adaptation to environment. When one of these coyote ancestors died, various animal shapes would spring from the body, many of which took wings and flew away to the moon. The old coyotes, fearing the earth might become depopulated, instituted the cremation of corpses.

In the wonderful adventures of the Sókus Waí-un-ats, who was first one, then two, in his long contest with Stone Shirt (as told to Major Powell by the Indians who live at the lower end of the Colorado canons), Cin-aú-av appears “extremely proud of his fame as a hunter,” but consoles himself by philosophy under the chagrin of a failure. "What matters it,” he observes, "who kills the game, when we can all eat it?” — a maxim worthy of a coyote! In that long solar myth told by Utes, how Ta-vwots, the little rabbit, went to kill the sun and caused the conflagration of the world, Cin-aú-av is the owner of the first field he comes to, and the producer of the ancient corn whose seed descended to plant the fields of to-day; and he is the hero of many another religious story told by Shoshonee and Kalispel firesides. Nor is this true of Flathead, Ute, and Shoshonees alone. The native races of Northern California were superior in all respects to those living in the southern part of the State; and among them legendary lore reached a degree of perfection not common with Western Indians. In most of these fables the coyote plays a conspicuous part, for the forces of Nature, in whose phenomena most of these stories find their natural origin, are portrayed there (as among the Shoshonees) by animal personages. These ancient animal-gods, represented by degenerate descendants, have also duplicate spirits that visit the world, and whose influence can be secured. Thus, when one Karok has killed another, he frequently barks like a coyote, in the belief that thereby he will be endued with so much of that animal's cunning as will enable him to elude punishment. Perhaps the custom of the medicine-women of this nation of squatting beside an ill man and barking at him for hours together, indicates a similar prayer for sagacity in diagnosis.

The deity and creator of the Karok religion was Kareya, who made the fishes, the mammals, and finally The Man. Him he commanded to assemble all the animals, in order to assign to each its rank, by distributing bows and arrows, the longest to the most powerful, and so on down the scale. The beasts and birds came together the night before the distribution, and all went to sleep except the coyote, who