Commentary on Creation story

OK if you haven’t read the previous post, which is a translation of Jim Buchanan’s version of the Creation story, as told in 1909, go read it.  Today I’ll talk about other versions and a bit of commentary.

First, I thought I’d mention the episode in the story of the appearance of the shaman, and his killing.  In other Oregon coast stories of creation – the Joshua story (found in “Coyote was going there”) and Upper Coquille (see Seaburg’s “Pitch Woman and other Stories”) some trouble enters the land and causes trouble.  In this version it is the appearance of a stranger, a doctor.  The two Arrow Young Men kill him and his blood is scattered.  Dell Hymes, who also translated this story, thought the blood might refer to red huckleberries.  And it might, though it is not made explicit in this or other versions.

In Tillamook lore, red huckleberries are related to Wild Woman, and in Alsea they are also associated with Asin, a wild woman.  In Hanis Coos we have the Eshin (sounds like the English word ashen, similar to the Alsea word) who is a wild person, one who has forgotten he or she is human.  Coos lore was, one should not pick red huckleberries late into the afternoon.  One should quit early in the day, other wise the picker would keep following the berries deeper into the woods and get lost.  And might become an eshin.  

Here is Jim Buchanan’s comment on how eagle feathers came to be used to make trees:   The land kept then kept growing higher all the time. He said: What are you thinking about. Suppose we set eagle’s feathers (while he said this, feather’s came to his hand; He got everything by thinking it). So he set them out on a distance apart. He said, “That’s the proper way? From there – he said – everything will be growing, all kinds of trees. The next two days everything started to go.

I had not thought of it before working on translating this story, but the branches of conifers (excepting our lovely cedars and junipers) do resemble feathers.  It is funny to me now that I never noticed that before.

Frank Drew was Jim’s friend and over the years often acted as his translator, with visiting anthropologists and the 1931 Land Claims trial.  Frank told shorter versions of this story, you can find them on pages 239-240 of Melville Jacobs’ “Coos Myth Texts”.

Frank explained that the early ocean ran far across the land, and the people put basket along the shore to stop it, this became the sand beaches. As in Jim Buchanan’s story, the land began with five disks of blue clay, called in Hanis tqe’en (Frachtenberg mistranslated this in his book as soot); Frank Drew said the blue could still be seen under the ocean. I’ve noticed a layer of blue-ish looking clay in the bay when clam digging.

Returning to the murdered shaman – Jim told another story about him, and Frank put the story inside the creation story (although the doctor is a woman this time).  In either version, the shaman’s body becomes the different tribes of people.  From the shamans hair came the Coos Bay people, because we were the most numerous.  The entrails were scattered east to the Kalapuya country, and that is why they had big bellies.  The bones were scattered to Umpqua country which is why they were big boned.  Frank doesn’t mention it here, but Jim said the “Siletz” – the Athabaskans to the south of us – came from the blood, and they are warlike.

Lottie Evanoff (Chief Doloos Jackson’s daughter) told JP Harrington that she was not familiar with Jim Buchanan’s story.  She said her father told her (Harrington 24:555a-556a):  Coyote made the land. The [mountains] were made by the waves. You used to see children’s tracks on the rocks, they ran around when everything was soft. My father said when he was young he used to see lots of those tracks. Now they all wore out.

Coyote made a few people. First people what they drank was –

No fire & No water. Coyote had 2 sons, not know who Coyote’s wife was.

The 2 sons started traveling to see if any people. They came to where all was nothing but snow & ice. They made themselves eagles. And they found people with bills living by sucking alikachik [dentalium, in Chinook jargon]-they sucked them so much their mouths started sticking out. The eagles married them two & that’s where we people come from.” (Interestingly, there are Upper Coquille and Tillamook stories about people visiting the land of dentalium, and the people there have teeny mouths because they suck the meat out of dentalium shells).

EDIT:  I forgot to add last night, that in Lottie’s version, I love her mention that the waves (when the water ran across the new land) made the hills and mountains.  Notice next time while hiking the coastal hills, or driving along Siuslaw NF or local BLM roads that looking out from one ridge to all the ones around you, they DO look like great, frozen solid waves covered with green trees.  When I look out over the hills, I can see exactly why some storytellers would mention that.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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