Western Shoshoni Myths:
The Origin of the People
Coyote had a home. He hunted rabbits to make a rabbit-skin blanket. When he had a great many skins, he started to make the blanket in his house. While he was working on his blanket, he saw a shadow pass the door. He went out of the door to see what it was, and saw a woman running. She had a rabbit's tail on her buttocks. He chased the woman, and she ran toward the west. Coyote ran fast, but could get no closer to her. He chased her to the ocean. 11
At the edge of the ocean the woman stopped and sat down. She said, "I will lie on my back and swim across, and carry you over." They started across, the woman carrying him. When they had gone a little way, Coyote moved down on her. The woman dumped him off into the water. Coyote had already decided that, if she put him off into the water, he would turn himself into a water skate ("some little long-legged insect that runs on the water"). When she pushed him into the water, he turned into the skate and crossed the ocean. He reached the other side before the woman.
When Coyote got to the other side he found a tree and made himself a bow. He took green stringy stuff from the water, which he put on the back of his bow instead of sinew. He made the bow string of the same thing. Then he found some cane, made arrows, and began to shoot ducks. He took the ducks to the woman's house.
There were two women living at this house, the woman he had followed and her mother. 12 The women were sitting outside their house. They told Coyote to go inside and sit down. When Coyote went in, he saw quivers made of fox skin hanging all over the wall. 13
The women started to cook the ducks. They ate the ducks; both women ate. Coyote was singing. He made a hole in the house and watched the women. After eating the meat, the women disposed of the bones. . . . Both of them did this.
They went into the house to sleep. Coyote made advances to the woman he had pursued. He was frustrated . . . In the morning, Coyote went out and got a hard stick. It was a kind of hard sage
brush. He hid it by the house . . . The next morning, Coyote hunted mountain sheep. He killed a small one and took the bone from its neck. He put the neck bone by the house in the same place he had hidden the stick. . . . He made successful advances that night . . .
In the morning, both women were large in the belly. The older one started to weave a basketry water jug. She finished making the jug. Both women put their babies in the jug. When they had finished, they told Coyote to go back home and to take the jug full of babies with him. Coyote started. When he came to the ocean, the old woman put a flat stick across it and Coyote walked over on it. He came toward his home. He went to Owens Valley.
While he was carrying the jug, he heard a noise. He wondered what it was. He pulled the stopper out of the jug. Indians came out; many Indians. When only a few were left inside the jug, he put the stopper back. The woman had told him to pull it out when he came to the middle of the world, but he had pulled it out when he heard the noise. He put the stopper in again and came on to Death Valley. In Death Valley he pulled it out again, and the remaining Indians came out. They stayed here. That is why there are Indians here now.
11 The informant's English term. The Shoshoni word would probably be translated "large water," i. e., "lake."
12 They were given no names.
13 No mention here is made of the owners of the quivers.