Native American Legends
California Creation Lore
A Yokut Legend
A Great Flood had occurred upon Earth long, long ago. While Earth
was still covered with water, there were no living creatures upon
Then out of the sky one day glided an enormous Eagle with a black
Crow riding upon its back, searching for a place to light.
Around and around Eagle flew until he discovered a projecting tree
stump, or what appeared to be a stump, upon which he landed to rest.
There was a home at last upon the flat surface, which was amply
large enough for Eagle and Crow to roost upon.
From here, they surveyed the greenish gray water as far as they
could see. The sky was a gorgeous bright blue with a few white drifting
clouds, occasionally swirled by a passing breeze. All seemed serene
to Eagle and Crow.
Small fish were visible below the water, sometimes leaping out
of the sea playfully. Hunger caused Eagle and Crow to swoop down,
catching a meal for themselves from time to time. Soon a game developed
between the two birds to see which one would be the winner in the
fish-catching contest. Upon their return to the stump, however,
they always shared the reward.
Because of Eagle's great size and wingspan, he soared to great
heights and surveyed widely, as the two birds often flew in opposite
directions exploring for land. But no land did they find. No other
flying creatures did they see. But they always returned to their
home base on the tree stump.
Between them, they wondered "How can we possibly think of
a way to make land?"
"We know we cannot dive deep enough to find dirt, and the
fish are of no help except to provide food."
Day after day these scenes were repeated, exploring in search of
land or wondering how to create land, only to return to their stump
and catch more fish.
One morning soon thereafter and much to their surprise, a Duck
was swimming around and around their stump. Occasionally, it dived
deep in the water, rose to the surface chewing small fish, twisting
its head from side to side trying to swallow its meal. One time,
Duck emerged with more mud than fish in its mouth.
Eagle and Crow bird talked excitedly about this! "Can Duck
possibly bring up enough mud for us to build land?" they wondered.
How could they let Duck know that mud was what they needed most?
An idea occurred to Eagle, which he bird talked to Crow, "If
we supply fish for Duck, maybe he will bring up more mud than fish."
By trial and error, the two birds caught fish for Duck, placing
them at the edge of the stump, until Duck learned that the fish
were for him in exchange for mud!
When Duck appeared on the surface after a deep dive, Eagle and
Crow brushed off the mud from Duck's bill and his body with their
wings. Progress was slow but steady.
Gradually, Eagle had a pile of mud on his side of the stump and
Crow had a similar pile on his side. Each placed fish on his own
side for Duck, who now responded by carrying more and more mud to
Eagle and Crow. This became a great game of fish-and-mud exchange.
Duck worked very hard, consequently he was always hungry. The birds
were surprised at how large each one's mud pile grew every day.
In bird talk they said, "Duck is helping us to make a new world.
This we will share equally."
Occasionally, Eagle and Crow flew toward the horizon, exploring
for any new signs of land. But they returned with nothing new to
report; however, they noticed a slight lowering of water around
the tree stump.
"Surely, the flood must be coming to an end," Crow and
Eagle bird talked.
Each day they watched for a change in the waterline. Each day their
piles of mud seemed higher and higher. Faithful Duck kept up his
good work as Eagle and Crow caught fish for him and scraped off
mud from him for each side of the new world.
Another time, Eagle flew high and far in search of dry land, not
returning until late. The sun set and darkness enveloped his world
on the stump. Next morning, to Eagle's surprise, he saw how much
more mud he had acquired, and he was pleased. But after looking
across at Crow's mud pile, Eagle was astounded to see that Crow
had given himself twice as much mud while Eagle was away.
"Was this Crow's idea of sharing the new world equally?"
Of course, they quarreled all that day and the next over Crow's
unfairness. But the following day, they went back to work making
their new land. Eagle decided that he must catch up. He caught two
fish for Duck and put them in his usual place. Duck responded by
bringing up mud twice to Eagle in exchange for his two fish. All
three worked very hard for many, many moons.
Gradually, Eagle's half of the new world became taller and taller
than Crow's half, even though Crow seemed to work just as hard as
Eagle. Duck was faithful to his task, never tiring in his effort
to supply mud. Of course, Duck continued to give Eagle twice as
much mud for his two fish. Crow never seemed to notice why Eagle's
half became higher and higher than his half.
One morning, as the sun rose brightly, the two birds looked down
through the water and saw what appeared to be land!
"So that is where Duck finds the mud," they bird talked.
They were pleased to see that the water was subsiding. How they
hoped that soon they would be high and dry on their new world.
But all was not so easy, for that very night lightning flashed
across the waters and thunder rolled and rolled from one horizon
to the other followed by a heavy, drenching rain. Eagle and Crow
sought shelter in holes they dug into the sides of their mud piles.
All night long the rain continued to fall, washing away much of
the new world into the sea.
As the rain stopped and the sun rose, Eagle and Duck looked out
upon the waters and saw an arc of many colors reaching from one
edge of the horizon across the sky to the other horizon. This brilliant
display held their eyes in wonderment. What did it mean? They marveled
at how long the colors lingered in the sky. Eagle flew toward the
scene for a closer look, returning when the arc disappeared.
In bird talk, Eagle and Crow decided that the storm of the night
before must have been a clearing shower. They began their land-
building project again, hoping that Duck would resume his work as
mud-carrier. Soon the sun's rays burned strong and hot, packing
the mud until it was hard. Duck appeared and the team of three continued
to build the two halves of the new world.
Day by day, the waters subsided and new land began to show above
the waterline but far, far below the new creation by Eagle and Crow.
Eagle's half became taller and taller and hard packed by the hot
sun. Crow's share of the new world was still great, but never could
become as large as Eagle's half of the new world.
In retelling this creation story, Yokut tribal historians always
claim that Eagle's half became the mighty Sierra Nevada Mountains.
They also tell how Crow's half became known as the Coast Mountain
Yokut historians end their tale by saying that people everywhere
honour the brave and strong Eagle, while Crow is accorded a lesser
place because of his unfair disposition displayed during the creation
of the new world by Eagle and Crow.
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