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Native American Legends

The theft of fire

A Pohonichi Miwok Legend

At first there was no fire. The turtle had it all. He sat on it and covered it up. He lived far up in the east in the mountains. Coyote went to that place. He lay down like a piece of wood. The people who lived there came by and saw him. "I am going to take this piece of wood," they said.

They took him home and put him in the fire. Coyote tried to get into the fire under the turtle. The turtle said. "Stop pushing me."

Now Coyote got some of the fire. Then he ran down-hill with it westward into this country, where then there was no fire and it was cold. He caught a quail and with its fat he made his fire blaze up. Now the people first all became warm. The Mono were far back up in the hills; the Chukchansi in the middle; the Pohonichi were the ones who received the fire. Coyote was one of them. That is why the Mono cannot speak well; it is too cold where they live.

Coyote made the eagle the chief of the people. They enjoyed themselves and made dances. They were warm now because they had fire. They lived well. They wore no clothes. Some men wore a blanket of rabbit skins or of deer skin; others wore nothing. They used hollow stones to cook in, made of soft red stone. The eagle told them: "Go out and catch rabbits," and then they caught rabbits to eat. To get salt they went beyond the North Fork of the San Joaquin.

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