Native American Legends
The visit to the Dead
A Tachi Yokut Legend
A Tachi had a fine wife who died and was buried. Her husband went
to her grave and dug a hole near it. There he stayed watching, not
eating, not using only tobacco. After two nights he saw that she
came up, brushed the earth off herself, and started to go to the
island of the dead. The man tried to seize her but could not hold
She went southeast and he followed her. Whenever he tried to hold
her she escaped. He kept trying to seize her, however, and delayed
her. At daybreak she stopped. He stayed there, but could not see
When it began to be dark the woman got up again and went on. She
turned westward and crossed Tulare Lake [or its inlet]. At daybreak
the man again tried to seize her but could not hold her. She stayed
in that place during the day.
The man remained in the same place, but again he could not see
her. There was a good trail there, and he could see the footprints
of his dead friends and relatives.
In the evening his wife got up again and went on. They came to
a river which flows westward toward San Luis Obispo, the river of
the Tulamni [the description fits the Santa Maria, but the Tulamni
are in the Tulare drainage, on and about Buena Vista lake].
There the man caught up with his wife and there they stayed all
day. He still had had nothing to eat. In the evening she went on
again, now northward. Then somewhere to the west of the Tachi country
he caught up with her once more and they spent the day there.
In the evening the woman got up and they went on northward, across
the San Joaquin river, to the north or east of it. Again he overtook
his wife. Then she said: "What are you going to do? I am nothing
now. How can you get my body back? Do you think you shall be able
to do it?"
He said: "I think so."
She said: "I think not. I am going to a different kind of
a place now."
From daybreak on that man stayed there. In the evening the woman
started once more and went down along the river, but he overtook
her again. She did not talk to him. Then they stayed all day, and
at night went on again.
Now they were close to the island of the dead. It was joined to
the land by a rising and falling bridge called Ch'eleli. Under this
bridge a river ran swiftly. The dead passed over this.
When they were on the bridge, a bird suddenly fluttered up beside
them and frightened them. Many fell off into the river, where they
turned into fish. Now the chief of the dead said: "Somebody
They told him: "There are two. One of them is alive; he stinks."
The chief said: "Do not let him cross."
When the woman came on the island, he asked her: "You have
a companion?" and she told him: "Yes, my husband."
He asked her: "Is he coming here?"
She said: "I do not know. He is alive."
They asked the man: "Do you want to come to this country?"
He said: "Yes." Then they told him: "Wait. I will
see the chief."
They told the chief: "He says that he wants to come to this
country. We think he does not tell the truth."
"Well, let him come across." Now they intended to frighten
him off the bridge. They said: "Come on. The chief says you
Then the bird [Kacha] flew up and tried to scare him, but did not
make him fall off the bridge into the water. So they brought him
before the chief. The chief said: "This is a bad country. You
should not have come. We have only your wife's soul [ilit]. She
has left her bones with her body. I do not think we can give her
back to you."
In the evening they danced. It was a round dance and they shouted.
The chief said to the man: "Look at your wife in the middle
of the crowd. Tomorrow you will see no one."
Now the man stayed there three days. Then the chief said to some
of the people: "Bring that woman. her husband wants to talk
They brought the woman to him. He asked her: ''Is this your husband?"
She said: "Yes."
He asked her: "Do you think you will go back to him?"
She said: "I do not think so. What do you wish?"
The chief said: "I think not. You must stay here. You cannot
go back. You are worthless now." Then He said to the man: "Do
you want to sleep with your wife?"
He said: "Yes, for a while. I want to sleep with her and talk
with her." Then he was allowed to sleep with her that night
and they talked together.
At daybreak the woman was vanished and he was sleeping next to
a fallen oak. The chief said to him: "Get up. It is late."
He opened his eyes and saw an oak instead of his wife. The chief
said: "You see that we cannot make your wife as she was. She
is no good now. It is best that you go back. You have a good country
there." But the man said: "No, I will stay."
The chief told him: "No, do not. Come back here whenever you
like, but go back now." Nevertheless the man stayed there six
days. Then he said: "I am going back."
Then in the morning he started to go home. The chief told him:
"When you arrive, hide yourself. Then after six days emerge
and make a dance."
Now the man returned. He told his parents: "Make me a small
house. In six days I will come out and dance." Now he stayed
there five days. Then his friends began to know that he had come
back. "Our relative has come back," they all said.
Now the man was in too much of a hurry. After five days he came
out. In the evening he began to dance and danced all night, telling
what he saw. In the morning, when he had stopped dancing, he went
to bathe. Then a rattlesnake bit him. He died. So he went back to
He is there now. It is through him that the people know how it
is there. Every two days the island becomes full. Then the chief
gathers the people. "You must swim," he says. The people
stop dancing and bathe. Then the bird frightens them, and some turn
to fish, and some to ducks; only a few come out of the water again
as people. In this way room is made when the island is too full.
The name of the chief there is Kandjidji.
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