Native American Legends
War of the Foothill and Plains People
A Yaudanchi Yokut Legend
The birds and animals from the mountains [foothills] went to war
with the animals of the lake below. With the party from the mountains
was Coyote. He had a large quiver full of arrows. In the morning
he got up, knotted his hair behind, took his bow, and called to
all, "Get up, get up, or I will kill you. I am ready to go
to war." Now they started.
All the way down into the plains Coyote led the way and hurried
the others. Alongside him was the humming-bird. They two were the
leaders. There were three owls, with the party. One of these carried
an inexhaustible supply of arrow point; in his mouth; another carried
sinew; and a third feathers for arrow-shafts.
As the arrows became used during the fight, they produced these
materials and kept the people supplied. So they fought. The people
from the mountains beat those of the plains. But there were two
that they could not kill, the fish epis and the turtle. One of these
was slippery, the other was hard, and the arrows glanced off their
backs. Then Coyote broke his leg, took out the bone, stuck it into
the end of his arrow, and shot. He struck the fish in the back of
its neck and killed it. Then he shot at the turtle and struck it
in its head aperture and killed it.
Now the eagle, who was the chief of all, sent off the victorious
mountain people. He said: "You cannot live here any longer.
You must go away. Where do you want to go?"
Coyote said: "Wishawishawisha! Wishawishawisha! Wishawishawisha!
I do not want to go." The humming-bird agreed with him.
The eagle, said: "Well, what are you going to become? What
will you be? I am going to fly high up in the air and live on squirrels
and sometimes on deer."
The dog said: "I will stay with people and be their friend.
I will follow them, and perhaps I will get something to eat in that
The buzzard said: "When something dies I will smell it. I
will go there and eat it."
The crow said: "When I see something lying dead I will pick
Coyote said: "I will go about killing grasshoppers. That is
how I will live."
The humming-bird said: "I will go to the flowers and get my
food from them."
The condor said: "I will not stay here. I will go far off
into the mountains. Perhaps I will, find something there."
The woodpecker said: "I will get acorns and make holes in
The bluejay said: "I am going to make trees grow over the
hills. I will work."
The rat said: "I will go where there are old trees and make
my house in them."
The mouse said: "I will run here and there and everywhere.
I shall have holes and perhaps I can live in that way."
The trout said: "I will live in the water and perhaps I can
find something to eat there."
That was the time they stopped being like us and scattered.
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