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A Rattlesnake Kills The Chief's Daughter

A Wintu Legend

Long ago some women gathered, put a blanket on the ground, and lay down. They made their leaders, the chief's daughter, lie in the middle. And they sang songs.

The chief's daughter was a good singer and many people gathered to see her. Some wanted to abduct her, but could not get close to her because she was the chief's daughter and everyone kept an eye on her.

She was rich because her father was rich. The people who wanted to abduct her were not from the area; they had come from somewhere else. They watched her, but there was no way of taking her because many people kept a close eye on her.

The women lay down and sang. Chief Tisasa's daughter was a good singer with a beautiful strong voice. This is not a tale, but a story about real Indians. Tisasa was a real Indian chief who was my father's grandfather. The woman was Tisasa's daughter.

The Indians thought very highly of Tisasa and he had many sons who were good people. He helped everybody, and when he hired people to do things, he always paid them well. The women lay down and sang many songs. At midnight they all left. But the others were still watching. They watched those who were watching the chief's daughter. Tisasa was a real chief. His family's home was called Kensunus, "Next Below."

When the chief's daughter went to pick clover, all the women followed the "little chief" and picked clover too. She was bitten by a rattlesnake, and they took her some. She died before many days had passed. The rattlesnake had killed her.

Her mother, the chief's wife, grieved the loss of her daughter. She made many sticks, packed them, and went out. She went west to a snake den called Snake Rock. There she dug for rattlesnakes and killed those she saw coming out, with a long green stick. She also had a short stick with her.

She killed off all the rattlesnakes that came out and strung them on a trimmed sharp stick. She strung them and tied them up. She dug up their rocky nest. She killed many rattlesnakes that were in the den. She killed forty rattlesnakes and strung them up on the stick. When she could not find any more, she leveled the den. She wiped them out. Their dens stink terribly, but the woman who had lost her daughter did not give up looking for rattlesnakes everywhere.

When she found some, she killed them and strung them up. She went everywhere looking for rattlesnakes and did not give up. For five years she did not forget to kill rattlesnakes. There were no more rattlesnakes close by, for she had killed them all. She had lost her daughter and did not want to stop. Their home was Kensunus. They buried their daughter in an elk hide with all her belongings. She took many good beads, clamshell beads, and things with her. They gathered everything, wrapped her in elk hide and buried her. She took much with her. That was because they were never going to see their daughter again.

But the mother grieved so that for thirty days after her daughter's death she did not want to stay at home. She went all over the mountains, steep hills, and rock piles, looking for rattlesnakes. When she saw a rattlesnake, she killed it. She did not kill any of the other snakes, water snakes or bull snakes. When she saw king snakes, she did not kill them. She only killed rattlesnakes. And then after some five years she stopped. She did not hunt rattlesnakes any more. She stopped hunting rattlesnakes.

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