Indian Legends of California and the Southwest

Week 13: Native American Tales - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images


More Stories of the Mountains

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.

Here are two more stories about the mountains: one story about Mount Shasta and Little Shasta in northern California, and a story about North Dome and South Dome in Yosemite.

Old Man Above and the Grizzlies (Shastika, Cal.)

Along time ago, while smoke still curled from the smoke hole of the tepee, a great storm arose. The storm shook the tepee. Wind blew the smoke down the smoke hole. Old Man Above said to Little Daughter: "Climb up to the smoke hole. Tell Wind to be quiet. Stick your arm out of the smoke hole before you tell him." Little Daughter climbed up to the smoke hole and put out her arm. But Little Daughter put out her head also. She wanted to see the world. Little Daughter wanted to see the rivers and trees, and the white foam on the Bitter Waters. Wind caught Little Daughter by the hair. Wind pulled her out of the smoke hole and blew her down the mountain. Wind blew Little Daughter over the smooth ice and the great forests, down to the land of the Grizzlies. Wind tangled her hair and then left her cold and shivering near the tepees of the Grizzlies.

Soon Grizzly came home. In those days Grizzly walked on two feet, and carried a big stick. Grizzly could talk as people do. Grizzly laid down the young elk he had killed and picked up Little Daughter. He took Little Daughter to his tepee. Then Mother Grizzly warmed her by the fire. Mother Grizzly gave her food to eat.

Soon Little Daughter married the son of Grizzly. Their children were not Grizzlies. They were men. So the Grizzlies built a tepee for Little Daughter and her children. White men call the tepee Little Shasta.

At last Mother Grizzly sent a son to Old Man Above. Mother Grizzly knew that Little Daughter was the child of Old Man Above, but she was afraid. She said: "Tell Old Man Above that Little Daughter is alive."

Old Man Above climbed out of the smoke hole. He ran down the mountain side to the land of the Grizzlies. Old Man Above ran very quickly. Wherever he set his foot the snow melted. The snow melted very quickly and made streams of water. Now Grizzlies stood in line to welcome Old Man Above. They stood on two feet and carried clubs. Then Old Man Above saw his daughter and her children. He saw the new race of men. Then Old Man Above became very angry. He said to Grizzlies: "Never speak again. Be silent. Neither shall ye stand upright. Ye shall use your hands as feet. Ye shall look downward."

Then Old Man Above put out the fire in the tepee. Smoke no longer curls from the smoke hole. He fastened the door of the tepee. The new race of men he drove out. Then Old Man Above took Little Daughter back to his tepee.

That is why grizzlies walk on four feet and look downward. Only when fighting they stand on two feet and use their fists like men.

Legend of Tis-Se'-Yak (South Dome and North Dome) Yosemite Valley

Tisseyak and her husband journeyed from a country very far off, and entered the valley of the Yosemite foot-sore from travel. She bore a great heavy conical basket, strapped across her head. Tisseyak came first. Her husband followed with a rude staff and a light roll of skins on his back. They were thirsty after their long journey across the mountains. They hurried forward to drink of the waters, and the woman was still in advance when she reached Lake Awaia. Then she dipped up the water in her basket and drank of it. She drank up all the water. The lake was dry before her husband reached it. And because the woman drank all the water, there came a drought. The earth dried tip. There was no grass, nor any green thing.

But the man was angry because he had no water to drink. He beat the woman with his staff and she fled, but he followed and beat her even more. Then the woman wept. In her anger she turned and flung her basket at the man. And even then they were changed into stone. The woman's basket lies upturned beside the man. The woman's face is tear-stained, with long dark lines trailing down.

South Dome is the woman and North Dome is the husband. The Indian woman cuts her hair straight across the forehead, and allows the sides to drop along her cheeks, forming a square face.


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what did the Grizzlies do when they found Little Daughter?
  • why is there no more smoke coming out of the top of Mount Shasta?
  • why is the "South Dome" crying?

Source: Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest. Compiled and Edited by Katharine Berry Judson. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1912. Weblink.


Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM