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Yuma creation myth [archive]

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Yuma creation myth

In the very beginrung, there was nothing but water and darkness. The water sloshed around, splashing foam and spray. Some of the spray congealed and formed the sky. Kokomaht, the Creator, lived underneath the water and was two beings in one. He rose up out of the water and said his own name, Kokomaht, the Father and. Creator of all.

But out of himself came another being called Bakotahl. When the other being called to Kokomaht out of the water, he asked, "Did you rise up from the water with your eyes open or shut?" Kokomaht knew that this other was evil, and decided to deceive Bakotahl, answering that his eyes had been open. So Bakotahl emerged from the water with his eyes open and became blind. Evil ones to this very day are still blind: bakotahl means "the blind one." All things made by Kokomaht were good, while all things that Bakotahl produced were evil.

The two stood on the waters as there was no firm land created yet. Kokomaht asked his blind brother, "Where is the north?" But, being blind, Bakotahl pointed toward the south.

Then Kokomaht responded, "That is not the north," and then he created the four directions. He faced west and said, "This shall be the west." Then he faced east and said, "This shall be the east," and so on. He took four steps to the south and the south came into being; he took four steps north to create the north.

Then Kokomaht told his blind brother, "I will scatter the waters and make earth." So Kokomaht turned to face the north, creating a whirlwind that blew away enough water to create dry land. And Kokomaht then seated himself on the land. Bakotahl came to join him. Wishing to outdo his good brother, Bakotahl then said that he would make human beings.

Feeling around in the wet clay, Bakotahl took clay and water and began to make human beings, but they did not have fingers and toes. When the creatures were finished, Bakotahl showed them to Kokomaht, who knew that they were not right.

So Kokomaht decided to make humans. Taking clay, he formed a male with complete hands and feet. Kokomaht took the male and swung it four times to the north and then four times to the south, and it came to life. Then he made a female and did the same thing.

In the time that Kokomaht was busy making humans, Bakotahl had created seven beings. Kokomaht asked his brother what he was doing. Bakotahl responded that he was making humans, too. Kokomaht told his evil brother to examine the proper humans, perfectly made. Unlike the creatures made by Bakotahl, Kokomaht's humans had fingers that enabled them to make things and create works of art. Bakotahl was jealous and didn't like these perfect humans at all. Kokomaht stamped his feet and Bakotahl's creatures fell into the water and became ducks and geese.

This angered Bakotahl, who made a whirlwind that created all the enemies of humankind: disease, bad intentions, and plagues.

Kokomaht was now alone on the land with only a man and a woman. So Kokomaht went to work creating more people–a male and a female of each race–the Cocopahs,.the Mojaves, and the ancestral parents of all other peoples on earth. The last group he created were the white people. Kokomaht taught all these couples how to have intercourse and propagate the race.

As the people scattered to their own places on the earth, Kokomaht saw that his work of creation was done. But among thepeople was the Frog (Hanyi), who rebelled against Kokomaht and wished to destroy him through her poweful magic. Hanyi burrowed into the ground underneath the feet of Kokomaht and pulled out his breath until his throat became dry and he began to die. As he died, he taught the people the road of death.

Kokomaht had made himself a son, Komashtam'ho, who took up the post of the Creator. It was Komashtam'ho who made the sun that shines during the day by spitting into his hand, making a ball, and casting it into the sky. He threw it into the east, where the sun still rises. He spat into his hand and cast it into the heavens, where it became the stars.

The death of Kokomaht caused the people to despair. Komashtam'ho decided to burn the body of his father, the Creator, teaching the people the funeral rites. But there were no trees to burn in the fire. So, with a word, Komashtam'ho called trees out of the north and built a funeral pyre.

Before his death, Kokomaht had told the Coyote, "Take my heart; be good to all my creatures." But Coyote misunderstood the command. What Kokomaht had meant was "Be as I was"; Coyote thought that this command was to steal and eat the heart of Kokomaht. So the Coyote prowled around the funeral pyre waiting for just the right moment to climb up and eat the Creator's heart.

Komashtam'ho knew of Coyote's intentions and he dispatched the Coyote to travel to the east as the sun was rising, to fetch fire. Komashtam'ho knew very well that the humans would need fire in order to survive. When Coyote returned with the fire, he again plotted how to steal the heart of Kokomaht. However, the badger jumped up on the funeral pyre and succeeded in stealing the heart. All of the other animals tried to catch the badger, but none succeeded.

Komashtam'ho told the Coyote, "You will always be a thief, living by stealing. Men will despise you and kill you to defend their flocks." And all the people heard this.

Then Komashtam'ho spoke to all the people as the flames consumed the body of Kokomaht. He told them, "You will never again see Kokomaht in the flesh; he is dead. All of you will die someday as well. If Kokomaht had been allowed to live, then all of you would be immortal and the world would be overpopulated. But Kokomaht's spirit lives on and so will your spirits." The fire was so hot that it dried up the land, turning it into the desert where the Yuma people live today.

Just then a whirlwind formed around the ashes of Kokomaht and the people asked what it was. Komashtam'ho replied that the wind was the mighty spirit of Kokomaht. Although the body dies, the spirit lasts forever. Each man's spirit, at death, leaves the body and goes off to live with the spirits of those whom it loved in life.

The spirit of Kokomaht lives on to protect all that is good. Bakotahl lives under the earth and turns around, causing earth-quakes. Bakotahl still causes suffering and evil among men. But the good spirit of Kokomaht can overcome any evil.

Additional Reading

  Indian creation stories
  Yuma tribe
  California Indian reservations
  Indian Culture and Tradition

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