Tale of The Creation And Early Migrations

In the beginning the sun, stars, moon, and earth did not exist as they are now. Darkness ruled. With the lapse of time came a man, the only living being. Soon after his arrival a village sprang into existence with many thousands of people, and the people noticed that the man seemed to be everywhere. For a time he disappeared, and when he came back he had all kinds of seeds. He called all the people together and told them that the seeds were for them to eat, and gave them to every one. He told them that soon Darkness would go, and the people would see, for Darkness had promised that they should have a man by the name of Sun, and that he should be given power by the Great-Father-Above; that whenever his time should come to give them to the Sun he should be called or taken away from his mother, from our great mother Earth below; that the direction where the Sun should come from should be called “east,” and the way of its going down should be called “west.” He also announced to the people that he was the first being created and that he had been given power by the same Great-Father-Above, and that he had to carry out his work. He then told the people that it was very necessary that they should have one man abler and wiser than any other man among them, to be their head man; that they should call him “chief;” that whatever the chief should command should be done by the people; that they should look upon him as a great father. The unknown man told the people to return to their homes, hold a council among themselves, and select a chief.

When they had returned and assembled there was in the council a man by the name of Coyote, who told the people that the unknown powerful man should be called Moon, because he was the first man created on earth. The people decided that the Moon should be their head man or chief. Finally the Moon called the people together again and asked them if they had selected their head man or chief. Coyote told him that they had decided that he should be their head man, and that they had named him “Moon.” After Moon came to be chief he selected another man, whom he called the Errand-Man, to be his helper, and to go around among the people to call them together whenever he might want them.

One time the errand-man was sent out to tell the people that the chief wanted them to assemble; that he had very important news to tell them, and that they should come as quickly as they could. When they had come together the chief told them that they would all have to move away from the world that they were living in to another and better world; that he was going to lead them through, for he knew the way. The village which they were going to leave was called Old-Home-in-the-Darkness. Before the people were ready to leave, the chief sent the errand-man around among them to tell them that they were to be divided into groups, because there were so many of them; that each group must have a leader, and he would give each leader a drum. The people began to form in groups and select their leaders. After the groups were all formed and each selected their leader, the chief called all the leaders together and gave each a drum, and then they were ready to start. The chief told all the leaders that they must sing and beat their drums as they were moving along; that none of them should ever look back the way they came, lest the people should be stopped and have to stay where they were in darkness.

The people began moving westward, and they came out of the ground to another world. While they were yet coming out Coyote happened to be out. He began to look around, then told the chief that the world was too small for the people; then he turned around and looked back in the direction from which they had come. The people had not all come out, and so half of them went back, but the others kept on going westward. Finally the chief picked up some dirt and threw it in front of him and formed very high mountains. When the people came to the mountains they stopped and began to make their first homes and villages. Moon went to the top of the mountain and looked about and found that the people had not all come the way he had come, but had scattered and gone in different directions. At the time when the people were all together they spoke but one language, the Caddo; but after they had scattered out in groups each group spoke a different language. For this reason the many tribes of the present time speak different languages. When Moon came to his people, the few he had left, he told them the name of the place in the ground from which they had come. He told them that the direction to their right-hand side should be called north, or cold side, and the direction to their left-hand side should be called south, or warm side. While Moon was talking the Sun came up out of the east, passed them, and went down in the west. He went too fast to do them any good at all. Coyote announced that he was going to stop the Sun from going so fast. He started eastward early in the morning, and when he came to a good place to stop he waited for the Sun to come up. When the Sun came up he found Coyote waiting for him. Coyote told the Sun that he had come there for the purpose of seeing him; that he wanted to talk with him, for he was in trouble. The Sun said that he had not very much time to stop and talk. Coyote told the Sun that he would go with him and talk to him as they went along. They started on, walking very slowly. Coyote kept telling about things that had lately happened. When the Sun was nearing the west Coyote told him that he was going to defecate, and asked him to wait a while. He started out behind the bushes, and just as soon as he was behind them, where the Sun could not see him, he ran away from the Sun and the Sun stood there waiting for him to return. After a while the Sun grew tired of waiting and started on very slowly, looking back every little while and watching for Coyote to catch up with him, but Coyote did not appear. The Sun went down very slowly, still waiting for Coyote. This is the reason that the Sun lingers and goes down very slowly.

The people’s first village in this new world was called Tall-Timber-on-Top-of-the-Hill, for the place was in black-jack timber near the top of a high hill. There was the beginning of the real people. Moon called the people together for the first time in the new world and said: “Soon there will be a child born of a certain woman. He is on the way. He shall have more power than any one else, for Great-Father-Above has sent him down to his mother, the earth, to be among the people and teach them right and wrong. When the child comes he shall name himself after the former chief, Medicine-Screech-Owl, and he shall have with him bow and arrows.”

When the child came he had with him the bow and arrows. When his birthday came his father and mother were talking about what name should be given him; but before his mother or father could give him a name the young child spoke and named himself, saying, “My name shall be Medicine-Screech-Owl.” He said to the people: “The bow and arrows are for the men only, to be used in killing game. The time is coming when we shall have to use these things, especially the bow and arrows.” Later on the people began to learn that this child was going to be a powerful man. He went around among the people and taught them how to make bows and arrows. In those times the animals talked to human beings and the human beings could talk to the animals, and they understood one another. Time passed and some of the human beings began to turn into animals. Medicine-Screech-Owl knew that some of these people were not real human beings. He knew that if some of the people should turn into animals it would be very bad, as the people would be destroyed by them, and as he knew just what animals were the most ferocious he went and made them a visit in behalf of the people. Some of the animals were opposed to Medicine-Screech-Owl and hated him, and when he came to certain ones they would try to kill him, and that is how he came to kill some of them.

In those times the people had little to eat. There were two people, a man and a woman, known to the people as the Buzzards, who lived at the north end of the village, and the people noticed that they always had plenty of meat and other things to eat, and they wondered how they got it. Time passed until finally Coyote came among the people and told them that he was going over to visit the two people and find out where and how they got so much meat and so many other things to eat. In those times the animals that were living with the people had some magic powers, and Coyote had power. He said: “In order to find out where and how the Buzzard people get their food, I must scheme.” After studying he resolved that he would imitate a dog, and so before he came to the Buzzard home he turned himself into a very small and fine-looking dog. He stayed away from the Buzzards and watched his opportunity to place himself where they would find him. One time the Buzzards had gone out some distance from their home for some purpose and were returning, when they found the little dog by the trail. The woman liked the dog, but the man said that it was not a real dog, but some one else. The woman did not believe him. The man allowed her to take the dog home with them. When they reached home he told her that they must find out whether this was a real dog or not. He told her to pinch the dog’s ear and see if it would howl like a real dog. The woman pinched the dog’s ear and it howled like a dog. Still the man did not believe that it was a dog. He told the woman to go and get some meat and give it to the dog, saying that if a dog it would take its time, but if it were not a dog it would eat fast; that then he would know whether or not to believe it was a dog. The woman gave some meat to the dog. Coyote took his time in eating it, and so Buzzard believed what the woman had said, and they kept the dog. Coyote stayed with them until their meat gave out, then he watched them very closely. Finally the Buzzards began to talk about going after more meat. Coyote listened. At length they started out and left their dog at home. They thought the dog would stay at home until they returned. But Coyote had a scheme, so he followed at some distance, so that they could not see him, and he watched them very closely. When they came to the place where they usually found their meat, Coyote found out all about how and where they got it, then ran back to their home and lay down, so that when the Buzzards returned to their home they found their little dog lying there fast asleep. Coyote stayed with them two days longer, and the third day he made up his mind that he must carry out his work. Early one morning he started out straight to the place where he had seen the Buzzards at work. It was a large cave or hole in the ground. The door of the place was a large rock. When he came to the place he opened it and out came thousands and thousands of buffalo. They came out so fast that before long they had spread over the western prairies before the Buzzards knew it. It was quite a time before Buzzard discovered what had happened. First he heard a strange noise like thunder. He went and looked for the little dog, but in vain, for the dog had already gone. He heard Coyote howling in the distance. Buzzard went out and found that nearly all the buffalo had escaped.

When Coyote went to his home he told the people to hurry and make some bows and arrows, for the buffalo were coming. He told them just what had happened and how he had schemed.

Buzzard was very angry at his wife and scolded her. He told her that she ought to know by this time that they were not the only ones that had powers, and that henceforth the only way that they could make a living was to go around and look for dead meat. In order to do this they turned into birds and became real buzzards. They flew around and looked for dead things to eat.

From that time on the people began to make bows and arrows, which were given to mankind for their use in killing game. Time passed on and the people noticed that their chief, Moon, paid no attention to them and seemed to have nothing to say. He did not call them together any more, but stayed at his home all the time. The people began to think there must be something wrong, and so there was, for Moon himself was doing very wrong things. He knew that he was setting his people a bad example, and he believed the people had already found out something about him. Medicine-Screech-Owl knew all about this, for he had more powers than Moon himself. Moon was living with his family near the center of the village; he was the chief, unmarried, and lived with his father and mother and one very young sister. Here was the beginning of his mistakes. Unknown to his father and mother, for a long time he kept going by night to see his own sister, not letting her know that he was her own brother. He abused her and treated her very meanly sometimes. For a long time she did not know who he could be, for she had no one to tell her. It finally occurred to her that it might be her brother. One night she made up her mind to find out who he was. She put some black paint on her fingers, and that night when the man came she passed her painted fingers across his forehead and made black marks, which the man knew nothing about until the next morning. In the morning, when he came in, she saw the marks on his forehead, and she knew that he was the man who had abused her. When he learned that the people were finding out about him he became so ashamed of himself that he wished to leave his people. He remembered that when he came into the world the Great-Father-Above had promised him that some day he should call him away from his people; that he should be placed where the people could see him at night, and that he should be with the people all the time. He knew that the time was now approaching when he should be called away from his people, and soon he was called away from them. Great-Father-Above took him away and placed him far above, where the people could see him and the shame-marks on his forehead.

Medicine-Screech-Owl grew to be a man, and after Moon was gone the people gathered again to select another chief, and they selected the powerful Medicine-Screech-Owl. His first announcement to the people was that they must move on farther west. The people began moving westward, climbing the mountains. When they had got on top of them they saw a large lake, and they wondered where the water came from. Medicine-Screech-Owl called the people’s attention to it, and they all came and gathered along the banks of the lake. He then spoke to the people, saying: “These waters which are before you are the tears of your great chief, Moon, for before he was taken up into the heavens he came up to this mountain and shed tears for the wrongs he had done to his people. So we shall call this mountain Moon’s-Tears-on-the-Mountain.” The people kept on moving westward until they found a place where they wanted to locate their second village. They commenced making bows and arrows, which they used in killing game. They began to go out a long distance from their village to hunt buffalo and other animals. There were several kinds of dangerous animals in the country, and at one place near by the people dared not go, because there in the water was the most ferocious animal that ever lived. Medicine-Screech-Owl told the people that he had some power and that he was going to try to kill the animal. One day when he was alone he decided to go and destroy the animal. He went out, and when he came near the place where the animal was he stopped for a short time at the edge of the timber, for he could not locate the animal exactly. The name of the animal was Cannibal. The lake was large and all around were swamps and thickets. By the aid of his power and with a certain motion, Medicine-Screech-Owl made a narrow place like a road through the thicket, through which he could see the animal. He had brought with him from his village his bow, but no arrows, and some corn, which he was to use in killing the animal. When he made the opening in the thicket he took out two tall canes from the ground, with the roots and the dirt that was on them, to be used as arrows. The corn that he had with him he threw in the air, and it became blackbirds, which flew straight over the head of the animal. When the animal arose to draw the blackbirds down to him Medicine-Screech-Owl shot it with the cane arrows, first from the right side through the heart and out the left, then from the left side through the heart and out to the right. The animal fell near the edge of the water and died. Medicine-Screech-Owl went over to see the place where the animal was. He saw all kinds of bones lying around the place. Not long after this the lake dried up. When the people learned what had happened and what their chief had done, they were no longer afraid of the place.

Now Coyote became a very bad man. The people noticed that he had done to them several things that he had no right to do. He would go from place to place, sometimes very early in the morning and sometimes very late in the evening. He made all kinds of trouble among the people. Whenever he did anything that was wrong he would blame some one else, and in some way he would escape the consequences. Finally Medicine-Screech-Owl sent for Coyote and told him that he must leave the people and go on his way; but Coyote, being a great schemer, told the chief that he was going to stop doing mean tricks among his people, and that he was not yet ready to leave. Medicine-Screech-Owl allowed him to stay with the people until he should be captured or killed at any time.

Caddo, Legends,

Dorsey, George A. Traditions of the Caddo. Washington: Carnegie Institution. 1905.

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