The Theft of Fire

Along, long time ago, the people became tired of feeding on grass, like deer and wild animals, and they talked together how fire might be found. The Ti-amoni said, “Coyote is the best man to steal fire from the world below,” so he sent for Coyote.

When Coyote came, the Ti-amoni said, “The people wish for fire. We are tired of feeding on grass. You must go to the world below and bring the fire.” Coyote said, “It is well, father. I will go.”spiritfire

So Coyote slipped stealthily to the house of Sussistinnako. It was the middle of the night. Snake, who guarded the first door, was asleep, and he slipped quickly and quietly by. Cougar, who guarded the second door, was asleep, and Coyote slipped by. Bear, who guarded the third door, was also sleeping. At the fourth door, Coyote found the guardian of the fire asleep. Slipping through into the room of Sussistinnako, he found him also sleeping.

Coyote quickly lighted the cedar brand which was attached to his tail and hurried out. Spider awoke, just enough to know some one was leaving the room. “Who is there?” he cried. Then he called, “Some one has been here.” But before he could waken the sleeping Bear and Cougar and Snake, Coyote had almost reached the upper world.

Legend Credit:
A Legend of the Sia of New Mexico Katharine Berry Judson,
Legends of California and the Old Southwest, 1912

photo credit: unknown

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The Great Flood

For a long time after the fight, the people were very happy, but the ninth year was very bad. The whole earth was filled with water. The water did not fall in rain, but came in as rivers between the mesas.

It continued to flow in from all sides until the people and the animals fled to the mesa tops. The water continued to rise until nearly level with the tops of the mesas. Then Sussistinnako cried, “Where shall my people go? Where is the road to the north?” He looked to the north. “Where is the road to the west? Where is the road to the east? Where is the road to the south?” He looked in each direction. He said, “I see the waters are everywhere.”

All of the medicine men sang four days and four nights, but still the waters continued to rise.

Then Spider placed a huge reed upon the top of the mesa. He said, “My people will pass up through this to the world above.”

Utset led the way, carrying a sack in which were many of the Star people. The medicine men followed, carrying sacred things in sacred blankets on their backs. Then came the people, and the animals, and the snakes, and birds. The turkey was far behind and the foam of the water rose and reached the tip ends of his feathers. You may know that is true because even to this day they bear the mark of the waters.

When they reached the top of the great reed, the earth which formed the floor of the world above, barred their way. Utset called to Locust, “Man, come here.” Locust went to her. She said, “You know best how to pass through the earth. Go and make a door for us.”

“Very well, mother,” said Locust. “I think I can make a way.”

He began working with his feet and after a while he passed through the earthy floor, entering the upper world. As soon as he saw it, he said to Utset, “It is good above.” Utset called Badger, and said, “Make a door for us. Sika, the Locust has made one, but it is very small.”

“Very well, mother, I will,” said Badger.

After much work he passed into the world above, and said,

“Mother, I have opened the way.” Badger also said, “Father-mother, the world above is good.”

Utset then called Deer. She said, “You go through first. If you can get your head through, others may pass.”

The deer returned saying, “Father, it is all right. I passed without trouble.” Utset called Elk. She said, “You pass through. If you can get your head and horns through the door, all may pass.”

Elk returned saying, “Father, it is good. I passed without trouble.” Then Utset told the buffalo to try, and he returned saying, “Father-mother, the door is good. I passed without trouble.”

Utset called the scarab beetle and gave him the sack of stars, telling him to pass out first with them. Scarab did not know what the sack contained, but he was very small and grew tired carrying it. He wondered what could be in the sack. After entering the new world he was so tired he laid down the sack and peeped into it. He cut only a tiny hole, but at once the Star People flew out and filled the heavens everywhere.

Then Utset and all the people came, and after Turkey passed, the door was closed with a great rock so that the waters from below could not follow them.

Then Utset looked for the sack with the Star People. She found it nearly empty and could not tell where the stars had gone. The little beetle sat by, very much frightened and very sad. But Utset was angry and said, “You are bad and disobedient. From this time forth, you shall be blind.” That is the reason the scarabaeus has no eyes, so the old ones say.

But the little fellow had saved a few of the stars by grasping the sack and holding it fast. Utset placed these in the heavens. In one group she placed seven – the great bear. In another, three. In another group she placed the Pleiades, and threw the others far off into the sky.legendfromthemesas

Legend Credit:
A Legend of the Sia of New Mexico
Katharine Berry Judson, 1912

Photo credit: unknown