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Coyote Goes for Rockfire and Sunfire

Contribute to the art in this exhibit by submitting a digital photo, painting, or graphic about the Cahuilla Creation Story to adunphy@accmuseum.org

The coyote called out to the people, “My sisters and brothers, our father has died!” Then every one of them, they cried, and this was the first time that the people knew how to cry. The roadrunner, the dove and the owl, the wild mallard duck, and the red woodpecker, these were the first people who began to cry when their father died. Then all the people cried.

Now when they were crying they went to their brother coyote and said: “You were always good for everything, and attended to everything, so now you can go after Rockfire and Sunfire, so we can start burning our father. Coyote was still crying, but he got up and brushed the tears from his eyes and walked away.

The people nor coyote knew where the Rockfire or Sunfire was, nor how far it was-nobody knew. But coyote walked away, then he started to run, and he said: “My dear brothers and sisters watch me, my legs, my tail pointing as I am running, and watch the dust I make. I am going to carry my foot in my hand, and my hand I am going to put on my forehead, and my nose pointing straight ahead, and my eyes never wink, and my mouth is going to be open, and I am going to be like standing steady, and then I say: ‘My dear Sunfire and Rockfire come to me, come near to me, don’t you move far away, come near to me dear brother Rockfire and Sunfire.’”

So he stopped and then pulled the earth near to him, and then he kept running until the Rockfire and the Sunfire were quite near to him. But it was very dangerous, for there was nobody could be near them.

Coyote said: “You are my own brother, I won’t scare you at all. I am going to get you. You are trying to eat me, or scare me, or kill me, but somehow I am going to get you, because you are my own brother.” Then he came to it, and got Rockfire and Sunfire.

Now after the people had got coyote started after the Rockfire and the Sunfire, they began to make a fire out of this girl (Min my wit) the palm tree. They nominated the great fly to twist the stick to make the fire. The flies have never forgotten this, because today you can see even the common house flies rubbing their hands together, remembering it yet.

They nominated Bac cho, the small coon-like animal, and the bear to dig the grave. The mountain quail and the desert quail gathered the wood in long poles and short logs, and got the alder and the red brushwood, and the wild plum, and other kinds, eleven kinds in all.

So they fixed it on the grave, and put the body of Mo-Cot on the top, as he had told them to do. Then they started the fire. When the fire was starting, the people all stood in a circle tight and close, near the fire. Then they all started a song about every thing as it happened.

First thing was the smoke, second thing was the smoldering fire, and third the burning of the fire, and fourth how it lighted the wood, and fifth how it caught the body and caused the arms and legs to twist and turn; how it caused the body to burst open, and then how the flesh all burned and left nothing but the bones among the embers; but the heart did not burn quickly, it took some time for it to burn.

Now the coyote had much power, and by running and pulling the earth closer [to] him he found the Rockfire and the Sunfire much sooner than anyone thought he could.

He came running back with the fire, crying, “I am coming back, my brothers and sisters,” but as he came back nearer and nearer and saw the smoke, he saw the body of his father was burning. He said: “I knew, I knew they were going to do that way, but I do not know what made me come after the Rockfire and Sunfire.” 

So he dropped his fire and left it there, to run faster to get to the body of his father before it was all burned. Then he saw the people all standing close to each another around the fire from a long way, and he called: “My brothers and my sisters, look at my face, the tears running out of my eyes. Let me get through and see my father.” But the people saw him coming, and told each another not to allow him to get in. When he came up there was no place, so he said: “My brothers and sisters, give me an open place, so that I can see our father.”

The heart was not yet burned, so they stirred the fire to make it burn more quickly. Now coyote was running around and around on the outside of the circle, saying, “My brothers and my sisters, are you not sorry for me? Let me get in to see my father.”

They stood closer together, so there was no chance for him to get in. He said, “I will go under your feet, my dear brothers and sisters, or I will fly over you.”

Some of the people were short, and some were tall, and coyote was running about in circles, as he does today. Then he jumped quickly over the shoulders of some of the shorter people, to the fire. He scattered the embers among all the people, till they ran away. Then he snatched up the heart of his father and ran away with it.

The mountain fox and the desert fox they chased him, but after a little way he turned around and told them to stay away, that it would not do them any good to follow him,  for he was running to the end of the earth with the heart of his father.

When night came, many Spirits came to him, trying to scare him. “Ah, no!” he said. “I won’t be scared of you because you are my father.” They were showing him things in front to frighten him, so that he would not go there.

But he said, “Ah, no! I know you are my father. I am not afraid of you. I am going to eat up your heart,” and he did.

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