Death of Some Nukatem and Telmekic
By Shannon Mirelez
At sunset they would return to the ceremonial house, dancing as they came. Among them was one called, tevicnikictcumelmii, who always kicked the rattlesnake280 when he came in. The latter could not play with the other creatures because he could not walk. Mūkat took pity on the rattlesnake and gave him a cactus thorn281 in his mouth as a fang. When all the other creatures were gone, Mūkat took his ceremonial staff282 and told the snake to bite it. This the rattlesnake did, but his fang broke off. Then Mūkat pulled out a black whisker and put it in as a fang, but it broke off. So he pulled out a gray whisker and with this fang the rattlesnake bit through the ceremonial staff and blood came out of it. Mūkat told the snake to bite his enemy and then crawl away to the mountain and stay in his hole. All was ready. When all the creatures came back from their playground tevicnikicteumelmii laughed and kicked the
snake, which bit him. Tevicnikicteumelmii died at once, and the snake crawled away to his hole in the mountain, where he has always stayed since rattling and biting, as the enemy of all Mūkat’s creatures.
Mūkat told the moon to have his creatures make bows of wood and arrows of reeds,283 with no points on them, and to have them stand in two lines and shoot at each other with these arrows. Then Mūkat told them to sharpen the points of the arrows. He then told them to make rock arrow-straignteners284 and to make arrows of arrow-weed285 about two feet long, with stone arrow-points.286 These they were to shoot with short, strong, sycamore bows.287 He told them to stand in two lines and shoot at one another, but they were afraid because it looked dangerous. Then takwic288 said, “It is nothing. You cannot die from this,” and he stuck an arrow through his body, pulling it out the other side. Then the hummingbird289 put a quiver290 on his back, and all shot at him, but they could not hit him for he was too small. He dodged each arrow and said, “See, it is nothing!” The Arkansas kingbird291 and then the butterfly292 did the same, and each said, “See, it is nothing!” So did the crow293 and the poor will,294 and they both dodged. Then the vulture295 tried it but he was too slow; they hit him, and he disappeared. Then the cony296 wanted to fight them all, and he cried, “Hurry up! Hurry up!” All the creatures began to shoot each other, hunting through the tall grass. Mūkat laughed, and said, “Now they are beginning to kill one another.” They shot until both sides were nearly all killed. Then the remainder saw their dead comrades and began to cry loudly. (At this point in the song all women must wail loudly.)
Mūkat looked at the dead people whose bodies were quivering and shaking.297 Their spirits298 arose, but their bodies were dead, and the spirits did not know where to go. They looked toward the west, and it seemed to be all clear for them. They went flying to the west. But when they got there there was no gate, they had to stop and come back crying to their bodies. Then toward the north they did the same thing, and to the south, but in vain. They flew to the sky but again in vain. Finally they went to the east where Temaīyauit was. He answered them, “Yes,” he said, “you are something. You are great devils.299 This is what I told Mūkat, that you would die and come back to life, but he always pushed away my word. Thus we created two kinds of clay300 and two herbs301 to brush the body and make it clean. Go back again to earth as great devils.” Hearing this they all hung their heads, and crying and wailing they came back to where their bodies lay. Among the creatures left alive was muntakwut, who was a powerful shaman. He took pity on the dead spirits and with his ceremonial staff bored a hole in the earth, opening the gate of telmekic.302 When they saw this gate was opened all went below, “sounding their heart,”303 “sounding their body,”304 “making great breathings,”305 “fading away with noise,”306 “disappearing forever.”307 To this place go all the spirits of the dead. This is the way Mūkat tricked and joked with his people.
282 whīyanahut: shaman’s wand. Also “the center pole of the world.”
288 The fire-ball demon, a great shaman, living on the top of San Jacinto peak.
294 pūlmic, also called the night jar. The Cahuilla say this is the way he got his twisting flight.
295 yuñavic, the turkey vulture.
296 ūlut, also called the pika, or little chief hare.
297 kulūkwit, wekhauwut, hemtahau: “quivering and shaking are their bodies.”
299 emetēwelevelatutcem, emeamnaalūtcem: “you are becoming great devils.”
300 ūliwut, tēviwut.
301 hañaawit, sahawit.
302 “Neither heaven or hell, but the place where the dead go.”