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

Then in the place where Mūkat was burned there began to grow all kinds of strange plants, but no one knew what they were. They were afraid to go near the place for a hot wind always blew there. One, Palmitcawut, a great shaman, said, “Why do you not go and ask our father what they are?” No one else would go so he followed the spirit of Mūkat. By the aid of his ceremonial staff he followed the trail of Mūkat’s spirit although whirlwinds had hidden the trail. In one place were thickets of prickly cactus and clumps of interlaced thorny vines, but at the touch of his ceremonial staff they opened up for him to pass. Far away on the horizon he saw a bright glow where the spirit of Mūkat was leaning against a rock. The creator’s spirit spoke, “Who are you, that follows and makes me move on when I am lying still?” When the creator’s spirit spoke Palmitcawut was dumb and could not answer, though Mūkat asked him several times. Finally he was able to speak: “Yes, I am the one who disturbs you while you rest, but we, your creatures, do not know what the strange things are that grow where your body was burned?” Mūkat’s spirit answered him, “Yes, that was the last thing I wanted to tell you, but you killed me before I could do so.” Then he continued, “You need not be afraid of those things. They are from my body.” He asked Palmitcawut to describe them and when he had finished the spirit of Mūkat said, “That big tree is tobacco. It is my heart. It can be cleaned with white clay,366 smoked in the big house to drive away evil spirits. The vines with yellow squashes are from my stomach, watermelons are from the pupil of my eye, corn is from my teeth, wheat is my lice eggs,367 beans are from my semen,368 and all other vegetables are from other parts of my body.” (Thus when any vegetables are gathered and brought to the “big house” all the people must pray to the creator.)

Then he said, “I am in that big house. My spirit is there, my saliva is there. You can move the big house away and always live there.” They did this and all Mūkat’s creatures stayed in the house weeping for their father. Then they began to wonder how they could make the image of their father. Meanwhile coyote was far away, being very sick.  At last he took some wet short reeds,369 rolled them into a ball, and swallowed it. Then he vomited up all kinds of disease from his heart. Thus he got well. From far away he heard the people in the “big house” talking, planning to kill him when he came back. So coyote came near them and they saw him. He talked gently to them from far away and they listened. He said, “I have heard you wondering how to make our father’s image. I will show you.” And he gathered all kinds of flowers saying, “With these we can make the image of our father!” He was joking with them, making them forget their anger. He brought many kinds of flowers, but by the next morning they would all be dead. All this time he was planning what he should do. At last he remembered that he must go to the ocean and get pana maiswut,370 pana hekwa,371 and pana wiava.372 So he told the people he was going after these things.

Then he went to the ocean which was far away. That evening he slept at the edge of the earth, and woke up very early thinking it was dawn.  He called aloud, asking it not to become light right away. Then he began to sing because the surf was pounding in so hard that he could not go into it. He sang asking the ocean to stop pounding for a little while. Then he went into the water, and got those three things with which to make the image of Mūkat.373 These three things he brought back to the “big house.”

Then he began to make the image of his father. All Mūkat’s creatures were crying, and they sang songs as each part of the maiswut was cut and wrapped. Thus the image was made. They sang a song about moving it, standing it up, carrying it to the fire, placing it on the pile, lighting the fire, the smoking, the burning, the crumbling of the last ashes, the last of the burning. Then, covering the ashes with dirt, they sang the last song. All was over.

To view the other two creation stories, please click here.


366 yūliwit, tēviwit.
367 nasawam.
368 nenevum.
369 sīmūtum.
370 seaweed matting. The wrapping of the clan fetish bundles.
371 water tail, archaic.
372 water apron, archaic.
373 The maīswut was to be cut and wrapped with the other two, but what “water tail” and “water apron” were, no one at present knows. The maīswut is now usually made of tule or reed matting.


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