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The First New Plants

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

Now, when everything burned was cold, they filled the grave and smoothed it, and went back and burned the house because Mo-Cot before he died told them to do this thing-not to live in the old house where he had lived. Some one might get sickness.

In three days they went to look at the grave, and they saw some plants sprouting up where they had burned their father Mo-Cot, and they did not know what it was.

They said to each another, “Our father never said anything about that, so how can we find out.”

Now one man among them was smart and intelligent, and he asked, “Did our father not leave someone with the power of knowing about this?”

But no one knew, and then he said, “I am going to chase him until I find him, and then I am going to find out.”

So the people said that was right; that he should go and ask him about it, and find out. The man who was going to chase our father, his name was Pal mech cho wit, meaning “water not believing.” He went over to the grave where they had burned the body, and he stood waiting there, looking at the plants.

Soon a very small whirlwind started going around, and he watched it until it went away from the plants, and he followed it as it went to the east. The whirlwind was getting larger and larger. He followed it until dark came, and in the darkness the whirlwind became light, so that he could see, and he still followed on. He found after a time that the whirlwind was not a whirlwind, but a person.

He followed him, but could not get near to him; but anyway he could see all right until the daylight came. He saw tracks, and he followed the tracks. But the great red ant walked over the tracks till he could not see them any more. Then he used the tracks of the red ant to follow.

Pal mech me wit said, “It is yourself, my father, using the tracks of the ants, and so I am going to follow you.”

Then the tracks of the great red ants were covered by the tracks of the Cev la bet em, the big black beetle, the bug that stands on its head, but not the small bug of today. So Pal mech me wit used that track, and said, “I know that it is you yourself, my father, using this track.” And he kept following until darkness came.

After the dark came he kept going toward the East. Then he came to the grease-wood tree, and seeing the bunches of mistletoe in the trees, thought it was some person, but found it was only mistletoe, such as grew in his own country.

Pal mech me wit said, “It is your own self doing this to frighten me, my father.”

He kept on going till he came to the desert willow tree. He thought it was a person till he came close to it.  He thought perhaps it was Mo-Cot, but it was only desert willow. He kept on going till he saw a palo verde tree, and the bunches of mistletoe again. He was very much afraid, so far away from his people, but he was brave, and would not be frightened by a palo verde tree covered with bunches of mistletoe. Now this was palo verde (oow oow wit) with the flat seed; the other kind is taw how cut with the round seed, and he saw this kind also with the bunches of mistletoe. Still he kept going, and all things small looked large to him till he came to them, when he found they were all small.

He was seeing the mirage across the sand. He kept going on till he came to the sand country, sand and sand hills, which in the Indian language is called na che wit, a country with nothing but sand.

After passing through the sand country he came to prairie country. There he heard an owl howling, and he knew he was getting near to the place he was looking for. When the night came, he could see the light shooting straight up to the sky. He kept on going, and then he came close to Mo-Cot. As he came nearer, a wave a heat came across his face, and he knew he was coming closer to Mo-Cot’s spirit.

He was filled with fear. He was not quite up to him, but he was nervous, and trembled so much that he could not go farther. Mo-Cot’s spirit was asking him to come closer if he could. He tried, but could not. He had no strength left to stand up. He could not walk any more.

And because Pal mech me wit’s strength turned weak when he saw the Spirit, so have all people since become weak when they see a spirit.

He could see Mo-Cot’s spirit. The body was like crystal at night time, with pale colors glowing over it. He could see the face, but not the features, and the spirit was beautiful.

Mo-Cot’s spirit knew who he was, and what he had come after, too, but anyway he asked, “Who are you?”

Pal mech me wit answered, “I am of No cot em, the people, who gave me authority to come and ask you something. In our grave something is sprouting up. We don’t know what that is. I and No cot em want to know.

Then Mo-Cot’s spirit answered and said, “I was going to explain all these thing to you people. I did not know what you people were thinking about when you bewitched me, but that is all right. Now I will tell you.

“These plants are all my body; all kinds: my bones, my skin, my head, my eyes, my ears, my nose, my arms, my fingers, my legs, my feet, my liver, my guts, my heart, my hair.

“Everything is what you will use for your living. You are going to eat that.”

“My teeth will be your corn; the melons are my heart; my eyes are your fruit, your grass is my hair.”

“Everything that you have, that you will eat, that will be some part of my body.”

“You have to go back to the people and tell them that I will be there in one day, two days, or three days.”

So Pal mech me wit went back, and when he got there he called them every one together, and he told them everything that Mo-Cot’s spirit had told him-all about the plants which were to be ours to use. The people did not know one plant from another, so Pal mech me wit told them all of the names of everything, even those we see today.

The first name that they had was the beans, which were the fingers of Mo-Cot. These were named Ta va my lum. The corn was named Pa ha vosh lum and the wheat was named Pach che sal and the pumpkins were neh wit em, the watermelon was Is to chen. At the same time Pal mech me wit told them that Mo-Cot’s spirit would be with them in one day, two days, or three days.

They were all glad and satisfied to have Mo-Cot’s spirit come again. They waited those three days, but the night of the third day they all fell asleep.

Then one of them, a man named Chip chip wit, he awoke and saw coming the spirit of Mo-Cot. He saw very plainly the spirit of his father, so he jumped up and he yelled to all the people, “all my brothers and sisters, our father is here now!”

They jumped up, every one of them, and they looked and asked each another, but they could see nothing. They asked each another, “Who is it that says our father is here now!”

Then Chip chip wit became nervous at what he saw, and fell down unconscious. He spit blood from his mouth.

When he got better, he told them that he saw his father’s spirit. “Maybe I am mistaken, but I saw it,” he said.

And so it was that some, but not all, could see the spirits.

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