Tag Archives: Ohlone Indians

Creation myth of northern Ohlone (Coastonoan) Indians

I’m still working on stories for liberal religious kids, and I wanted a creation myth that comes from this region, the San Francisco Bay area. After some research (thank goodness for Google Books), I found a creation myth that mentions landscape features that we can see, if not from the church, at least from here in Palo Alto. As usual, this is a rough draft, and your comments are welcomed.

Once upon a time, there were no human beings, but there were two spirits, one good and one evil. The two spirits made war upon each other, and at least the good spirit overcame the evil spirit. At that time, the entire world was covered with water, except for two islands, one of which was Mount Diablo and the other of which was Reed Peak [i.e., Mt. Tamalpais].

There was a Coyote on Mt. Tamalpais. He was the only living thing there. One day Coyote saw a feather floating on the water, and, as it reached the island, is suddenly turned into an Eagle. Spreading its broad wings, the Eagle flew up onto the mountain.

Coyote was much pleased with his new companion, and they lived together in great harmony. Sometimes they would make excursions to the other island, Coyote swimming while Eagle flew overhead. This went on for some time. Then they consulted with each other, and decided to make human beings.

Together they made the first human beings. Soon the first human beings had children, and the level of the water went down so that there was more land for the human beings. Soon the children of the first human beings had children, and the level of the water went down some more. Then the grandchildren of the first human beings had children, and so on, and the more human beings there were, the more the waters decreased, until at last where there was dry land where there once had been water.

At that time, what is now known as the Golden Gate was a chain of mountains, and you could walk from one side to the other side without getting your feet wet. The water that came down from the east had to go out through some other rivers somewhere. But then a great earthquake struck, and chain of mountains was cut in two, forming what we now call the Golden Gate. Then the waters of the Great Ocean and the Bay could at last come together, and the land became as we now know it.

The above tale is adapted from “Tradition of the California Indians,” by H. B. D., in Hesperian Magazine, vol. 2-3, (ed. F. H. Day, San Francisco, vol. III, no. 1, September, 1859), p. 326. H. D. B. says this tale came “from the lips of one of our most venerable pioneers, and I give it as I heard it.” Continue reading