Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Maidu Turtle (Anosma)

This photo is from a a bunch taken by Ron Smith in the Sutter Buttes area of California:
Native American Wiki-lore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutter_Buttes)

"The Sutter Buttes figure prominently in the creation stories and other traditions of the indigenous Maidu and Wintun peoples. The Maidu (or Nisenan) lived to the east of the Buttes and the Wintun (Patwin) to the mountain's west. No tribe claimed ownership of the Buttes and there are only season encampments in the mountain. Native Americans did visit the mountain regularly to gather acorns and other foods or to hunt game. The Buttes were also a center of regional Native American religion. According to anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, the Patwin village where the city of Colusa now stands was the “hotbed” where the Kuksu Cult was established. This religion spread through much of northern California. Ceremonies were performed in earthen dance lodges where spirit impersonators would re-enact ancient mythological events. The Maidu, who lived in their shadow for thousands of years, called them Esto Yamani, which means "the Middle Mountain", the Wintun called the Sutter Buttes Onolai. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutter_Buttes).

Ron also posts a map of other rocklines on Sutter Buttes: http://www.platosatlantis.com/sutter_buttes_rock_line_map.htm

I also found: “The Maidu people of California had a loose tribal organization with no visible expression of totemism. Their main occupation was hunting and gathering in a rich semi-forested area… The myth reported here has points of connection with the stories of the Wintum and Yana Indian groups located nearby in the Shasta and Pit River areas. The Algonquin, in the northeastern United States, have a creation myth that also speaks of an animal diving for earth, hence this was a widely distributed point of view on the North American Continent. Indian tribes in Southern California, however, sometimes spoke of God as thinking the world into existence from a void. So creation theories were also present. 

According to the Maidu:

In the beginning there was no sun, no moon, no stars. All was dark, and everywhere there was only water. A raft came floating on the water. It came from the North and in it were two persons -- Turtle (Anosma) and the Father-of-the-Secret-Society (Peheipe). [3] The stream flowed very rapidly. Then from the sky a rope of feathers (pokelma) was let down, and down it came the Earth-Initiate. When he reached the end of the rope, he tied it to the bow of the raft and stepped in. His face was covered and was never seen, but his body shone like the sun. He sat down and for a long time said nothing.

At last Turtle said, "Where do you come from?"

And Earth-Initiate answered, "I come from above."

Then Turtle said, "Brother can you not make for me some good dry land, so that I may sometimes come up out of the water?" Then he asked another time, "Are there going to be any people in the world?"

Earth-Initiate thought for a while, then said, "Yes."

Turtle asked, "How long before you are going to make people?"

Earth-Initiate replied, "I don't know. You want to have some dry land: well how am I going to get any earth to make it?"

Turtle answered, "If you will tie a rock about my left arm, I'll dive for some."

Earth-Initiate did as Turtle asked, and then, reaching around took the end of a rope from somewhere and tied it to Turtle. (When Earth-Initiate came to the raft, there was no rope there: he just reached out and found one.)

Turtle said, "If the rope is not long enough, I'll jerk it once, and you must haul me up; if it is long enough, I'll give two jerks, and then you must pull me up quickly as I shall have all the earth that I can carry."

Just as Turtle went over the side of the boat the Father-of-the-Secret-Society began to shout loudly.

Turtle was gone a long time. He was gone six years; and when he came up he was covered with green slime, he had been down so long. When he reached the top of the water the only earth he had was a very little under his nails: the rest had all washed away. Earth-Initiate took with his right hand a stone knife from under his left armpit and carefully scraped the earth out from under Turtle's nails. He put the earth in the palm of his hand and rolled it about till it was round; it was as large as a small pebble. He laid it in the stern of the raft. By and by he went to look at it: it had not grown at all. The third time he went to look at it, it had grown so that it could be spanned by the arms. The fourth time he looked, it was as big as the world, the raft was aground, and all around were mountains as far as he could see. The raft came ashore at Tádoiko, and the place can be seen today.

What shall we make of this story? It might be described as a creation narrative with Earth-Initiate as the creator figure. However, as already noted, it would be better to describe it as a formation story. There is the Father-of-the Secret-Society who shouts out loudly both here and later on at other key points in the story, which we have not been able to include here. There is a third figure, Turtle who announces that he wants a rock tied to his left arm before he goes over the side for six years to search for land to multiply. He manages to bring up a little bit from the bottom of the sea – so that the earth is primordial. Finally there is the mundane reality of Tádoiko, a place that you can see to this day if you know where to look (http://www.solaspress.com/mythch2.htm).”
Quoted from Roland B. Dixon, "Maidu Myths," Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, xvii 39 Pt. 2, (N.Y. June 30, l902) pp. 39-40

The Huntington Expedition first gathered Maidu stories in 1902 and published them in 1912 in the publication American Ethnological Society Ed. Frank Boaz.

A Maidu man, Maym Benner Galligher, recognized the voice of the speaker in the recordings as that of Tom Young (Hánc’ibyjim) the last of the great Maidu story tellers. See The Maidu Indian Myths and Stories of Hánc’ibyjim, Edited and Trans. William Shipley, Berkeley, Heyday Books 1991. Shipley’s book has a somewhat different Maidu origin story. In it two figures, Earthmaker and Coyote, are in a raft looking for earth in a world where there is only water. A small meadow lark’s nest came floating on the water. Under Earthmaker’s direction the nest is stretched in all four directions by Coyote until it is big enough to sustain Earthmaker and eventually all other animals. Note that in the Shipley and Dixon accounts more than one figure is required to form the world.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:31 AM

    Maym Benner Galligher was a woman, not a man.