Indian Mythology | San Carlos Apache Mythology



1They say it happened long ago when people were about to be made that there was one man and one woman living between the earth and the black sky. That "bad thing"2 happened.

The woman was named Ests'unnadlehi, and the other, the boy, was called Naiyenezgani. The boy, not knowing who his father was, asked where he was living. "He lives far away and there are difficulties: you will not be able to go there," the woman told him. Saying he was going, nevertheless, he set out and came where Spider was.3 His foot caught in the spider's thread. He turned back and started again but when he came to the same spot he tripped on the web again. Feeling about in the grass with his hand he hunted for the thread and came to the spider's hole. Spider came up to him and addressing him as grandchild, son's son, inquired of the boy where he was going. He replied that he was going to visit his father. "It is a dangerous place where he lives," Spider replied, "but come into my house." The boy went in and Spider talked to him telling him of the dangers. "There are four approaches to his house and his daughter will see you when you are still far away."

When the boy was approaching his sister saw him and said: "Yonder walks my brother." "What is that, your brother?" her mother asked. " Well, I said ' my brother,' the girl replied. " Whom do you mean by your brother? He does not exist," the mother said. The girl again said her brother was coming to visit them.

Then the boy inquired for his father, saying he came to visit him. The woman replied that she did not know his father, but the boy insisted that he had been told that his father lived there and that he came because of that. The woman admitted that it might be that the boy's father did live there and asked him to be seated until his father's return.

When his father was coming back he saw the boy's tracks. "Who came here?" he demanded. "We have not seen anyone," the woman replied. The man insisted that some one had come and pointed out the tracks. "Well, have your own way about it," the woman replied. "You are always claiming you do nothing improper and here comes a boy who says he is your son. He is sitting over there."

The man still insisted he had done nothing but said he would test the truth of the matter. He took up his pipe, filled it, and having lighted it, passed it to the boy. The boy took it and smoked, when he had drawn the fourth time on 'the pipe the tobacco was all gone.4 " Well, I am nearly convinced," the man said and conducted the boy to black water which stood in four places.5 Taking the boy to the last he threw him in but the boy turned to a downy feather and came back to the place of his shadow. "Well, you nearly convince me," he said and took the boy to the south where he again pushed the boy into the water, but the boy saved himself by again turning into down. The same thing happened at the other two lakes. The father then asked the boy to name the different crystals, seeds, etc. The boy named them properly but when he came to owl which was sitting there he hesitated saying, "I am not going to call it that way because I am myself."6

" Well, I guess you are my son," he said and taking some of the black water that stood there he put it on the boy with his hand and made him look like a man. Then he built a small house for him inside of which he made for the boy hair, fingers and finger nails, toes and toe nails, until he was finished.
"Well, my son, what is it you want?" he asked. "I want horses, father," he said. Saying he would bring a horse he led down a black one and said, "Here it is." "Not that one," the boy said. "By my kin,"7 the father replied, "that is the only horse I have." The boy insisted on another and the man led down a sorrel one and presented it as his horse. Again the boy rejected it and the man insisted. Finally he took it back and led down another, a white horse on a trail of white metal. The boy rejected that one also and the man declared he had no other but finally went for one. This time he led down a blue, that is gray, horse on a trail of blue metal. "That is the one I have been talking about, now I will start back home," the boy said when he saw it. "That one is the only horse I have," his father said, " now you may go home if you wish."

They two started back. When they came with the horse to the center of the sky the father put the boy on a black cloud and shot him down with lightning.8 He is named Bilnajnoll'ijn,9 "shot down with the lightning." He came down to the earth and returned to the place where his grandmother lived. She was glad and sang a good song, which was a prayer for him.

"Over there, grandson, live the animals which we eat," the woman told the boy. He started off in the direction indicated and came to a wood rat which he killed. He brought it back to his grandmother who said that that was the animal she meant. He went away again and came to a rabbit which he killed and took back putting it down near to his grandmother's dwelling. "Grandmother, I killed something which has wide ears," he told her. "That is one of the animals we live on," she replied. He went away again and came to a deer which he killed. He killed it under a Douglas spruce tree. He came back to his grandmother's dwelling and told her he had killed an animal which had a dry tree on its head.

He began to dress the deer under the spruce when a fluid began to drop on him. He looked up and saw a girl in the tree. Taking only the intestines he ran back to his grandmother followed by the girl.10 "I told you not to dress the deer under a Douglas spruce," she chided him.11

He married the Spruce Tree Woman but she did not like him and made four bears to destroy him. "Over there are walking animals that have good skins for dressing," she told her husband. "Where are they?" he asked. "Above here," she replied. They two went over where the bears were which she pointed out to her husband, saying: "The large black ones over there." He said he would go behind the hill and that after a time she should shout at the bears who would run toward him and he would kill them. After waiting a short time she did so and the bears ran right in front of him. He was holding his bow and arrows and as they ran up close to him he- shot them one at a time until he had killed them all. His wife began to cry and her husband said, "But you said they were good for making dressed skins, why then do you cry?"12

Leaving the bears there they two went home. While his wife stayed at home he went to hunt deer. While he was hunting she went to get pumpkin blossoms13 and was stolen by Gołilisi. When the man returned his wife was not there. " I wonder where she can be," he said to himself and starting out tracked her to the garden. There he found the tracks of two people. Going on to another place he found their tracks again. He went back to his grandmother and told her he was going away but that he did not know where he was going.

He started away, being transported by his flute. He came down on the first mountain ridge and saw there the footprints of his wife and of a man. He went with his flute again and came down on the second ridge where he again found tracks of his wife and of a man. He was angry and went on again with his flute, coming down on the third mountain and saw tracks there also. He went way over to the fourth mountain where again he found their. tracks. He went on from there on foot until he came where people were living. He came near to the settlement and went to the house where that particular man was living. Night was coming on and not one of the people saw him.

When he came to this man, the daughter of the house was sent through the village to summon the people to come together for a council. After they had smoked they said, " Well, what is it?" " A man has come to me," the man replied. "Where did you come from?" they asked the man. "From Gotalbakowadi: I started when the beams of the sun were streaming out from the east," he replied. "My kin! he did not come on foot. I know that is a long distance," said Old Man Hawk. " I am. here because my wife is missing," he told them. "That is the man, sitting there. He wins our wives away in gambling. He has won all the people away, can't you help us?" they said. "That is not why I am here. I have an affair of my own," he replied. They still besought him, saying that they had lost all their bands. He promised to give assistance the next morning and directed that a sweatlodge should be made, in which good songs should be sung. He also told them to get four kinds of wood and make the poles for playing najonc. They made the najonc poles and he sang twelve songs in the sweatlodge. The next morning when the sun's beams streamed out he went to the playing ground. His name was Naiyenezgani and the other one's name was Golilisi.14 Then he shouted to the mountains that stood there saying, " You shout." " My partner has come," he said. " I have come," he replied.

"Well, let us play," one challenged the other. "I have nothing to wager," the other replied. "We will play for the people," the first suggested. When they started to play the pole hit the ring on the nose and tore it apart. The straightened ring ran away into the bushes. " Hy, why did you hit my ring?" he asked. " Well, your poles are not good. Men's poles are like this," Naiyenezgani said. Then Gołilisi took Naiyenezgani's pole and threw it. He was beaten. "Oh, you have beaten me," he said. "I will bet half of my company again." They played again and again Gołilisi was beaten.

"Let us contend another way," one of them suggested. The other consented to this and they tried to see whose hair would reach the longer distance across the dry stream bed. Again they bet people on the outcome. Gołilisi unloosed his hair and it reached to the middle of the stream bed. When Naiyenezgani let his hair down it reached across the bed of the stream and part way up the opposite bank. He won the wager.

Gołilisi suggested another contest and again bet a group of his people. They were to try knocking over a tree. Naiyenezgani chose the tree and when Gołilisi hit it, it did not move. Naiyenezgani struck it and the tree fell over. Acknowledging his defeat, Gołilisi suggested a footrace, wagering one of his arms and one of his legs which were to be cut off if he lost the race. A distant mountain was the goal around which they were to run. Naiyenezgani came back first and won the race. "You have beaten me, shele: take all that I have," said Gołilisi. When they had cut off one of his hands and one leg he crawled into an old house that stood there, sat down and peered out. When he would make a fire he held the drill against one cheek and rubbed it with his surviving hand to cause it to rotate. The smoke came up from the drill and with dry grass he set the house on fire. As it was burning he said, " I am not much good. If a man breaks his leg or his arm let him say I was in that condition also."

Naiyenezgani had won all the people back. He started home with his wife and came where they had been living before. His grandmother was happy because he returned.

Then Ts'innagole took him up. Naiyenezgani had the knees of Delgit (concealed) across his breast and the blood of Delgit under his blanket. When Ts'innagole had transported him through the air to her home she threw him down upon a stone. Deligit's blood flowed out and Ts'innagole took him up and carried him to her children. She then flew to the top of a stone and sat there. When the young ones put their heads down to the man he said, " Sho." "Mother, he said sho' to us," they called to their mother. "Don't mind it; it is only the air issuing from the wounds," she replied and flew away.

Naiyenezgani got up and spoke to the young ones. " When does your mother return?" he asked. "She comes back when a female rain falls," they replied. "And your father?" he asked again. "When a male rain falls," they replied. "And your brother?" "He comes back when there is hail," they said.

Naiyenezgani struck the young ones on the side of the head and knocked them off the rock. He pulled up grass and covering himself with it lay down. The same Ts'innagole flew back with another man and throwing him down on a stone alighted on the top of the rock. Naiyenezgani, using one of Delgit's knees as a club, struck her and knocked her down from the cliff. Then another came and alighted there and he knocked it down with a knee

of Delgit's. Finally the oldest of the young ones returned and he knocked it down with one of Delgit's knees. He had now disposed of them all.

As he sat on the top of the rock and saw his fire in the distance he was disturbed and wondered what he should do. He saw Bat Old Woman down by the creek and shouted, "Grandmother, take me down," but she paid no attention. He called again and she began to listen. " Why did you go up there?" she asked. "No one goes up there." He again asked her to come up for him and she did so, flying from side to side and lighting here and there. "Grandmother, take me down," he said. "I cannot do it, I am not strong enough but nevertheless I will cover your eyes and you may get in the basket. Do not uncover your eyes or it will be dangerous for us."

He got in the basket and she started down, but when she was half way to the bottom he began to wonder where he was being carried, the time was so long. He lifted the covering and opened his eyes and the old woman fell to the ground and landed under him. Naiyenezgani blew with his life medicine and the old woman breathed again and became well. He gave her the feathers from Ts'innagole and she said, "Thanks, you have made me well," and went home.15

Naiyenezgani went back to his home. The old woman, his grandmother, was happy. They lived happily again.

1 Told by Albert Evans, in 1914. This portion seems to have been arbitrarily separated from the foregoing by the narrator as suited to the available time for taking it down. Because of the subject matter, the first told has been introduced after the more complete account which was given by request on the following day.
2 A circumlocution for sexual relations.3
3 Matthews, 109.
4 The smoking would have killed those less potent, Matthews, 113.
5 Fires in the other versions, above p. 10.
6 He nearly failed on owl. This is undoubtedly connected with the fear Apache have of
owls and their reluctance to talk about them.
7 The most common Apache expletive.
8 Matthews, 114.
9 The narrator explained this was the fourth name of the Culture Hero.
10 This paragraph was interpolated in English.
11 The point of dragging the entrails is omitted here, see above p. 32.3
12 It was explained in English that the boy overheard his wife directing the bears to kill her husband. He therefore dressed up a black stump with his buckskin shirt which the bears attacked. As they did so he shot them from the place where he was concealed in the brush.
13 These blossoms were probably cooked for food.
14 It was explained that the Culture Hero was given a new name by the people because he built the sweat lodge in this manner.  His old name was discarded.
15 The narrator told in English how Naiyenezgani tested the strength of the carrying strap by putting stones in the basket. The story has the incidents in unusual order and is much abbreviated, perhaps in order to finish the story by evening.

San Carlos Apache Mythology

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied .

Myths And Tales From The San Carlos Apache, 1918



Indian Myths and Legends

Indian Genealogy

Indian Gifts

Heirloom Native American seeds packaged for giving. Navajo Blue Corn, Bloody Butcher Corn, Greasy Beans, Cherokee Purple Tomato, Cheese Pumpkin, Sonoran Mild Chile, Navajo Red Seeded Watermelon, Hopi Black Pinto Beans.
Order now for Spring planting!!


Submit Data/Comments


Add/Correct a Link

Copyright Indian Mythology, 2006