I’m sure that you’ve heard of The Great Flood. It destroyed the Old World, and the World we live in now is what came after that Flood. You know a version of the story, but it’s not like our story. Yours probably has a mountain in it, too. But it’s a different mountain. And your story probably has a boat in it and some Man that saves all the animals from certain doom. At least, that’s the story that I’ve heard from people who aren’t from around here. That’s not what happened in our story. Our story is different.
When the Flood waters came up here in the San Francisco Bay, the water rose and rose, and most of the people drowned. It was a horrible and sad day. Many, many people died. But three people managed to get to safety. Eagle, Hummingbird and Coyote stood on the top of the mountain we call Tuyshtak and watched as the Flood covered all the land.
At the worst part of the flood, the water reached their feet! Some people who live South of here say that Eagle then carried Hummingbird and Coyote to safety in a place people call Fremont Peak these days. That’s just silly talk, though. That mountain isn’t even as tall as Tuyshtak! Why would Eagle take them there?
Anyway, as I was saying, nearly all the people were killed except for those three who were up there on top of the mountain getting their toes wet. It was wet for a long time, but eventually, the waters receded. Days and days passed, and they could see that the world was looking pretty dry, but they didn’t want to take any chances. So, Coyote went out to walk around and see what he could see. He came back after a while and said, “Eagle! Hummingbird! It’s all good!! The waters have gone away, and the world is all dry again.”
Eagle and Hummingbird were glad for a little bit, and maybe they even got silly and had a little celebration, I don’t know, but once all the excitement was over, they both realized that they had a problem on their hands. The people had perished in the flood. What were they going to do? Well, they knew that they weren’t the right ones to bring the people back, but Coyote was young. They knew that he’d make a fine father for the people. Sure, he wasn’t so bright back then, as you’ll soon see, but who is when they are young?
So Eagle and Hummingbird took Coyote out to go looking for a wife. It was hard to find one. They had to look in caves and trees and finally, they found Coyote a wife in a river. Coyote said, “Woo! She’s really pretty!!”
And Eagle said, “Great. She can be your wife. Now go make people so that the world can be filled up again.”
“But how will I make people with her?” Coyote asked, because he was young and hadn’t really learned about all the things of the world yet, you know.
Eagle didn’t want to tell him. He told Coyote he would have to figure it out for himself. He wanted to see if Coyote was wise enough to understand these things on his own.
Eagle shook his head, “No.”
“Do I use my elbow?” Coyote asked, still confused.
Eagle looked at the ground with a sad face. He was getting concerned that Coyote might not be smart enough to raise up the people. “No. Not there.”
“How about in my eyebrow?”
“No! That’s not good.”
“The back of my neck?”
At this Hummingbird could not hold it in any longer. He’d been watching and trying to be respectful of Eagle’s choice not to tell, but this was just too much! Hummingbird pointed to Coyote’s belly and said, “Here! You put the baby in her belly!”
At this Coyote got very angry and he chased Hummingbird all around. Coyote was going to kill Hummingbird for saying that. Eagle had to lift his wing so that Hummingbird could fly into his armpit and be safe.
“He is telling the truth,” Eagle said. “Now go, take that woman as your wife and raise up the people.”
So Coyote took the woman as his wife, and they lived together just a few days when they were sitting together and she saw a single wood lice on his body. It scared her, so she pulled it off him and threw it away.
“No! No! Get it back!! You need to eat it!” Cried Coyote. And then he ran all around and found the lice that the woman threw away and made her eat it.
Immediately she became pregnant, and she got scared. So then she started running away from Coyote. She ran and ran really fast through thorns, and Coyote ran after her saying, “Don’t run through there! You’ll get hurt!” And he made a nice road for her, but she kept running and she said, “I don’t like this road!” So he made a path for her with flowers on each side in the hopes that she’d stop to pick one of the flowers and he could have her back, but she just kept running and said, “I’m not used to being around all these flowers!” She kept running and running until she got to the ocean shore and then she jumped.
As she jumped into the water, Coyote jumped after her. She turned into a shrimp and disappeared. Coyote just landed in the sand on the beach, and cried, “I wanted to hold my wife, but all I got was sand. My wife is gone!”
After all that, Hummingbird took pity on Coyote and helped him find another wife. This wife stayed with him, and they were happy. They had many babies together and raised up the people again. Eventually Coyote grew to be quite wise. He taught the people how to live and many great things, besides.
(NB: This is my retelling of a Chochenyo Ohlone creation story. I hope that it is as accurate as folklore can ever be, and that it is accepted with the love and respect with which I share it.)