The Modoc Story of Creation

The Modoc Story of how Indians were created by Kumush, (Kmukamtch).


According to our people, the Modoc Indians of northern California, Kumush was ‘the old man of the ancients’. Once he went down with his daughter to the underground world of the spirits. In this beautiful realm it was the custom for the spirits to sing and dance at night, but when daylight came, they returned to their resting places and became dry bones. After six days and six nights in the land of the spirits, Kumush decided to return to the upper world and take some of the spirits with him. So he collected in a big basket lots of bones. Three times he attempted to climb the long and steep road out of the underground realm; twice he stumbled, and the spirits, shouting and singing, leapt from the basket and returned to their places; but on the third attempt he spoke to them angrily, telling how marvelous the world above was.  At last he got near the entrance to the underground road, with one big lift he threw the basket up to level ground. “Maklaksûm ka`ko!” (Indian bones) said he.

Then he opened the basket and threw the bones in different directions.  As he threw them, he named the tribe and kind of Indians they would be.  When he named the Shasta’s he said: ‘You will be good fighters’.  To the Pit River and Warm Spring Indians he said: ‘You will be brave warriors, too’.  But to the Klamath Indians he said: ‘You will be like women, easy to frighten’.   The bones of the Modoc Indians he threw last and he said to them: ‘You will eat what I eat; you will keep my place when I am gone, and you will be the bravest of all.  Though you may be few, even if many and many people come against you, you will defeat them all’.  His final choice was the Modoc Indians, his brave and chosen people.  ‘You must find power to save yourselves, find men to go ask the mountains for help.  Those who go to the mountains must ask to be made wise, or brave or a doctor. They must swim in the qauwams and dream.  When you are sure that a doctor has tried to kill someone, or that he won’t put his medicine in the path of a spirit and turn it back, you must kill him.   If an innocent doctor is killed, you must kill the man who killed him, or he must pay for the dead man.’

“Then Kumush named the different kinds of food people should eat- catfish, salmon, deer and rabbit.  He named more than two hundred different things, and as he named them they appeared in the rivers, forests and the flats.  He thought and they were there.  He said: ‘Woman shall dig roots, get wood, water and cook.  Men shall hunt and fish and fight.  It shall be this way in later times.  This I will tell you.’

“When he had finished everything, Kumush took his daughter and went to the edge of the world, to the place where the sun rises.  He travelled along the sun's road, till he came to the middle of the sky; he stopped there and built for himself and his daughter a house. They still live there to this day.”

Excerpts from, Myths of the Modocs: Jeremiah Curtin 1912 and Ancient Modocs of California and Oregon: Carrol B. Howe 1979

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