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Pit River Stories:
Achumawi and Atsugewi Legends, Myths, and Folktales

This is our index of Achumawi and Atsugewi stories and legends that can be read online. We have organized our Native American folk tales section by tribe to make them easier to locate; however, variants on the same legend are often told by American Indians from different tribes, especially if those tribes are kinfolk or neighbors to each other. In particular, though these legends come from the Atsugewi and Achumawi tribes, the traditional stories of related tribes like the Shasta and Karuk are very similar.

Enjoy the stories! If you would like to contribute an Achumawi legend for this page, please let us know.

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Important Pit River Mythological Figures

Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Atsugewi and Achomawi mythology.

Kwahn (Silver Fox) and Jamul (Coyote): Culture heroes of the Achumawi, Atsugewi, and other Northern California tribes. Together they create the world and teach the people how to live. Although both are creators, Silver Fox is the more serious and wise of the two, while Coyote is more of a trickster and prone to make frivolous decisions based on whims, hunger, or interest in women. Silver Fox is female in some tribal traditions, but in Achumawi and Atsugewi mythology, both Coyote and Silver Fox are male.

Tinihowi: Guardian spirits or "spirit guides," who appear to young men and give them special powers.

Pains (Axe'ki or Tamakoni): Tiny magical spirits who are a source of magical power for the medicine people who control them (usually called "doctors" by Pit River people.) Pains can be dangerous and may cause disease or madness, but a skilled doctor can remove them from an afflicted person and use them to increase his or her own healing power. In Achumawi and Atsugewi folklore pains are usually described as miniature fairy-like spirit beings, but when infecting or conveying power to humans they sometimes take the shape of a hair, splinter, or other small object.

Water Babies: Mysterious and dangerous water spirits from the mythology of the Pit River and other California Indian tribes. They inhabit springs and ponds, and they and their eerie cries are omens of bad luck and death. Atsugewi and Achomawi legends usually describe them as resembling beautiful human infants.

Black Imps (Je su chin): Small mountain spirits of Mount Shasta. According to Achomawi and Atsugewi legend, Black Imps punish people who disrespect the mountain with confusion, insanity, or death.

Atsugewi and Achumawi Indian Folklore

*Achomawi and Atsugewi Myths:
    Seventeen Pit River Indian myths from Roland Dixon's 1909 collection.
*Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest:
    Online book about Southwest and California Indian mythology.
*Achomawi Creation Myth:
    The Achomawi legend of how the world began.
*Creation and Longevity:
    Another Achumawi story about the origin of the world, along with a legend about why humans are mortal.
*Spider Woman, an Achomawi Myth:
    Pit River story about how the first animals worked together to end winter.
*Coyote and Cloud:
    Achumawi legend of a race between Coyote and a Cloud.
*Fish-Hawk and the Sun's Daughter:
    Achumawi myth about Fish-Hawk stealing the daughter of the Sun.
*Blue Jay And Lizard And The Grizzly-Bears:
    Achumawi tale of how grizzly bears were punished for their stinginess.

Recommended Books on Pit River Mythology

Annikadel: The History of the Universe:
    Collection of Achumawi mythology and oral history.
Surviving Through the Days: Translations of Native California Stories and Songs:
    Anthology of myths and traditional literature from the Achumawi, Atsugewi and other California tribes.

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Additional Resources

 The Morning the Sun Went Down
 Achumawi language
 Atsugewi language
 Books of Native American legends
 Native American religions
 Indian tribes of California
 California culture area
 Palaihnihan languages
 Achumawi culture
 American Indian nations

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