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Kawaiisu Winter Tale about Walker Basin and Black Mountain

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi

The two brothers, Coyote and Wolf, went to dance with the bears at Walker Basin. They had a picnic down there and a big dance. Everyone danced, and they danced all night. Coyote's tail was "sparking like a battery" at the top. His brother said, "What's the matter with you?" He was so excited, sparks were coming off his tail. Coyote said nothing and kept dancing.

An old lady was gathering wood all night for the fire. She lost her tobacco. She said "pu-zi-ni-kaax." No one could understand her. Coyote said, "I'm going to get Rattlesnake. She will know what you're saying." Coyote went after Rattlesnake. Coyote carried her out – she had no legs. While he was carrying her, her tongue kept shooting out. Coyote was afraid of it. Rattlesnake said, "I won't do anything." She said, "haa-wi-gi," but Coyote didn't understand her.

They went down to Walker Basin where there were many people. Rattlesnake asked the old lady, "What do you do?" They talked to one another in their own language. Rattlesnake understood what "pu-zi-ni-kaax" meant. It meant "tobacco." The old lady said that she had lost her tobacco. They looked for it and found it. They gave it to her. If it had not been found, a heavy snow would have come.

Coyote said to the bears, "We're going to play games this morning." They said, "All right." They used a large round stone as a ball. The bears and Coyote tossed it to each other. They batted it all around Walker Basin. That's why the Basin is flat. They all went after the ball and tossed it again and again. Coyote carried Rattlesnake back to where she lived. "I'm going to live here forever," she said. There are still many rattlesnakes there. It is called To-go-wa-kahni, or "Rattlesnake's House." (It looms over West Golden Hills and is commonly known today as Black Mountain.)

– Setimo Girado

Setimo was a Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) elder and fluent speaker. He told this story to Dr. Maurice Zigmond in the 1930s. Setimo was ancestor of Luther and Lucille Girado, Harold and Janice Williams and other Nuwä tribal members, and is the source of the name Setimo Creek on Piute Mountain.