Manataka American Indian Council






Traditional Stories






A Rattlesnake Kills the Chief's Daughter
by Alice Shepherd


Long ago some women gathered, put a blanket on the ground, and lay down.  They made their leaders, the chief's daughter, lie in the middle. And they sang songs.

The chief's daughter was a good singer and many people gathered to see her.  Some wanted to abduct her, but could not get close to her because she was the chief's daughter and everyone kept an eye on her.

She was rich because her father was rich. The people who wanted to abduct her were not from the area; they had come from somewhere else. They watched her, but there was no way of taking her because many people kept a close eye on her.

The women lay down and sang. Chief Tisasa's daughter was a good singer with a beautiful strong voice. This is not a tale, but a story about real Indians. Tisasa was a real Indian chief who was my father's grandfather. The woman was Tisasa's daughter.

The Indians thought very highly of Tisasa and he had many sons who were good people. He helped everybody, and when he hired people to do things, he always paid them well. The women lay down and sang many songs. At midnight they all left. But the others were still watching. They watched those who were watching the chief's daughter. Tisasa was a real chief. His family's home was called Kensunus, "Next Below."

When the chief's daughter went to pick clover, all the women followed the "little chief" and picked clover too. She was bitten by a rattlesnake, and they took her some. She died before many days had passed. The rattlesnake had killed her.

Her mother, the chief's wife, grieved the loss of her daughter. She made many sticks, packed them, and went out. She went west to a snake den called Snake Rock. There she dug for rattlesnakes and killed those she saw coming out, with a long green stick. She also had a short stick with her.

She killed off all the rattlesnakes that came out and strung them on a trimmed sharp stick. She strung them and tied them up. She dug up their rocky nest. She killed many rattlesnakes that were in the den. She killed forty rattlesnakes and strung them up on the stick. When she could not find any more, she leveled the den. She wiped them out. Their dens stink terribly, but the woman who had lost her daughter did not give up looking for rattlesnakes everywhere.

When she found some, she killed them and strung them up. She went everywhere looking for rattlesnakes and did not give up. For five years she did not forget to kill rattlesnakes. There were no more rattlesnakes close by, for she had killed them all. She had lost her daughter and did not want to stop.  Their home was Kensunus. They buried their daughter in an elk hide with all her belongings. She took many good beads, clamshell beads, and things with her. They gathered everything, wrapped her in elk hide and buried her. She took much with her. That was because they were never going to see their daughter again.

But the mother grieved so that for thirty days after her daughter's death she did not want to stay at home. She went all over the mountains, steep hills, and rock piles, looking for rattlesnakes. When she saw a rattlesnake, she killed it. She did not kill any of the other snakes, water snakes or bull snakes. When she saw king snakes, she did not kill them. She only killed rattlesnakes. And then after some five years she stopped. She did not
hunt rattlesnakes any more. She stopped hunting rattlesnakes.

[This is a true account. The people described were Grace McKibbin's relatives] In My Own Words. Stories, songs and memories of Grace Mckibbin, Wintu [1884-1987]. by Alice Shepherd, 1997.

From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories


About Rope

by Alice Shepherd


You have rope there already, tangled up. You untangle it. You untangle it and tie knots. You tie knots and tie it together. You pull it toward yourself and tie it tight. You pull out more rope and tie it together twice so it won't come untied. You untie it, and if you cannot untie it, you cut the rope. And you bring it toward you, fix it, and tie another knot. You tie it together where it was cut. You tie it together with a know and when you are finished, you wind it around between fingers and elbow and put it down.

Then you make a new rope. You make another strong one. You twist the rope on your knee, twisting wild riri for rope. And you make a long rope. It will be a very strong rope that nothing can break. A deer caught in it cannot break it. It will now break. That rope is really strong. And with that rope you can set a trap. With that rope you can trap deer. When a deer is caught in the rope, it hangs itself. You tie down a sugar pine or a fir and set a trap
that way. When a deer is driven into it, it is caught in the rope. The tree flips up and hangs the deer. It dies there, choking to death in the rope.

The Indians would take the rope home and take good care of it, not letting it get wet. In the summer they did not put it out in the sun. The hung it in the shade. They took care of that rope. And for birds, too, they made a small, thin rope, and made the bird peck it to trap it. This time a long willow branch is fixed so it flips up. The ends are tied with a string and bent down to trap the bird. Acorns are put down, and when the bird pecks at them, it is caught in that little string as if hung. That is how the Indians trapped a long tome ago.

They trapped mountain quail, Steller's jays, and towhees. They ate them in the winter. You cannot catch gray squirrels, though, because they quickly cut themselves loose. When a gray squirrel is caught in a rope, it cuts it.

Gray squirrels are strong. They hold on to the rope, hanging sideways, pull themselves up with one of their paws, and cut the rope. You cannot catch gray squirrels.

That is all.

In My Own Words. Stories, songs and memories of Grace Mckibbin, Wintu [1884-1987]. by Alice  Shepherd, 1997.

From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories