Sunday, September 24, 2006

Maččan ‘inn ‘Ummun
Coyote and Hummingbird

A Rumsen story

Maččanmur pessoy ‘exxemur ‘ixxest. ‘Ummuninkmur was-kannew. Maččaninkmur ‘iwsen nimm ‘ummuniy. Maččaninkmur ‘urrun ‘ummuniy. Neeyink was-čacc. Neeyink ku-wattin.

Neeyink ku-pussep sa ‘ummun. Neeyink ku-‘ummuy tapper, ‘ayyken "lakkun, lakkun,” ‘ooyostinkmur. Neeyinkmur maččan ‘ummap neeyinkmur ‘urru ‘attap ‘ummuniy. Neeyinkmur was-‘otč xuyya sottow. Neeyink ku-wattiy kuumur ‘ewwey wattiy, tanmur pessepiki. Saanaymur ‘aawaaten, tanmur pussepiki ‘ayken ka-lakkun ka-lakkun. Neeyinkmur kayy maččan: "‘Ink kuka’anami was-nimm?"

Neeyink kuwas-‘uti-kayy mee ku-‘aa-xiče katakumewas-‘ammay, katti-‘aa-ink kumewas-nimm. Tannayinkmur was-‘amxayiki ‘ummuniy. Tannayinkmur kuuy was-waxč, waxč, xuywa-pittin. Neeyink ku-kayy maččan: "‘Ink kuka-xičiy? Ka-lakkun, yete ka-lakkun, kayymur maččan." Neeyink kuwas-‘uti-kayy: mee kuwas-čallap. "Čallapink!" Neeyink ku-xiče, neeyink ku ‘ummuy ‘ummun tapper. Aayekmur "lakkun, lakkun."

Okay, if you persisted in looking through all that and are wondering what it is, it's a Rumsen Ohlone myth. This is one of the myths recorded by Harrington when he interviewed Isabelle Meadows, the last speaker of Rumsen, in the 1930s. I just finished typing it into my computer from microfilm copy. The English translation below is mine, since Harrington's translation is in old California Spanish, which, even for a Spanish speaker, can be difficult to decipher. So I hope I at least got the gist of it down. I hope to put more of these myths up on this blog as time and energy permit.

Coyote, by the way, is a popular mythological figure especially among western Amerindian tribes. Coyote is often a trickster and sometimes is at the receiving end of jokes or pranks, as in this particular myth. Just a warning that it is a bit graphic, but in an all around humorous way.

Here is my English translation:

Coyote thought he knew a lot. But Hummingbird beat him. Coyote wanted to kill Hummingbird, so Coyote grabbed Hummingbird and shredded him to pieces. Then Coyote left.

Hummingbird revived himself. Then Hummingbird flew up, jokingly yelling "I’m dying! I’m dying!" Coyote poked the [camp] fire and grabbed Hummingbird again. Then he threw him into the fire. Then he left. Coyote didn’t go far before Hummingbird revived himself, shouting "I’m dying! I’m dying!" Then Coyote asked: "How am I going to kill him?"

They* told him: You must eat him to kill him. So Coyote ate Hummingbird. But then Hummingbird was scratching (?) Coyote’s stomach. Then Coyote said "What am I going to do? I’m dying! I’m dying!" said Coyote. Then they told Coyote he must shit Hummingbird out. "Shit him out!" So Coyote did so, then Hummingbird flew up yelling "I’m dying! I’m dying!" (mockingly).

* I'm not sure here who this "they" refers to that are speaking to Coyote.

(By the way, I'd like to dedicate this post to the memories of Isabel Meadows, John Harrington, and to all the remaining Rumsen Ohlone tribal members who still struggle for federal recognition in their coastal California homeland. I hope for their eventual successful revitalization of their language and culture.) - Shururu.


Nick said...

By "old Californian Spanish", we're talking about the milieu of Zorro, right? Cool!

Btw, on the subject of Ohlone, reading up on Geocaches (another of my hobbies) and came across these references to an Ohlone village site on the coast near San Gregorio:

Nick said...

Hey, I just noticed that Wikipedia has no article about the Ohlone language.

I can't think of anyone more qualified than you to write one!

It's pretty easy--last week I wrote an article about one of my favorite railways:

Also, have you seen this site by the contemporary Rumsen Ohlone tribe (who now live around Chico)?

Dave said...

Yeah, actually I wrote a Wikipedia article once before, on the Biloxi tribe (the one linked to my blog). I seem to recall not seeing anything about the Ohlone language either (nor is there one on the Biloxi language!). I'd love to do an article on both when I have some spare time which right now is a preciously rare commodity. Thanks for the sites. I'll be checking them out!

bulbul said...

Čallapink, he? :o)

Thank's a lot for this, Dave. Can we expect a brief grammar sketch?

Dave said...


I recently finished glossing this particular text, as much as I could anyway. I'll see if I can load it on here.

I'd love to do a grammatical sketch of Rumsen, time permitting. Mark Okrand (of inventing Klingon fame) has so far written the only grammar on an Ohlone (Costanoan) language, on Mutsun, which is a close cousin and neighbor of Rumsen with a few twists.