Cahuilla Tribe's Origin Story

Cahuilla Tribe's Origin Story

The Cahuilla tribe's origin story starts off with two brothers, Mukat and Tamaoit, who help create the world. They created the skies, sea, and the rules that governed the land, but each had a different idea in mind when creating the image of a human. 

“In the beginning there was nothing but nights,” until suddenly, twin brothers named Mukat and Temayawut appeared from a flash of lightning. “These were the first people,” he adds, before going on to describe how the brothers created all things, starting with tobacco, the earth, the winds, the oceans, and the sky.

Finally, Temayawut asked his brother, “How are we going to make people like ourselves?” and Mukat explained that they would fashion people from the very earth they had made. Once they had finished, the brothers blew stars into the sky and formed the sun in order to see their creations in the light. They quarreled over whose people were better and whether or not sickness and death should fall upon them until Temayawut returned “to where [he] came from,” taking all his creations with him. 

Tamaoit took his creation of man and went to the underworld, while Mukat stayed above ground. 

The first people suddenly awaken one day speaking different languages. Unable to understand each other, they wander off in various directions. Only those who stayed with Mukat became “his people,” the Cahuilla. 

However, some of Mukat's creations were burned, and they scattered to different parts of the globe, each speaking a different language. Only one man spoke the same language as Mukat, so Mukat named this man the first ancestor of the Cahuilla. During this time, Mukat also created a path to the afterlife where the path was surrounded by moving hills. When people died, the good people could pass onto the afterlife; the bad people would be crushed by the moving hills and transformed into a small creature, such as an insect. 

However, an equally significant part of Cahuilla history to arise from these origin stories and Mukat’s death is the Migration, an oral tradition comprised of some 300 songs passed down through generations. When sung from start to finish, the songs narrate how the First People migrated all over the region after Mukat’s death until finally landing back at home. Today, the Cahuilla call these bird songs, and they are performed in the Cahuilla language by bird singers at special events and tribal gatherings while both the men and women dance to the songs. 

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