CHAPTER IV. INDIAN LEGENDS OF THE TAHOE REGION
As all students of the Indian are well aware these aboriginal and out-of-door dwellers in the forests, canyons, mountains, valleys, and on lake and seashores are great observers of Nature, and her many and varied phenomena. He who deems the Indian dull, stolid and unimpressionable, simply because in the presence of the White Race he is reserved and taciturn, little knows the observing and reflecting power hidden behind so self-restrained a demeanor. Wherever natural objects, therefore, are of a peculiar, striking, unusual, unique, or superior character, it is reasonable to assume that the Indians, living within sight of them, should possess myths, legends, folk-lore, creation-stories or the like in connection with their creation, preservation, or present-day existence. This is found exemplified in the legends of Havasupais, Hopis, Navajos and Wallapais as to the origin of the Grand Canyon of Arizona, of the Yohamities, Monos, Chuc-Chances, and others, of the distinctive features of the Yosemite Valley, the Hetch-Hetchy, etc.
While the present-day, half-educated, half-civilized Washoes are by no means representatives of the highest elements of natural enlightenment among the Indian race, they do possess legends about Tahoe, the following being the most interesting.
All these stories, except the last, were gathered by Mrs. W.W. Price of Fallen Leaf Lodge, from Indians with whom she has been very familiar for several years, named Jackson and his wife Susan. There has been no attempt to dress them up in literary fashion. They are given as near to the Indians' mode of telling as possible. They are wonderfully different from certain stories recently published in current magazines, professing to be Legends of Lake Tahoe. These latter are pure fiction, and to those familiar with Indian thought, reveal their origin in the imaginative brain of white writers who have but faint conceptions of Indian mentality. Mrs. Price is a graduate of Stanford University, and took great pains to preserve the Indians' exact mode of expression. As she herself writes:
Long before the white man saw and wondered over the beauty of Tahoe, theorizing over its origin and concocting curious tales about its "unfathomable" depths, the Indians knew and loved it. And as among all other peoples, legends have grown up to account for every phenomenon of Nature, so among the Washoe Indians stories about Tahoe have been handed down from generation to generation.
I do not vouch for these legends. The modern Indian too often tells what he thinks you want to know, - if only you will cross his hand with silver. But there are touches here and there that make me feel that for the most part they are remnants of very old legends.
THE ORIGIN OF TAHOE, FALLEN LEAF, AND OTHER LAKES
Long, long ago, before the white man came to Nevada, there lived in the meadow over beyond Glenbrook a good Indian. But though he was good, he was much annoyed by the Evil Spirit, who constantly interfered with all that he tried to do. Finally, he determined that he must move away and get over into the valleys of California. But when he tried to escape, the Evil One was always there ready to trip him in some way or other.
In his trouble the Good Spirit came to his aid, giving him a leafy branch which had certain magic qualities. He was to start on his journey. If he saw the Evil One coming he was to drop a bit of the branch and water would immediately spring up. The Evil One could not cross water, and thus, being delayed by going around, would give the Indian time to escape.
The Indian made his way well along to where Tallac Hotel now is, when, looking back, he saw the Evil One off in the distance approaching with such strides that his heart was filled with great fear. In his terror he tried to pluck a leaf but it snapped off and he dropped almost his whole branch. To his delight and relief the waters began to rise and soon "Tahoe" - Big Water - lay between him and his enemy.
Free-heartedly he hurried on his way up the canyon, but when he reached the spot where the head of Fallen Leaf Lake lies, he turned to reassure himself. Away off the Evil One was advancing. A new terror filled his soul. In his hand there remained of his magic branch only one little twig with a single leaf on it.
Plucking the leaf, he threw it down and watched it fall waveringly through the air. As it touched earth the waters again began to rise and "Doolagoga" - Fallen Leaf - sprang into being and on its surface floated the little leaf, as many leaves now float in the fall of the year.
Turning, he sped up the ravine, dropping bits of his twig as fear directed him, and in his path, Lily, Grass, and Heather lakes came up to guard his way.
At last he was over the crest of the mountain and found himself safe in the long-wished-for Valley of California.
THE LEGEND OF THE TWO BROTHERS
Once long ago in Paiuti-land, Nevada, there lived two brothers. The older was a hunter and brought home much game. His wife, whose name was Duck, used to cook this for him, but she was very stingy to the younger brother, and often times he was hungry. When he begged her for food, she scolded him and drove him out of the campoodie, saying, "Got none for you."