by Eric Whollem
copyright by the artist
The First Man: Kuksu
Table Mountain above Oroville, California, is the legendary Garden
of Eden of the Concow Maidu. It was there that the first human couple
was created from mud. The first man was Kuksu and his bride was
TABLE MOUNTAIN LEGENDS
Table Mountain is the old location of the hamlet of Hudli. The Flint
Mines with material for making stone tools was up on Table Mountain.
Also the war dance area could be found there. Numerous sites related to
old stories are set in the lava rock formations. 'The Bird Who Flew So
Fast He Could Not Be Heard' can be found on the high cliffs. In the
valley of Table Mountain are great monolithic lava stones that
represent Wonomi, the Earth Maker and also the Great Lizard, who is
named Usbuki. Usbuki is the warrior power. Near Usbuki is Henokano,
the Coyote, or Trickster.
Many of the ideas in the above paragraph were recorded by Coyote
Man, or Bob Rathbun, back in the 1970's and can be found on his
map of the Concow Maidu country. He wrote a book called 'Sun,
Moon, and Stars' and also 'The Destruction of the People.' These
books were popular in their day. I hope copies can still be found, as
they are real treasures of the Concow Maidu culture.
Bob Rathbun published many of Tom Epperson's stories. Tom
passed away in 1974; he was one of the greatest Maidu storytellers.
Brian Beavers was another important source for Rathbun.
And every school kid from modern Oroville has heard the story of
how the Sutter Buttes hear Marysville used to be the top of Table
Mountain. Some embellish this modern folk tale with the mention
of how a giant was involved in moving this vast amount of rock
so many miles. This is not a Concow Maidu legend, but my section
on 'Legends of Table Mountain' would not be complete without this
THE OLD NAMES FOR OROVILLE
On Coyote Man's map Oroville is called Opatoni. Near the site of
Oroville is another Maidu village called Siltamona.
Oroville is the place where the Kuksu Dream Society was first
created by the Concow Maidu people.
A FEW NOTES ON ISHI
Later Oroville was the place where Ishi, the famous Yahi Indian
was found--supposedly the last uncivilized Native American.
He was found in a slaughterhouse near old Quincy Road. He
was covered with ash; which may have made him appear
unusual to the people who found him. However those people
were probably unfamiliar with normal Native American
customs of mourning.
Frank Day, one of the last great oldtime leaders of the Maidu,
said that Ishi was part Maidu, having had a Maidu mother. And
also that Ishi was well known in downtown Oroville in the old
days. One of Ishi's friends had died, so he was holing up in the
slaughterhouse in mourning for his friend when he was found by
white people. A sheriff took him into custody.
The story of how Ishi went to Berkeley with Kroeber, the famous
anthropologist is now well known. However Frank Day's
information about Ishi has never become general public
knowledge. Ishi may not have been as unenculturated as Kroeber
was lead to believe, as Ishi's sojourn in Oroville must have put
him into considerable contact with modern ideas.
It is said that Ishi's arrowheads are not typical of Yahi stone
tools in their technique of manufacture. If indeed his mother
was Maidu and that he had spent time in the Oroville area
among Maidu, all this makes sense. Ishi does not represent
a pure strain of the Yahi, but was probably of mixed cultural
To read more about Kuksu view these posts:
Wikipedia has an article on Ishi for those interested:
Those interested may want to see this article on Kroeber:
His wife Theodora Kroeber wrote the original famous book about Ishi:
Artist stamps, artistamps, cinderella stamps, cyberstamps, fantasy stamps, faux postage, mail art, micronation stamps; mythology; mythographic art.