Myths & Legends



Ute: The Cin-Au-Av Brothers

Ute people are Native Americans of the Ute tribe and culture. They are now living primarily in Utah and Colorado. The Ute are in the Great Basin classification of Indigenous People.

They have three Ute tribal reservations: Uintah-Ouray in northeastern Utah (3,500 members); Southern Ute in Colorado (1,500 members); and Ute Mountain which primarily lies in Colorado, but extends to Utah and New Mexico (2,000 members). The majority of Ute are believed to live on one of these reservations. The State of Utah is named after these people.

The fable that follows is from the Ute, cited in First Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1879-1880 by J. W. Powell. A fable that speaks of how it came to be that the dead never return.
— Orly

Once upon a time the Cĭn-aú-äv brothers met to consult about the destiny of the U-ĭn-ká-rĕts. At this meeting the younger said: “Brother, how shall these people obtain their food? Let us devise some good plan for them. I was thinking about it all night, but could not see what would be best, and when the dawn came into the sky I went to a mountain and sat on its summit, and thought a long time; and now I can tell you a good plan by which they can live. Listen to your younger brother. Look at these pine trees; their nuts are sweet; and there is the us, very rich; and there is the apple of the cactus, full of juice; on the plain you see the sunflower, bearing many seeds—they will be good for the nation. Let them have all these things for their food, and when they have gathered a store they shall put them in the ground, or hide them in the rocks, and when they return they shall find abundance, and having taken of them as they may need, shall go on, and yet when they return a second time there shall still be plenty; and though they return many times, as long as they live the store shall never fail; and thus they will be supplied with abundance of food without toil.” “Not so,” said the elder brother, “for then will the people, idle and worthless, and having no labor to perform, engage in quarrels, and fighting will ensue, and they will destroy each other, and the people will be lost to the earth; they must work for all they receive.” Then the younger brother answered not, but went away sorrowing.

The next day he met the elder brother and accosted him thus: “Brother, your words were wise; let the U-ĭn-ká-rĕts work for their food. But how shall they be furnished with honey-dew? I have thought all night about this, and when the dawn came into the sky I sat on the summit of the mountain and did think, and now I will tell you how to give them honey-dew: Let it fall like a great snow upon the rocks, and the women shall go early in the morning and gather all they may desire, and they shall be glad.” “No,” replied the elder brother, “it will not be good, my little brother, for them to have much and find it without toil; for they will deem it of no more value than dung, and what we give them for their pleasure will only be wasted. In the night it shall fall in small drops on the reeds, which they shall gather and beat with clubs, and then will it taste very sweet, and having but little they will prize it the more.” And the younger brother went away sorrowing, but returned the next day and said: “My brother, your words are wise; let the women gather the honey-dew with much toil, by beating the reeds with flails. Brother, when a man or a woman, or a boy or a girl, or a little one dies, where shall he go? I have thought all night about this, and when the dawn came into the sky I sat on the top of the mountain and did think.

Let me tell you what to do: When a man dies, send him back when the morning returns, and then will all his friends rejoice.” “Not so,” said the elder; “the dead shall return no more.” The little brother answered him not, but, bending his head in sorrow, went away.

One day the younger Cĭn-aú-äv was walking in the forest, and saw his brother’s son at play, and taking an arrow from his quiver slew the boy, and when he returned he did not mention what he had done. The father supposed that his boy was lost, and wandered around in the woods for many days, and at last found the dead child, and mourned his loss for a long time.

One day the younger Cĭn-aú-äv said to the elder, “You made the law that the dead should never return. I am glad that you were the first to suffer.” Then the elder knew that the younger had killed his child, and he was very angry and sought to destroy him, and as his wrath increased the earth rocked, subterraneous groanings were heard, darkness came on, fierce storms raged, lightning flashed, thunder reverberated through the heavens, and the younger brother fled in great terror to his father, Ta-vwots´, for protection.


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