American Coot

-Legend and Modern-day Interpretation-

“In a time before time, there was no earth. There was only water. Coyote told the animals and birds living in the sky to dive down and bring up dirt so there would be land. They all tried, but failed. Coyote himself almost died trying. So he asked Earth Diver (Coot) to dive down and bring up some dirt.

Coot stayed down all day and finally brought up some dirt. Then there was land and all the animals and birds came down out of the sky.”

The land that Coot brought up in that long ago time of animal people was that of rivers, rolling savannahs and a vast inland lake environment. Even the animal people were of different forms than the present. On the eastern side of the Kawaiisu homeland, from Sand Canyon to Red Rock Canyon, fossil remains of saber-toothed cats, camels, horses, rhinoceros and elephant-like creatures have been found.

Since that time, dynamic geological forces have dramatically altered the geomorphology. Sometime during the Middle Miocene to Pliocene (2 to 10 million years ago) major folding and faulting lifted these lands to their present elevations. To the south is Tehachapi Peak (Double Mt., elev. 7988), while to the west is Cummings Mountain (elev. 7753) and Bear Mountain (elev. 6895). Piute Mountain (elev. 8432) lies to the northwest. The land below these peaks is made up of high ridges, deep canyons and wide valleys.

Generally the mountainous land form runs north/south. The Tehachapi Mountains, which are the southern extension of the southern Sierras, have been rotated in a westerly direction, forming a transverse range that runs east/west. This was caused by movement along the Garlock fault which lies just south of Tomo-Kahni, along Oak and Cameron Creeks. The Garlock fault, California’s other major fault, runs generally southwest from the Death Valley area and is offset by the San Andreas Fault west of I-5 at Frazier Park. This fault continues to the Coastal Range as the Big Pine Fault.

Cut from: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24582

I chose to cut the above passage from the State of California Parks and Recreation Natural History page for two reasons. First, it shares the Native American legend of the American Coot. I thought it had striking similarities to the Muskrat Legend. I wonder if story variations by tribal regions were influenced by which animals lived in the ecoregion of the tribe, and, if so, be more familiar and credible as creation story characters.

Second, the reference to the Tehachapi Mountains caught my attention having recently traveled through this mountain corridor. I thought about the giant windmill farm that is at home in the area, and tried to imagine what legend could be told about its creation.

Click on image below to read facts about the American Coot:

20130406-04-06-13_b_american_coot_c

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