Wašiw Legends Series: The Wašiw Seasons as Told by C’ošuŋi
RENO, Nev. — In 2014, ancient legends of the Washoe people were brought to life in the native Washoe language through four children’s books, thanks to translations by tribe elder Melba Rakow and Washoe person Lisa Enos.
Publication of the books was made possible by a 2011 grant from the Administration for Native Americans.
Among the four books is, “C’ošuŋi: The Wašiw Seasons as Told by C’ošuŋi.” Copies of this book and other Wašiw legends are for sale through the Cultural Resources Department for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.
All sales go directly toward youth and cultural initiatives within the tribe. For more information, contact the Cultural Resources Department at 775-782-0013.
Below is the ancient legend of The Wašiw Seasons, as Told by C’ošuŋi, as provided to First Nation’s Focus by Lisa Enos:
C’ošuŋi: The Wašiw Seasons as Told by C’ošuŋi
C’ošuŋi was born in the spring with many brothers. He was a small red creature with six skinny legs and feet and two feelers. When he was still small he was sent from his home to search for food. Life had not been easy for C’ošuŋi and his brothers; they had no mother, and they were hungry. When he came out of his home in the ground all that he could see was sagebrush and a large mountain that went high up, but no food.
He didn’t know which way to go look for food, but then he saw some Wašiw people camping near the river. As he watched he could see them eating everything that grew there. They were happily eating tule and cattail roots. They had mountain potato and watercress and all kinds of growing things for food. They were roasting potatoes and eating wild onions. Everything smelled so good that C’ošuŋi’s stomach growled he was so hungry. He decided to go where they were. When he got there he crawled into a burden basket and ate his fill.
Then he thought he should take some home for his brothers. He was about ready to when the old woman picked up her burden basket and he couldn’t get down. The Wašiw people were going up the tall mountain. C’ošuŋi looked back and seen his home become small, and he became frightened and began to cry. Then he heard a man talking to the children; he said, “When it becomes winter, we will be back here in the valley.” But winter seemed so far away for little C’ošuŋi and he was frightened. Then he thought he would see everything and learn everything and then come back and tell his brothers that they would never go hungry again.
The burden basket was a fine place to ride for C’ošuŋi to ride along. In two days they arrived at the Lake’s edge. He looked out of the burden basket and though “how beautiful it is.” his Wašiw companions with Southern Wašiw people, the Mountain Wašiw people, the Eastern Wašiw people as well as other Valley Wašiw people. Here they were going to pray over the food, the water, and everything living. As he sat there watching he stomach started to growl again. He noticed that the men were taking out their nets and spears for fishing. C’ošuŋi went with them but soon discovered that he didn’t much like fish.
C’ošuŋi stayed with the Waši∙šiw all summer. When it became fall all the people went in different directions. Some of them went to gather and trade for acorns, he did not know what an acorn was but decided it must be wonderful as everyone was excites about it. C’ošuŋi decided he would travel with the people going back to the valley thinking he would soon be with his brothers. But as they were traveling it became apparent that they were not heading back to the valley yet. They were going to the pine nut gathering. There the Waši∙šiw sang, played and prayed for a good harvest.
C’ošuŋi was so excited because he remembered that in the spring a wise elderly woman buried a small green cone in a stream and prayed that this year would be a good year for pine nuts. It was indeed! The burden baskets were filled to the top with pine nuts. Some gathered, some were roasting and some were making flour. C’ošuŋi ate to his fill. There were men who went hunting because the deer were fat and ready to be eaten.
As the weather grew cooler the Wašiw gathered their pine nuts and deer and headed toward the valley. C’ošuŋi had finished growing, and he seen so much and he was wiser. He had learned where to gather food and he went to tell his brothers and they were happy. They watched as the Wašiw people opened their stores of acorn; he was amazed how large they were. The Wašiw people prepared the acorn into flour, soup and biscuits. He and his brothers collected as much as they could carry to their home.
As it grew colder the Wašiw people made rabbit skin blankets and they were all happy. C’ošuŋi would come back to watch the children often and he and his brothers would never go hungry again.
Lisa Enos is editor of the Wašiw Legends Series and a Language Teacher for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.
After gold was found in California, silver was discovered in Virginia City, and the Comstock bonanza lured those seeking riches onto Washoe terrain. The settlers viewed the land as an object of financial opportunity. In a very short time, pine nuts, seeds, game and fish had been overused. The harmonious rhythm that the Washoe had maintained was broken.