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According to the Modoc Indians of northern California, Kumush was ‘the old man of the ancients’. Once he went down with his daughter to the underground world of the spirits. In this beautiful realm it was the custom for the spirits to sing and dance at night, but when daylight came, they returned to their resting places and became dry bones. After six days and six nights in the land of the spirits, Kumush decided to return to the upper world and take some of the spirits with him. So he collected in a big basket lots of bones. Three times he attempted to climb the long and steep road out of the underground realm; twice he stumbled, and the spirits, shouting and singing, leapt from the basket and returned to their places; but on the third attempt he spoke to them angrily, telling how marvellous was the world above. Stepping into the blaze of the sun's rays outside the entrance to the underground road, Kumush threw down the basket and called out: ‘Indian bones!’

Then he opened the basket and selected the bones of the different tribes. His final choice was the Modoc Indians, his brave and chosen people. ‘Though you will be a small tribe and though your enemies are many,’ said Kumush, ‘you will defeat all who come against you.’ Then he finished his arrangement of the world, travelled along the sun's road, and built for himself and his daughter a house in the middle of the sky. There they live today.

Subjects: Religion.

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