We'n Hushurreni'milh (Mole)

This story was told by both Jerry James (recorded under the title We'n Twulh "The Sky Falls" by Gladys Reichard1) and Della Prince (recorded under the title "Mole" by Karl Teeter2). It describes how the mole got its name, and how its front paws came to be splayed to the sides. 

Alfred Kroeber was also told a very short version of this story (in English) by a Wiyot man he identifies only as “an old man called Bill”. Below is his version, as published in The Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. XVIII (1905):


The mole is ashamed to come out in the daytime. Once the sky fell and it held it up with its hand. Under the weight of the sky its hand turned bottom up. Hence its hand is twisted now.

A few notes about the longer version of the story as told by Della Prince and Jerry James, as it can be a bit difficult to understand without context:

  • Rrak Shou’r Lhugilh / Rrak Shurra Lhughilh (Southwest-Young-Man; abbreviated as SWYM) is what Kroeber describes as a “culture-hero”. He appears in many stories, sometimes saving people or doing heroic things, other times getting in trouble. The story of Mole describes how his greed caused the sky to fall.
  • When SWYM says, “Little one fall down!”, he is asking for Indian "potatoes", aka Brodiaea coronaria bulbs, to fall (from the sky perhaps?) because he is hungry. This works for quite a while, and each time some bulbs fall down, he shares them with Mole.
  • SWYM then gets greedy and demands, “Big one fall down!” but instead of a big Indian potato, the sky falls down.
  • Mole tries to hold the sky up, but it’s so heavy that it twists his hands to the side.

Both (Della Prince/Jerry James) versions of the story are given side by side below, with minor differences in phrasing or pronunciation underlined. There is no archival audio recording of this story.

NOTE: This story appears to take place somewhere near the area known in English as Bucksport (Soulatluk = Goutsuwelhik) in south Eureka. A comment (possibly by Wiyot speaker Elsie Barto) in Reichard's 1922 field notes3, discussing the story, says there is a place known as We'n Dalim ('the sky lies there'), and that “[the] ‎sky lies there down near spruces near Bucksport, when tapped it would rain [...] piece of sky like large piece of concrete."

Download a PDF copy of the story (which includes more detailed word-by-word translations and notes).

Click here to learn or review key vocabulary from the story (with audio links for some words).


[1] Reichard, Gladys A. 1925. Wiyot Grammar and Texts. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 22(1):1-215.

[2] Teeter, Karl V. 1964. The Wiyot Language. University of California Publications in Linguistics 37. The same story was also reprinted in: Teeter, Karl V. , and John D. Nichols. 1993. Wiyot Handbook Vol. II. Memoir 10, Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics. Winnipeg: Department of Linguistics, University of Manitoba.

[3] Reichard, Gladys A. 1922. Gladys Reichard field notebooks on Wiyot Indians, BANC MSS 2004/111 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 

Wiyot (Della Prince)Wiyot (Jerry James)

1. We’n Hushurreni’milh ji daqh.

We’n Hushurrenuwilh ji daqh.

Mole lived there.

2. Rrak Shou’r Lhugilh ji da louwilh.

Rrak Shurra Lhughilh ji da louwilh.

Southwest-Young-Man came there.

3. Qi klhamilh, da rridibou’.

[identical text]
When he got there, he saw two people cooking.

4. Hou rrouguk, “Tsiqutsgurou!”

Hou wurouguklh, "Tsiqutsgurou!"

After a while, he said, “Little one fall down!”

5. Hi noulunuvilh, bouduroush.

Hi noulunuwilh bouduroush.

He picked up an Indian "potato" (Brodiaea coronaria bulb).

6. Hi vighi’n.

Hiyu wighi’n.

Then they divided it.

7. Rrak Shou’r Lhugilh hi voudiwuluvilh.

Rrak Shurra Lhughilh hiyu woudiwuluwilh.

Southwest-Young-Man ate it and enjoyed it.

8. Hisgunuvoumilh.


He gave Mole a piece.

9. “Tsiqutsgurou!”


“Little one fall down!” he said.

10. Hi noulunuvilh, bouduroush.

[Reichard's transcript says, "Repeat sentences 5 to 9 several times."]
He picked up an Indian "potato".

11. Hi vighi’n.

[Reichard's transcript says, "Repeat sentences 5 to 9 several times."]
Then they divided it.

12. Rrak Shou’r Lhugilh hi    voudi’wuluvilh, hisgu’nuvoumilh.

[Reichard's transcript says, "Repeat sentences 5 to 9 several times."]
Southwest-Young-Man ate it and enjoyed it, then he gave Mole a piece.

13. Rrak Shou’r Lhugilh hi yililh, “Shou diqutgulughoulilhit,     rradutgurray.”

Rrak Shurra Lhughilh hi yililh, "Shou diqutgulughalilhit rradutgula’.

Then Southwest-Young-Man said, “I wish a big one would fall down.”

14. We’n Hushurreni’milh lhe ga dalilh.

We’n Hushurrenuwilh lhu ga dalilh.

Mole never spoke.

15. “Diqutgulou!”


“Big one fall down!” [said Southwest-Young-Man].

16. Juwa we’n gas twulh.

Jouwa wi gas tuwulh we’n.

That’s when the sky fell.

17. Gish husgunuvilh.


He [Mole] tried in vain to hold up a piece.

18. Hou we’sanu’l shaw hi rraqlhayurr.

We’sanu’l shaw hi rruqhlhayurr.

His hands were pushed sideways.