The indigenous religion of the Pomo people, Native Americans from Northwestern California, centered on belief in the powerful entities of the 'Kunula', a Coyote, and 'Guksu', a spirit healer from the south.

Creation stories

Coyote ('Kunula') and Cougar set up for their sons to play a sports game. Most of Coyote's children died. The last two of Coyote's sons chased a ball into a sweathouse and were killed by the resident the Sun (a spirit being). Later through trickery and persistence Coyote retrieved the bodies of his two sons in a bag. Because he had trouble seeing in the darkness Coyote split open the bag and his son's two bodies created light and became the physical sun and the moon in the heavens.[1]

Another "Creation" myth is that Coyote and Lizard ('Hatanutal') were in a sweathouse near Upper Lake, California. Coyote split up some willow and dogwood sticks, painted them, and set them upright in the dirt. The sticks turned into human beings with paws rather than hands. Coyote then put some hemp around them. The hemp became fleas that jumped onto the human beings. Lizard suggested the people needed hands with fingers in order to be more useful, and Coyote suggested they wrestle over that. Coyote and Lizard wrestled. Lizard won the wrestling match and thus the people as Lizard proposed were given fingers, as well as language.[2]

World order

The Pomo spoke of a sweat house in each cardinal direction.

According to Pomo ceremony and tradition, the world contained six supernatural beings (or groups of spirits) who lived at the ends of the world: one in each of the four cardinal directions, plus one above in the sky, and one below in the earth:[3]

These spirits were imagined to live in sweat houses or dance-houses at each end of the world. At times, these supernatural beings were malevolent and could kill men. However, if properly treated or placated, they were benevolent.

The person who played a Guksu in dance ceremonies was often considered the medicine man and would also dress up as a Guksu when called on to treat the sick. Sickness was seen as something that Guksu came to take away and to carry back to the south.

Guksu ceremony

The ceremony called the Guksu ceremony lasted 6 days with the above dancers appearing once a day. The 6 days included of the ceremony called 'The Scarifying Ceremony' where children ages 5 to 10 were initiated with physical and mental tests administered by the dressed up dancers.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Curtis, Coyote Creates Sun and Moon.
  2. ^ Curtis, The Creation.
  3. ^ Barret, pages 397-430.
  4. ^ Barret, page 423
  5. ^ Barret, page 424
  6. ^ Barret, page 423-430

Further reading


  • Curtis, Edward S. The Creation and Coyote Creates Sun and Moon, as published in North American Indian, Oral stories of Pomo Indians, 1907-1930s, Volume 14, pages 170–171.
  • Barrett, S.A. Ceremonies of the Pomo Indians, published by University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnicity, July 6, 1917, 12:10, pages 397–441.
  • Gifford, Edward W, Clear Lake Pomo Society, 1926, published by University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 18:2 pages 353-363 "Secret Society Members" (Describes E.M. Loeb 1925 investigation of the Clear Lake Pomo's practice of the Guksu religion.)