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The Rainbow Bridge: How we & dolphins came to be–A Chumash origin story

February 23, 2009


The Chumash people say Hutash Earth Mother
grew us from magic seeds she planted
out in the Channel Islands, on Limuw,
Island of the Blue Dolphin. The people grew
from seeds Hutash planted. The people were
happy. There was plenty of fish and plants to eat.

Sky Snake, the husband of Hutash, saw
how pleased Hutash was with the people she
made, and saw how happy the people were.
Sky Snake, Milky Way, decided to gift
the people fire which he sent down as
lightening bolts from his slender forked tongue.

Now the people could warm and cook their food.
Now the people could stay warm in winter.
Now the children were warm and happy.
Now the people could stay up late into night
telling stories, singing songs, making babies.

Hutash was happy her people were happy.
There was plenty of everything they needed.
Her people had babies, the babies grew,
and they had babies too. There were lots of
singing happy people on the Island.
In fact, Hutash began to think there were
too many people on the Island.

Sometimes she would complain to Sky Snake.
“Sky Snake,” she would say, “the people are too
noisy! I want to sleep. I whisper to them,
shhh, children, it is time to be quiet.
It is time to rest, it is time to sleep.
But do they listen to Earth Mother? No.

Sky Snake, they do not. They make their music
louder! They build the fire higher!
They make more babies! I tell them there are
too many people right now, too many
for the land, and your fires are too big!
Sky Snake, they don’t listen! What should I do?”

Sky Snake sighed. He was getting tired of all
the noise himself. He shook his head. He didn’t
know what to do either, but trusted
Hutash would figure out a solution.

One night when the people were keeping Hutash
awake when she wanted to be asleep,
she looked out on the moonlit mainland and
realized she would have to send the people there.

“Sky Snake,” said Hutash, “The people need to
leave the Island and go live on the mainland.”

“How will they get there?” asked Sky Snake, the Milky
Way. “It is too far for them to swim.”

“I will make a Rainbow Bridge,” said Hutash.
“They will walk across the Rainbow Bridge to
the mountain top and they will find plenty
to eat and drink and we will all be happy.

The next day, Hutash told the people they
would have to leave the Island and walk
across the Rainbow Bridge to the mainland.
It would take them all day, walking, but when
they arrived there would be plenty of room
and lots to eat. The people were afraid.

“But Hutash, the Bridge is too high! What if
we fall? We will drown!” they protested.

“You are my people,” reassured Hutash.
“I will take care of you. In three days,
it will be time for most of you to go.”

The people put on their fur and leather clothes,
filled a few baskets with belongings,
and started up the Rainbow Bridge.
Families held hands to stay together.

“Keep your eyes on your goal,” said Hutash.
“Look ahead to where you are going.”

As the people climbed higher and higher
on the Rainbow Bridge, they could see the land
as clearly as on the days the warm winds
blow from the east, and they were excited.

But some people looked back, and some people
looked down. These people felt dizzy. The water
was a long long long way down. The fog licked
their toes. Some of the people grew afraid,
and they looked down instead of ahead to where they were
going. They doubted Hutash and their tummies
felt funny. Some of the people lost their
balance and they fell fell fell through the fog
toward the shimmering, dark sea far below.

Hutash had told her children she would take
care of them. So as they fell, she turned the
people into dolphins. When they landed
in the water, they could swim and diveand
hold their breath long enough to catch fish to eat.

The dolphin people are grateful to Hutash.
They like playing in the water so much
that they are always smiling. And we
smile to watch our dolphin brothers and sisters.

Thank you to Chumash Elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie for sharing this story which I have adapted to this form using a few other sources as well. I am working with felt artist Borbala Arvai to do a children’s book of this story, and this is a first solid draft. Let me know what you think so far!

For more poetry, ride the Train!

or check out read write poem!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2009 5:13 pm

    Loved ur blog.I’m Deeptesh 4m the poetrytrain.Do chk out my blog 2 at

  2. February 23, 2009 7:01 pm

    What a magical story! I loved it, and I think having it illustrated by a felt artist suits the story perfectly.

  3. Paul permalink
    February 24, 2009 3:22 am

    Wow awesome video! Here’s my rocking video app.

  4. February 24, 2009 3:52 am

    I love this kind of work – myth and mystic. Wonderful.

  5. February 24, 2009 5:21 pm

    Great origin story for dolphins.

    We just had an emotional dolphin rescue in eastern Canada, where five men from a Newfoundland town named Seal Cove turned a 17-foot fibreglass boat into a mini icebreaker, rocking it back and forth to create a channel for three trapped dolphins to get back out to open water. One 17-year-old in a survival suit actually got into the frigid water to tug one exhausted dolphin behind the boat, and the dolphin leaned on the boy, who felt the gratitude radiating from the dolphin.

  6. February 26, 2009 12:50 pm

    Magical and mystical. Liked it. Beautiful poetry

  7. February 26, 2009 11:00 pm

    When I read “Rainbow Bridge” I always think of the poem for dead pets. Perhaps this will expand for me, now.

  8. February 27, 2009 2:24 pm

    I loved this. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for writing this — and teaching me a tale of the Chumash. Also, very well crafted.

  9. February 7, 2018 1:35 pm

    I enjoyed this poetry because of my native heritage, albeit im not from the Chumash.


  1. The Rainbow Bridge: How we & dolphins came to be–A Chumash origin story | 21-AG News Blog
  2. The Rainbow Bridge: How we & dolphins came to be–A Chumash origin story | 21-AG News Blog
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  4. Dolphin Tale (2011) - Christian movie review with critical thinking

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