The Mermaid (Hus’ seh’ pe)
This is a story about a young Miwok man named Yu’-wel-lu. One day while out fishing in his tule boat Yu’-wel’-lu heard muffled singing coming from the water. A beautiful hus’ seh’pe approached him. She was so stunning that he couldn’t take his stare off her. Day after day he would go fishing and she would approach him. Finally one day, she told him that if he really truly loved her, she could magically become a Miwok woman and be his wife but he couldn’t tell anyone of her being a hus’seh’pe. If he told, he would die and she would return to the waters.
With this promise she tied a red ribbon around his wrist. She said he was never to take the ribbon off. The hus’ seh’ pe went home with Yu’-wel-lu, and they lived happily until one day they attended a big time celebration. Yu’-wel-lu introduced his beautiful wife and the other Miwok men were curious as to where Yu’-wel-lu found such a beautiful wife. They noticed the red ribbon on his wrist and continued to harass Yu’wel-lu about the red ribbon.
After hours of relentless taunting Yu’-wel-lu told his story about the ribbon and his wife being a hus’seh’pe. The Miwok men did not believe him. He said, “alright then, I will prove it to you”, even knowing that when I remove this ribbon, I will die. Yu’-wel-lu removed the red ribbon and died. His beautiful wife was seen no more.
Miwok story as told by
Silvia Burley, Chairperson
California Valley Miwok Tribe