Native American Myths of Creation



Apache

In the beginning was only Tepeu and Gucumatz (Feathered Serpent). These two sat together and thought, and whatever they thought came into being. They thought earth, and there it was. They thought mountains, and so there were. They thought trees, and sky, and animals etc, and each came into being. But none of these things could praise them, so they formed more advanced beings of clay. But these beings fell apart when they got wet, so they made beings out of wood, but they proved unsatisfactory and caused trouble on the earth. The gods sent a great flood to wipe out these beings, so that they could start over. With the help of Mountain Lion, Coyote, Parrot, and Crow they fashioned four new beings. These four beings performed well and are the ancestors of the Quiché In the beginning was only Tepeu and Gucumatz (Feathered Serpent).

These two sat together and thought, and whatever they thought came into being. They thought earth, and there it was. They thought mountains, and so there were. They thought trees, and sky, and animals etc, and each came into being. But none of these things could praise them, so they formed more advanced beings of clay. But these beings fell apart when they got wet, so they made beings out of wood, but they proved unsatisfactory and caused trouble on the earth. The gods sent a great flood to wipe out these beings, so that they could start over. With the help of Mountain Lion, Coyote, Parrot, and Crow they fashioned four new beings. These four beings performed well and are the ancestors of the Quich.

In the beginning there was only darkness. Suddenly a small bearded man, the One Who Lives Above, appeared rubbing his eyes as if just awakened. The man, the Creator, rubbed his hands together and there appeared a little girl, Girl-Without-Parents. The creator rubbed his face with his hands and there stood the Sun-God. Again Creator rubbed his sweaty brow and from his hands dropped Small-boy. Now there were four gods.Then he created Tarantula, Big Dipper, Wind, Lightning-Maker and Lightning-Rumbler. All four gods shook hands so that their sweat mixed together. Then Creator rubbed his palms together from which fell a small round, brown ball. They took turns kicking it and with each kick the ball grew larger. Creator told Wind to go inside the ball and blow it up. Then Tarantula spun a black cord which he attached to the ball and went to the east pulling as hard as he could.

He repeated this exercise with a blue cord to the south, a yellow cord to the west and a white cord to the north. When he was done the brown ball had become the earth. The Creator again rubbed his hands and there appeared Hummingbird. "Fly all over this earth," said Creator to Hummingbird, "and tell us what you see." When he returned Hummingbird reported that there was water on the west side. But the earth rolled and bounced, so Creator made four giant posts one each black, blue, yellow and white and had Wind place them at the four cardinal points of the earth. The earth was now still. The creation of the people, animals, birds, trees, etc takes place hereafter.


Myth 2

Animals, elements, the solar system, and natural phenomena are revered by the Apaches. That which is beyond their understanding is always ascribed to the supernatural.

In the beginning nothing existed--no earth, no sky, no sun, no moon, only darkness was everywhere.

Suddenly from the darkness emerged a thin disc, one side yellow and the other side white, appearing suspended in midair. Within the disc sat a small bearded man, Creator, the One Who Lives Above. As if waking from a long nap, he rubbed his eyes and face with both hands.

When he looked into the endless darkness, light appeared above. He looked down and it became a sea of light. To the east, he created yellow streaks of dawn. To the west, tints of many colours appeared everywhere. There were also clouds of different colours.

Creator wiped his sweating face and rubbed his hands together, thrusting them downward. Behold! A shining cloud upon which sat a little girl.

"Stand up and tell me where are you going," said Creator. But she did not reply. He rubbed his eyes again and offered his right hand to the Girl-Without-Parents.

"Where did you come from?" she asked, grasping his hand.

"From the east where it is now light," he replied, stepping upon her cloud.

"Where is the earth?" she asked.

"Where is the sky?" he asked, and sang, "I am thinking, thinking, thinking what I shall create next." He sang four times, which was the magic number.

Creator brushed his face with his hands, rubbed them together, then flung them wide open! Before them stood Sun-God. Again Creator rubbed his sweaty brow and from his hands dropped Small- Boy.

All four gods sat in deep thought upon the small cloud.

"What shall we make next?" asked Creator. "This cloud is much too small for us to live upon."

Then he created Tarantula, Big Dipper, Wind, Lightning-Maker, and some western clouds in which to house Lightning-Rumbler, which he just finished.

Creator sang, "Let us make earth. I am thinking of the earth, earth, earth; I am thinking of the earth," he sang four times.

All four gods shook hands. In doing so, their sweat mixed together and Creator rubbed his palms, from which fell a small round, brown ball, not much larger than a bean.

Creator kicked it, and it expanded. Girl-Without-Parents kicked the ball, and it enlarged more. Sun-God and Small-Boy took turns giving it hard kicks, and each time the ball expanded. Creator told Wind to go inside the ball and to blow it up.

Tarantula spun a black cord and, attaching it to the ball, crawled away fast to the east, pulling on the cord with all his strength. Tarantula repeated with a blue cord to the south, a yellow cord to the west, and a white cord to the north. With mighty pulls in each direction, the brown ball stretched to immeasurable size--it became the earth! No hills, mountains, or rivers were visible; only smooth, treeless, brown plains appeared.

Creator scratched his chest and rubbed his fingers together and there appeared Hummingbird.

"Fly north, south, east, and west and tell us what you see," said Creator.

"All is well," reported Hummingbird upon his return. "The earth is most beautiful, with water on the west side."

But the earth kept rolling and dancing up and down. So Creator made four giant posts--black, blue, yellow, and white to support the earth. Wind carried the four posts, placing them beneath the four cardinal points of the earth. The earth sat still.

Creator sang, "World is now made and now sits still," which he repeated four times.

Then he began a song about the sky. None existed, but he thought there should be one. After singing about it four times, twenty- eight people appeared to help make a sky above the earth. Creator chanted about making chiefs for the earth and sky.

He sent Lightning-Maker to encircle the world, and he returned with three uncouth creatures, two girls and a boy found in a turquoise shell. They had no eyes, ears, hair, mouths, noses, or teeth. They had arms and legs, but no fingers or toes.

Sun-God sent for Fly to come and build a sweathouse. Girl- Without-Parents covered it with four heavy clouds. In front of the east doorway she placed a soft, red cloud for a foot-blanket to be used after the sweat.

Four stones were heated by the fire inside the sweathouse. The three uncouth creatures were placed inside. The others sang songs of healing on the outside, until it was time for the sweat to be finished. Out came the three strangers who stood upon the magic red cloud-blanket. Creator then shook his hands toward them, giving each one fingers, toes, mouths, eyes, ears, noses and hair.

Creator named the boy, Sky-Boy, to be chief of the Sky-People. One girl he named Earth-Daughter, to take charge of the earth and its crops. The other girl he named Pollen-Girl, and gave her charge of health care for all Earth-People.

Since the earth was flat and barren, Creator thought it fun to create animals, birds, trees, and a hill. He sent Pigeon to see how the world looked. Four days later, he returned and reported, "All is beautiful around the world. But four days from now, the water on the other side of the earth will rise and cause a mighty flood."

Creator made a very tall pinon tree. Girl-Without-Parents covered the tree framework with pinon gum, creating a large, tight ball.

In four days, the flood occurred. Creator went up on a cloud, taking his twenty-eight helpers with him. Girl-Without-Parents put the others into the large, hollow ball, closing it tight at the top.

In twelve days, the water receded, leaving the float-ball high on a hilltop. The rushing floodwater changed the plains into mountains, hills, valleys, and rivers. Girl-Without-Parents led the gods out from the float-ball onto the new earth. She took them upon her cloud, drifting upward until they met Creator with his helpers, who had completed their work making the sky during the flood time on earth.

Together the two clouds descended to a valley below. There, Girl- Without-Parents gathered everyone together to listen to Creator.

"I am planning to leave you," he said. "I wish each of you to do your best toward making a perfect, happy world.

"You, Lightning-Rumbler, shall have charge of clouds and water.

"You, Sky-Boy, look after all Sky-People.

"You, Earth-Daughter, take charge of all crops and Earth-People.

"You, Pollen-Girl, care for their health and guide them.

"You, Girl-Without-Parents, I leave you in charge over all."

Creator then turned toward Girl-Without-Parents and together they rubbed their legs with their hands and quickly cast them forcefully downward. Immediately between them arose a great pile of wood, over which Creator waved a hand, creating fire.

Great billowy clouds of smoke at once drifted skyward. Into this cloud, Creator disappeared. The other gods followed him in other clouds of smoke, leaving the twenty-eight workers to people the earth.

Sun-God went east to live and travel with the Sun. Girl-Without- Parents departed westward to live on the far horizon. Small-Boy and Pollen-Girl made cloud homes in the south. Big Dipper can still be seen in the northern sky at night, a reliable guide to all.



Cherokee

Long, long ago, a great island floated in a giant ocean. This island hung from four thick ropes from the sky, which was solid rock. There were no peoples and it was always dark. The animals could not see so they got the sun and put it in a path that took it across the island from east to west each day. The animals and plants were told by the Great Spirit to stay awake for seven days and seven nights but most could not and slept. Those plants that did stay awake, such as the pine and cedar and those few others were rewarded by being allowed to remain green all year. All the others were made to lose their leaves each winter. Those animals that did stay awake, such as the owl and the mountain lion and those few others were rewarded with the ability to go about in the dark. Then the people appeared.

Myth 2

Long ago, before there were any people, the world was young and water covered everything. The earth was a great island floating above the seas, suspended by four rawhide ropes representing the four sacred directions. It hung down from the crystal sky. There were no people, but the animals lived in a home above the rainbow. Needing space, they sent Water Beetle to search for room under the seas. Water Beetle dove deep and brought up mud that spread quickly, turning into land that was flat and too soft and wet for the animals to live on.

Grandfather Buzzard was sent to see if the land had hardened. When he flew over the earth, he found the mud had become solid; he flapped in for a closer look. The wind from his wings created valleys and mountains, and that is why the Cherokee territory has so many mountains today.

As the earth stiffened, the animals came down from the rainbow. It was still dark. They needed light, so they pulled the sun out from behind the rainbow, but it was too bright and hot. A solution was urgently needed. The shamans were told to place the sun higher in the sky. A path was made for it to travel--from east to west--so that all inhabitants could share in the light.

The plants were placed upon the earth. The Creator told the plants and animals to stay awake for seven days and seven nights. Only a few animals managed to do so, including the owls and mountain lions, and they were rewarded with the power to see in the dark. Among the plants, only the cedars, spruces, and pines remained awake. The Creator told these plants that they would keep their hair during the winter, while the other plants would lose theirs.

People were created last. The women were able to have babies every seven days. They reproduced so quickly that the Creator feared the world would soon become too crowded. So after that the women could have only one child per year, and it has been that way ever since.



Navajo

The people traveled through four worlds before climbing a reed growing from the bottom of the Lake of Changing Waters to this present world. First Man and First Woman with their two first children, Changing Twins, were in the forefront. First Man and First Woman produced a mountain. They populated it with plants and animals. On the peak they placed a black bowl with two blackbird eggs in it. They fastened down the peak with a rainbow. One twin took some clay from riverbed and it fashioned itself into a bowl. The other twin found reeds growing and shaped them into a water basket. They picked up stones from the ground which became axes, knives, spear points and hammers in their hands.

Myth 2

The Navajo creation story involves three underworlds where important events happened to shape the Fourth World where we now live.

The Navajo were given the name Ni�hookaa Diyan DinE by their creators. It means 'Holy Earth People' or 'Lords of the Earth'. Navajos today simply call themselves "DinE", meaning "The People". The Tewa Indians were the first to call them "Navahu", which means "the large area of cultivated land". The Mexicans knew them as 'Apaches Du Nabahu' (Apaches of the Cultivated Fields), where 'Apache' (Enemy) was picked up from the Zuni Indian language. The "Apaches Du Nabahu" were known as a special group somewhat distinct from the rest of the Apaches. Alonso de Benavides changed the name to "Navaho" in a book written in 1630. The name the Din� officially use for themselves is "Navajo".

According to the DinE, they emerged from three previous underworlds into this, the fourth, or "Glittering World", through a magic reed. The first people from the other three worlds were not like the people of today. They were animals, insects or masked spirits as depicted in Navajo ceremonies. First Man ('Alts� Hastiin), and First Woman ('Alts� 'Asdz��), were two of the beings from the First or Black World. First Man was made in the east from the meeting of the white and black clouds. First Woman was made in the west from the joining of the yellow and blue clouds. Spider Woman (Na ashje�ii 'Asdz��), who taught Navajo women how to weave, was also from the first world.

Once in the Glittering World, the first thing the people did was build a sweat house and sing the Blessing Song. Then they met in the first house (hogan) made exactly as Talking God (Haashch�eelti�i) had prescribed. In this hogan, the people began to arrange their world, naming the four sacred mountains surrounding the land and designating the four sacred stones that would become the boundaries of their homeland. In actuality, these mountains do not contain the symbolic sacred stones.

The San Francisco Peaks (Dook�o�osl��d), represents the Abalone and Coral stones. It is located just north of Flagstaff, and is the Navajo�s religious western boundary. Mt. Blanco (Tsisnaasjini'), in Colorado, represents the White Shell stone, and represents the Navajo�s religious eastern boundary. Mt. Taylor (Tsoodzil) east of Grants, New Mexico, represents the Turquoise stone, and represents the Navajo�s religious southern boundary. Mt. Hesperus (DibE Nitsaa), in Colorado, represents the Black Jet stone, and represents the Navajo�s religious northern boundary.

After setting the mountains down where they should go, the Navajo deities, or "Holy People", put the sun and the moon into the sky and were in the process of carefully placing the stars in an orderly way. But the Coyote, known as the trickster, grew impatient from the long deliberations being held, and seized the corner of the blanket where it lay and flung the remaining stars into the sky.

The Holy People continued to make the necessities of life, like clouds, trees and rain. Everything was as it should be when the evil monsters appeared and began to kill the new Earth People. But a miracle happened to save them, by the birth of Ever Changing Woman (Asdzaa Nadleehe) at Gobernador Knob (Ch��ol���), New Mexico.

Changing Woman grew up around El Huerfano Mesa (Dzil Na�oodilii), in northern New Mexico. She married the Sun and bore two son, twins, and heroes to the Navajo people. They were known as "Monster Slayer" and "Child-Born-of-Water". The twins traveled to their father the Sun who gave them weapons of lighting bolts to fight the dreaded monsters. Every place the Hero Twins killed a monster it turned to stone.

An example of this is the lave flows near Mt. Taylor in New Mexico, believed to be the blood from the death of Ye�iitsoh, or the 'Monster who Sucked in People'. All of the angular rock formations on the reservation, such as the immense Black Mesa (Dzil Y�jiin), are seen as the turned-to-stone bodies of the monsters.

With all of the monsters dead, the Navajo deities, or 'Holy People', turned their attention to the making of the four original clans. Kiiyaa aanii, or Tall House People, was the first clan. They were made of yellow and white corn. Eventually other clans traveled to the area round the San Juan River, bring their important contributions to the tribe. Some were Paiutes who brought their beautiful baskets. Others were Pueblos who shared their farming and weaving skills. Still others were Utes and Apaches.

For her husband, the 'Sun', to visit her every evening, Changing Woman went to live in the western sea on an island made of rock crystal. Her home was made of the four sacred stones: Abalone, White Shell, Turquoise, and Black Jet. During the day she became lonely and decided to make her own people. She made four clans from the flakes of her skin. These were known as the Near Water People, Mud People, Salt Water People, and Bitter Water People. When these newly formed clans heard that there were humans to the east who shared their heritage, they wanted to go meet them.

Changing Woman gave her permission for them to travel from the western sea to the San Francisco Peaks. They then traveled through the Hopi mesas where they left porcupine, still commonly found there today. Then they traveled toward the Chuska Mountains and on to Mt. Taylor. Finally, the people arrived at Dinetah, the DinE traditional homeland, and joined the other clans already living there. Dinetah is located in the many canyons that drain the San Juan River about 30 miles east of Farmington, New Mexico.



Iroquois

About 1390, today's State of New York became the stronghold of five powerful Indian tribes. They were later joined by another great tribe, the Tuscaroras from the south. Eventually the Iroquois, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas joined together to form the great Iroquois Nation. In 1715, the Tuscaroras were accepted into the Iroquois Nation.

Long, long ago, one of the Spirits of the Sky World came down and looked at the earth. As he traveled over it, he found it beautiful, and so he created people to live on it. Before returning to the sky, he gave them names, called the people all together, and spoke his parting words:

"To the Mohawks, I give corn," he said. "To the patient Oneidas, I give the nuts and the fruit of many trees. To the industrious Senecas, I give beans. To the friendly Cayugas, I give the roots of plants to be eaten. To the wise and eloquent Onondagas, I give grapes and squashes to eat and tobacco to smoke at the camp fires."

Many other things he told the new people. Then he wrapped himself in a bright cloud and went like a swift arrow to the Sun. There his return caused his Brother Sky Spirits to rejoice.




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