Links of the site are right at the bottom of the page)
Some of the 86 pages in this Myth & Lore section are below.
The rest will be found HERE
Encyclopedia of Native American
Descriptions of world creation, the first people, and the nature
of the world in which people live given in oral narratives comparable
to the Bible and to sacred books of other faiths. Indian people
prefer the terms "traditions," "stories"
or "sacred narratives" to the term mythology. Indians
do not think of their creation stories as "myth,"
but rather they believe the events really happened and these
narratives embody the world views and moral outlooks of a group.
Indian creation stories refer to a distant past when animals
were still human-like and spoke with human tongue. the Supreme
Being plays an obscure part in many of the stories, withdrawing
in favor of other beings--culture heroes, twins, and tribal
ancestors--who are connected to the beginning of existence.
Culture heroes live in the era after the world is created but
before it is inhabited by people. The hero transforms the world
after creation or assists the Creator with it. There are many
tales about culture heroes, often regarded as trickster-transformers,
set in a not quite so distant time when the world had assumed
its present form.
Creation stories are usually recited
in ritual form but not all rites involve recitals of traditional
stories nor do all stories have ritual expressions. Often, a
sacred aura and serious demeanor accompany the telling of the
creation story. Sacred genesis stories are known and told by
specialists like priests or heads of clans or societies who
learned the narratives from predecessors. Sacred stories sometimes
are ceremonial property passed down to males of a family. there
can be many versions of creation stories told by members of
different families in different communities, some even contradicting
one another, and storytellers have their own way of telling
the creation stories. Stories are told during designated periods,
usually winter, when stinging and biting animals are not out
to bother the storyteller.
Most Native American accounts of
creation vary according to the people's way of life, geography,
climate, foods eaten, other subsistence factors and sacred history.
In North America, there are endless stories regarding the creation
of the world, people, animals, plants, birds, and other beings.
Many tribes throughout North America (except in the Southwest,
North Pacific Coast, and Arctic) began in a watery environment
from which different beings bring up mud to make the earth.
In the southwest, tribes describe four or five worlds, one on
top of the other, through which people climb up to eventually
emerge from Mother Earth, returning there after death. In the
northwest, people descend through a hole in the sky to emerge
in the present world. In some places like southern California,
the world is thought to have resulted from cohabitation between
Sky/Man and Earth/Woman. "Of the Creation of mankind there
are probably as many stories as there are tribes." wrote
George Gibbs in 1865 in an extensive study of Northwest Indian
mythology. The following brief accounts of world creation illustrate
the diverse stories.
Arapaho (Wyoming) In the beginning,
there was only water. Man-Above, formless and invisible, told
Flat Pipe floating on the water's surface to call on helpers
to help him make a world. Flat Pipe imagined ducks and water
birds and they appeared floating around him. He told them to
dive to the bottom of the water and bring him whatever they
found beneath them. After the ducks failed to find anything
owing to the depth of the water, the geese tried and failed,
as did the swans. Finally a turtle dove to the bottom of the
water, resurfaced, and spit a small piece of earth onto Flat
Pipe. The earth that Flat Pipe held grew and spread and became
Cherokee (Northern Carolina)
In the beginning, all was water. The animals who lived above
the rainbow were crowded and wanted more room. They wondered
what was below the water, and a little water beetle offered
to look. It dived to the bottom and came up with soft mud which
began to grow until it became the island we call the earth.
Later, it was fastened to the sky ceiling with four cords.
Dieguenos (California) In
the beginning, when Tu-chai-pai, the Maker, made the world,
the earth was the woman and the sky was the man, and the world
was a pure lake covered with turtles. Sky came down upon the
earth. The Maker and his brother, Yo-ko-mat-is, blew and the
heavens rose higher and higher above their heads until it formed
a concave arch. The Maker made hills, valleys, little hollows
of water, forests, and dug in the ground for mud to make the
first people, the Indians.
Iroquois (New York) In the
beginning, there was no land, no people. There was a great ocean
and above it air. In the air lived birds and in the ocean lived
fish. Above the unpeopled world, there was Sky-World, inhabited
by deities who were like people. In the middle of Sky-World
there was a sacred tree with enormous roots that spread out
from the floor of Sky-World. A pregnant woman who lived in Sky-World
decided she wanted bark from one of the roots. She told her
husband, who knew the tree was not to be mutilated by any beings
in Sky-World. As he dug a hole among the roots, he broke a hole
through them and his wife fell through it toward the ocean.
Birds made a feathered raft to support her and broke her fall.
The birds placed her on the shell of a turtle, who had agreed
to rescue her. The sea creatures offered to help her and she
told them to find some soil for the roots stuck between her
fingers. The muskrat succeeded in diving to the bottom of the
ocean and bringing from it the soil from which earth was to
grow. The woman took a tiny amount of the soil and placed it
on the sea turtle's back, walked in a circle around it like
the sun moves in the sky and earth began to grow. When the earth
was big enough, the woman planted the roots clutched between
her fingers when she fell from Sky-World and plants grew on
the earth. To keep the earth growing, the woman walked as the
sun goes around. when she had a daughter, the two kept walking
in a circle around the earth so the earth and plants would continue
to grow. (There are a number of versions of this story told
throughout Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, Onedia who compose
the Iroquois nations.)
Navajo (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah)
The Navajos tell different versions of Navajo creation and
the various underworlds. Accounts vary regarding the exact number
of previous worlds or of the events or color in each. In the
beginning, there was the First or Black World, inhabited by
spirit people and Holy People. It was small and looked like
a floating island in a sea of water mist. Creatures living in
this world were thought of as Mist Beings as they had no form.
They changed in later worlds to living things as we know them.
Various beings disagreed and fought and the entire population
emerged upward into the Second or Blue World through an opening.
First Man and First Woman were formed in this world but not
in their present shape. In the Second World, there was suffering
and quarreling among the beings living there. First Man made
a wand which helped carry the beings into the next world through
an opening. In the Third or Yellow World, all the people were
similar in that they had no definite form. There was a great
flood and First Man attempted to save people. On his fourth
attempt, he planted a female reed, which grew to the top of
the sky. People crowded into the reed and climbed up into the
Fourth World. In the Fourth World, First Man and First Woman
formed four main sacred mountains from soil that First Man gathered
from mountains in the third World. The first fire, sweat bath,
hogan, stars, sun, moon, seasons, harvest, and many other things
were then created, as were the first human man and woman, the
first Navajos. Some versions tell that people went to the Place
of Emergence and reached the Fifth or present world.
Netsilik Inuit (Canada) the
earth always existed, though in the earliest times, everything
was in darkness. When man first appeared, he lived without sunlight
and there were no animals to hunt. Nuliajuk, an orphan girl,
was pushed into the sea by the people of her camp and sank to
the bottom of the ocean. She became a sea spirit and created
all the animals of the sea and land. There was no difference
between humans and animals and all spoke the same tongue. Words
had power and anything spoken could produce immediate physical
effects. As soon as people wished for food, their camp was transported
through the air to a new place where they could obtain nourishment.
When a flood destroyed the land, all animals and people died
with the exception of two shamans, one of whom became pregnant.
During these times, giants fought and many evil spirits went
up into the air as a result of broken taboos and they made human
life dangerous. The creation of the visible world took place
simultaneously with the establishment of the moral order characterized
by good and evil and taboos related to them.
Ojibwa/Chippewa (Michigan, Wisconsin)
there are many versions of the Ojibwa creation story. In one,
Nanabozho's mother gave birth to several beings, including Nanabozho,
and then died because she ignored her mother's advice to face
a certain direction. Nanabozho then lived with his grandmother
and sought revenge against those responsible for his mother's
death. In several versions of the story, he held his brother
responsible. Against the wishes of his grandmother, he did battle
with his brother and killed him. Nanabozho lived alone with
a wolf which drowned as it tried to kill game near water. Nanabozho
transformed himself into a stump in order to get revenge for
the wolf's death, and attacked the underwater manitos (beings).
Nanabozho then met an old woman in the woods from whom he learned
that he only wounded, not slayed them. He killed her and disguised
himself with her skin so he could travel in the water to the
manito camp and finish killing the one/ones responsible for
the death of the wolf. A flood resulted and Nanabozho climbed
a tall tree to escape the water. After the water stopped, he
decided to create a new earth so he told several animals to
dive into the water for a piece of earth. The muskrat succeeded
in collecting small pieces from which Nanabozho created a new
earth, large enough for all the people and animals.
Pawnee (Oklahoma, Nebraska) In
the beginning, the Power needed help, so stars, sun, moon, clouds,
winds, lightning, and thunder were created. The Power told the
Evening Star to order her priests to sing and shake their rattles.
A great storm came up and rolled across the formless world and
passed the Power, who dropped a pebble into the clouds. After
the storm, the world was water. The Power sent out Black, Yellow,
White, and Red stars each carrying a cedar war club. Each struck
the water with the club and the waters parted and earth appeared.
Again, Power told the Evening Star to order her priests to rattle
and sing. Again a storm ensued. The thunders shook earth, and
hills and valleys, mountains and plains were formed. The Power
created life on earth.
Tohono O'odham (Arizona) In
the beginning, Earthmaker made the whole earth out of a little
ball of dirt. he danced on the ball and pushed it until it expanded.
There was a great noise and I'itoi jumped out of the earth to
help Earthmaker give the world its shape. Coyote, who was with
Earthmaker from the beginning, followed Earthmaker and I'itoi
everywhere while they made and shaped people of the earth.
Ute (Colorado, Utah) In the
beginning, there was nothing but blue sky, clouds, sunshine,
and rain. Great He-She spirit lived in the middle of the sky
and ruled above. Lonesome, he made a big hole through the heavens
and looked at nothingness below. After pouring snow and rain
through the hole, He-She took dirt and stone from the hole in
the floor of heaven and poured it through to the void below,
creating mountains and the spirit crawled through the hole to
get a better look. Because the dirt, stones, snow and rain had
formed something ugly, He-She touched the earth and trees and
forests appeared. His hand created plains, grass, and small
plants. He told sun to shine through the hole in the sky and
as snow melted, lakes and rivers were created. These flowed
east and west into great lakes, forming the oceans. He made
fish, birds, and animals and left the bear in charge while He-she
went back to the heavens to rest.
Winnebago (Wisconsin) In the
beginning, Earthmaker was alone in space. He began to cry and
his falling tears formed the seas. When Earthmaker wished for
something, it would come into existence. he wished for light,
and light was created. He wished for the earth and earth came
into existence. But earth was not quiet, so he made trees, but
they did not quiet earth. he created the four cardinal points
and four winds and placed them at four corners of the earth
to act as weights holding down the island earth. But this did
not quiet earth. Finally, he made four large snake beings and
threw them down toward earth and they pierced through earth,
Zuni (New Mexico) In one of
the many versions of the Zuni creation story, in the beginning,
all was fog rising like steam. Awonawilona existed alone in
the void. With the breath from his heart, Awonawilona created
mist, then made himself into the sun. the mist thickened and
fell as rain, forming the great waters of the world. Next, Awonawilona
took some of his own flesh and placed it on the water, where
it expanded into the shape of Mother Earth and Father Sky. These
two lay together and conceived life in the four-chambered earth
womb, or four underworlds through which the first beings passed
to emerge at the earth's surface.
Copyright: Cinnamon Moon & River WildFire Moon (Founders.)
All rights reserved.
constructed by Dragonfly