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.
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 colors appeared
everywhere. There were also clouds of different colors.
Creator wiped his sweating face and rubbed his hands together,
thrusting them downward. Behold! A shining cloud upon which sat a
"Stand up and tell me where are you going," said Creator.
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
Together the two clouds descended to a valley below. There, Girl-Without-Parents gathered everyone together to listen to
"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
Sun-God went east to live and travel with the Sun.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
They picked up stones from the ground which became axes,
knives, spear points and hammers in their hands.
The Navajo creation story involves three underworlds where
important events happened to shape the Fourth World where we now
The Navajo were given the name Ni’hookaa Diyan DinE by their
creators. It means 'Holy Earth People' or 'Lords of the
Navajos today simply call themselves "DinE", meaning
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 Diné 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 ('Altsé Hastiin), and
Woman ('Altsé 'Asdzáá), were two of the beings from the
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 'Asdzáá),
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’oslííd), represents the
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
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
Nadleehe) at Gobernador Knob (Ch’óol’í’í), 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
dances gracefully through endless stages of life -- all
connected and all renewing.
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 Yíjiin),
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.
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,
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
Then they traveled toward the Chuska Mountains and on to Mt.
Taylor. Finally, the people arrived at Dinetah, the
homeland, and joined the other clans already living there.
is located in the many canyons that drain the San Juan River about
30 miles east of Farmington, New Mexico.
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
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,
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
a swift arrow to the Sun.
There his return caused his Brother Sky
Spirits to rejoice.
There was another world
before this one.
But the people of that world did not behave
themselves. Displeased, the Creating Power set out to make a new
world. He sang several songs to bring rain, which poured stronger
with each song.
As he sang the fourth song, the earth split apart
and water gushed up through the many cracks, causing a flood. By the
time the rain stopped, all of the people and nearly all of the
animals had drowned. Only Kangi the crow survived.
Kangi pleaded with the Creating Power to make him a new place to
So the Creating Power decided the time had come to make his
new world. From his huge pipe bag, which contained all types of
animals and birds, the Creating Power selected four animals known
for their ability to remain under water for a long time.
He sent each in turn to retrieve a lump of mud from beneath the
First the loon dove deep into the dark waters, but it
was unable to reach the bottom. The otter, even with its strong
webbed feet, also failed. Next, the beaver used its large flat tail
to propel itself deep under the water, but it too brought nothing
back. Finally, the Creating Power took the turtle from his pipe bag
and urged it to bring back some mud.
Turtle stayed under the water for so long that everyone was sure it
had drowned. Then, with a splash, the turtle broke the water's
surface! Mud filled its feet and claws and the cracks between its
upper and lower shells.
Singing, the Creating Power shaped the mud
in his hands and spread it on the water, where it was just big
enough for himself and the crow. He then shook two long eagle wing
feathers over the mud until earth spread wide and varied, overcoming
Feeling sadness for the dry land, the Creating Power
cried tears that became oceans, streams, and lakes. He named the new
land Turtle Continent in honor of the turtle who provided the mud
from which it was formed.
The Creating Power then took many animals and birds from his great
pipe bag and spread them across the Earth.
From red, white, black,
and yellow earth, he made men and women. The Creating Power gave the
people his sacred pipe and told them to live by it. He warned them
about the fate of the people who came before them. He promised all
would be well if all living things learned to live in harmony.
the world would be destroyed again if they made it bad and ugly.
Lakota Star Knowledge
Long, long ago, the
Creator, the Great Chief Above, made the world. Then he made the
animals and the birds and gave them their names -- Coyote, Grizzly
Bear, Deer, Fox, Eagle, the four Wolf Brothers, Magpie, Bluejay,
Hummingbird, and all the others.
When he had finished his work, the
Creator called the animal people to him. "I am going to leave you,"
he said. "But I will come back. When I come again, I will make human
beings. They will be in charge of you."
The Great Chief returned to his home in the sky, and the animal
people scattered to all parts of the world.
After twelve moons, the animal people gathered to meet the Creator
as he had directed. Some of them had complaints. Bluejay,
Meadowlark, and Coyote did not like their names. Each of them asked
to be some other creature. "No," said the Creator. "I have given you
your names. There is no change. My word is law.
"Because you have tried to change my law, I will not make the human
being this time. Because you have disobeyed me, you have soiled what
I brought with me. I planned to change it into a human being.
Instead, I will put it in water to be washed for many moons and many
snows, until it is clean again."
Then he took something from his right side and put it in the river.
It swam, and the Creator named it Beaver. "Now I will give you
another law," said the Great Chief Above.
"The one of you who keeps strong and good will take Beaver from the
water some day and make it into a human being. I will tell you now
what to do. Divide Beaver into twelve parts. Take each part to a
different place and breathe into it your own breath. Wake it up. It
will be a human being with your breath.
Give it half of your power
and tell it what to do. Today I am giving my power to one of you. He
will have it as long as he is good." When the Creator had finished
speaking, all the creatures started for their homes -- all except
Coyote. The Great Chief had a special word for Coyote.
"You are to be head of all the creatures, Coyote. You are a power
just like me now, and I will help you do your work. Soon the
creatures and all the other things I have made will become bad. They
will fight and will eat each other. It is your duty to keep them as
peaceful as you can.
"When you have finished your work, we will meet
again, in this land toward the east. If you have been good, if you
tell the truth and obey me, you can make the human being from
Beaver. If you have done wrong, someone else will make him." Then
the Creator went away.
It happened as the Creator had foretold. Everywhere the things he
had created did wrong. The mountains swallowed the creatures. The
winds blew them away. Coyote stopped the mountains, stopped the
winds, and rescued the creatures. One winter, after North Wind had
killed many people, Coyote made a law for him: "Hereafter you can
kill only those who make fun of you."
Everywhere Coyote went, he made the world better for the animal
people and better for the human beings yet to be created. When he
had finished his work, he knew that it was time to meet the Creator
again. Coyote thought that he had been good, that he would be the
one to make the first human being. But he was mistaken. He thought
that he had as much power as the Creator. So he tried, a second
time, to change the laws of the Great Chief Above.
"Some other creature will make the human being," the
Coyote. "I shall take you out into the ocean and give you a place to
stay for all time." So Coyote walked far out across the water to an
island. There the Creator stood waiting for him, beside the house he
had made. Inside the house on the west side stood a black suit of
clothes. On the other side hung a white suit. "Coyote, you are to
wear this black suit for six months," said the Creator.
weather will be cold and dreary. Take off the black suit and wear
the white suit. Then there will be summer, and everything will grow.
I will give you my power not to grow old. You will live here forever
Coyote stayed there, out in the ocean, and the four Wolf brothers
took his place as the head of all the animal people. Youngest Wolf
Brother was strong and good and clever. Oldest Wolf Brother was
worthless. So the Creator gave Youngest Brother the power to take
Beaver from the water. One morning Oldest Wolf Brother said to
Youngest Brother, "I want you to kill Beaver. I want his tooth for a
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Second and Third Brothers. "Beaver is too strong
for Youngest Brother." But Youngest Wolf said to his brothers, "Make
four spears. For Oldest Brother, make a spear with four forks. For
me, make a spear with one fork. Make a two-forked spear and a
three-forked spear for yourselves. I will try my best to get Beaver,
so that we can kill him."
All the animal persons had seen Beaver and his home. They knew where
he lived. They knew what a big creature he was. His family of young
beavers lived with him. The animal persons were afraid that Youngest
Wolf Brother would fail to capture Beaver and would fail to make the
Second and Third Wolf Brothers also were afraid. "I
fear we will lose Youngest Brother," they said to each other. But
they made the four spears he had asked for.
At dusk, the Wolf brothers tore down the dam at the beavers' home,
and all the little beavers ran out. About midnight, the larger
beavers ran out. They were so many, and they made so much noise,
that they sounded like thunder. Then Big Beaver ran out, the one the
Creator had put into the water to become clean.
"Let's quit!" said Oldest Wolf Brother, for he was afraid. "Let's
not try to kill him."
"No!" said Youngest Brother. "I will not stop."
Oldest Wolf Brother fell down. Third Brother fell down. Second
Brother fell down. Lightning flashed. The beavers still sounded like
thunder. Youngest Brother took the four-forked spear and tried to
strike Big Beaver with it. It broke. He used the three-forked spear.
He used the two-forked spear. It broke. Then he took his
own one-forked spear. It did not break. It pierced the skin of Big
Beaver and stayed there. Out of the lake, down the creek, and down
Big River, Beaver swam, dragging Youngest Brother after it.
Youngest Wolf called to his brothers, "You stay here. If I do not
return with Beaver in three days, you will know that I am dead."
Three days later, all the animal persons gathered on a level place
at the foot of the mountain. Soon they saw Youngest Brother coming.
He had killed Beaver and was carrying it.
"You remember that
Creator told us to cut it into twelve pieces," said Youngest Brother
to the animal people. But he could divide it into only eleven
Then he gave directions. "Fox, you are a good runner. Hummingbird
and Horsefly, you can fly fast. Take this piece of Beaver flesh over
to that place and wake it up. Give it your breath." Youngest Brother
gave other pieces to other animal people and told them where to go.
They took the liver to Clearwater River, and it became the Nez Perce
Indians. They took the heart across the mountains, and it became the
Methow Indians. Other parts became the Spokane people, the Lake
people, the Flathead people. Each of the eleven pieces became a
"There have to be twelve tribes," said Youngest Brother. "Maybe the
Creator thinks that we should use the blood for the last one. Take
the blood across the Shining Mountains and wake it up over there. It
will become the Blackfeet. They will always look for blood."
When an animal person woke the piece of Beaver flesh and breathed
into it, he told the new human being what to do and what to eat.
"Here are roots," and the animal people pointed to camas and kouse
and to bitterroot, "You will dig them, cook them, and save them to
eat in the winter.
"Here are the berries that will ripen in the summer. You will eat
them and you will dry them for use in winter." The animal people
pointed to chokecherry trees, to serviceberry bushes, and to
"There are salmon in all the rivers. You will cook them and eat them
when they come up the streams. And you will dry them to eat in the
When all the tribes had been created, the animal people said to them
"Some of you new people should go up Lake Chelan. Go up to the
middle of the lake and look at the cliff beside the water. There you
will see pictures on the rock. From the pictures you will learn how
to make the things you will need."
The Creator had painted the pictures there, with red paint. From the
beginning until long after the white people came, the Indians went
to Lake Chelan and looked at the paintings. They saw pictures of
bows and arrows and of salmon traps.
From the paintings of the
Creator they knew how to make the things they needed for getting
"One day the Great
Spirit collected swirls of dust from the four directions in order to
create the Commanche people.
These people formed from the earth had
the strength of mighty storms. Unfortunately, a shape-shifting demon
was also created and began to torment the people. The Great Spirit
cast the demon into a bottomless pit.
To seek revenge the demon took
refuge in the fangs and stingers of poisonous creatures and
continues to harm people every chance it gets."
Talapas (Creator) gave
life to the surface of the Earth. It grew in abundance.
placed the animal forms of all the Totem Spirits on the surface of
the Earth Mother, and they prospered. Talapas then instructed T'soona (Thunderbird) to carry these special eggs from the other
place, and place them on the top of Kaheese, a mountain near the
Yakaitl-Wimakl (Columbia River).
T'soona did so.
The Old Giantess, not wanting these special eggs to hatch, began to
break the eggs. The vengeful Spirit Bird swiftly swooped down from
Otelagh (the sun) and pursued the Old Giantess, and consumed her
with fire, in revenge for her injustice.
Soon the remaining eggs became the T'sinuk (Chinook).
Near the beginning of
time, five Seminole Indian men wanted to visit the sky to see
They traveled to the East, walking for about a month. Finally, they
arrived at land's end. They tossed their baggage over the end and
they, too, disappeared beyond earth's edge.
Down, down, down the Indians dropped for a while, before starting
upward again toward the sky. For a long time they traveled
westward. At last, they came to a lodge where lived an old, old
"Tell me, for whom are you looking?" she asked feebly.
"We are on our way to see the
Great Spirit Above," they replied.
"It is not possible to see him now," she said. "You must stay here
for a while first."
That night the five Seminole Indian men strolled a little distance
from the old woman's lodge, where they encountered a group of angels
robed in white and wearing wings. They were playing a ball game the
men recognized as one played by the Seminoles.
Two of the men decided they would like to remain and become angels.
The other three preferred to return to earth. Then to their
surprise, the Great Spirit appeared and said, "So be it!"
A large cooking pot was placed on the fire. When the water was
boiling, the two Seminoles who wished to stay were cooked!
their bones were left, the Great Spirit removed them from the pot,
and put their bones back together again. He then draped them with a
white cloth and touched them with his magic wand. The Great Spirit
brought the two Seminole men back to life! They wore beautiful white
wings and were called men-angels.
"What do you three men wish to do?" asked the Great Spirit.
"If we may, we prefer to return to our Seminole camp on earth,"
replied the three Seminoles.
"Gather your baggage together and go to sleep at once," directed the
Later, when the three Seminole men opened their eyes, they found
themselves safe at home again in their own Indian camp.
"We are happy to return and stay earthbound. We hope never to
venture skyward again in search of other mysteries," they reported
to the Chief of the Seminoles.
In the beginning before there were people, before there were animals
a lone woman lived in a cave. She lived on the roots and berries of
One night a magical dog crept into her cave and
stretched out on the her bed beside her.
As the night grew long the
dog began to change. His body became smooth and almost hairless. His
limbs grew long and straight. His features changed into those of a
Nine months later the woman birthed a child. He
was the first Chippewa male and through him came the Chippewa
The Great Serpent and the Flood
From Maine and Nova Scotia to the Rocky Mountains, Indians told
stories about the Great Serpent.
More than a century ago the serpent
was considered to be "a genuine spirit of evil." Some version of the
story of the Great Flood of long ago, as recounted here, is told
around the world.
Nanabozho (Nuna-bozo, accented on bozo) was the hero of many stories
told by the Chippewa Indians. At one time they lived on the shores
of Lake Superior, in what are now the states of Minnesota and
Wisconsin and the province of Ontario.
One day when Nanabozho returned to his lodge after a long journey,
he missed his young cousin who lived with him. He called the
cousin's name but heard no answer. Looking around on the sand for
tracks, Nanabozho was startled by the trail of the Great Serpent. He
then knew that his cousin had been seized by his enemy.
Nanabozho picked up his bow and arrows and followed the track of the
serpent. He passed the great river, climbed mountains, and crossed
over valleys until he came to the shores of a deep and gloomy lake.
It is now called Manitou Lake, Spirit Lake, and also the Lake of
Devils. The trail of the Great Serpent led to the edge of the water.
Nanabozho could see, at the bottom of the lake, the house of
Great Serpent. It was filled with evil spirits, who were his
servants and his companions. Their forms were monstrous and
terrible. Most of them, like their master, resembled spirits. In the
centre of this horrible group was the Great Serpent himself, coiling
his terrifying length around the cousin of Nanabozho.
The head of the Serpent was red as blood. His fierce eyes glowed
like fire. His entire body was armed with hard and glistening scales
of every color and shade.
Looking down on these twisting spirits of evil, Nanabozho
his mind that he would get revenge on them for the death of his
He said to the clouds, "Disappear!"
And the clouds went out of sight.
"Winds, be still at once!" And the winds became still.
When the air over the lake of evil spirits had become stagnant,
Nanabozho said to the sun, "Shine over the lake with all the
fierceness you can. Make the water boil."
In these ways, thought Nanabozho, he would force
the Great Serpent
to seek the cool shade of the trees growing on the shores of the
lake. There he would seize the enemy and get revenge.
After giving his orders, Nanabozho took his bow and arrows and
placed himself near the spot where he thought the serpents would
come to enjoy the shade. Then he changed himself into the broken
stump of a withered tree.
The winds became still, the air stagnant, and the sun shot hot rays
from a cloudless sky. In time, the water of the lake became
troubled, and bubbles rose to the surface. The rays of the sun had
penetrated to the home of the serpents. As the water bubbled and
foamed, a serpent lifted his head above the centre of the lake and
gazed around the shores. Soon another serpent came to the surface.
Both listened for the footsteps of Nanabozho, but they heard him
"Nanabozho is sleeping," they said to one another.
And then they plunged beneath the waters, which seemed to hiss as
they closed over the evil spirits.
Not long after, the lake became more troubled. Its water boiled from
its very depths, and the hot waves dashed wildly against the rocks
on its banks.
Soon the Great Serpent came slowly to the surface of
the water and moved toward the shore. His blood-red crest glowed.
The reflection from his scales was blinding--as blinding as the
glitter of a sleet-covered forest beneath the winter sun. He was
followed by all the evil spirits. So great was their number that
they soon covered the shores of the lake.
When they saw the broken stump of the withered tree, they suspected
that it might be one of the disguises of Nanabozho. They knew his
cunning. One of the serpents approached the stump, wound his tail
around it, and tried to drag it down into the lake. Nanabozho could
hardly keep from crying aloud, for the tail of the monster prickled
his sides. But he stood firm and was silent.
The evil spirits moved on. The Great Serpent glided into the forest
and wound his many coils around the trees. His companions also found
shade--all but one. One remained near the shore to listen for the
footsteps of Nanabozho.
From the stump, Nanabozho watched until all the serpents were asleep
and the guard was intently looking in another direction. Then he
silently drew an arrow from his quiver, placed it in his bow, and
aimed it at the heart of the Great Serpent. It reached its mark.
With a howl that shook the mountains and startled the wild beasts in
their caves, the monster awoke. Followed by its terrified
companions, which also were howling with rage and terror, the Great
Serpent plunged into the water.
At the bottom of the lake there still lay the body of Nanabozho's
cousin. In their fury the serpents tore it into a thousand pieces.
His shredded lungs rose to the surface and covered the lake with
The Great Serpent soon knew that he would die from his wound, but he
and his companions were determined to destroy Nanabozho.
the water of the lake to swell upward and to pound against the shore
with the sound of many thunders. Madly the flood rolled over the
land, over the tracks of Nanabozho, carrying with it rocks and
trees. High on the crest of the highest wave floated the wounded
Great Serpent. His eyes glared around him, and his hot breath
mingled with the hot breath of his many companions.
Nanabozho, fleeing before the angry waters, thought of his Indian
children. He ran through their villages, shouting, "Run to the
mountaintops! The Great Serpent is angry and is flooding the earth!
The Indians caught up their children and found safety on the
mountains. Nanabozho continued his flight along the base of the
western hills and then up a high mountain beyond Lake Superior, far
to the north. There he found many men and animals that had escaped
from the flood that was already covering the valleys and plains and
even the highest hills.
Still the waters continued to rise. Soon all
the mountains were under the flood, except the high one on which
There he gathered together timber and made a raft. Upon it the men
and women and animals with him placed themselves. Almost immediately
the mountaintop disappeared from their view, and they floated along
on the face of the waters. For many days they floated. At long last,
the flood began to subside. Soon the people on the raft saw the
trees on the tops of the mountains. Then they saw the mountains and
hills, then the plains and the valleys.
When the water disappeared from the land, the people who survived
learned that the Great Serpent was dead and that his companions had
returned to the bottom of the lake of spirits. There they remain to
For fear of Nanabozho, they have never dared to come forth
At the beginning there
was a great mound. It was called Nanih Wiya. It was from this mound
that the Creator fashioned the first of the people. These people
crawled through a long, dark cave into daylight. They became the
Anishnabe found himself
alone on earth.
The Creator told him to give everything a name, and
he did this, accompanied by a wolf. He discovered that only he,
among the many species, was alone, without a mate, and he was
He traveled to the Great Lakes and while searching, heard a
beautiful song coming across the water. The woman's voice was
singing that she was making a home for him. He fell in love with the
voice and the song. In the days that followed, he learned how to
cross the water and finally came to a lodge facing west. There lived
a beautiful woman and her father, the Firekeeper.
This was the first union - Anishabe and the Firekeeper's Daughter. It determined the roles of men and women in marriage. They had four
sons, who when they were grown traveled to the four directions of
the earth. The son who traveled north had a hard journey, but
learned that the melting snow cleansed Mother Earth.
Because of the
snow, the color for North is white.
This son married the daughter of
the Spirit of the North and was given sweetgrass, the first gift of
Mother Earth. It is kept in a braid like a mother's hair.
The second son traveled east, into the yellow of the rising sun. He
learned that fire is the essence of life and gained in knowledge of
the Creator. He married the daughter of the Spirit of the East, and
was given tobacco to use in prayer, to communicate with the Creator.
The third son went south, which is the woman's direction from which
comes seeds and other things that give life. Red, the color of
life's blood, is the the color for south. He married the Spirit of
the South's daughter and was given the gift of cedar, which is used
to cleanse and purify the home and prepare for food.
The fourth son went West, toward the mountains. Marrying the Spirit
of the West's daughter, he was given sage and learned that the
setting sun represents the circle of life and its cycle. The color
for West is black, for the dark time, and the sage, a strong
purifier, is to keep illness away.
Smoke from the cedar and sage is fanned upward with an eagle feather
because the eagle once saved the Indian people when the Creator
would have destroyed them.
The eagle told the Creator there were
faithful people on earth, and was sent out each morning to see if
the smoke still rose from the lodges of those good people.
the smoke with the eagle feather symbolizes the eagle delivering the
message to the Creator that his people are still there and still