The reason we’re here, the reason the world exists, is a question humans have been trying to answer for thousands and thousands of years. Until the birth of modern science, with evidenced back theories coming to fruition, communities of people had their own ideas as to how the earth, the universe, and humanity came about.
These stories were passed from generation to generation, rich tapestries and explanations for why certain things are the way they are today. Native American communities had their own unique stories, based in nature with natural and animal imagery at their cores. Their culture grew to appreciate and respect the very land on which they lived.
Here are the creation myths from 3 tribes. Each tribe does have more than one creation story, and many variations on each one, so here we look at just one from each, and have turned to the most widely known versions.
::The Apache Story
In the beginning, there was nothing. Only darkness everywhere. Suddenly, a thin disc appeared in the darkness and within the disc sat a small bearded man, Creator. As though waking from a nap, Creator rubbed his eyes and when he opened them again and began to look around him, he began to create streaks of light in all directions.
He rubbed his hands together and from them dropped a little girl, Girl-Without-Parents. He then rubbed his sweating face and hands and there stood Sun God, repeating this one more time to create Little Boy.
Next, he created Tarantula, Big Dipper, Wind, Lightning-Maker, and Lightning Rumbler. The four Gods, shook hands mixing their sweat together, and as Creator rubbed his hands together combining all their sweat, a brown ball, the size of a bean, dropped from them.
He kicked it and it expanded, each of the Gods took turns kicking the ball which got larger and larger, and then Creator told Wind to blow it up further. Next, Tarantula spun a black cord, attached it to the ball, and crawled out to the East, pulling as hard as he could. He repeated this with a blue cord to the South, a yellow cord to the West, and a white cord to the North, expanding the Earth more and more.
Creator rubbed his hands once more and there appeared Hummingbird. He asked him to fly around the Earth to see what he could find. He reported that all was well, and that there was water to the West. However the Earth kept rolling and bouncing so Creator made four 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 and finally, it was still. The creation of people, animals, birds, and trees, and all the Earth’s featured followed in the weeks after this original creation.
::The Cherokee Story
Long ago when the world was young, water covered everything. Earth was a great island, floating above the seas and suspended by four ropes attached to the sky, representing the four sacred directions. All the animals lived in the sky and needed more space, so they sent Water Beetle to search for room under the seas.
He dove deep down, reaching the mud at the bottom of the sea, and as he brought this above the surface of the water it immediately began to expand, turning into land. However, it was too soft and wet for the animals to live on.
The great Buzzard Galun’lati flew down to look at the land and the wind from his wings created mountains and valleys. The earth stiffened in the wind too so the animals moved down to live on it.
However, it was still very dark, so they pulled up the sun and sent it on a path from East to West, sharing the light for everyone. The Creator told the plants and animals on Earth that they had to stay awake for seven days and seven nights. Only a few animals managed to complete this task, including the Owl and Mountain Lion who were rewarded with the power to see at night. Only a few plants managed the feat including cedars and pines, and they were rewarded by being allowed to keep their leaves through the winter.
Finally, people were created. Comanche One day, the Great Spirit collected swirls of dust from the four directions to create people. They formed from the earth and had the strength of mighty storms. Unfortunately, at the same time, a shape shifting demon was created. The Great Spirit cast him into a bottomless pit, but to seek revenge, the demon took refuge in the fangs and stingers of venomous creatures. He continues to harm people every chance he gets to this day.
::The Iroquois Story
In the beginning, there was no earth, only a watery abyss, in the Sky World there was a community in which lived a woman who dreamed dreams. One night, she dreamed about the tree, which was their source of light, but the dream scared her so she asked the men in the Sky World to dig it up.
They dug around the roots, and the tree fell through to hole, taking the source of light with it.
Distraught, they pushed the woman through the hole too, and she would have been lost, were it not for a fish hawk that rescued her, using his feathers as a pillow. He couldn’t keep her up by himself, so needed some firm ground on which she could rest.
A hell diver went to the bottom of the sea and brought back mud in his beak. He found a turtle and smeared the mud on his back, diving down for more.
Ducks and beavers helped build terrain, making the shell bigger and bigger. Birds and animals built the continents until the whole earth was round.
The turtle still holds the Earth on his back today. One of the Spirits of the Sky World came down and looked at the Earth, he found it beautiful, so created people to live on it, giving each of them special skills to share with the rest of humanity.
A New Appreciation
Perhaps now you can see the world through new eyes generations of people in thousands of communities shared these stories of the origins of the world. They explained why sometimes animals hurt us, or why there are mountains, and why nature is so central to all our lives here on Earth. Now, you can appreciate Earth and all its beautiful intricacies in the same way too.
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