Usen is the name of the Apache Creator God or One God. He is a great holy power Who is above everything. He is good, He looks after the people of the world, and in the words of a chief, “He made us in order to have mercy on us.” The Creator first made Apache people on White Mountain.
The Apache regard coyotes, insects, and birds as having been human beings. The human race, then, is but following in the tracks of those who have gone before.
In the Apache way of life, there is a belief that a dark side of life is present, as well as a light side. In the dark side of life there is misery, and nothing progresses for the Apache. In the light of life there is happiness; a world Usen created of peace and harmony. In this world of peace and harmony, everything progresses for the Apache people.
Characters found in Apache Legends:
Bears – The bear is an animal the Apache do not have contact with because bears are highly respected. Never touch a bear, its waste materials, footprints, bedding area or anything the bear has touched.
Do not call him by his name. The Apache people refer to him as my grandfather or my uncle. If you cross paths with the bear, tell him to go into the dense forest and live where no other entities set foot.
Big Owl (or Owl-Man): A malicious and dangerous giant often used as a “bogeyman” in children’s stories. Like other legendary Apache beings, Big Owl is sometimes described as having human form (in this case a man-eating ogre) and other times animal form (in this case a horned owl large enough to carry off a child.)
Coyote (or Fox): Coyote is the most common trickster figure among the Apache tribes (though in some communities, the same stories attributed to Coyote instead feature Fox as the hero.)
Like the trickster figures of other Southwestern tribes, Coyote/Fox is occasionally helpful to humans, but at other times his impetuous and foolish behavior causes trouble for everyone around him.
Frequently he is killed through his own recklessness, but always comes back to life afterwards. Like other legendary Apache beings, Coyote is sometimes described as having human form, and other times animal form.
Gans – A race of Mountain spirits. They lived on earth in very ancient times and are believed to dwell within certain mountains. The sacred mountains of the Apache are the Sierra Blanca, Guadalupe Mountains, Three Sisters Mountain and Oscura Mountain Peak. According to the teaching, the GAN have supernatural powers, and are able to help mankind.
Owls – The owl is a night creature and the Apache people do not have contact with this animal. Avoid having a night owl near you. It is considered a bad omen if an owl hoots near you day or night.
Ouxouiga – The Thunderbird is responsible for creating thunderstorms.
Snakes – The Apache do not communicate with this animal; it is considered a bad omen to have contact with a snake.
White Painted Woman – She gave birth to two sons, Child of Water and Killer of Enemies on the sacred White Mountain. They were born during a turbulent rainstorm when thunder and lightning came from the sky.
Giant Monsters who wanted to kill them feared White Painted Woman and her sons, whom she raised to be brave and skilled. When they grew up to be men, they rose up and killed the monsters of the earth.
There was peace and all human beings were saved. She is the model of heroic and virtuous womanhood, and brought the Puberty Rite ceremonies to the Apache people.
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. Here is their creation story.
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.
Five brothers and their sister lived alone on a mountain; the brothers had killed a great many people in the country around. The sister gathered the wood and cooked the game they killed. When it was time for her maturity dance, she asked: “How can I dance when there is nobody to sing for me?”
Walk around all the time,” said her eldest brother, “pile stones, and don’t sleep for five nights.”
The girl kept awake four nights, then she was so tired that she fell asleep. She dreamed that her brothers were covered with sores and were starving. When she woke up, she cried and said: “I wish I had died long ago, then I shouldn’t have brought trouble on my brothers. I have done this by not dancing and by going to sleep.”
One of the brothers saw two swans on a pond near the house, and when the sister came with a load of wood on her back, he said: “I wish we could kill one of those swans.”
“Maybe I can kill one,” said the sister. She got her brothers’ bows and tried the strings to see which string was the strongest. She put down one bow after another, saying: “That isn’t strong.”. The strings had been strong enough for her brothers, but for her they were weak. She took the bow that belonged to her youngest brother, pulled the string, and said: “This will do.”
When she started for the pond, one of the brothers watched her, he said: “Now she is near the pond; now she is sitting down on the bank!” She drew the bow, and when he thought she had missed the swan, he nearly fell, he was so sorry. He didn’t look out again. The arrow went through both swans.
The girl cooked the swans and gave her brothers some of the meat. She said: “Eat a little at a time, so it will last longer.” She saved the fat and rubbed her brothers with it, to heal their sores.
“Now I am stronger,” said the eldest brother. “Give me my bow; I feel as if I could shoot something.” Each brother said the same.
When the people at the foot of the mountain heard that the five brothers were sick, they were glad and sent a young man to find if it were true. He cameback, and said: “They are sick and are going to die.”
When the sister had gone for wood, the eldest brother said: “I know that somebody is coming; I want to be strong.” They all had the same feeling, and each one tried his bowstring. When the sister came back, the eldest brother said: “You must roll us up in our blankets, and tie them around us as though we were dead. Put our bows and arrows and beads near us.”
When she had done that, she went off to the mountains, for she felt bad and didn’t want to stay with her brothers; she didn’t want to live any longer.
When the brothers saw the men coming, they said: “We will lie here as if we were dead, and when they pack up our things and start away, we will spring up and fight them with knives.”
The men came into the house. They unrolled the brothers and kicked them around; they took their blankets, bows, arrows and beads, took everything they could find, and started off.
Then the five brothers jumped up and ran at them with knives. They killed every man, threw the bodies into the pond, and started off to hunt for their sister. They hunted a long time. At last they found her body and burned it; then the eldest brother said: “Let us leave this country and kill every man we can find.”
They started and traveled toward the west. They killed every man or woman they met. When people saw them coming they ran and hid, they were so afraid of them. The brothers traveled a long rime, and killed a great many people. At last they came to a big lake. They made a canoe and started to cross it, but before they got to land, the canoe sank. It went under the water and under a mountain and out into another lake. There they met Storm.
He was a man then and could kill anybody he could catch and draw into the water. He tried to kill the five brothers, but the youngest brother fought with him, cut him to pieces with his knife, and said: “You will be a person no longer, you will only be something to scare people,” and he drove him away. All the people under the water hid, for they were afraid of the brothers.
When the brothers couldn’t find anyone to kill, they turned toward the east and traveled till they came to a country where they found a very old man and a very old woman. They said: “We have come to fight you.
I don’t want to fight,” said the old man. “We have always lived here, this is our place; nobody ever came here before to trouble us. We don’t bother anyone, Go away and leave us.”
“You must fight,” said the brothers. “If you don’t, we will kill you; we kill every one we meet.”
“You can’t kill us or harm us, no matter what you do,” said the old man. “We are Komuchass [Old Age]. We shall live always.”The five brothers were mad; they didn’t listen to the old man, but shot at him with arrows, and pounded him with clubs; then they built a fire and tried to bum him. When they couldn’t kill him in any way, they got scared and ran off.
The old man called to them to stop, but they didn’t listen; then he said: “We shall follow you; you cannot get away; wherever you go we shall go. You will never get home.”
The old man and old woman followed the brothers for a long time, and at last they caught up with the eldest brother. Right away he was old and weak. He stumbled along for a little way, then fell to the ground and died.
They overtook the second brother; he also grew old and weak, fell to the ground and died. The third brother reached the lake; he was running on the ice when Komuchass overtook him; he grew weak and fell; the ice broke and he was drowned. The fourth brother died in the same manner. The youngest brother thought he was going to get away from the old man; he was only a few steps from home when Komuchass overtook him. Right off he was an old man; he stumbled along a step or two, then fell to the ground and died.
This is how old age came into our world. If the five brothers had let the old man and his wife alone, they would have stayed in their own country, and there would have been no such thing as old age.
Komuchass turned the bodies of the five brothers into five rocks, and those rocks are still to be seen in the Klamath country.
The story and teachings of White Buffalo Woman.
Legends, like most history, are often corrupted and embellished by the
conquerors. Whatever the means of conquest may have been, the stories about
the victories are usually cleaned up for later generations to make them more
Those who “remember” are very confused by what is being
circulated today about the story and teachings of White Buffalo Woman.
The truth will shock many, infuriate some, and yet, those with pure hearts who
recognise truth will not be intimidated by it. Instead, they will welcome
The legend of White Buffalo Woman has been corrupted by the victors and even
her name has been altered to include the word “Calf”. This account is being
presented to set the record straight.