Each Native American tribe has its own creation legend, which tells the story of how the world was created. These legends are often passed down orally from generation to generation, and they provide a glimpse into the beliefs and values of the tribe.
One common theme in Native American creation legends is the importance of balance. Many legends tell of a time when the world was in chaos, and it was only through the actions of a hero or heroes that order was restored.
This theme of balance is reflected in the way that many Native American tribes view the world. They believe that everything in the world is connected, and that humans have a responsibility to live in harmony with nature.
Another common theme in Native American creation stories is the importance of the Creator, who goes by many names. Many legends tell of a powerful being who created the world and all that is in it.
This Creator is often seen as a benevolent force who wants the best for humanity. The Creator is often represented by a natural phenomenon, such as the sun, the moon, or the stars.
Native American creation legends are a rich and complex part of Native American culture. They provide a glimpse into the beliefs and values of these tribes, and they offer a unique perspective on the creation of the world.
Here are three examples of Native American creation stories:
The Iroquois creation myth tells the story of Sky Woman, who fell from the sky and landed on a turtle’s back. Sky Woman gave birth to twin boys, who created the world and all that is in it.
The Cherokee creation myth tells the story of Grandmother Spider, who spun a web that became the world. Grandmother Spider also created the animals and plants, and she taught the Cherokee people how to live in harmony with nature.
The Hopi creation myth tells the story of the emergence, when the Hopi people came up from the underworld into the present world. The Hopi people believe that they are the chosen people of the Creator, and they have a responsibility to live in harmony with the land.
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.
The Cahuilla Creation Story
The world began, we are told through our songs, with the creation of twin brothers, Mukat and Temayawet.
Through the power of the Creator, the brothers made tobacco, the sacred pipe, the six directions, and the earth. From the earth’s colored clay they fashioned people – white, black, yellow, and red – and the animals, the rocks, and all aspects of the deserts and mountains.
Mukat and Temayawet argued over whose creations were best. When the people they had created began to leave, Mukat grasped the red people and kept them with him. They became the Cahuilla people. This is the story of our people and the land we have walked since the beginning of time.
Today, the Cahuilla people span nine reservations across southern California, linked by a shared language yet distinguished by tribal identities forged by geography, culture, and law. As Agua Caliente, our identity is rooted in Palm, Murray, Andreas, Tahquitz, and Chino Canyons and is inextricably linked to the hot mineral springs considered sacred by our ancestors.
In the beginning there was darkness. From this darkness two twin gods came into being, Mukat and Témayawet. Both argued constantly over who was born first. They soon created the earth, the oceans and the sky. Afterwards Témayawet asked what they were to do next. Mukat responded that the question confirmed that it was he, Mukat, who was the eldest of the two, for he knew the answer.
Mukat said it was now time to create humans to rule over the earth and its creatures. Being competitive, Témayawet carried out his work very hastily and without much care. Mukat, on the other hand, took his time and worked carefully. When both were done they could not see their creations for darkness still covered the earth, so the sun, stars and moon were created to illuminate the earth.
Seeing his creation in the light, Témayawet became ashamed. His creations were disfigured and unappealing to the eye. Mukat’s, however, were attractive and perfect in every way. In fact, they appeared similar in form to how humans appear to this very day. Témayawet, embarrassed by what he had created, took his people and fled to the underground.
Mukat’s people were from then on referred to as “Cahuilla.” Mukat, needing assistance to care for his people, called upon the Moon Maiden, Man-el, for assistance. Man-el was very beautiful, and very caring. She soon set off to teach the Cahuilla People the ways of life. She taught them how to sing and dance, how to play games and how to hunt and gather plants for both food and medicine.
One night, however, as Man-el was resting by a stream, Mukat approached her. Man-el could see in his eyes that Mukat was in love with her. She became frightened. She knew then that she must leave. That very night, without saying goodbye to the Cahuilla People whom she loved so much, she left. In the morning when the people awoke, they discovered that she had gone. They were very sad to have lost their loving friend and teacher.
By then, the people had grown very upset with Mukat. It was he who had allowed death to befall the people so the world would not become overcrowded. It was he who had provided Rattlesnake with poison so he could strike and kill the people. It was also he who had provided his people with bows and arrows to use to kill one another. Now, it was Mukat who had driven the beloved Man-el away forever.
The people gathered in secrecy and agreed that Mukat had to die. They asked Bear and Mountain Lion to kill Mukat, but they refused. They then decided that it was Frog, who had the power to bewitch, who must carry out the act. One evening, as Mukat rested, he touched Frog and soon was overcome with a deadly illness.
One by one the creatures Mukat had created and had asked for assistance, betrayed and deserted him. Realizing that he would soon die, Mukat began to sing the sacred song in prayer so that upon his death he would be allowed to enter the spirit world where there is no more sickness or sorrow, and life goes on forever.
This place, according to Cahuilla legend, is known as “Telmekish.”
After Mukat’s death, the people burned Mukat’s body and his ashes were scattered throughout the land. It is from those ashes that all food plants grow today.