Onondaga Creation Story

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Onondaga Creation Story, Oral History

The Onondaga (Onöñda’gega’ or the People of the Hills) are one of the original five constituent nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy.

In the beginning of the earth there was no land, just water.Birds and animals were just swimming around never having any land to rest upon. Skyland was way above this and in Skyland there was a Great Tree that was loaded with seeds.

It was a very beautiful tree. It had only four large white roots that pointed north, south, east, and west. And from the branches of this beautiful Great Tree grew beautiful flowers and many kinds of fruit.

In the Skyland lived a young pregnant girl and her husband, who was the Chief of Skyland. The wife had a dream one night that the Great Tree became uprooted. Her husband, upon hearing the story wanted the tree uprooted. He felt that the dream was very powerful and should come true. 

After his helpers were unsuccessful at uprooting the tree he tried. Finally and with great effort the Great Tree tore away from the Sky and left a big hole in the Sky. The pregnant wife bent down to see what was through the hole. All she saw was glimmering water. 

She stretched and stretched, holding on to one of the branches. She lost her balance and fell through the hole.

The animals and birds saw her coming down and knew they had to help her. They noticed that she didn’t have webbed feet and wouldn’t be able to swim. There was also no earth for her to land on. So the animals, knowing that there was earth somewhere under the water decided to bring the earth up. 

The Duck, the Beaver and the Loon all tried but they were not able to do it. It was the tiny Muskrat, who swam so deep that he felt as though his lungs were going to burst, that brought up the earth. Two Swans had flown up to the pregnant wife and let her rest between their large wings while the other animals searched for someplace to put the Earth. A Great Turtle from the depths of the water, seeing the problem swam up and let the tiny Muskrat land on his back. 

The Earth grew and grew and then the two Swans let the wife rest on the Great Turtle’s back. When the wife landed on the Earth, she opened her hand and gently the seeds from the Great Tree fell to the ground. And from those seeds grew the tress and the grass. Life on Earth had now begun.

Related Links:   Onondaga Nation of New York