Creation Stories



Long ago, before there were any people, the earth was a great island floating in a sea of water, suspended by four cords hanging down from the sky vault, which was made of solid rock. It was dark and the animals could not see, so they got the sun and set it in a track to go across the island every day from east to west, just overhead.

The Creator told the animals and plants to stay awake for seven nights. But only a few of the animals were able to, including owls and panthers, and they were rewarded with the power to go about in the dark. Among the plants, only the cedars, pines, spruces, and laurels stayed awake, so they were allowed to remain green year-round and to provide the best medicines. The Creator chided the other trees: "Because you have not endured to the end, you shall lose your hair every winter."

People appeared last, after the animals, the sun, and the plants, but they multiplied so quickly that they threatened to overrun the world. So it was decided that each woman would have only one child a year, and it has been that way ever since.


In the days of the world's beginning, as the story goes, before there were caribou or men to hunt them, a primordial woman lived alone in a cave, subsisting on berries. One night a mysterious being in the shape of a dog crept in beside her. As the creature lay close, he began to change form: his limbs grew straight, his skin became smooth, his features were reformed into those of a handsome youth. Nine months later a child was born: the first Chipewyan. Ever since, the Chipewyan have treated dogs with special respect.


The Choctaw speak of a great mound, Nanih Wiya, from which the Great Spirit created the first of their people, who then crawled through a cave into the light of day.


The Crow tell of a vision quest shared by two brothers. In the vision one received the gift of corn, and his people became sedentary villagers. The other was given sacred tobacco seeds and instructed to lead his people all around the Plains before settling in a promised land-the Bighorn country of present day Montana. There they would flourish so long as they grew the sacred tobacco.


There is a commonly held belief that thousands of years ago, as the world today counts time, Mongolian nomads crossed a land bridge to enter the western hemisphere, and became the people now known as the American Indians.

The truth, of course, is that the Raven found our forefathers in a clamshell on the beach at Naikun. At his bidding, they entered a world peopled by birds, beasts, and creatures of great power.....At least, that's a little bit of the truth. [As told by Bill Reid, Haida]


One Hidasta group told their children about the hero Charred Body, who led the original 13 clans of the Hidatsa on a magical arrow that flew down from the world above to a site along today's Turtle Creek, not far from Mandan, ND. Here Charred Body bested the local monsters so that his people could begin their existence as human beings.


Way back in the distant past, the ancestors of humans were living down below in a world under the earth. They weren't humans yet, they lived in darkness, behaving like bugs.

Now, there was a Great Spirit watching over everything; some people say he was the sun. He saw how things were down under the earth, so he sent his messenger, Spider Old Woman, to talk to them. She said, "You creatures, the Sun Spirit doesn't want you living like this. He is going to transform you into something better, and I will lead you to another world."

When they came out on the surface of the earth, that's when they became humans. In the journeys that followed, they were looking for a place of harmony where they could follow good teachings and a good way of life. [as told by Albert Yava]

{Refer to the Pueblo}


Way back in time, say the Hopi storytellers, all the tribes and races of mankind emerged from a single hole in the earth. A mockingbird sitting on the surface gave them their names and languages. To one person he would say, "You shall be a Hopi, and that language you shall speak." To another, "You shall be a Navajo, and you shall speak that language." And so it went for everyone, including the White Man.

A darkness still covered the face of the land, back in those early ages. Then one day the people came together and decided to change things. They fashioned the silver ball of the moon and the fiery globe of the sun and threw both into the sky. The world was transformed. with the sun's warmth and light, food became more plentiful, and work easier. Nor was it necessary for everyone to huddle together for mutual protection and support. So the chiefs of all the races met together and decided to break up.

"We will go eastward to find out where the sun rises," they declared, "but let us travel by different routes and see who gets there first." When the first party arrived at the place where the sun rises, the chiefs agreed, a shower of stars would fall from the sky. At that moment everyone would stop where they were and settle down.

The journey began. Everyone set out on foot, carrying their children and all their belongings on their backs. The Hopi took a northern route, the various Pueblo peoples of New Mexico traveled a more southerly one, and the White People trekked along still farther to the south. But the Whites, always impatient, quickly grew tired and footsore. So one of the white women rubbed flakes of skin from her body and molded them into horses.

Mounted on these marvelous new creatures, the Whites could go faster, and they reached the place where the sun rises before anyone else. Immediately a fountain of stars cascaded from the sky. "Look," cried the others, "someone has arrived." So everyone stopped and settle down. And that is why the sun shines, why the world has horses, and why people live where they do.


Men say that the world was made by Raven. He is a man with a raven's beak. When the ground came up from the water it was drawn up by Raven. He speared down into it, brought up the land and fixed it into place.

The first land was a plot of ground hardly bigger than a house. There was a family in a house there: a man, his wife, and their little son. This boy was Raven. One day he saw a sort of bladder hanging over his parents' bed. He begged his father for it again and again, but his father always said no, until finally he gave in. While playing, Raven broke the bladder, and light appeared. "We had better have night too," said the father, "not just daylight all the time." So he grabbed the bladder before the little boy could damage it further. And that is how day and night began.


The Iroquois trace the beginning of human life to a time when Sky-woman fell to an island created by a giant turtle, which grew in shape and size to become North America. There she gave birth to a daughter, whose children propagated the human race.


Iroquoian peoples recounted how the world had grown into being from a blob of mud on the back of a giant turtle.


The Kiowa's name themselves, kwuda, meaning "coming out" which refers to a story about ancestors who ascended from the underworld by climbing through a hollow long. During that journey a pregnant woman got stuck in the log, preventing others from reaching the earth's surface-and explaining why the Kiowas were so few in number.


The Makah creation story tells where moisture from a weeping mother's nose fell onto a mussel shell and became an infant.


The People went through four worlds before they walked up a reed from the bottom of the Lake of Changing Waters into the present world. First Man and First Woman led the others, and with them came their two first children, the Changing Twins.

One took some clay from the stream bed in his hand and it shaped itself into a food bowl. The other Twin found reeds growing and with them he shaped a water basket. Then they picked up stones from the ground, and the pieces became axes and hammers, knives and spear points in their hands. Last of all the Twins shaped digging sticks from branches of mountain mahogany, and hoes from deer shoulder blades.

They found the Kisani, a different people growing gardens in the valleys, and the People traded their tools and baskets and bowls and weapons for seeds to plant in their own places along the rivers. They learned how to build dams and spread the water on the dry ground where it was needed.


The original world lay deep within the present earth. Lit by neither sun nor moon, it contained dimly colored clouds that moved around the horizon to mark the hours. At first life was peaceful; then the evils of lust and envy took hold, and violence broke out. So the ancestral Navajo fled into exile, grappling upward through a hole in the sky to another world directly above. Here, where the light was blue, harmony at first prevailed. Then again the same story: bitter quarreling, followed by escape and a climb to yet another world, and then another.

Finally, First Man and First Woman, the direct ancestors of humankind, emerged on the present earth. Water covered the earth's surface, but sacred winds gusted in to blow it away. With the aid of a sacred medicine bundle, and guided by beings known as diyin dine, the holy people, First Man then filled the world with all its natural bounty and wonder. He laid out each object in the bundle and by chanting transformed it into an animal, a plant, a mountain peak, an hour of the day.

Everything in the new universe resided in perfect balance, controlled by a kind of spiritual symmetry; four directions, four winds, four seasons, and the four basic colors of black, blue, amber and white. Most of all, an essential harmony prevailed, called hozho, which blended the concepts of beauty, peace, happiness and righteousness.


The great spirit Qautz created woman, whom he left alone in the dark forest. The woman lamented day and night, until Qautz took pity and appeared to her in a canoe of copper, in which many handsome young men were rowing. One of the rowers told her it was the great spirit who had supplied her with that companionship for which she sighed.

At these words she cried the more, and as the tears trickled down they fell to the sand. Qautz commanded her to look, and she saw with amazement a tiny child, a boy, entirely formed. Her firstborn son is the ancestor of the taises, while from her other sons the common people are descended.


When Kloskurbeh, the All-Maker, lived on earth, there were no people yet. But one day a youth appeared, born from the foam of the waves, and became his chief helper. After these two beings had created all manner of things, there came to them a beautiful girl. She was born of the wonderful earth plant, and of the dew, and of warmth.

First Mother (as she was called) married the chief helper of Kloskurbeh. When their children multiplied until there was not enough game to feed them all, First Mother made her husband kill her. Then he and his children dragged her body back and forth across a barren plot of land, as she had ordered, and buried her bones in the center of the field. Seven months later they returned and found the field green with ripe corn and, in the center, fragrant tocacco.


Incorporated into Pueblo tradition were legendary accounts of the world's beginnings that closely mirrored the Anasazi's own tribal genesis: somewhere to the north, so the story was told, the first humans climbed into the sunlight through a hole in the earth from a sacred underground place called Sipapu. Guided by the Great Spirit, they wandered for many years, seeking food, fleeing drought or tornadoes or wicked shamans, always searching for a land of harmony and plenty.

At last, they found it. The Great Spirit taught them to plan and harvest crops-especially corn, the staff of Pueblo life-and to build their fortresslike communities. Then, after appointing a pair of twin warrior gods (Maseway and Sheoyeway, in the Hopi account) to guard over them, he returned to his home beyond the clouds.

{Elsewhere on this page, you will find tribes associated with the Pueblo Indians. Variations of this story are told by each community to which has added its own unique details, such as theChoctaw Hopi Kiowa Navajo Tewa and Zuni which represent tribes from the east to the west. In every case the birth of humankind was a saga of upward emergence-from darkness into sunlight, from ignorance to wisdom.}


The ancients all had greater powers and cunning than either animals or people. Besides the ancients, real people lived on the earth at that time. Old One made the people out of the last balls of mud he took from the earth. They were so ignorant that they were the most helpless of all the creatures Old One had made.

The difficulty with the early world was that most of the ancients were selfish, and they were also very stupid in some ways. They did not know which creatures were deer and which were people, and sometimes they ate people by mistake.

At last Old One said, "There will soon be no people if I let things go on like this." So he sent Coyote to teach the Indians how to do things. And Coyote began to travel on the earth, teaching the Indians, making life easier and better for them, and performing many wonderful deeds.


In the beginning, the People lived underground in blackness. They did not know that their world was dark because they had never seen the sunlight or the blue sky world. After a long time, the People began to get restless and said to one another, "Is this all the world there is? Will there never be another world?" Then Mole came to visit them, digging his way along through the darkness with his little paws and sharp-pointed nails. The old men of the the People asked Mole, "Is there more of a world than this, friend?" Mole replied, "Follow along behind me."

Then the People formed themselves into a line behind Mole and he began to dig his way upward. As Mole clawed away in the earth, the People took the clay from his paw-hands and passed it back along their line to get it out of the way. That is why the tunnel that Mole dug upward was closed behind them and why they could never find their way back to their old dark world. So ended the story.


The earliest forebears of the Zuni came into a world with webbed feet, long ears, hairless tails, and moss-covered bodies and acquired human form after bathing in the waters of a sacred spring. {Refer to the Pueblo}