Flood Myths - North America


Four monsters grew large and powerful until they were high enough to touch the sky. One man heard a voice telling him to plant a hollow reed. He did so, and it quickly grew very big. He, his wife, and pairs of all good animals entered the reed. Waters rose to cover everything but the top of the reed and the heads of the monsters. Turtle destroyed the monsters by digging under them and uprooting them. The waters subsided, and winds dried the earth.


One particularly hard winter had "great floods" in addition to earthquakes and volcanoes. The people spent the long winter in caves.


While the medicine man Wis-kay-tchach was hunting, his young wolf was killed by some water lynxes. Wis tried to kill one of the lynxes to get revenge. First, he turned himself into a stump at the edge of a lake. Frogs and snakes tried to pull the stump down, but Wis kept himself upright. The lynx, suspicions lulled, went to sleep. Wis returned to normal shape and, though warned to shoot the lynx's shadow, forgot and shot its body. He shot a second arrow at the shadow, but the lynx escaped into a river, which then overflowed and flooded the whole country. Wis escaped in a canoe.

Hareskin (Alaska)

Kunyan ("Wise Man"), foreseeing the possibility of a flood, built a great raft, joining the logs with ropes made from roots. He told other people, but they laughed at him and said they'd climb trees in the event of a flood. Then came a great flood, with water gushing from all sides, rising higher than the trees and drowning all people but the Wise Man and his family on his raft. As he floated, he gathered pairs of all animals and birds he met with. The earth disappeared under the waters, and for a long time no one thought to look for it. Then the musk-rat dived into the water looking for the bottom, but he couldn't find it. He dived a second time and smelled the earth but didn't reach it. Next beaver dived. He reappeared unconscious but holding a little mud. The Wise Man placed the mud on the water and breathed on it, making it grow. He continued breathing on it, making it larger and larger. He put a fox on the island, but it ran around the island in just a day. Six times the fox ran around the island; by the seventh time, the land was as large as it was before the flood, and the animals disembarked, followed by Wise Man with his wife (who was also his sister) and son. They repeopled the land. But the flood waters were still too high, and to lower them, the bittern swallowed them all. Now there was too little water. Plover, pretending sympathy at the bittern's swollen stomach, passed his hand over it, but suddenly scratched it. The waters flowed out into the rivers and lakes.


The people repeatedly became distant from Sotuknang, the creator. Twice he destroyed the world (by fire and by cold) and recreated it while the few people who still lived by the laws of creation took shelter underground with the ants. When people became corrupt and warlike a third time, Sotuknang guided them to Spider Woman, who cut down giant reeds and sheltered the people in the hollow stems. Sotuknang caused a great flood, and the people floated in their reeds for a long time. They emerged after coming to rest on a small piece of land. They still had as much food as they started with. Guided by their inner wisdom (which comes from Sotuknang through the door at the top of their head), the people traveled on, using the reeds as canoes. They went northeast, finding progressively larger islands, until they came to the Fourth World. When they reached it, they saw the islands sink into the ocean.

Jicarilla (Apache)

Before the Apaches emerged from the underworld, there were other people on the earth. Dios told an old man and old woman that it would rain forty days and nights. People were warned to go to the tops of four mountains (Tsisnatcin, Tsabidzilhi, Becdilhgai, and another whose identity isn't known) and not to look at the flood or sky. The people didn't believe the old couple. When the rains came, only a few people made it to the mountain tops and shut their eyes. Those who looked at the flood turned into fish or frogs; if they looked at the sky, they turned into birds. After eighty days, Dios told the 24 people remaining to open their eyes and come down. These 24 people went into mountains. Eight other people survived the flood who were able to travel by looking where they wanted to go, and they were there. These people told the Apaches about the flood before going into two mountains themselves. Around the turn of the millennium, the surface of the earth will again be destroyed, this time by fire.


Unktehi, a water monster, fought the people and caused a great flood. The people retreated to a hill, but the water swept over them, killing them all.

Unktehi was turned to stone; her bones are in the Badlands now. A giant eagle, Wanblee Galeshka, swept down, saved one girl from the flood, and made her his wife. (In another version, the thunderbirds fought and defeated Unktehi and her children before the waters washed over the highest mountain.)


The Star people listened to Jaguar and killed and ate a woman. Kuamachi wanted to punish them, but they were too many and too powerful. He invited them to help in picking dewaka fruit. They came, and while they were eating fruit, Kuamachi dropped one fruit. Water came out of it, spread, and caused a flood. Kuamachi and his grandfather stayed in a canoe; they got bows and arrows and shot the people who were helpless in the trees. The people fell down into the water below, which was infested with dangerous animals. Kuamachi and his grandfather ran out of arrows before shooting Wlaha, the leader of the Star people. He had caught seven arrows. He shot them into heaven, making a ladder which he, the surviving Star people, and finally Kuamachi ascended to become stars.


For their sins, the Gods expelled the Insect People from the first world by sending a wall of water from all directions. The Insect People flew up into the second world. Later, in the fourth world, descendants of these people were likewise punished. They escaped the floodwaters by climbing into a fast-growing reed. Cicada dug an entrance into the fifth world, where people live today.


The people became so numerous that they ate all the fish and game and started to eat each other. They were so wicked that Dokibatl, the Changer, flooded the earth. All living things were destroyed except one woman and one dog, which survived atop Tacobud (Mt. Ranier). From them the next race of people were born. They lived like animals until the Changer sent a Spirit to teach them civilization.


Coyote and Montezuma survived, in their separate crafts, a flood which covered all the land. They met again on the top of Monte Rosa, which rose above the flood waters.


As people grew in numbers, they became selfish and greedy. As the situation on Earth became worse, the Earth Maker decided to drown all evil ones from the face of the Earth, but not without warning. He asked all to listen to the voice of the north wind as it called to them to be honest and live in peace. Few listened to the north wind. The next night another warning echoed from a distant thunderstorm to the east. When the prophet Suhu spoke, he was called a fool, and the people continued to ignore the warning of the wind. On the third night, the wind came from the west. They were cautioned again to listen to the voice of the prophet Suhu. On the fourth night, the wind came from the south, and only Suhu heard its mournful cry. "Suhu," said Earth Maker, "Take your people who are good to the summit of Kakatak Tamai, for all the land will soon be covered with water, and all the evil will perish." The prophet Suhu gathered the good from all corners of the land and led them to the top of Crooked Top Mountain. Then the roar of thunder and lightning enveloped the land. From the east the rains came, and for two moons it fell. All of the land except Crooked Top Mountain was covered with water. The Earth Maker spoke once again from the thunder clouds atop Kakatak Tamai. "All good people will return to the desert valley to till the fertile soil, and all evil ones will be turned to stone," he said. And so it was. The stone people are clearly visible in the mountains, giant rock structures imploring the Gods for release from their fate. And the white stratum line which appears near the top is the high water mark from the flood.


Thunderbird was once so angry that he sent the ocean over the land. When it reached the village of the Quillayute, they got into their canoes. The water rose for four days, covering the mountains. The boats were scattered by the wind and waves. Then the water receded for four days, and people settled in many areas.


Coyote encountered an evil water spirit who caused water to rise until it covered Coyote. After the water receded, Coyote shot the water spirit with a bow and ran away, but the water followed him. He ran to the top of Mount Shasta; the water followed but didn't quite reach the top. Coyote made a fire, and all the other animal people swam to it and found refuge there. After the water receded, they came down and found new homes.


The Creator made the earth and gave four names for it -- for the sun, waters, soil and forests. He said only a few people, with special preparation for the knowledge, should know all four names, or the world would change too suddenly. After a while, everyone learned the four names. When people started talking to the trees the change came in the form of a flood. When the people saw the flood coming, they made a giant canoe and filled it with five people and a male and female of all plants and animals. Water covered everything but the summit of Kobah and Takobah (Mts. Baker and Ranier). The canoe landed on the prairie. Doquebuth, the new Creator, was born of a couple from the canoe. He delayed getting his spirit powers, but finally did so after his family deserted him. At the direction of the Old Creator, he made people again from the soil and from the bones of the people who lived before the flood.


When the Squamish saw the great flood coming, they made a giant canoe and a long rope of cedar fibers with which they fastened the canoe to a giant rock. Into the canoe, they put every baby, a young man and woman to be their guardians, and food and water. The waters rose and drowned everyone else. After several days, the man saw Mount Baker in the distance. He cut the rope and paddled south to it, and made a new home there. The outline of the canoe can still be seen halfway up the slope of Mount Baker.


A man and his wife went up the hills to hunt marmots. There, they saw that the water was still rising. They enclosed their children, along with supplies, in hollow trees. All other people drowned.


In early times, many people had gone to war with other tribes, but there were still some good people. One of the good men heard from the Land Above that a big water was coming. He told the other good people and decided they would make a dugout boat from the largest cedar they could find. Soon after the canoe was finished, the flood came, filling the valleys and covering the mountains. The bad people were drowned; the good people were saved in the boat. We don't know how long the flood stayed. The canoe can still be seen where it came down on Toppenish Ridge. The earth will be destroyed by another flood if people do wrong a second time.


Lexuwakipa, ibis, felt offended by the people, so she let it snow so much that ice came to cover the entire earth. When it melted, it rapidly flooded all the earth except five mountain tops, on which a few people escaped. Signs of the floodwaters still show up on those mountains. In another version, the moon-woman Hanuxa caused the flood because she was full of hatred against the people, especially the men, who had taken over the women's secret kina ceremony and made it their own. A few people survived on five mountain tops.


Komashtam'ho caused a great rain and started to flood out the large dangerous animals, but he was persuaded that people needed some of the animals for food. He evaporated the waters with a great fire, turning the land to desert in the process.