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Native American Legends of Creation

Native American legends of creation vary among the numerous tribes, including the Iroquois, Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, and Creek. Some legends are long and complicated while others are short and sweet. The (best legends—link to forthcoming Hiawatha Legend) are told by the oral storytellers of the tribes and should be listened to if the opportunity presents itself.

Native American Legends of Creation

The First People

The story of the first people varies. For the Choctaw, there was a great mound called Nanih Wiya where the creator drew forth the first people, crawling through a long, dark cave to walk into the light. These first people would become the Choctaw.

The Comanche came not from Earth but from the swirls of dust that blew from all four directions while the Creek were formed from the only hill to rise above the watery world. The watery world is present in the legends of the Iroquois.

The Watery Abyss

In the Iroquois beginning, there was no land to live upon. The world was a watery abyss under the sky. In this Sky World, a community of people lived, including the woman who dreamed. When she dreamed of a tree that brought light to the world, she urged her people to dig it up to make more light. But the tree fell through a hole, plunging the Sky World into darkness.

The Sky People cast the dream woman through the hole into the watery abyss below. A flying fish hawk, a helldiver, a turtle, and a beaver aided her, bringing mud from the bottom of the ocean and creating land for the woman to survive. One by one, the creatures built up the world upon the back of a turtle, which would continue to carry the land on his back.

When the spirits of the Sky World came down and saw the land, they were moved by it and created a people to live upon it. Those people would become the great nation of the Iroquois.

The Great Flood

The Lakota Sioux share some similar legends of creation with other nations. For the Lakota, there was a world before this one that was filled with such wickedness the creator flooded the land until all people and animals drowned, save for a crow. The crow asked the creator for aid.

Moved by the crow's pleas, the creator sent out four animals, including a turtle, to find the material to make land again. The turtle brought back mud and the creator began to fashion a land and sky. He cried tears to create the lakes and the rivers. The creator populated the land once more and gave the people a sacred pipe that served as a reminder of the wicked people who came before so they would not lead another world into destruction.

Animals of the Earth

One Cherokee origin legend agrees that the world started with water and sky. When the skies grew crowded, the animals of the sky sent a beetle to search for new lands. The beetle submerged into the water searching for land, but, finding none, it began to enlarge until it became the land itself. The other animals attached this land to the sky with four strings and gradually began to migrate, creating the world the Cherokee would be born upon.

Land and Sky

Native American legends share many similarities, including the power of the turtle whether it brings up the mud or forms the back of the world to the water itself covering the land. In nearly all the tales, it is a Great Spirit or Creator who brings forth the first peoples upon a land created just for them and the animals of the sky that descend to share the land with them.