Native American
Creation Stories

Native American creation stories were a way for the elders of a tribe to teach the young about who they were, where their ancestors had come from, and how the world had come to be.

Each tribe had their own version yet you find many of the same elements like the earth, sun, animals.These are just a few of the many stories passed on from generation to generation. Enjoy!

Native American Creation Stories

Salish Creation Story
western Canada and northwest US

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.

Native American Creation Stories

Inuit Creation Story
the Far North

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.

Native American Creation Stories

Navajo Creation Story
the Southwest

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. Las 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.

Native American Creation Stories

Penobscot Creation Story
Eastern Woodlands

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 lands, 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 tobacco.

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Native American Creation Stories

Hopi Story

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 Men.

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 settled down. And that is why the sun shines, why the world has horses, and why people live where they do.

Native American Creation Stories

Nuu-chal-nuth legend
Northwest coast

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.

taises – chiefs of the wealthiest lineages and their close relatives

Native American Creation Stories

The Earth on Turtle’s Back
Northeast – Onondaga

Note: The Onondaga are members of the Haudenosaunee (“People of the Long House”) which includes the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Tuscorora, and Onondaga Nations. The Haudenosaunee are also referred to as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations.

Before the Earth existed, there was only water. In the Clouds was Skyland, where a sacred Great Tree grew. The Great Tree had branches that pointed to the four cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West).

An ancient chief lived in Skyland. His wife was with child and she had a dream that the Great Tree was uprooted. Dreams were very important to the Ancient Chief. The chief and his men tried to pull the tree loose, but the taproot was very deep.

Finally, the Ancient Chief, using all his energy, managed to loosen the soil from around the tree. It was uprooted and laid upon its side. However, the tree left a large hole in Skyland. The chief's wife looked down the hole and saw something glittering like water. She steadied herself on the branches of the Great Tree. However, the branch snapped and broke and she fell down endlessly.

Two Swans saw this women and flew up to help her so as to cushion her fall. They then realized that the woman was not like them...she did not have webbed feet or waterproof feathers. This creature could not live in the water. All the animals decided that she would die if they did not think of a plan to save her.

After much discussion, they decide that she was made to live on Earth. However, the only Earth was at the bottom of the continuous oceans and streams. The Duck, the Beaver, and the Loon all tried to bring Earth from the bottom to the top of the water. They all failed. Then the Muskrat, decided to try. He took on a determined look and went up and down, until finally he loosened some Earth. However, they knew Earth did not float on water, so Turtle volunteered to carry Earth on his back. Muskrat put Earth on Turtle's back, but her paw marks still remain to this day.

After Earth reached Turtle's back, it began to increase in size until it became what we today call Turtle Island (North America). The Swans flew down carrying Sky Woman to her new home. Sky Woman relaxed and opened her hand (that held those leaves and seeds from the Great Tree). The seeds fell to Earth, germinated and many new trees grew on Turtle Island.

Life on Earth had begun. Today Mother Earth provides us with food, air, water, and shelter. Turtle with the Great Tree on his back is the symbol of the Iroquois Nation.(Caduto, Michael J.and Joseph Bruchac,Keepers of the Earth. Golden, CO.: Fulcrum, Inc., 1989)

Native American Creation Stories

Cherokee Creation Story
Southeast then Oklahoma

Long ago, before there were any people, the earth was a great island floating in a sea of water, suspended by four cords handing 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 over head.

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.

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