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.
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
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)
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.