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Iroquois creation myth [archive]

This article has been archived from the now-defunct Creation Myths of the World site (http://www.amherst.k12.wi.us/USERWEBS/faculty/faculty/gorddebr/myths/) for educational purposes. Please visit our Article Archive Index for further information. If the author of this article would like to make changes to it, or if you are the author of another article you would like us to add to our archives, please contact us.

Iroquois creation myth

The first humans lived up beyond the sky as there was no earth beneath. One day, a great chief's daughter became ill and no cure could be found. A wise old man recommended that they dig up the roots of a certain tree in order to cure her. The people all worked together and dug a great hole around the base of the tree. In time, however, both the chief's daughter and the tree fell through the hole into the world below.

Below there was only a vast sea where two swans continuously swam. When the tree and the girl fell into the water, there was a clap of thunder. The swans heard this and came to see what had happened. They saw that the girl had fallen from the sky and went to save her. As this was all very strange to the swans, they went to the Great Turtle, wisest of all creatures, for advice.

The Great Turtle told them that the tree and the girl were a good omen. He then commanded all the creatures to find the tree and bring up the magic soil that was attached to its roots. The swans were assigined to take this magic earth and build an island for the girl to live on. All of the animals were involved in the search for the tree, but only an old toad was successful in bringing up any of the soil. She swam to the bottom, returned to spit out a mouthful of the dirt, and then died. The mouthful of earth then turned into a vast land mass.

But the earth was still dark at this time. The girl told the Great Turtle that there was light in the world above. So the Great Turtle in-structed the burrowing animals to bore holes in the sky for light to shine through.

The girl is the mother of all living things. There are a number of theories of how she conceived. the first humans on earth. One is that she was impregnated when she fell into the sea. Another is that the action of the magic earth with the sea caused her to conceive. In any case, the human race is the result of the union of the land and sea, as well as having origins in the sky above.

Additional Reading

 Native American creation legends
 Iroquois mythology
 Iroquois tribes
 Mohawk language
 Oneida language
 Indian Tribes in New York

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