Creation Story Revisited

Haudenosaunee Creation Story, as told by Kay Olan, Mohawk storyteller 

Long ago, in the world we are now, we believe there was no land, just water and creatures of the water. Up above, there was a place called Karonhia:ke, The Sky World, where there were beings who resemble human beings but were different. These beings had more powers and strength than human beings. They could make things happen just by thinking about it!

There was a tree growing in the center of Sky World we called the Tree of Life. On that tree grew many different kinds of fruit and the blossoms that glowed in a most beautiful light that lit up Sky World.

They were told not to disturb that tree, but one day, a woman who was expecting a baby, asked for a drink of tea made from the roots of the Tree of Life. Her name was Atsi’tsiaka:ion which means Mature Flower. When her husband started to dig near the bottom of the tree to get at the roots, the dirt caved in and some say that the tree fell down creating a massive hole in the floor of Sky World.

The woman went to see what had happened. Some say that she lost her balance while gazing, and fell into the hole. Some say that she knew she was destined to go through that hole, her insights coming from dreams she had, and so she jumped. Some say that she was pushed. Nevertheless, when she did fall she grabbed some seeds from the roots of and around the Tree of Life. Many people refer to her as Sky Woman.

Down below, there was a flock of water birds. One of them looked up and saw Sky Woman falling. He spoke to the other birds and they decided to make a great blanket with their bodies and catch her and lowered her to the water below. A giant turtle said that they could put her on his back, that his shell would be able to support her, so that’s what they did. That is the reason some people call North America, Turtle Island.

Sky Woman thanked the creatures, she said that she needed land in order to survive and help other nourishment to grow. One by one, the animals dove down to try to get dirt from under the water. Finally, some say it was the muskrat that was successful in bringing a few grains of dirt to Sky Woman. She placed the dirt on the back of the turtle and she stood up, and sang and danced in a counter-clockwise direction. The turtle’s shell grew and the grains of dirt multiplied. She dropped the seeds from the Tree of Life and they started to grow right away. When she finished dancing and singing, there was land and plant life as far as she could see. 

Some time went by and Sky Woman gave birth to a baby girl. Time went on and the baby girl grew up with her mother’s knowledge of both worlds. She was told not to walk toward the west, but one day, the daughter did. A wind started to blow from the west and a cloud started to move toward the daughter. The daughter saw the outline of a male-being in the cloud. The daughter, from astonishment, fainted. When she woke up, she found two crossed arrows lying on top of her stomach, she had become the bride of the Spirit of the West Wind and now she was going to give birth to twin boys.

Those boys were very special, and they talked to each other while they were growing inside their mother and they didn’t always agree. When it was time for them to be born, the right-handed twin was born in the usual way. However, the left-handed twin decided to push his way out through their mother’s armpit, killing their mother leaving Sky Women to raise the boys.

They buried their mother and from her head grew corn, beans and squash that are called The Three Sisters. From her heart grew sacred tobacco which is used when there is a desire to communicate with the Creator. From her feet grew the wild strawberry which is known as The Big Medicine. Even in her death, the mother of the two boys still made sure that they had what they needed to survive. She is called Mother Earth and to this day she still supports all of the people, animals and plants.

The twin boys grew up and went about the task of creating everything that is found in the natural world today. They made rivers, flowers, animals and eventually they made the human beings. The left-handed twin became the keeper of the night and the right-handed twin became the keeper of the day. During creation a serious of trials, tribulations and competitive times occurred amongst the brothers but when they were done making their creations, everything was in perfect balance.

When Sky Woman passed away, her head was flung into the night sky by the twins. She is still there, she is called Grandmother Moon. She reflects light at night. She helps the people keep track of time. She controls the rise and fall of the waters. She keeps company with the stars and the left-handed twin, the keeper of the night. She regulates the monthly cycles of all of the female life which guarantees that new life will be born making her the leader of all the life.

Eventually, the human beings were made. They are meant to be the Caretakers, they are supposed to make sure that everything stays in balance. However, it seems sometimes it is the human beings who keep forgetting what they are supposed to do. The human beings need to remember to take only what they need and to leave the rest for the future generations to experience and enjoy. The human beings are the ones who forget that everything in the natural world is connected and is part of the same web of life and so should be respected and honored daily. It is the duty of all the people of the world will to respect their original instructions and take good care of their Mother Earth.

This was developed by Rick Hill