Each nation has its myth about the creation of the world and human beings. Native Americans are not an exception. Each of the tribe has its own vision on the beginning of the Earth life. Let’s compare two stories on the world creation of two Great American Tribes and consider factors that influenced their minds.
Firstly, let’s get acquainted with the legend of the Wyandots or Hurons. According to it, there was nothing except the water. Only the wide, wide sea was spread. Animals were the only inhabitants of it. They lived on the water, under the water or flew through the air. Then the woman fell from the sky. Two loons were flying by and managed to catch her on their wings. However, the burden was too heavy. Loons were afraid of dropping the woman and her drowning. They cried loudly for help. All creatures heard them and came for help. The Great Sea Turtle asked to put the woman on its back in order to preserve her. So the loons did. Then animals began to consider what to do next. Wise Sea Turtle said that the woman needed land to live. All animals in turn began to dive to the bottom of the sea, but no one has reached it. Finally, the Toad dived and it took her a long period of time to come back but it brought a handful of soil and gave this to the woman. The last one leveled it on the back of the turtle. This is how the land appeared. Time passed and trees were growing, rivers were flowing. Even children of the first woman made their first footsteps. Till nowadays the Earth rests on the back of the Great Sea Turtle.
The next legend belongs to Crow tribes. Many years ago the land didn’t exist. There was only the water everywhere. Once the Coyote was swimming on a small raft and noticed ducks that didn’t look like modern ones. The Coyote asked the ducks to bring him some land. He asked the first Duck to get soil from the bottom of the sea. It dived and brought nothing. The second and the third ducks did the same and, unfortunately, had no results. The Coyote was depressed. He spoke to great crested grebe, his younger brother. The last one dived and brought some clay. The Coyote took it and said that he would create the Earth from it. He began his work in the East. The Coyote
made the Earth large and spacious. He went to the West and notices a coyote. So, there was a creature to live on the Earth. They continued their way together. When they passed the plain, they
saw magic stones that were producing light. The Coyote said that those stones would be found everywhere on the Earth. They went on and saw a creature standing near the hill. The Coyote said that it was a human that previously had been the night star. However, when coyotes came closer to the hill, they saw a plant instead of the human. It was tobacco, the first plant on the Earth. Then the Coyote created grass, mountains, trees and fish. This is how the life on the Earth appeared (“Native American Legends,” 2014).
Hurons or Wyandots used to be a powerful Indian tribe in North America. Their language (now dead) belonged to a large Iroquoian group. It is known that their number reached 40 000 people before the European invading. The Hurons held the entire area to the North of Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the eastern shore of Lake Huron in the XVII century. Their alliance consisted of five tribes. At the end of the XVII century most of the Hurons were killed in the wars with the Iroquois. Some of them were taken to Quebec where they survived without assimilation with the rest of the population. In 1881 they numbered 280 people. The rest of the Hurons, known as Wyandots, survived on the shores of Ohio (Sioui, 1999) and 1832 in number of 687 persons moved to Kansas, where they received civil rights in 1855. Now more in 1855 than 4000 Hurons live in the United States and Canada.
The Crow tribe of North American Indians has historically lived near Yellowstone River, and now lives on a reservation in Montana and Wyoming. The story of the Crows is the story of constant wars between them and other tribes, for example, they struggled with the Blackfoot tribe for bison (Cordell, 2009). In 1743 Frenchmen first met the Crows. They named them “good people”. In 1825 the leader of the Crows signed an agreement with the US, which recognized the power of the US government. In the beginning of the XIXth century the Crows picked up European disease because of which their number decreased from 10,000 to 1000-2000.
Nevertheless, the Crows reached the number of 8000 people, as they were in the early XIXth century. Many families continue to live in a tipi and lead a nomadic lifestyle. Laws of the United
States are not used in reservations. In 1948 the first constitution was adopted by the Crows, and the second one followed in 2001.
Each of the stories illustrates the vision of the world by those tribes. Besides, we see prints of historical legacy and landscape of those tribes. For example, we can see that animals are an important element in the life of each tribe. The Huron legend tells that it is an animal that took on the responsibility of deciding the future of the world. It is the Turtle who holds the Earth. In the second legend the event takes place in the plain. It is well known that the Crow tribes live in valleys. So, it is expected that their myth will contain some details that will show elements of their everyday culture and style of life. What is more, the second legend shows the Coyote as the creator of the Earth and all living creatures. It also helps us understand that the role of coyote in the life of the tribe is really tremendous. Of course, this animal is a specific symbol in most American tribes, and its features are respected in the Indian culture. Nevertheless, the Crows show their respect to this animal by having a leader of the tribe under the name “Running Coyote” in the XIXth century.
The stories illustrate that human beings had relationship to the creation of the world. Nevertheless, both legends focus on animals’ influence and participation as it has been stated previously. Of course, the first legend shows the Woman as the Creator but in the beginning animals decided to save and help her. However, we can see that in both variants people appeared not on the Earth but in the Sky and only then fell from it. They were Night Stars and then transformed into human beings. We can see that in both legends a man is considered by animals as a more powerful being.
the Mother of the World. We all are her children and should respect her. The myth even doesn’t mention the existence of the Man. He is not important in that myth. Everything is done by the Woman. The second myth shows the Coyote, a man, who created everything. It is also a demonstration of gender responsibilities and roles. The Coyote possesses the features, owned usually by men: prudence, savvy and courage. It is rather interesting to see the myth on world’s creation of the Crow tribe where matriarchy has always been.
The common feature of both myths about the world’s creation is that each of them shows that there is always a leader in the tribe and everyone should obey him. It is everyone’s responsibility. The woman is the leader in the first myth whereas the Coyote is the leader in the second legend. Those stories are mirrors of the reality. Each tribe should follow his leader and support all his creations.
So, we see that the myth of Hurons and the myth of Crows have much in common if not to take into account that the first story shows the Woman as a creator and the second one shows the Coyote. Each of the legends illustrates main characteristics of the lifestyle and culture of two Native American tribes and provides us with the information about relationships between animals and human beings, men and women, roles and responsibilities within the community.
Cordell L.S. (Ed.), Lightfoot K. (Ed.), McManamon F. (Ed.). (2009). Archaeology in America: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood, CA: Greenwood Publishing Group.
(2014). Native American Legends: Old Man Coyote makes the World. firstpeople.us. Retrieved from http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/Old-Man-Coyote-Makes-The-World-Crow.html
Sioui, G.E. (1999). Huron – Wendat: The Heritage of the Circle. Vancouver: UBC Press.