Native American Creation Theories

7 July 2016

There are many different theories dealing with the creation of the world. The Native Americans have several, but there are two very popular creation myths that are supported. The World on the Turtle’s Back and When Grizzlies Walked Upright. Each offers a unique perspective on how the world was created, yet many similarities tie them together. In the beginning of both stories, there is a god-like creature that comes down from a place called “Sky-World”. In The World on the Turtle’s Back, the woman either fell or was pushed after peering down a hole into the dark emptiness below, a result of her own foolishness.

Foolish curiosity once again appeared in When Grizzlies Walked Upright, when the young girl stuck her head out of the top of the volcano, even after her father had expressly warned her not to, and was carried away by the Wind Spirit. Wind Spirit was hardly mentioned, but right away, I got the idea that he was the mischievous character. In The World on the Turtle’s Back, there is a mischievous character called the left-handed twin, who is told to be the very first trickster to walk the earth.

Both of these creation myths are full of unusual and unexplainable things; One of the weirdest is the matter of how the daughters became pregnant. In When Grizzlies Walked Upright, the girl marries a grizzly bear and “bears” his children, who later grow up to become the indians. In The World on the Turtle’s Back, the daughter happens across a strange man, who literally appeared out of thin air, and faints from the shock. As she is lying on the ground, unconscious, he lays two arrows across her stomach. Suddenly, she is pregnant with twins.

The two stories certainly share many bizarre features, however they also have very different explanations for things. In The World on the Turtle’s Back, after the woman falls from the Sky-World onto the back of a turtle, she creates the earth from a crumb of dirt and several roots and plants that she had brought down when she fell. In When Grizzlies Walked Upright, the earth was already created except for the animals, which the man from the Sky-World, called Sky Spirit, created using wood from his walking stick.

The World on the Turtle’s Back also has an explanation for the appearance of the animals. Several animals were already created, and the rest were made by the two twin brothers, as they competed to get the better of each other. While the story of the turtle explained the appearance of crops, the moon, night, and day, the story of the grizzlies explained how animals, mountains, and volcanoes were created. One of the biggest differences between the stories is the amount of Sky Gods that came down to earth.

In The World on the Turtle’s Back, only one woman came down and it was more of an accident than anything else. In When Grizzlies Walked Upright, a whole family of Sky Spirits walked down a mountain onto the earth and built a lodge inside a volcano. In these two creation myths, there are features that link them together and differences that keep them separated. The thing to remember is that these are only two of the thousands of ideas about how the earth came to be. While there are certain theories, the truth behind earth’s beginning may never be known.

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