an Iroquois creation myth

Long, long ago, where we are now, there was no land, just water and creatures of the water.  But, up above, there was a place called Karonhia:ke or The Sky World.  Now, in The Sky World there were beings who were in some ways like human beings and in some ways they were different. The beings in Sky World had more powers than human beings have.  For instance, they could make things happen just by thinking about it.

There was a tree growing in the center of Sky World.  It was called the Tree of Life. On that tree grew many different kinds of fruit.  Also, there were blossoms on that tree and those blossoms glowed. They lit up Sky World.

The beings in Sky World 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’tsiakaion which means Mature Flower.  When her husband started to dig around near the bottom of the tree to get at the roots, the dirt caved in and some say that the tree fell down.  This was terrible.

The woman went to see what had happened.  Some say that she lost her balance and fell into the hole.  Some say that she knew she was destined to go through that hole and so she jumped.  Some say that she was pushed.  Nevertheless, she grabbed some seeds from the Tree of Life as she fell. Because she fell through the hole in the sky, many people refer to her as Sky Woman.

Down below, there was a flock of water birds flying through the air.  Some say they were geese.  Some say they were blue heron. Some say they were swans.  One of them looked and 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 on their backs.

They tried to bring her back up to Sky World, but she was too heavy and so they lowered her to the water below.  A giant turtle said that they could put her on his back.  That’s what they did.  That is the reason some people call this place where we live, Turtle Island [i.e., North America].

Sky Woman thanked the creatures, but she said that she needed dirt in order to survive.  One by one, the animals dove down to try to get dirt from under the water.  Finally, some say it was the muskrat.  Some say that it was the otter. But finally, one creature was successful in bringing a few grains of dirt to Sky Woman.  She placed the dirt on the back of the turtle.

She stood up.  She sang and danced in a counter-clockwise direction and when she did that, 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.