The Jicarilla Genesis

(Jicarilla Apache)

(Emergence Story)


The Jicarilla Genesis (Jicarilla Apache) from James Mooney, American Anthropologist, Vol. XI., No. 7, Washington, D.C., July, 1898, pp. 197-209.

[1] In the beginning the earth was covered with water, and all living things were below in the underworld. Then people could talk, the animals could talk, the trees could talk, and the rocks could talk.

[2] It was dark in the underworld, and they used eagle plumes for torches. The people and the animals that go about by day wanted more light, but the night animals—the Bear, the Panther, and the Owl—wanted darkness. They disputed long, and at last agreed to play the käyoñ'ti* game to decide the matter. It was agreed that if the day animals won there should be light, but if the night animals won it should be always dark. [*käyoñ'ti* game . . . Mooney's note: A sort of " thimble and button " game, in which one party hides the button under one of several closed wooden cups or thimbles, and the other tries to guess under which thimble it is. There is a score of 104 tally sticks.]

[3] The game began, but the Magpie and the Quail, which love the light and have sharp eyes, watched until they could see the button through the thin wood of the hollow stick, and they told the people under which one it was. They played once, and the people won. The morning star came out and the Black-bear ran and hid in the darkness. They played again, and the people won. It grew bright in the east and the Brown-bear ran and hid himself in a dark place. They played a third time, and the people won. It grew brighter in the east and the Mountain-lion slunk away into the darkness. They played a fourth time, and again the people won. The Sun came up in the east, and it was day, and the Owl flew away and hid himself.

[4 Still the people were below and did not see many things, but the Sun stayed higher up [in the underworld] and saw more. The Sun looked through a hole and saw that there was another world, this earth above. He [the sun] told the people and they wanted to go there; so they built four mounds by which to reach the upper world. . . .

[5] The mountains had stopped growing while their tops were yet a long way from the upper world, and the people debated how they could get up to the earth. . . . Then the Buffalo came and offered his right horn to make a ladder, three others came and offered their right horns also. The Buffalo horns were strong, and by their help the people were able to climb up through the hole to the surface of the earth; but their weight bent the Buffalo horns, which before were straight, so that they have been curved ever since. [creation story > origin story]

[6] When the people had come up from under the earth they fastened the Sun and Moon with spider threads, so that they could not get away, and sent them up into the sky to give light. But water covered the whole earth, so four Storms went to roll the waters away. . . . Having rolled up the waters, the Storms returned to where the people were waiting at the mouth of the hole.

[7] . . . The Beaver went out, wading through the mud and swimming through the water. He began at once to build a dam to save the water still remaining in pools, and he did not return. The Tornado was sent after him and found him at work, and asked him why he had not come back.

[8] "Because I wanted to save the water for the people to drink," said the Beaver.

[9] "Good," said Tornado, and they went back together. They waited again, and then sent out the Crow to see if it was yet time. The Crow found the earth dry, and many dead frogs, fish, and reptiles lying on the ground. He began picking out their eyes, and did not return until Tornado was sent after him. The people were angry when they found he had been eating carrion, and they changed his color to black, which before was gray. [creation story > origin story]

[10] The earth was now all dry, excepting the four oceans around it and the lake in the center, where the Beaver had dammed up the waters. All the people came up. They went east until they came to the ocean; then they turned south until they came again to the ocean; then they turned west until they came again to the ocean, and then they turned north, and as they went each tribe stopped where it would.

[11] But the Jicarillas [Apache people] continued to circle around the place where they had come up from the underworld. Three times they went around, when the Ruler became displeased, and asked them where they wished to stop. They said,  "In the middle of the earth;" so he led them to a place very near to Taos [New Mexico] and left them there, and then the Taos Indians lived near them. . . .

mountains near Taos NM

[12] While the Jicarillas were moving about they by accident left a girl behind them near the place where they had come up from the underworld. The girl's name was Yo'lkai'- îstû'n, the "Whitebead woman." The Sun shone upon her as she sat and she bore a boy child, and the Moon beamed upon her as she slept and she bore another boy child. The first born was stronger than the second, as the Sun is stronger than the Moon. When the boys were large enough to walk the Sun told her where to find her people, and she went to them.

[13] The boys lived with their mother near Taos. . . . [a number of adventures follow in which the twins vanquish threats to the people]

[14] There was also a rock, known as Tsê'-nanlki'ñ, "Rock-that-runs," which "lived" at Cieneguilla, east of the Rio Grande and southwest of Taos. The rock was alive and had a head and a mouth and used to roll after people and overtake and crush them and then swallow them. By the help of his father, the Sun, the boy shot an arrow through the rock and killed it. The rock is still there, lying on a level flat—a black rock as large as a house, with its "face" to the west, and with a spot on the north and on the south side where the arrow went through, and red streaks running down from them where the blood ran down to the ground. . . .

[15] When their work was done and the world was made safe, the boys said their last words to the people and started after the Sun along the trail to the west. [>The "twelves" that follow might recall Christ's 12 Disciples or 12 Tribes of Israel, or recurrent number may be mnemonic aid to oral-spoken literature>] Twelve men went with them. As they journeyed they came to twelve mountains, one after another, and inside of each mountain the brothers placed a man to wait forever until their return. They went on and on until they went into the western ocean [Pacific], where they are living now in a house of turquoise under the green water.


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