European explorers and settlers of
America honored only one creation story, that of Genesis (and, later,
Darwinian evolution), but American Indians had many
creation and origin stories.
Definitions: “Creation stories,
narratives, or myths” and “origin stories” are sometimes used interchangeably,
but there’s a general difference:
Creation stories often concern the
beginning and early development of the entire world or earth
Origin stories often concern the
human origins or founding of “the people,” i.e., a given tribe or nation, or
sometimes the particular creation of a natural phenomenon like thunder, the
rainbow, a waterfall, or an island.
The multiplicity of American Indian
origin stories derives from several converging cultural facts:
American Indians were not a single
group of people but many different cultures and languages, each with its own
North American Indians were “spoken
or oral cultures” without writing, so their stories were not fixed—each
telling might vary plot, character, and lessons
Indians’ tales of origins for
different phenomena (crow, mountain, ocean, land) also multiplied the number
Nonetheless, two broad patterns appear
throughout American Indian origin-storytelling:
The “Earth-Diver,” in which animals
dive into the primordial ocean to bring up soil to form the land on which
people will stand
“Emergence stories,” in which people
and other animals (or animals and other people) rise from chaotic or
primordial forms and “emerge” on land..
Again these patterns have many
variations according to language, culture, and performance.
Another frequent motif is
one good and one bad.
Because spoken texts change and absorb
new materials rapidly, many American Indian stories have already been exposed to
Christianity by the time they’re recorded. Any evidences of Christian
influence or intertextuality in the present examples?
Not a critical or
scholarly text but a reading text for a seminar
Changes may include paragraph
spelling updates, bracketed annotations, &
(marked by ellipses . . . )