An Iroquoian Story of Creation
This rendition of the Iroquoian creation story was compiled by Anataras (Alan Brant) from Tyendinaga. Niawen to Lesley Forrester for typing this text from tapes that Anataras created for courses that he has ran in the past.
And again, they say, as far as our stories and legends or myths or whatever you want to call them, as far as our information about our culture goes, that this is - I guess - the oldest story that we
have. Some of the stories they say go right back to the time of creation or the beginning of man.
But this story goes much farther past that in history, beyond the beginning of the earth or the
world that we understand now, when we look outside. This story begins way before that ever
came into existence. This story I call an Iroquoian creation story, because in trying to learn an
entire - I guess - whole story of creation for myself - I guess to make sense in my mind - I
gathered different pieces from different nations, Mohawks and Cayugas and Onondagas and
Senecas, mostly. So I'd heard different parts of this story from them. So I kind of put it all together, so that it made sense to me.
And this story, hopefully...it illustrates our connection as aboriginal people or as native people -
whatever the politically correct term is this week - it illustrates our connection to the earth and - I
guess - the way that we view different things as relatives, the way that we talk to our human
relatives. We refer to different things in nature as brother or grandmother and so on. And we'll
illustrate that as we go through.
And again, just to let everybody know that during the course of this story, if you experience any
kind of emotions be it sadness or happiness, not to feel bad if you express laughter or tears.
That's welcome and it's supposed to happen, if it does happen that way. And - I guess - to get
out of this story whatever it is that you need to get out of it, whether it's entertainment or maybe
some facts that you've been looking for and haven't heard before, or a combination of both
maybe - I don't know. But we'll offer this story to you. And whatever you get out of it is what
Alan Brant Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
So, like I said, "as this story goes", it begins in a time when this earth that we know isn't in existence yet. And it begins in a place, in a certain village, in a place we call the Sky World.
And it's about this time of year, in January or so - maybe February. And even at that time in the
history of everything, the people in the Sky World were doing ceremonies as well. And it was
thanksgiving and acknowledgment of their natural world that they had, for sustaining their lives,
and everything that they depended on for their existence. And today we do the same kind of ceremony here on Mother Earth. And we refer to it as a Midwinter Ceremony. And so this is the
type of ceremony they were doing in the Sky World in this one certain village.
And they say that in the Sky World, that there was no sickness or death, or greed or hatred. This
was a place and a time, when all of the people really did work for the good of all the people. And
these people who lived in the Sky World had very special powers or talents, each different from
some of the others. So they all contributed to the whole for their good existence.
In this one village, there was a very elder leader who had never had a partner and had no
children. So, at this one year in the Midwinter Ceremony, the people had, with the approval of
the Chief, they added three days onto the end of the Midwinter Ceremony. And it was a game
that they were going to play. And the game was a dream guessing contest. And in this contest -
they say - all of the unmarried or unattached women of the village could take part. And whoever
guessed the correct dream - and the dream would be one that the Chief himself would have
chosen over the course of the previous year, and he would have told the dream to his assistant, so
that there would be no cheating. But if one of the female contestants had guessed the correct
dream, then she could become the wife of the Chief. And this was the whole purpose behind the
people instituting this game. They were looking for a mate for the chief. So - they say - this had
gone on, this ceremony, for many, many, many years - I don't know, maybe generations. And
no one had ever ever come close to guessing the right dream, and as all stories go, they say, "until this one time".
There was a young woman who had never taken part in this contest before. And then she decided to do this, this one year. And they say on the third day, and on her last chance of guessing the dream, she did guess the correct dream. And I've never heard what that dream was, but they say that she did guess the correct one.
And so right away all of the villagers got extremely excited that somebody had actually got the
answer right. And it had been so many years that they had been wishing that this would happen,
so the Chief could have a partner and have children and pass his knowledge on to them. So the
village was very excited that this young woman got the right answer. And immediately they
started planning a wedding, and not once stopping to ask this young woman if she would like to
marry the Chief, if she indeed wanted to do that.
So she was kind of swept up in all of what was going on in planning the wedding and all the
excitement. Everything was planned for the following spring. And the next spring, there was a
large wedding and much celebration. And people came from all over - all of the best speakers.
And they came and they spoke a lot of good words about the people in the village and the Chief
and the young woman - and lots of celebration. And so they were married, the Chief and this
And time went on. And in time the young woman began to think about what had happened. And
she began to find out that she didn't really love this Chief. She realized she was just swept up in
the emotion of everything that was going on around her at the time. And so she never really had
a chance to say or think about it: she just went along with it. And she found out that she had
fallen in love with another young man in the same village. And she had become pregnant by this
other young man. And so she knew now she had to go and tell the Chief how she felt, and that
she was expecting a child by another man.
And they say that these people did have special gifts. And the gift that the Chief had was that he
knew what was going on in the village all the time. And he had already known all this. He
understood this; but, he wanted this young woman to come and tell him by herself. He didn't want to approach her with it. So, she did. She went and she explained everything how she felt
and how she didn't love him: she loved another man. And they were going to have a child. So
the Chief listened to her and he understood all the circumstances surrounding it. But he said they
did have to go together, and tell the rest of the village what was happening. So they did. They
called a village council together. And they told everyone what had happened. And, of course,
the entire village was very sad at the turn of what had happened there. So they were also
reminded - the people reminded the Chief and the woman - that there was - even at that time in
this history, I guess - an ancient law that was put in place. For this type of event - I guess - or situation, the young woman and her new spouse would be banished. And they'd be banished not
just from the village, but they were going to be banished from that entire world. And the place
that they were going to be sent to was a place that we would become very familiar with today.
In the centre of the village there was a large tree. And they had dug a hole beside this tree - this
is one of the versions that I've heard - and they say they dug a hole down beside it. And once
they dug down so far, they broke through all of the earth. And then you could see light coming
up from the bottom and when you looked way down through the hole, you could see very, very
far down, there was a lot of air. And then, way down at the bottom, was rough seas like the
ocean. And it was all water. There was a complete globe of water down there. And they say that
it was salt water and it was also fresh water down there. That's where they were going to send
this young woman and her new partner.
So, this young woman is expecting. And so they had again, a big feast kind of before they sent
her out of this world. And they had made her new clothes. And they had provided her with some
pouches with some dried food - some meat and fruit. And they had also sent some seeds with her
as well. And also some musical instruments from the Sky World they were sending with her.
Just in case she had found some place she could grow them, she was sent with those seeds, as
And they say she went for one last walk through the forest, before they put her down through this
hole. And it was - I guess - late spring or early summer when this takes place. And she walks
through the forest. And she's eating the berries that are ripe during that time of year. And they
say a lot of the seeds from the year before are catching on her dress, as she walks through. And
then she comes back to the tree where the hole is in the ground. And again, there's much sadness
in the village. And they lower her down through this hole.
And from where we are today, if we look up at the sky - they say that when they lowered her
through that hole - and if we were standing here and we looked up, there would be a hole that
appeared in the sky. And this woman, all of a sudden, just appeared. And she was falling down
towards this water. So we call her the Sky Woman. That's where she came from: she fell from
the sky. And she's expecting a child.
At the same time, her new partner was sent to this world as well. But he was changed from the
being that he was in the Sky World. He was made a spirit being. He was no longer like a solid
human being, like something like you and I are. And his wife, as well, she was a regular solid
being like us. And he was sent here. So, he was a spirit being. He was given a couple of more
gifts, which were the gift of flight, so he would fly all over this globe of water. And his other gift
was - I guess - the ability to throw fire sticks or fire rocks. And his job was to patrol over the
surface of the water. And there were already some bird life and other like fur-bearing animals
that lived on the water. And he was to patrol over there. And they say also that lived in the
bottom or depths of these waters, were great sea monsters or serpents. And they would come up
every once in a while and feed on these animals and birds that lived on the surface. So this man
who could fly and throw these fire sticks was to protect these animals. And whenever he saw the
serpents coming towards the surface, he would force them back under the ground with his fire
sticks. So this was his job, non-stop, all the time.
And he saw his wife falling from the sky. And she's expecting a child. And he knows there's
nothing he can do to help her. So, they say, he goes over to some large birds that were sitting on
the water. And he tells the whole story to them and asks for their help, if they can help slow her
down or stop her falling. So they agree to help. And they all take off and they're flying up to
where this woman is falling. And they're not quite sure how they're going to stop her or how
they could help at all. But, they say, the leader of these birds kind of flew out in front of the
bunch of them. And he told them to split into two groups. So they did. And he told one group
to fly off on an angle behind him. And they did. And he told the other group to fly off on an
angle on the other side of him. So they did. So they're flying in a V formation. And he said
what they were going to do is they'll go up underneath her. And she'll land on their backs and
they'll bring her down to the water. And he said then they'll figure out something else then.
So they flew up underneath her. And they are in this V formation. And she does land across
their backs and they bring her safely down to the surface of the water. And they say that the birds
that we're talking about, today we call them Canada geese. They say that that's where that
formation that they fly in, it comes from this story. And this is the first time that those birds flew
in that formation, was to help save this person coming to this world. And they say that that story
is passed on amongst those winged beings; that they're proud of what they did to help the earth
come to this stage of its existence; that they helped bring safely into the world, the first human
being. And they still fly in that formation in honour of their ancestors - the bird ancestors - who
So they had brought her down to the surface of the water. And as they were flying past the
animals that were on the water there, they asked that maybe they could find some place that they
could set this woman down on, as she was beginning to get heavy for the geese. So the animals
gathered themselves together in a council. And they asked for volunteers. Maybe somebody can
float up on top of the water, and this woman could stand on their back. So, they say, right away
they had a volunteer. He put up his hand. And it was the beaver. And, they say, the beaver is
kind of an arrogant water being, but he thinks he's the best suited for this job. He's big and he's
strong and he has this big powerful tail, so he's pretty sure he's the one for this job. So they all
agree, they'll let the beaver try this.
So he floats up on the water. And the geese come by with the woman on their backs. And they
slow as slow as they can. And the woman, she steps off and onto the back of the beaver. And
then all of the animals go about their business. They think everything's okay. And they start
doing all of their work again. Pretty soon they look over and they see the beaver's having a real
hard time staying afloat . He's kind of going up and down in the water, trying to stay up on top.
But he won't ask for help, they say, that's how stubborn he is. So they kinda let him go a little
bit, and struggle along, before they go over and ask him if he would like to be relieved. And of
course, right away he says that yeah, well maybe he should take a little bit of a rest.
So again the animals gather and they have their council and they ask about somebody else
maybe, to take over for the beaver. And they say that the turtle was on his way over and that
maybe they would ask him when he gets there, cause he doesn't really seem to go very far, or do
too much. And they would ask him if he would like to do that job. So they all agree, they'll wait
til the turtle gets there and they'll ask him. So the beaver's still struggling away, trying to keep
the woman afloat. And when the turtle gets there, they asked him. And he agrees. He says he
would very much like to do this job: it would be an honour for him. So he floats up beside the
beaver. And the woman steps from the beaver over onto the back of the turtle. And the beaver
slaps the water with his tail and down he goes: he's gone.
And everybody - again, all of the animals - go back to their business and doing all of the things
they have to do. And after a while they notice, they look over at the woman - and the turtle's
still staying afloat, he's having no problem - but the woman's very uncomfortable. She's
pregnant. And she's very uncomfortable from that. Also, she's on the back of this turtle. And
it's very hard, and cold, and she can't get comfortable on it. So again, the animals get together.
And they have their council to see what they can do, to try to help make this woman feel more
comfortable. So they remember a story that was passed on by their elders about some brown
stuff that was on the bottom of the ocean. And, they say, it's supposed to be soft.
So they thought they would ask for volunteers and have somebody dive down to the bottom and
get some of this brown stuff. So maybe the woman could sit on it and be more comfortable. So
again they ask for volunteers. And, they say, "Guess who's back?" And, of course, right away
puts up his hand: it's the beaver. And again, he thinks he's the best one for this job. He's very
strong. He's a big animal and big powerful flat tail. So again, they all kind of look at each other.
And then they agree, okay, he'll be the first one to try this dive.
And so, again, they send all their best wishes with him. And he slaps the water with his tail and
down he goes. So they all are kind of waiting for the beaver to come back. And they're waiting
around the turtle shell and the woman's sitting on the back of it there. And he's gone quite a
long time - the beaver. And then they notice in the water he's coming back up. So they all start
cheering. And he splashes up out of the water. And they all swim over to him. And he's
thrashing around a lot on the water. And they look in his hands and he doesn't have any of this
brown stuff. And they look on the back of his tail . They thought maybe he would have shoveled
some up. But he didn't have any on his tail either. And once he calms down, they ask him what
happened. And he tells them he got so far down that the sunlight disappeared. And he couldn't
tell which way he was going. And he started to get really scared that maybe there were serpents
down there and he might get eaten. So eventually he did find his way back to the surface. But he
had gone a long way down and he still couldn't feel bottom.
So again, the animals got together in their council. And they asked for another volunteer. This
time they say that the otter volunteers. And everybody thinks that he's the - maybe he's the -
better choice. He's a little bit smaller than this beaver. And he's very quick. And they say that
he can swim almost as fast as a fish. So, again, they send all of their best wishes with him. And
he jumps off the back of the turtle. And he cuts the water just like a knife and he's gone out of
sight in no time at all. So they're all waiting for the otter to return. And he's gone twice as long
as the beaver was gone this time. And they finally see him coming back up from the depths of
the ocean. And everybody starts cheering and he splashes up out of the water and they swim
over to him. And they notice he's not moving. So they swim over and they check him, cause
he's not stirring at all. And they see that he is drowned. He had died. He lost his life doing this
dive. And they look in his hands and he doesn't have any of this brown stuff. So, of course,
they're all very sad right away at losing their brother. And they pick him up. And they take him
over and rest him on the back of the turtle shell.
Then they get together in their council again - the animals - and they're building towards a
consensus that they won't do this dive any more: that it's too dangerous. And, they say, from the
back of the gathering of the animals, there comes a little tiny voice. And this creature says that
he wants to try this dive. And the entire group goes quiet. And the leader of this council, he
can't see who this creature is, but he talks to the back of the group and he asks, "Did you see
what happened to the beaver? He had a hard time recovering from the dive." And he said, "Yes,
I saw that." And he asked, "Did you see our brother the otter? He just lost his life making this
dive." And he says "Yes, I've seen that." And he said, "And you still want to make this dive?"
And he says, "Yes, I still want to make this dive." So he says to this little voice at the back, he
says, "Come to the front where we can all see this such a brave creature."
And the animal group starts to divide. And they let this brave animal come towards the front.
They all look down and beside them as he swims past. They all start laughing. And by the time
he gets to the front, the whole group of them is laughing. And even the leader of the council is
laughing. And he gets up on the edge of the turtle shell and he's standing there. And, they say,
it's a little creature, a little ball of fluff. And he's got these really crooked whiskers and he's got
a tail like a pencil. And they say it's the animal, this brave animal, turns out to be the muskrat.
And everybody stops laughing finally and again they ask him, did he see the beaver? And he
says, "Yes, I saw the hard time that he had." He says, "Did you see the otter? Our brother lost
his life." And he says, "Yes, I saw the otter." So they ask him again, "You still want to do this
dive?" And again he's says, "Yes." So, there's nothing else they can do but send their best
wishes with him. And so, he's on the back of the turtle shell and he goes. He makes his dive.
And he just kind of slides off the turtle shell and plops into the water. And it takes him a while
but he disappears into the depths of the ocean.
So they're all waiting. And they wait. And he's gone even twice as long as the otter was gone.
And a lot of the animals had given up hope. They thought that maybe if he did get to the bottom,
maybe he got hooked on a rock or maybe a serpent had eaten him. So they had all kind of gone
back to their jobs and their lives. And a couple of the animals stayed behind and kept checking
down into the depths of the ocean. And eventually they did see something coming up. And they
called all of the animals back to the turtle shell. And they all got back and they were waiting
hopefully. Maybe it was the muskrat . And they were waiting. And slowly, slowly, he came
back to the surface. When he got back to the surface, he splashed up out of the water. And they
all went swimming over towards him, but he just lay there on the top of the water as well, so the
animals were very sad again. Right away they knew their brother the muskrat had lost his life as
So they went over and they picked him up and brought him over to the turtle shell. And they
were going to lay him beside the otter. But when they were carrying him, they noticed in his
hands - muskrats have very small hands - and they're clenched very tightly, and they pry them
open and they see in there he's got some of this brown stuff. And he had some in his mouth as
well. And they took this brown stuff and they gave it to the woman on the back of the turtle.
And they laid the muskrat beside the otter.
And the woman, she took this brown stuff and she kind of made a circle out of it on top of the
turtle there. And she flattened it out a little bit. And she dug into one of her pouches the people
from the Sky World had sent with her and she took out one of her musical instruments. And it's
something that we still use today in our social and some of our ceremony songs. She took out a
drum. And we call it a water drum. And she took it out and she began to play it. And she
started to sing. And this is where we get our direction of creation - I guess - is from this point in
the story. As she began to dance, in today what we call counterclockwise direction, she was
playing her drum and she was singing this song. And the way she was dancing was kind of
sideways, heel-toe-kind-of dance. And so her feet never left contact with the back of the turtle.
And she was dancing around kind of slowly. And, they say, the song that she was singing, even
then, is something that is still used today, only by what they call prescription or prescription of a
dream. If somebody has a dream, there is this song that is used, and it is still used every once in a
while, they say. But it was the first song that was sung on this Mother Earth.
So she's singing and she's playing her drum and she's dancing. And they say the animals are
gathered around the turtle shell. And they're still in the water and they're watching this woman.
And as she's dancing and singing, they see that this stuff on the back of the turtle is starting to
grow out in all directions. And it's getting thicker as well. And even the turtle, at the same time
proportionately he's growing as well, with this stuff on his back. And once this brown stuff gets
big enough, the woman steps off of the shell up onto the top of this. And she's still dancing and
going in a counterclockwise direction. And, they say, as she's dancing, some of the seeds that
had hooked into her dress are beginning to fall off, as she dances about. And then the bringer of
the fresh water, he was coming by. And he put some water down for her. And it kind of filled
up the dips and the hollows in this stuff.
And they say that she danced for - some people say - many days or months, or maybe even years.
She continued to dance and would stop only for a quick bite of some of her food and some water
and then continue on. And again, they say that when she finally stopped was, they say, when she
had made all of everything that we know as the land here today. She stopped when she was sure
that there was going to be enough land for all of the future generations of people who would
come after her. That's when she finally stopped. And they say also that that term that we have -
I guess - for North America: Native people call it Turtle Island , and it comes from this point in
this story, that this land that she had created sits on the back of a turtle. So if you hear that term,
Turtle Island, this is where the - I guess - the origins of that saying come from. And also, again,
that song and dance that that woman did, is something that the women do to this day, and is a
very - I guess the rare times that it is done - an extremely sacred ceremony dance that was done,
the very first one, on this earth.
So the seeds that had fallen off of her dress, and the water, and this stuff that they had put down
was soil. And it had some growing properties in it, this soil. So the seeds that fell from her
dress, that came with her from the Sky World, it did grow, they say. But it didn't grow very tall
or very high.
And so it was not long after that, they say, that she was getting ready to give birth to her child.
And, they say, when this child was born, the first one, the first child born on this earth was a
female. It was a little girl. And she grew very quickly, compared to what we can understand
today. And they say that when this little girl was growing, she was never alone. She always had
other children to play with. And who these other children were, they say, were these water
beings who had special powers as well. They would change themselves into the shape that this
little girl was, so that she always had someone to play with, so she was never alone.
And they say that as she grew to be a young woman, that one night her mother had a dream. In it
she was told that there would be a young man who would come from the west, seeking her to be
his partner in life, and that they would have children. And the mother told the young woman, if
any of these beings, water beings, that change into humans, if they should ever propose marriage
to you, do not accept. She said that there will be a young man who will come in the future and
will be your partner. So the young woman agrees. She said she understood and she agreed with
So again, as they say, "as the time went on", this young woman, she had a dream. And, they say,
in this dream she was approached by a handsome young man. And he said that he was the spirit
of the west wind. And he was also the bringer of the water. And, they say, how he had found out
about this young woman was that the spirit of the west wind - this young man, the spirit of the
west wind - traveled, and knew very well this young girl's father, who traveled all over the globe
of water, throwing fire sticks at the serpents. Sometimes they traveled together, the spirit of the
west wind and this "old man", they say he called him. And the old man would always brag of the
beauty and the intelligence of his daughter. And the spirit of the west wind, the young man, he
said that one day he called this old man's bluff. He said, "She can't be as beautiful as all that, or
as intelligent as what you say." He said, "Next time, I'm going over there." He said, " I'm going
to see for myself."
Although he had been there many times, he had never paid attention to them. So the next time he
went over where the two women were living, he was going there to take the water, and to put it
down on the earth, to fill up some of the pools for them to drink. And they say that at that time,
the first time he saw that young woman, he fell in love with her right away, and that he kind of
hung around there, maybe longer than he should have. And, they say, the ponds and the creeks
got a little deeper than they normally would have, that time. So they had a lot of water to drink.
So anyway, he moved on eventually. And it was that night that he came to this young woman in
her dream and introduced himself. And he said that he would like to come back and visit with
her again. So they agreed. And the young woman had also fallen in love with him, as well. And
they say that they, three times, that they had met in their dreams and they had agreed they would
be partners for all time. And they would have children.
And, they say, some time after that, the young woman was waking up in the morning. And her
mother was also waking up at the same time. And the mother had had a dream that night as well.
When the mother woke up and looked over at her daughter, she was just beginning to stir. She
saw a couple of arrows lying crossed on top of her daughter's abdomen. And the daughter woke
up. And she picked them up and looked at them. And she held one up and the head of the one
arrow was extremely sharp. And, they say, it was a very useful, a very good arrow. And the
other one had a blunt tip on it. And they say it was not much good for anything.
And her mother looked at those and she said that she had a dream that night and that those two
arrows mean that she's going to have twins. The young woman is going to have twins. And
they'll also be boys. And she was also told, the grandmother, she was told that the name of these
boys, one would be Teharonhiawako, the holder of the skies, and the other one, his name would
be Sawiskera, or the mischievous one. And they say that you can tell, that the head of each of
those arrows indicates the personality of each of those boys. One will be very useful. And the
other one won't be of much good at all.
So, they say, some time went on, the young woman's pregnancy developed and she had a very,
very hard time with these two boys, even in the womb. She never got any rest, because these two
boys were always in conflict, fighting and arguing even at that stage in their life. And they say
that when it came time for them to be born, that these two boys had developed such a jealousy of
each other that Teharonhiawako, the holder of the skies was going to be born first. He was in
that position to be born. And his brother Sawiskera, the mischievous one, he was so upset with
his brother that he was going to be born first, that they say his jealousy and anger towards his
brother got to such an all time high for that short time of their life, that as his brother was being
born what we know as the natural way, Sawiskera was so consumed by his anger, that he forced
his way out through his mother's side. And they say that the wounds ended up killing the young
And, they say, the grandmother - the sky woman, we'll call her that, the grandmother - never
seeing human death before, wasn't sure what to do with her daughter. She made the two babies
safe and she put them to the side for the time being. And then, they say, a long time ago that
when she remembered back to the otter and to the muskrat, those two animals that lost their lives
trying to get this soil for her, from the bottom of the ocean, what she did in honour of those two
animals, was she covered them up with this soil that they had lost their lives trying to get for her.
So she remembered that, all of those years before. So she thought that's what she'd do for her
daughter as well. So she covered her daughter up with this soil.
And they say that because this young woman had lost her life giving birth, that there was a great
force emitting from her in all directions, this life-giving force, and as the soil touched her, that it
was kind of like a chain reaction. This great life-giving force went in all directions. Wherever
the soil was touching it, that life force went. And, they say, right away all of that vegetation
started to grow all the more. So as - I guess - a gift to her daughter, the grandmother (some of
the things that she had brought with her from the Sky World were those seeds) and because her
daughter would never see the Sky World as the being that she was, she decided to give a piece of
that Sky World to her daughter in her honour. So the daughter was all covered up now with this
soil. And she was buried there. And all of the energy of that life-giving force was into to the soil
now and everything was growing very well. And the grandmother took some seeds and she put
them on her daughter's body. And she covered them up with the soil.
Also, they say who came at that time, was the partner of this young woman and the father of
these two boys. He came and he gave the only gift that he could give. He brought water. And
he put the water down on top of the young woman where she was there. And they say her father
also came. And he cleared the air around there. He was cleaning the air and throwing his fire
sticks, purifying the air. And they say also, right after that, they say that the sun came. The sun
was always there and he made it really warm that day. They say all of those things all combined
with this newly supercharged soil and the seeds from the Sky World and the water and the
warmth. They say that this new life began to spring up from her. And they say that the
grandmother would teach the two young boys as they grew to be older, about what had happened
that day. And they say that what came up from where that young woman was laying in the
ground, those seeds, the grandmother told these two boys, that their mother, even though she has
died, she has changed from who she was, she is still providing for her two boys and she's still
giving food to them.
And what grew up, they say, were corn and beans and the squash, which have become the staple
of native foods in North America and Central America and South America. Those were the first
things that grew in this new soil. And the grandmother also told these two young boys how to
relate to these three things. She told them that these three things came from your mother's body,
just as these two young boys had done, they say, so that you refer to them as your three sisters.
And they're sisters because the seeds from these three things can be replanted and they will grow
again, so they're considered to be female. So they are sisters these three things, the corn, the
beans and the squash. And that's where we get that term from.
Also, concerning the sun, she told the two young boys, that you consider the sun to be your eldest
brother. "And it's that way," she said, "because he provides you with light during the day, so that
we can do our business and we travel about and not get hurt. We can see where we're going and
what we're doing. And also he's providing protection from the coldness - he gives us that
blanket of warmth and makes us safe, so he's overseeing us kind of like an older brother would
do: he's protecting us." And that's what these two young boys had. They had no older brothers
or siblings. So that was their older brother, the eldest brother, the sun.
Some other things that grew from around where that young woman was: they say that it grew up
there was - I guess - what we consider infant medicines now: all of the berries. Strawberries and
blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, all of those kind of things, they grew up there. So that
came from the mother as well. They say outside of - at the edge of - where she was laying, there
grew - I guess in the four cardinal directions, they call them - or the north, south, east and west,
there grew up four things that we can use to help us - I guess - prepare ourselves for things we
deem are important or to clean spiritually where we are living, and also to communicate with the
natural and spirit world.
And the things that grew were oionkweone, or what we call Indian tobacco - traditional Indian
tobacco - also sage (which we used today, as we did our smudge), also sweetgrass and cedar.
Those four things grew. And we consider them the four sacred tools to cleanse and prepare
ourselves, our spirits and our bodies and our minds. So those things grew there as well and that
knowledge was passed on to these two young boys. So all of those things were given at that
And, they say, as the two young boys grew to be young men, they found that they had special
gifts as well, and their special gift was a gift of creation. Each one of them had this. And
because they were twins, they shared this power equally. Even though they had very different
personalities, they had the same power. So as they grew, they found out they could make things,
and they were starting to develop different vegetation.
And one of the stories, or examples, is that the Teharonhiawako, the holder of the skies, he made
a flower for his grandmother. And it was very bright in colour and very beautiful smell, tall, had
a straight stem, very strong, he said, "just like his grandmother." But his brother Sawiskera was
always jealous of him and what he could do. And he come along after because the grandmother
liked to smell these flowers and she would pick them sometimes. So Sawiskera got upset at that,
that Grandmother enjoyed something that Teharonhiawako, the holder of the skies, had made.
So Sawiskera went over to those flowers and he put thorns on them, all up and down the stems,
so that Grandmother wouldn't pick them any more, because she enjoyed them so much. And
they say that that's how the rose got its thorns. And it was that kind of thing that went on
between the two boys.
And, they say, even as they got to be older that the two boys began making the medicines that we
know today. And Teharonhiawako, the holder of the skies, would make a medicine that was very
pure and good, and would have no bad side effects for the people who would use it in the future.
And he would make it and it was good and he would move on to something else. But his brother
Sawiskera, he would come along, and he was always kind of a half step behind. He would see
what his brother had done, made this medicine and how good it was. Sawiskera's skills weren't
quite as honed as his brother's were. So he would try to make something as well, and he would
try to make it identical, an identical medicine. And it was almost identical. There was just a
little bit different about it. And also the major thing that was different between these two boys'
medicines - even though they grew in the same area and they looked almost identical -
Sawiskera's medicine was what today we would call poison: very strong if you didn't know how
to use it correctly.
So, they say, even today, in gathering medicines, that we're to remember that story, that the two
boys did make the medicines of this earth. And they both - the medicines - still live in the natural
world. But when we go picking medicine, we're to know which one we're looking for and know
exactly which one is which, because they grow very closely together, the one that could be
poisonous and the one that is totally safe for the people. So this is how the boys developed.
And they also made the animals of the world as well, and some more fish beings as well, and
some winged beings, the bird life. They developed all of that. And they say as they grew to be
young men that in the wintertime they would take turns going out hunting, each one of these
boys. One winter it would be Teharonhiawako's turn and the other winter it would be
Sawiskera's turn. And they say that this one winter Sawiskera knew that it was going to be his
winter to hunt. And he hated going out hunting. So what he did was, in that fall, he went out
and he found a mountain. There was a large cave in the bottom of the mountain and it was
almost like the mountain was hollow. And he went out that fall and he called the animals to him,
because at that time the animals would come to the people when they would call. All of the
animals would come. And he called them and they came to him 'cause they knew it wasn't
hunting season yet. But the way that it went was that when they were created the animals were
told that at certain times of the year, there would be this contest of survival between the humans
and the animals. And the humans needed the animals to survive. So they would hunt for them.
And the animals knew at that time, that it would be up to their survival skills whether they would
get away or not. But also - I guess, at times - there would be times when the human beings
would use oyen'kwa'onwe or the tobacco and would communicate with the animals. And if they
really, really needed the food in a bad way, the animals would present themselves to the humans
and the hunt would be, I guess, made easier through that understanding.
So at this time, Sawiskera called the animals and they weren't afraid because it wasn't hunting
season yet. And they came with him. And he went to that cave and he led them all in there. And
once all the animals were in there, he sealed it up, that cave, with a big rock. And then he went
away. He had left a lot of food in there for them. And winter came, and it was his turn to hunt,
Sawiskera. And he would be gone, he would go out in the morning but later that evening he
would be back and he would have a deer or a bear and buffalo, whatever they needed, he would
have it. And instead of being gone for two or three months at a time, he was only gone for a
couple of hours. And his brother and his grandmother thought it strange, but they thought maybe
he had become an excellent hunter. And they never asked him about it.
The next spring, it came around, and Teharonhiawako, the holder of the skies, he went out for a
walk. And when he went out, he found it strange that there were no birds or animals around. He
would call them and none would come. And he came by this large mountain and he noticed that
it looked like it had been covered over on purpose. So he moved it away, the covering, and he
went into the opening of this cave. And he called in there. And he could hear some things
moving around, but he couldn't see anything, it was so dark in there. And, they say, three times
he called. And after the third time, all of the animals came rushing out past him. And they ran
right by him through the clearing. And they went into the bush on the other side of this clearing.
And he called to them again, but still they wouldn't come out. And he said he could see a deer's
antler poke out from behind the bushes. Or, he could see a rabbit would run very quickly across
the opening from one side to the other. And he said he could see like the wolf in the background,
in the shadows, way back in the woods. But nothing would present itself. And he got very upset.
And they say that that was the day that the animals became wild and wouldn't trust the humans
any more. And he understood what had happened when he thought back to the winter. And he
went back to where his brother's small dwelling was and he went in and he grabbed him out.
And he called him outside and they began to argue very much. And they started to push each
other and then they started hitting each other. And they got into a fight. And it was really serious
this time. They say that they were hitting very hard and they started to throw rocks and pick up
things and swing things at each other. And Teharonhiawako accused his brother Sawiskera of
capturing the animals, and just going and getting them when he wanted, because he didn't want
to go out and look for them and do the contest the way they had set it out in the beginning. So he
was very upset that the animals had become wild and wouldn't come any more.
So they were fighting about this. And it was kind of like everything else that had all built up to
this. And this was kind of like the straw that broke the camel's back - I guess. And their fight
led them off all across the land. And the grandmother, one thing that had changed for her when
she came from the Sky World into this world, she began aging. And she was very old now, and
had a hard time getting around. But she was trying to follow the boys to get them to stop their
fight. And when she finally caught up with them they say that Teharonhiawako, the holder of the
skies, had his brother Sawiskera down on the ground. And he had found an antler of a deer - one
of the drop-off antlers - and he had picked it up and he was going to kill his brother with it. He
was gonna hit him in the head with this antler. And the grandmother finally caught up to them.
And she made them stop. And they listened to her and they stopped their fight.
And Teharonhiawako, the holder of the skies, he said that from that time on, that some things
would change. He said that he had won that fight. He said it was over. And he said one of the
things that would happen, he said the grandmother had told them about a Sky Road that went
from the Earth back up to the Sky World. And it went back up to that hole where she first fell
through. That was the entrance back into the Sky World. So, they said along that road, in the
future, all of the people who would be created - and they knew that this would happen - they said
the people who would go back to the Sky World, they would have to become spirit beings to
travel this road. And they said there would be many of them going back. They said, as part of
Sawiskera's part in losing this battle, that Teharonhiawako was going to build a house for
Sawiskera, half way up that road in between the Earth and the Sky World. And it would be part
of Sawiskera's punishment to sit there and to watch the people as they go by and to know where
they are going, and for Sawiskera to know that he can't live on the earth any more where the
human beings would be, because he would cause too much trouble. And he also wouldn't be
able to go back to the Sky World because he would cause too much trouble. So he's living in
between the two worlds. And he can only watch as all of the people go past in front of his house
up this Sky Road. And he knows where they're going to go. He can call them in, they say, but
that's all he can do, is to talk to them, to try to entice them to come in to visit him, and then he
could visit with them. So they say that's one of the things that would happen.
And they also say that they split the day at that time. And what that means is that the daylight
hours would be the time that Teharonhiawako, the holder of the skies, would carry on all of the
business. And duties that he had to do would happen during the daylight hours. And
Sawiskera's time of business would be after darkness, all of the night-time hours. And they say
that it was made that way because Sawiskera, it would be at night and he couldn't see very well
at night, so he couldn't get in as much trouble at night-time. So that's what happened. And it
was that way, they say. And the house was made and that's where Sawiskera was sent. That's
where he lived.
And they say it was not long after that one morning that Teharonhiawako went to his
grandmother's dwelling. And he found that she had passed away during the night. And again,
these two boys never seeing death before - human death - weren't sure what to do with the
grandmother's body. So one thing that had happened was Teharonhiawako called his brother
Sawiskera. He called him down from his house and told him what had happened to the
grandmother. And they were trying to think of what to do with her body. Sawiskera just wanted
to throw her in the ocean or off a cliff, or something. He said she was no longer of any use to
But, they say, Teharonhiawako wanted to do something to honour her, to do something
honourable. And they said that while she was alive, Sawiskera - I guess - was considered the
original silver-tongued devil. And he was always convincing his grandmother that if something
bad happened - one of the boys did something - it was almost always Sawiskera who did the bad
things. But he would always blame it on his brother. So he had convinced his grandmother that
he was the good one and that Teharonhiawako was the mischievous one. So she always favoured
Sawiskera while she was alive. So Teharonhiawako decided that now she is a spirit being and
that Sawiskera lives half way between the Earth and the Sky World, along this Sky Road. They
would put Grandmother up in the night sky, right across the road from Sawiskera's house. And
when Sawiskera came out to do his business during the nighttime hours, that Grandmother would
finally see him for what he really is. And she would also provide Sawiskera with a little bit of
light at night-time, so he wouldn't trip over something or run into a tree and get hurt. So she
becomes Grandmother Moon.
Also some of the other things that she's - I guess - given charge of, is the things that she did in
her lifetime. She always told the boys when it was time to plant and to do ceremonies. So that
carried on. And it's still that way today, that we look to the Grandmother for that knowledge and
when the time is right, the planting and the ceremonies. And also she was in charge of when the
time of birth would happen for all things. Also the female monthly cycles, because she knew all
of that. And she always told the boys when it was time to hunt, as well. And again, that is one of
the things that she tells us still today, the hunting seasons, the beginning and the end. She
understands the animal world and when their cycles are. And when their births will be. So she's
in control of all of those things - and much more, as well, that I'm probably forgetting to
mention. But that's where she comes from, the Grandmother Moon. And they say that's why
she's there, that when Sawiskera comes out at night, she's there to watch him. And they say that
it's always kind of like the checks and balances kind of thing, that when he comes out that
Grandmother's there to kind of keep an eye on him and remind him not to be too bad.
So they say again, after that - not long after that - that one day Teharonhiawako was down on the
earth. And he's all by himself now. And his brother Sawiskera is living up in his "cabin in the
sky" - I guess we can call it. Teharonhiawako is on the earth and he's made two dolls. And they
say that he used some of the Mother Earth. And that's again, one of the terms that I forgot to
mention before when that young woman had died - the two boys' mother - that the Grandmother
told them that if they ever missed their mother, all they have to do is look down and she's there
wherever they go. And that's where the term Mother Earth or Earth Mother comes from, is from
So, Teharonhiawako had made two dolls. And he had used some of the earth and some of the
lake water. And he made it. And he'd formed these kind-of-like-clay dolls and they say they
were red. And Sawiskera had noticed this was going on and he calls down to his brother and
asks him if he can come down and maybe do some of that too. So Teharonhiawako, he was kind
of lonely. So he says yes to his brother to come down, just to keep him company. He's says,
"Yes, you can come and try this." So Sawiskera comes down. And Teharonhiawako tells him,
he says, "Just get some of whatever it is that you like that is here in the natural world and use that
to make some dolls with." So Sawiskera, he goes off and he builds a humungous fire and he lets
it burn down.
And during that same time Teharonhiawako, they say, he had made two more dolls. And he had
used some of the earth and some of the sea water - the sea foam sometimes they say - and he
made these dolls. And it's always two, he makes a male and a female. And, they say, these ones
are yellow. So Sawiskera has got all of these ashes. They say that they're white, they're really
white, they're so hot, too. They're very, very hot. And he says okay he's got his material, he
says, "What are we gonna do?" So together they make some more. And he's says well, to start
with the earth, that's the basis of all life. So, they both use earth and then they add their other
material to it. And, they say that Teharonhiawako uses the earth and he puts air with it and he
forms a male and female. Sawiskera takes earth and he puts the ashes with it and he makes a
male and a female. And they say that they're the black ones and the white ones. And they've got
dolls made and they're made out of this clay.
And they say that Teharonhiawako, now he says that they have to make them come to life. And
he says they've picked them up and to breath into them three times, three breaths of life, the first
breaths of life. So he does that. He picks up the first two and breathes in them. And they start to
wiggle and he puts them down and they head off. And they're kind of playing off to one side.
And it's the red ones. He picks up two more, the yellow ones. And he breathes in them three
times. And they start to move and he puts them down and they go off and they play with the other
ones. And there's four of them over there. And he picks up the other two.
And Sawiskera is trying as well. And he's breathing into them. But it won't work for him. It's
maybe part of his power that's missing. And he's breathing in and he's just getting more and
more upset and frustrated that they won't come to life. Teharonhiawako, he picks up the other
two and he breathes into them three times. And they say they begin to move. He puts them
down and they run off and play. And, they say, they're the black ones. And there're six of them
over there now, all the other three races.
Sawiskera, again, has a very short fuse. He gets very upset and he just decides to leave, that he
can't make it work. And they say Teharonhiawako asks if he should try it, if he can do this.
Sawiskera told him he could have them. So Sawiskera got upset and he went back up to his
"cabin in the sky." Teharonhiawako picked up these other two and he breathed into them three
times. And they begin to move and wiggle. And he sets them down and they go off and play
with the other ones. So there's eight of them over there, they say, all of the four original races,
the last ones being the white ones.
And they say that it's not long after that, that the Creator - and that's where Teharonhiawako, the
holder of the skies, his name now changes to Shonkwaia'tison. He's the one that created
everything. So we now call him Shonkwaia'tison. It's not long after this point when he instructs
the four races of their duties in this natural world that they are placed in. They're to take care of
this, 'cause he said, he was going to leave this land. Shonkwaia'tison was going to leave and go
back to the Sky World. And he's the only one they say, that has been able to - who was born
here, and was solid like us, but yet he was able to - travel back up that Sky Road back into the
So he instructed the people on what was expected of them and their responsibilities and their
roles. And they say that he stood on top of a large rock so that they could all hear him clearly.
And of course this story is, they say, is told in the land of the Iroquois people, in our homelands.
And there is one of the nations - of the five nations - that take their name from that place where
they say these original teachings happened. And it's called Oniota, and that's the Standing
Stone. So they say that he gave them the teachings from there and the different elements - I
guess the four elements - that are part of the natural world that they were to take care of and be
So they say that the red race was responsible for taking care of the Earth, of the Mother. They
say that - in our story - that the red race is the eldest brother of the four races. And they say that
the next brother was the yellow race, and that they were to take care of the waters. That's their
responsibility: to make sure the water is always healthy and clean. And that it's there when any
of the other three races need it. And the black race was to be responsible for the air and its
condition - its safe condition. And they say that the white race is considered the youngest brother
of the four. But one of the biggest - I guess - responsibilities for the four, is that the white race is
to take care of the fire that the other races would gather around, for protection, for warmth, for
cooking, all of those things. So those are all of the four different things that the races were
And they say that it was a time after that, that the teachings, the thanksgiving ceremonies were
also given at that time. And they say that there is only one Creator that made the four races of
man. But each race saw and heard something different from the Creator as he delivered those
teachings that one time. And he said he would only do them the one time himself to the people,
so they had to pay attention when it was happening. So everybody, again, had a different point of
view on what they heard and saw on that day. And they say over time, the four races began to
fight over beliefs and how things were to be done. And they started to fight over possessions,
and argue. And they were all living together at this time. And they say that the Creator had gone
back to the Sky World. But he came back one more time when he saw all of this strife going on
amongst the races. And he divided them all up, they say, at that time. He put each of the races in
their own environment and he gave them all what they needed equally. They all had an equal
share. And he told them that it was their responsibility to take care of it. And that they were
apart because they had to mature spiritually and mentally before they could come back together
and coexist again.
So that's, they say, when everything had divided. And, they say, he left the red race in the
original land where the creation had begun, and that one day, he told them, all of the races would
come back to the homeland. There would be something that would draw them there. And they
would all come home. But he told them there may be a time when Sawiskera - you always have
to remember Sawiskera, the mischievous one - he may go and present in such a way to the
different races, as to get them together before they had come to their maturities. And some of the
elders say that maybe that's what did happen back in 1492.
But also they say that we're here, and we are still maturing. And - I guess - growing and it's
through this kind of thing like we're at today [Aboriginal Awareness Course] that we get to share
again what we believe we heard on those days. And to share that information, as well. And I
think that's where we'll wrap up for today. That's what I can remember of the creation story...I
think we'll have to do some more after. I had forgot a part about the Grandfathers in there, so
we'll have to make an add-on tape after that, as well. So, anyway, thanks everybody.