September 30, 2010
The Earth on Turtle’s Back & the Navajo Origin Legend
Native Americans have great respect for the natural world. They believe that each creature has its own power by which it maintains itself and affects others. Each Native American culture has its own name for this power, but many Native American cultures recognize a Great Spirit- an invisible power that is the source of life and good for humans. Many of the animals that helped feed and clothe the Native Americans are also highly revered. Native American folklore, much of which portrays animals, reflects this great respect. The Native American or Indian peoples of North America do not share a single, unified body of mythology. The many different tribal groups each developed their own stories about the creation of the world, the appearance of the first people, the place of humans in the universe, and the lives and deeds of deities and heroes. Yet despite the immense variety of Native American mythologies, certain mythic themes, characters, and stories can be found in many of the cultures. Underlying all the myths is the idea that spiritual forces can be sensed through the natural world—including clouds, winds, plants, and animals—that they shape and sustain. Many stories explain how the actions of gods, heroes, and ancestors gave the earth its present form. In the begging there is only water, just a sea where even the birds and animals live. There is a skyland in the clouds with a great and beautiful tree. It had four roots that extend north, south, east, and west. There was an ancient chief in skyland. A chief’s pregnant wife in “the sky world” dreams that the sacred tree must be uprooted. Because of the dream the chief feels he must uproot the tree. And he called the young men and together and told them to that they must pull up the tree. But the roots of the tree were so deep, so strong, that they couldn’t budge it. Where others failed the chief came...