Native American Essay 1

Topics: Religion, Life, Culture, Cultural anthropology, Earth, Nature / Pages: 3 (888 words) / Published: Dec 15th, 2014
Samantha Delgado
Mrs. Shreiner
English III: American Literature
9/27/13
When Turtles Walked Upright!? The Earth on Grizzly’s Back!? In the Native American origin myths “Earth on Turtle’s Back” by the Onondaga and “When Grizzlies Walked Upright” by the Modoc many cultural values are revealed. In both stories the indigenous people are able to give insight as to how they feel life begins and their religious beliefs. By doing so they reveal details about their tribes that otherwise would have remained a secret. In addition the myth structure is able to detail the cultural and natural phenomena that occurred during the time of the tribe’s existence. In the end Native American origin myths have been able to provide future generations with an insightful account of the lives of ancient cultures no longer found in existence.
Without the benefit of origin myths much of what we know today about the Onondaga and Modoc would have been lost forever. For example both tribes have a creative way of explaining how life begins, as the Onondaga claim, “From those seeds the trees and the grass sprang up. Life on Earth had begun” (Onondaga 18), it is through the combined efforts of gods and animals that life found its beginning. Likewise, the Modoc attributed their origins to the love shared between a sky spirit and her grizzly mate as described, “When she became a young woman, she and the eldest son of the grizzly bears were married. In the years that followed they had many children” (Modoc 21). What is clear through both versions of these myths is that both cultures believe firmly that life cannot exist without the help of animals. In a sense life is owed to the active participation of animals and it is man’s obligation to always remember this connection. These myths also help to explain the tribe’s religious beliefs. For instance the Onondaga strongly believe in the power of dreams as they describe, “There was an ancient chief in the Skyland…It is clearly a dream of great power



Cited: Prentice Hall Literature. Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. Print.

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