Creation Myths of the Pima and Iroquoisby Rit Nosotro
Compare the Biblical creation account with that of the Pima and Iroquois
Among the Indian tribes of North America, there lived the Pima and the Iroquois Indians. Each tribe had separate versions on creation, both of which believed theirs to be true. Society today recognizes both retellings as myths. This essay discusses the Biblical account of creation and compares the differences and similarities between the stories.
In the Genesis account God created the entire universe and all that was in it in seven days. On the first day, “God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”(Genesis 1:3) On the second day, God created “the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it.” (Genesis 1:7) On the third day, God created dry ground and vegetation. On the fourth day, God created light in the sky, which was the sun and the moon and all of the constellations. On the fifth day, God created living creatures – birds that flew in the air, and creatures that lived in the sea. On the sixth day, God created land animals, Adam and Eve. He blessed them, and rested on the seventh day. Before the original sin which resulted man's separation from God, Adam is said to have walked with God (Gen 3:8). It is known from John 1:1-3 and Eph. 3:9 that God created the World through the Word who is Christ Jesus. Since Adam did not actually see God the Father as Jesus taught in John 1:18, then it is Jesus who Adam actually saw in the Garden of Eden. This is how Adam learned the creation account.
The Iroquois story of creation includes two main characters: the good mind, and the bad mind. As twins, they were born of the same mother, who first inhabited the universe. When about to give birth, she drops down into the lower earth and sits on a turtle to give birth. Before the birth, he turtle changes into an island with sparse vegetation. While in the womb, the evil twin decides to come out from the underside of the mothers arm, bringing her to a swift death. Once older, the good mind creates a sun and moon out of the remnants of its mother’s body. It continues to create the world, forming vegetation and two humans, called ea-gwe-howe. Meanwhile, the bad mind creates large, treacherous mountains, and venomous reptiles. After finding what the bad mind has made, the good mind re-establishes what he first created, desecrating what the bad mind had formed. Soon they challenge each other to fight for the governing of the universe. Both reveal their Achilles heel to each other before the fight begins. Lasting two days, the battle halts when the good mind defeats the bad mind by beating him with deer horns, his one weakness. Once deceased, “he [the bad mind] sinks down to eternal doom” to become the “Evil Spirit.”
According to the Pima’s retelling of the creation of earth, two main characters also appear in the myth. Juh-wert-a-mah-kai opens the story, floating in the nothingness of darkness. He concludes that he has wondered far enough and rubs his hand on his breast, creating “moah-haht-tack, that [was] perspiration, or greasy earth.” Four times he attempts to make the moah-haht-tack stand up in his hand, and the fourth time it stands alone, thus becoming the foundations of the earth. First, Juh-wert-a-mah-kai created a greasewood bush, and on it, he places ants. Sadly, the ants fail to survive and he creates white ants, which worked and enlarged the earth until it was large enough for sitting. Later he produces Noo-ee out of his own eye. Nooee holds the same powers as his creator, yet only Juhwertamahkai creates the world. From his breast, he created two little dolls out of moahhahttack, one male and one female. For a time, the people multiplied and lived well. Presently, their food source diminished, and they resolved to cannibalism. Juhwertamahkai was greatly displeased by the manner in which his people acted, and he let the sky fall on them. Soon, he creates two more people, but these people grew old too quickly, and again, he let the sky fall on them. Two times, he has created people, and both have disappointed him. For a third time he creates people, but these people too are flawed. They gained a want for smoking and soon he let the sky fall for a third time. Lastly, the sun and the moon have a child, which Juhwertamahkai names Toe-hahvs, meaning “brittlebush.” Now only Juhwertamahkai, Toehahvs, and Nooee inhabit the earth. One more personage comes to them, called See-ur-huh and Ee-ee-toy.
These are all different recounts of creation, yet only one stands today as a true fact: The Biblical Genesis account of creation. In the Iroquois myth, there was a bad twin and a good twin. This is an obvious symbol for the good and evil that lurk our earth. Eventually, the good twin defeated the bad twin, and he sunk into the ground to dwell. Perhaps a twisted recounting of when Satan was made to dwell on Earth. In the Pima myth there is an illusion to the great flood that destroyed wicked mankind. Perhaps there was cannibalism but that goes unmentioned in the Genesis account. Although these myths contain small elements of truth passed on after the world's population was dispersed from the Tower of Bable, they do not contain the true account as God told to Adam, who told to Lamech, who told to Noah, who survived the Flood. Thus the Near Eastern accounts, such as Gilgamesh, held closer to the historically accurate account which was passed down to Abraham and recorded by Moses in the book of Genesis. By the time people had migrated to the Americas, the true account of creation had been twisted beyond recognition. Yet even the Pima and Iroquois knew of an eternity and goodness beyond their own experience as the heavens declare the handiwork of God to all peoples (Ps. 19:1).
The Norton Anthology of American Literature Volume A, Sixth Edition. The Iroquois Creation story. 25 Feb. 2004.
The Norton Anthology of American Literature Volume A, Sixth Edition. Pima Stories of the Beginning of the World. 25 Feb. 2004.
New International Version Bible
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