Iroquois Myth of Creation

About 1390, today’s State of New York became the stronghold of five powerful Indian tribes. They were later joined by another great tribe, the Tuscaroras from the south. Eventually the Iroquois, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas joined together to form the great Iroquois Nation. In 1715, the Tuscaroras were accepted into the Iroquois Nation. Long, long ago, one of the Spirits of the Sky World came down and looked at the earth. As he traveled over it, he found it beautiful, and so he created people to live on it. Before returning to the sky, he gave them names, called the people all together, and spoke his parting words: “To the Mohawks, I give corn,” he said. “To the patient Oneidas, I give the nuts and the fruit of many trees. To the industrious Senecas, I give beans. To the friendly Cayugas, I give the roots of plants to be eaten. To the wise and eloquent Onondagas, I give grapes and […] Read More

Leon Shenandoah

It’s prophesied in our Instructions that the end of the world will be near when the trees start dying from the tops down. That’s what the maples are doing today. Our Instructions say the time will come when there will be no corn, when nothing will grow in the garden, when water will be filthy and unfit to drink. Then a great monster will rise up from the water and destroy mankind. One of the names of that monster is “the sickness that eats you up inside” like diabetes or cancer or AIDS. Maybe AIDS is the monster. It’s coming. It’s already here. Our prophet Handsome Lake told of it in the 1700s. He saw Four Beings, like four angels, coming from the Four Directions. They told him what would happen, how there would be diseases we’d never heard of before. You will see many tears in this country. […] Read More

Why the Owl has Big Eyes

The legend of why Owl has big eyes is one of many traditional Haudenosaunee stories told from generation to generation. Here is one version. The Creator was busy creating various animals. He was working on Rabbit, and Rabbit was saying: “I want nice long legs and long ears like a deer, and sharp fangs and claws like a panther.” “I do them the way they want to be; I give them what they ask for,” said the Creator. He was working on Rabbit’s hind legs, making them long, the way Rabbit had ordered. Owl, still unformed, was sitting on a tree nearby and waiting his turn. He was saying: “Whoo, whoo, I want a nice long neck like swan’s, and beautiful red feathers like Cardinal’s, and a nice long beak like Egret’s, and a nice crown of plumes like Heron’s. I want you to make me into the most […] Read More

The Creation Myth of the Huron and the Iroquois

In the beginning, there as nothing but water–nothing but a wide, wide sea.  The only people in the world were the animals that live in and on water. Then down from the sky world a woman fell, a divine person.  Two loons flying over the water happened to look up and see her falling.   Quickly they placed themselves beneath her and joined their bodies to make a cushion for her to rest upon.  Thus they saved her from drowning. While the held her, they cried with a loud voice to the other animals, asking their help.  Now the cry of the loon can be heard at a great distance over water, and so the other creatures gathered quickly. As soon as Great Turtle learned the reason for the call, he stepped forth from the council. “Give her to me,” he said to the loons.   “Put her on my back.  […] Read More

Deganawidah: The Two Serpents

by Scott Peterson When Deganawidah was leaving the Indians in the Bay of Quinte in Ontario, he told the Indian people that they would face a time of great suffering. They would distrust their leaders and the principles of peace of the League, and a great white serpent was to come upon the Iroquois, and that for a time it would intermingle with the Indian serpent as a friend. This serpent would in time become so powerful that it would attempt to destroy the Indian, and the serpent is described as choking the life’s blood out of the Indian people. Deganawidah told the Indians that they would be in such a terrible state at this point that all hope would seem to be lost, and he told them that when things looked their darkest a red serpent would come from the north and approach the white serpent, which would […] Read More