Iroquois Creation Stories
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 squashes to eat and tobacco to
smoke at the camp fires."
Many other things he told the new people. Then he wrapped himself in a bright cloud and went like a
swift arrow to the Sun. There his return caused his Brother Sky Spirits to rejoice.
Another Iroquois story:
In the beginning there was no earth to live on, but up above, in the Great Blue, there was a woman
who dreamed dreams.
One night she dreamed about a tree covered with white blossoms, a tree that brightened up the sky
when its flowers opened but that brought terrible darkness when they closed again. The dream
frightened her, so she went and told it to the wise old men who lived with her in their village in the
"Pull up this tree," she begged them, but they did not understand. All they did was dig around its
roots, to make space for more light. But the tree just fell through the hole they had made and
disappeared. After that there was no light at all, only darkness.
The old men grew frightened of the woman and her dreams. It was her fault that the light had
So they dragged her toward the hole and pushed her through as well. Down, down she fell, down
toward the great emptiness. There was nothing below her but a heaving waste of water. She would
surely have been smashed to pieces, this strange dreaming woman from the Great Blue, had not a fish
hawk come to her aid. His feathers made a pillow for her and she drifted gently above the waves.
But the fish hawk could not keep her up all on his own. He needed help. So he called out to the
creatures of the deep. "We must find some firm ground for this poor woman to rest on," he said
anxiously. But there was no ground, only the swirling, endless waters.
A helldiver went down, down, down to the very bottom of the sea and brought back a little bit of mud
in his beak. He found a turtle, smeared the mud onto its back, and dived down again for more.
Then the ducks joined in. They loved getting muddy and they too brought beaksful of the ocean floor
and spread it over the turtle's shell. The beavers helped -- they were great builders -- and they
worked away, making the shell bigger and bigger.
Everybody was very busy now and everybody was excited. This world they were making seemed to be
growing enormous! The birds and the animals rushed about building countries, the continents, until,
in the end, they had made the whole round earth, while all the time they sky woman was safely
sitting on the turtle's back.
And the turtle holds the earth up to this very day.