Ojibwe Creation Story
When the Earth was young it had a family. The moon, or Grandmother and the sun, called Grandfather. The
Creator of all of this said that the Earth was a woman - Mother Earth - because from her come all living
things. Water (the oceans, lakes, rivers and streams) are her life blood nourishing and purifying her. Mother
Earth was given four directions - East, South, West and North, each with physical and spiritual powers.
When Mother Earth was young Creator filled her with beauty. He sent singers in the form of birds who also
carry the seeds of life to all Directions. Their were swimmers in the water. He placed plants, trees, insects,
crawlers and four-leggeds on the land. And everyone lived in harmony with everyone else.
Creator, or Gitchie Manido as Ojibwe people call him, then blew into four parts of Mother Earth using the
sacred Megis Shell. From the union of these four sacred elements and his breath, two-leggeds or man, was
born. Thus, man was the last form of life to be put on Earth. From this original man came the Anishinabe -
or The People.
There came a time when the harmonious way of life did not continue. Men and women disrespected each
other, families quarreled and soon villages began arguing back and forth. This saddened Gitchie Manido
greatly, but he waited. Finally, when it seemed there was no hope left, Creator decided to purify Mother
Earth through the use of water. The water came, flooding the Earth, catching all of creation off guard. All
but a few of each living thing survived. How could life begin again?
Waynaboozhoo, or the spirit of the original people, found himself floating on a log in the water covering
Mother Earth. As he floated some of the other animals still alive would come a rest on the log. All would
take turns and through this sharing they saved themselves and each other. After floating for a long time
and not seeing land, Waynaboozhoo finally said, "I'm going to swim to the bottom of this water and grab a
handful of Earth. With this and help from Creator, I believe we can create a new land. He dived and was
gone a long time. Finally he surfaced but was so out of breath he could not speak. Then he said, "It's too
deep. I can't swim fast enough to reach bottom."
Everyone on the log was silent. Finally loon, who was swimming alongside the log, spoke, "I can dive a long
ways for my food. I will dive to the bottom and bring some of Earth up in my beak." Loon dived and was
gone a long time. Just when the others thought she'd drowned she surfaced very weak and out of breath. "I
couldn't make it. There doesn't seem to be a bottom."
Just then the helldiver came forward and offered to try. Helldiver was gone a long time too and just when
everyone was about to give up hope, they saw him float to the top. He was unconscious but alive. When he
awoke he said, "I am very sorry my brothers and sisters, I too couldn't reach the bottom."
Many more animals offered themselves to do the job, important to the survival of all. Mink tried but
couldn't make it; otter tried and failed. Even turtle tried but didn't make it. Just when all seemed hopeless
a soft voice spoke up. "I'll try," it said. When everyone turned to look, muskrat stepped forward. "I'll try,"
he said again. Some of the others laughed at him, but Waynaboozhoo said, "Hold it, it is not our place to
judge another. That belongs to Creator and if little muskrat wants to try I think we should let him."
With that, muskrat dived down and disappeared. Waynaboozhoo and the others were sure muskrat had
given up his life trying to reach the bottom . Muskrat made it to the bottom. He grabbed some Earth in his
paw and with his last bit of strength pushed toward the surface. One of the animals on the log saw muskrat
as he floated to the top and they pulled him onto the log. Waynaboozhoo looked him over and said, "It
seems our brother went without air too long. He's dead." A song of mourning and praise began and floated
over the water. Then Waynaboozhoo said, "Look! Muskrat has something in his paw." Carefully they opened
it and there in Muskrat's paw was a piece of Earth. Everyone cheered. Muskrat had given up his life so that
the others could begin again.
Waynaboozhoo took the piece of Earth from Muskrat's paw just as Turtle came swimming up. "Use my back
to bear the weight of this piece of Earth. With Creator's help we can make a new Earth," she said. When
the Earth was placed on Turtle's back the winds began to blow from each of the Four Directions. The tiny
piece of Earth began to grow. Larger and larger it grew until it formed an island. And still Turtle bore the
weight on her back. Waynaboozhoo began to sing and all the animals began to dance in a circle. Finally the
winds ceased and water was calm and a huge island sat right in the middle of the great water.