Literature of Native American Perspectives and Discovery – Pima, Cherokee, Penobscot, & Passamquoddy
In the beginning there was no earth, no water—nothing. There was only a person, Juh-wert-a-Mah-kai (The Doctor of the Earth).
He just floated, for there was no place for him to stand upon. There was no sun, no light, and he just floated about in the darkness, which was Darkness itself.
He wanted around in the nowhere till he thought he had wandered enough. Then he rubbed on his breast and rubbed out moah-haht-tack, that is perspiration, or greasy earth. This he rubbed out on the palm of his hand and held out. It tipped over three times, but the fourth time it said straight in the middle of the air and there is remains no as the world.
The first bush he created was the greasewood bush.
And he made ants, little tiny ants, to live on that bush, on its gum which comes out of its stem.
But these little ants did not do any good, so he created white ants, and these worked and enlarged the earth; they kept on increasing it, larger and larger, until at least it was big enough for himself to rest on.
Then he created a Person. He made him out of his eye, out of the shadow of his eyes, to assist him, to be like him, and to help him in creating trees and human beings and everything that was to be on the earth.
The name of this being was Noo-ee (the Buzzard).
Nooee was given all power, but he did not do the work he was created for. He did not care to help Juhwertamahkai, but let him go by himself.
And so the Doctor of the Earth himself created the mountains and everything that has seed and is good to eat. For if he had crated human beings first they would have had nothing to live on.
But after making Nooee and before making the mountains and see for food, Juhwertamahkai made the sun.
In order to make the sun he first made water, and this he placed in a hollow vessel, like an earthen dish (hwas-hah-ha) to harden into something like ice. And this hardened ball he placed in the sky. First he placed it in the North, but it did not work; then he placed it in the West, but it did not work; then he placed it in the South, but it did not work; then he placed it in the East and there it worked as he wanted it to.
And the moon he made in the same way and tried in the same places, with the same results.
But when he made the stars he took the water in his mouth and spurted it up into the sky. But the first night his stars did not give light enough. So he took the Doctor-stone (diamond), the tone-dum-haw-the, and smashed it up, and took the pieces and threw them into the sky to mix with the water in the stars and then there was light enough.
And now Juhwertamahkai, rubbed again on his breast, and from the substance he obtained there made two little dolls, and these he laid on the earth. And they were human beings, man and woman.
And now for a time the people increased till they filled the earth. For the first parents were perfect and there was no sickness and no death. But when the earth was full, then there was nothing to eat, so they killed and ate each other.
But Juhwertamahkai did not like the way his people acted, to kill and eat each other, and so he let the sky fall to kill them. But when the sky dripped he, himself, took a staff and broke a hole thru, thru which he and Nooee emerged and escaped, leaving behind them all the people dead.
And Juhwertamahkai, being now on the top of this fallen sky, again made a man and a woman, in the same way as before. But this man and woman became grey when old, and their children became grey still younger, and their children became gray younger still, and so on till the babies were gray in their cradles.
And Juhwertamahkai, who had made a new earth and sky, just as there had been before, did not like his people becoming grey in their cradles, so he let the sky fall on them again, and again made a hole and escaped, with Nooee, as before.
And Juhwertamahkai, on top of this second sky, again made a new heaven and a new earth, just as he had done before, and new people.
But these new people made a vice of smoking. Before human beings had never smoked till they were old, but now they smoked younger, and each generation still younger, till the infants wanted to smoke in their cradles.
And Juhwertamahkai did not like this, and let the sky fall again, and created everything new again in the same way, and this time he created the earth as it is now.
But at first the whole slope of the world was westward and tho there were peaks rising from this slope there were no true valleys, and all the water that fell ran away and there was no water for the people to drink. So Juhwertamahkai sent Nooee to fly around among the mountains, sand over the earth, to cut valley with his wings, so that the water could be caught and distributed and there might be enough for the people to drink.
Now the sun was male and the moon was female and they met once a month. And the moon became a mother and went to a mountain called Tahs-my-et-than Toe-ahk (sun striking mountain) and there was born her baby. But she had duties to attend to, to turn around and give light, so she made a place for the child by tramping down the weedy bushes and there left it. And the child, having no milk, was nourished on the earth.
And this child was the coyote, and as he grew he went out to walk and in his walk came to the house of Juhwertamahkai and Nooee, where they lived.
And when he came there Juhwertamahkaiknew him and called him Toe-hahvs, because he was laid on the weedy bushes of that name.
But now out of the North cam another powerful personage, who has two names, See-ur-huh and Ee-ee-toy.
Now Seeurhuh means older brother, and when his personage came to Juhwertamahkai, Nooee and Toehahvs he called them his younger brothers. But they claimed to have been here first, and to be older then he, and there was a dispute between them. But finally, because he insisted so strongly, and just to please him, they let him be called older brother.
John William Lloyd collected stories from the Pima tribe through an interpreter in the early 20th century. The collection from which this story is taken includes in its opening documents this statement:
January 20th, 1904.
This is to certify that the myths and legends of the Pimas derived by J. William Lloyd from my granduncle, Thin Buckskin, thru my interpretation, are correct and genuine to the best of my ability to interpret them.
Edward H. Wood,
Lloyd includes this introduction to the stories, to give some context to readers:
The old man, Comalk Hakw-Kih, (Thin Buckskin) began by saying that these were stories which he used to hear his father tell, they being handed down from father to son, and that when he was little he did not pay much attention, but when he grew older he determined to learn them, and asked his father to teach him, which is father did and how he knew them all.
Aw-aw-tam Indian Nights, J. William Lloyd, Public Domain
- Many doubt that the Indians of North America knew anything about the diamond, but my interpreter insisted that the Doctor-stone was the diamond, therefore I have taken his word for it. Perhaps it was crystal. ↵