The Origin of Man

In the distant past, all the earth was covered by deep water, and the only living things there were water animals. There was no sun, moon, or stars, and the watery earth was in darkness. People lived above the great sky dome.

A tree of life grew there in the cloud world. where it shaded the councils of the supernaturals. One day the Great Chief became ill, and he dreamed that if the tree were uprooted he would be cured. He further commanded that his pregnant daughter, Sky Woman, look down at the watery darkness. He told her to follow the roots of the tree, and to bring light and land to the world below.

The animals of the sea saw Sky Woman as she fell from the sky world. Waterfowl rose to cushion Sky Woman’s descent with their wings. Beaver dove to find earth to make dry land for Sky Woman. But Beaver drowned and floated lifelessly to the surface. Loon, Duck, and others all tried and failed as well. Finally. Muskrat tried, and came back with a paw-full of dirt that would spread and grow.

He placed the dirt on Turtle’s back where Sky Woman landed. The dirt on Turtle’s back grew and became the earth. Time passed and Sky Woman gave birth to a daughter. The daughter grew rapidly, and when she reached maturity she was visited by a man. He placed two arrows within her, one tipped with chert and the other not. The daughter in turn bore twins.

The left-handed twin was “Sawiskera” (Mischievous One) and the right-handed one was known as “Teharonhiawako” (Holder of the Heavens). The left-handed twin forced himself out through his mother’s armpit, killing her in the process. Corn, beans, squash, and tobacco grew from her body and she became one with the earth. Teharonhiakwako created animals, medicine, and flowers while Sawiskera created the thorns on the rose bush and the mountain lion to kill the deer his brother created.

Teharonhiawako was the more righteous of the two. Sawiskera had a great capacity for evil and was deceitful enough to convince his grandmother that he was really the righteous one. When their grandmother died, the twins could not agree on what to do with her body. Sawiskera just wanted to discard it, but Teharonhiawako had other plans; he honored his grandmother by placing her up in the night sky; this is how the Moon came to be.

After much fighting, the brothers decided to divide the world in half and the nighttime would belong to Sawiskera and Teharionhiawako would get the daytime. The Onkwehonwe (Original People) were created by Teharionhiawako out of red earth and were to watch over his creations on Earth. The black soil, tree bark, and saltwater were used to create other beings.

Teharionhiawako told the beings that he was to be called “Sonkwaiatison” (The Creator) and to be respectful of one another and all living creatures. He instructed the people to appreciate each other’s differences and to share the world.

When Teharonhiawako created all the waters, plants, trees, and animals of the world, he decided that he should create a being in his likeness from the natural world.

He wanted this being to have a superior mind so it would have the responsibility of looking after his creations. Then he decided it would be better if he created more than one being and give to each similar instructions and see if, over a period of time, they would carry them through.

The first being Teharonhiawako made was from the bark of a tree; the second from the foam of the great salt water; the third from the black soil, and the fourth from the red earth.

All this he did in one day. He started in the early morning as the sun greeted the new day by picking certain types of bark from the tree of life and creating a human form, reflected against the sky the form gave a yellowish appearance. Teharonhiawako decided that this would be one type of human that would exist in this world. After Teharonhiawako finished his first human, he then went to the great salt waters and took from the sea some white foam, together with other elements of the natural world he created another being. This being appeared pale in contrast to the natural surroundings, but he was satisfied that he has [sic] created another special kind of human being. Next Teharonhiawako traveled to the thickest part of a large forest and brought out some black soil, again with other elements of the natural world he created another human being. This being was very dark in color and he was pleased that he had created still another type of being for the world.

Now Teharonhiawako thought to himself, it is getting towards the end of the day and I have created three beings, since everything on this world exists in cycles of four, I will create one more being. Thus he again looked for something different within the natural world and this time he found some reddish-brown earth. With this, he again combined other elements from the land and created a human form. When he finished he observed that this from blending very well with the natural surroundings, especially against the setting sun, which gave the form a reddish color.

Teharonhiawako now gathered the four human forms into one area and said to himself, “I have been very careful in providing certain characteristics into each form that will reflect their own unique and strong qualities. I will now give life to each form and see if they benefit from their gifts.”

As the beings came to life he observed just how evident their uniqueness became. The white being was the first one to move about, he was also the most curious, observing closely all his surroundings. Next, the black and yellow slowly started to move about. When the black being picked a brightly colored object that he was attracted to, the white being pounced on him and pushed him to the ground, taking over the object. At the same instant, the yellow being stood up for the black, and soon, a fight broke out between the three.

Teharonhiawako noticed that the fourth being was still sitting on the ground, camouflaged by his surroundings. Now it became clear to Teharonhiawako that there was no way these four could exist in the same environment and survive.

Teharonhiawako stopped their quarreling and brought them back to one place and told them “There is a reason why you were not created in the same manner, just as there are birds and animals who look alike, they are different in their ways, so are you. They have their own language, their own songs but have learned to share their world, It is for this reason that I have created you, that in time you will all learn to respect and appreciate your differences. It is very evident that I can not put you together to watch over my creations, for you would probably destroy them as well as yourselves. You need to learn how to get along with each other, as well as with other living things. I will help you do this, but first I will have to keep you apart. You will come back together after a time when I have sent a messenger to visit each of you and give you a way to be thankful for the good things, as well as respect for other living creatures.”

Teharonhiawako then took the white, black, and yellow beings across the salt waters and placed them far from each other. The red being he kept at his place of origin. Teharonhiawako told him, “You will be called Onkwehonwe (original being). You will call me Sonkwaiatison (The Creator). I have given you the gift of life. You were created from the earth of this Island. I now realize that you would not survive very long among the others, for you are too much a part of nature, which is good, but you will need time before you come in contact with the other beings. You will also be given a sacred way by a messenger who will visit you and your descendants.”

Now Teharonhiawako thought to himself, “They will all have a chance to learn of the reason for their existence and of a good way to live.