American History / Native American Origin Myths

Native American Origin Myths

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Autor:  anton  17 March 2011
Tags:  Native,  American,  Origin
Words: 621   |   Pages: 3
Views: 664

Prior to the Pilgrims arrival in the Americas in the 15th century, the Americas were inhabited by many Native American Tribes long before. It is estimated that their arrival in the Americas may “have been as recently as 12,000 years ago or as long ago as 70,000 years.”(2) Assuming the shorter estimate, the Native Americans would still “have been on the continent 30 times longer than the Europeans.”(2) During this time each Native American tribe developed their own rich and extensive cultures, each with their own sets of beliefs and myths, particular to that tribe. One noteworthy attribute that is shared by almost every Native American tribe is the existence of a Creation story that is part of their folklore. The prevalence of Creation and Origin Myths make them the perfect model to use to compare and contrast the different Native American tribes’ cultures. I will use this common attribute to demonstrate the similarities and differences between the Native American Tribes in relation to their beliefs concerning the Creation of the Almighty Power, the relationship between man and this Almighty power, and Man’s oneness and reliance on nature as illustrated by their Origin Myths. The origin myths I will be focusing on are the Delaware tribe’s, The Walum Olum and the Navaho Tribe’s, The Navaho Origin Legend.

Both literary works, The Walum Olum and The Navaho Origin Legend, share the existence of an Almighty Power. All Native American tribes believe in the existence these nature spirits, called, by the Algonquian people, Manito.(21) The American Experience tells us that Manitos came in many different forms and each had a different amount of influence on nature.(21) Lines 1-3 of The Walum Olum states:

“At first in that place, at all times above the Earth,

On the Earth was an extended fog, and there the great Manito was.

At first, forever, lost in space, everywhere, the Great Manito was.”(22)

This tells the reader that the Delaware people believed in the existence of a “Great Manito” and that this Manito existed as an omnipresent being on an empty earth. This contrasts with The Navaho Origin Legend which tells of the existence of four great god beings, the Yellow Body, The Blue Body, The White Body, and The Black Body. Of these four it was the Blue, Black, and White Bodies who created the first man and woman. (27) In The Walum Olum, the line, “He [The Great Manito] gave the first mother, the mother of beings.” (23), it is explained as, similar to the four gods from Navaho legend, the Great Manito created the first human beings.

The two stories also tell us of the relationship between the Almighty Powers and Man. I mentioned earlier that both the Navaho and Delaware tribes believe that Man was created by the Almighty Power. The Delaware tribe’s, The Walum Olum, further describes this relationship when it says: “And ever after he was a manito to men, and their grandfather.” This means that the Great Manito was there as a spirit to protect and watch over Mankind. The Walum Olum goes onto to say: “Truly the Manitos were active and kindly to those very first men, and those first mothers: fetched them wives, and fetched them food…”(24) This again shows that the Manito were there to look over Man. The Navaho Origin Legend does not give the reader as much information about the relationship past the creation of the first man and woman and therefore it is hard to make a solid statement concerning their relationship.

Through studying The Walum Olum and The Navaho Origin Legend much can be learned about the culture of the Navaho and Delaware people. Each tribe had their own set of beliefs and values illustrated in their Creation myths.

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