The Iroquois Creation Story
A tale of the foundation of the great island, now North America;
–the two infants born, and the creation of the universe
Story summarized from Sketches of the American History of the Six Nations (1827)
Included In The Norton Anthology of American Literature,
Fifth Ed Volume
Before the creation of the universe, existed two worlds: the lower world existing in great darkness inhabited by monsters, and the upper world inhabited by creatures. A woman, supernaturally pregnant with twins, grew increasingly tired and weak. She was prepared a mattress in which she would lay and regain energy and nutrients. While she slept, she grew weaker and her body began sinking further into the darkness. The monsters of the great water began to surface in hopes of obtaining her and the earth. The creatures, in order to aid the woman, gathered underneath her in order to protect her from falling. The only savior able to hold her up was a turtle, who laid himself under the woman and held up her sinking weight. The woman was continually descending, and when the turtle carried her weight he begin to spread and a small quantity of earth was created on the turtle’s back. Still holding her, the turtle began to grow every minute and eventually created a small island, covered in bushes. The woman’s twins began fighting inside of her womb, and she gradually fell weaker until the babies were conceived and the world created remained dark. Not being able to bear the stress, the woman died. After some time, the turtle grew into a great region and the twins were grown. One of the twins, Enigorio whose name meant “The Good Mind”, was born with gentle disposition and a kind spirit. The other twin, Enigonhahetgea whose name meant “The Bad Mind”, was evil spirited. Enigorio was not satisfied with the darkness of him and his brother’s world, and despite the insisting of his brother, was determined to create light. Here began creation.
First, he took the head of his deceased mother and created an orb, which he established as center of the creation. It is now known as the Sun, giving light to the day. He then took the rest of her body and formed another orb, which is now known as the moon. The moon was created to give light to the night. He then created stars to aid in the lighting of the night, and to regulate the days, nights, seasons and years. When the light extended to the dark world, the monsters would hide. Enigorio, The Good Mind, continued his work, and created creeks and rivers on the Great Island along with animals to inhabit the forests and fishes to inhabit the waters. He then created images in the form of himself and blew life into them through their nostrils to give them living souls. He named them Ea-gwe-howe, “real people”. He created thunder to watch over the earth, and frequent rains so the earth could be fruitful and vegetation could grow for the animals to prosper. The Bad Mind, while his brother was creating the universe, proceeded to try and reign over the blossoming universe and tried creating a species of mankind from clay. They became apes. He created high mountains, waterfalls and steep cliffs to put the earth in danger. The Good Mind exceeded in creating the universe despite his brother’s malicious intentions and attempted to enclose all the animals of game in the earth to deprive them from mankind. He felt bad for his brother, so he freed them to roam wherever they chose. The Good mind wanted his brother to aid him in inspecting the earth, but his brother’s behavior got so obnoxious he could not lead him anymore. The Bad Mind wanted to challenge his brother, so that the winner could reign over the universe once and for all. The Good Mind, on the day of the battle, tried reconciling with his brother but the evil twin wasn’t having it. He defeats him by stomping him into the earth with horns, the only instrument of death able to defeat his evil brother. The evil twin muttered his last words: “I will have equal power over the souls of the dead”. He sank down into eternal doom, reining the dark world below. The Good Mind retreats to visit the people on earth, teaching them to grow corn and pray. He then leaves the earth, and ascends into the sky.
- How does this story of creation compare with other popular stories of creation?
- How does it compare to the Pima Stories?
- What does it say about the religion of the Iriquois?
- How does it compare to Christianity? How is it different?