Creation Story

Cherokee Creation Story

In the beginning, all was water, and the animals lived in the heavens. It was very crowded there, and they longed for more room.

They wondered what lay beneath the water, and finally, the little Water Beetle offered to explore. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water but could find no firm place to rest.

Then, it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud.

This mud began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island we call the earth.

Later, the earth was fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one could remember who did this.

Initially, the earth was flat and very soft and wet.

The animals were eager to descend and sent out different birds to see if it was dry yet.

However, they found no place to rest and returned to the heavens.

Eventually, they sent out the Buzzard, the great Buzzard, the father of all buzzards we see now. He flew over all the earth, low down near the ground, and because the earth was still soft, his wings began to flap and strike the ground.

Wherever they struck, valleys formed, and where they rose again, mountains formed. When the animals above saw this, they feared that the entire world would be covered in mountains, so they called the Buzzard back.

However, the Cherokee country remained full of mountains.

When the earth finally dried, the animals descended, but it was still dark.

They obtained the Sun and set it on a course to travel across the island from east to west every day.

At first, the Sun was too close, making it unbearably hot.

The Crawfish’s shell was scorched a bright red, and its meat was spoiled, making it inedible to the Cherokee.

The animals raised the Sun higher until it was just under the sky arch, where it was just right, and they left it there.

There was another world under this one, similar in every way but with different seasons.

The streams that flow down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter.

When the animals and plants were first made, without anyone knowing by whom, they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights.

They tried to do this, but nearly all of them fell asleep during the first few nights.

By the seventh night, only the Owl, the Panther, and a few others were still awake.

These animals were given the power to see and move about in the dark and to prey on the birds and animals that must sleep at night.

Among the trees, only the Cedar, Pine, Spruce, Holly, and Laurel remained awake to the end.

These trees were granted the ability to stay green year-round and were considered the greatest for medicine.

The other trees were told that because they could not endure to the end, they would lose their leaves every winter.

Humans came after the animals and plants.

At first, there were only a brother and sister.

The brother struck his sister with a fish and told her to multiply.

In seven days, a child was born to her, and thereafter, another child was born every seven days.

They multiplied rapidly until there was a danger that the world could not sustain them.

Therefore, it was decreed that a woman should have only one child per year, and it has been so ever since.

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