Myths and Tales from the San Carlos Apache
Creation Myth (Second Version)
They say it happened long ago when there were no people nor anything, and when earth and the black sky did not exist.2 “Let us make the earth and the black sky,” he said. He began to study and talk about how both the earth and sky might be made. He also sought helpers and concluded that four persons should do the work and he found them with his mind.1 “It is not well that there should be no people on the earth,” he said. Therefore those who were to make the world sat down and discussed how it should be done. “If we make it of something it will be well,” he said and all the others gave their assent. They attempted the work but there was no material of which it could be made. After they had tried for a time the earth that they had made was not good.
“This is not a good kind,” he said. “Which way shall we do it?” Then the Sun rubbed his hand down over his breast and divided the cuticle he rubbed off into two parts. Of one part he made a humming bird and caused it to fly about, saying it should be the messenger. With the second portion he made the earth and put it in place. “What way shall we make it?” he asked. After they had talked the matter over he suggested it would be well to place it so it would have four directions. They put down the earth they had made, but it was not good, it was not firm but shook. A black whirlwind rested on it four times and it nearly stood still but was not yet satisfactory. Then they agreed to place the supports under it at four points. At the east they placed a black whirlwind standing under it like a post. At another place they put posts of black metal under it at four places. In another position they put posts of big black reeds, and at still another place they put four posts of blue metal. Now it stood still and was nearly perfect.
They made the black sky in the same way and he pronounced it good too.
Now the earth was flat and bare, there were no mountains, and they were not pleased with this condition. The four persons who made earth and sky were named as follows. One was called Naicje’etco` dixin, “large black spider,” one was Bec dixi xastin, “black metal old man,” the third was named Naxokosse dixin, “black great dipper”2 and the fourth, Gonaldjictco` xastin (an insect). These four said, “We have made the earth but it is smooth and it is not good that way, besides we have no food.” Then the chief called attention to the flying thing (the humming bird) he had made which he now sent as his messenger saying: “People must be living somewhere; look everywhere for them.” The bird flew away and went all around the border of the wide earth but came back repeating that there was no living thing. “Well, look on top of this sky which we have set up,” he said. The four people were starving. The bird went away but at first could not get through the sky. Finally he found a small hole in the center of the sky and going through this he flew where people were living. He told them that the people who were living beneath were starving. They discussed the matter and decided that the starving people should come up on the sky where food was plentiful. They sent back word by the bird who returned just before daybreak. He did not report until daylight when the people got up, and asked the result of his journey. “Why should I tell you?” he replied. “I came far from here where were living people who said you might go to them. They are living above and they have food there. They said, ‘Let them come up here.'”
The people then said “Let us make something to go up on.” They planted a pine tree which grew up quite a way and then stopped. Realizing that a pine would not do a “black” reed was suggested. They planted one but after it had grown up a way it stopped. They considered again and since the reed was nearly sufficient decided to plant black metal with it. They did so and it grew up and pierced the sky.1
They moved away leaving one old woman and a crippled man behind. They went up on the reed twisted together with black metal. The joints of the reed are the places where they camped. In this manner they came up on the sky and went where the people were living. The old woman who had been left behind took the crippled man on her back and started to follow but she had not gone far before her foot slipped and she fell. The two sat down and remained there.2 The world reached in the case of both the Navajo and Jicarilla is this earth, not the sky.
Those who had gone up to the sky decided to smoke together so the people were all called to the house of the chief. When night came the people gathered together and a pipe being filled they all smoked. When they had finished the chief said his mind was disturbed because the earth they had made was devoid of mountains and for that reason he was not pleased with it. After considering what should be done for some time they decided to employ water and that it should rain for thirty-two days. Humming bird was sent as a messenger to the two people who had remained below to tell them that water would cover the entire earth. The woman studied about the situation and then went to a hollow sycamore tree inside of which she sat.3 make use of a hollow tree sealed up for the transportation of another person.
She brought in some seeds, sunflower seeds, and a little corn. She put in the grinding stones too, the metate and the muller, with which she could grind the seed. When it started to rain she closed the opening of the tree with black stone set in pitch. She sat inside where she had a fire. When it had rained twelve days the earth was covered with water. The water continued to rise day by day as the rain fell. The tree floated on the water. When it had rained thirty-two days the water rose close to the sky and then the rain stopped.1 The old woman floated in her tree four times around the world. She kept thumping on the inside but she heard “bok” each time and realized that the time had not yet come.
There were two birds still alive, woodpecker and turkey. These two clung to the sky. Turkey’s tail was washed white at the tip2 and woodpecker’s tail feathers were worn off sharp.
It had now been a long time and the old woman hit her tree again. It said “bok” still. She went around again and then she took up the muller and hit the tree again. This time the tree answered “dan” and she judged the water was gone. She removed the pitch from the edge of the opening, took away the black stone stopper and came out. There was only sand to be seen. She started walking when she saw where a black bug had gone along. She followed it, tracking it a long time until she came up with it. She addressed it asking what it was going after. “Oh, I am just ‘black water.’ There are no people going about, I came up in sorry shape.” The old woman started back until she came where these mountains came to stand and made her camp where there was a small spring of water. She began to consider what she should do and decided she would do something shameful.
The chief of the people who had gone above spoke, directing that the people should come together for a council that night. When they had smoked he asked them to fix his mind for him. He wished to make fruits and food plants for the world below.3 “You have seeds, now help the people living beneath that they may have something to eat,” he said. They agreed to come together the next day to plant. When morning came the people came together bringing their wooden hoes. One man’s hoe was a poor crooked piece of wood but he put it with the others. Someone seeing it in the pile with the others said it wasn’t good and threw it out. The man who owned the hoe was displeased and started home. One of the company asked why the hoe was thrown out saying that not every one would have good property. They planted the seed but it did not all grow. They sent word then to the man who owned the hoe asking him why he did not help them. He replied that he had gone home because they had thrown his hoe away. “You didn’t like my hoe and therefore I went home. Now I will help you and I will put my hoe among the others,” he said. Then they planted all the seeds and they came up. The old woman was happy and lived on this food.1
This woman thought she would do something shameful.2 There was a bluff some distance from her camp where water was dripping. She went there to look at it and decided she would come back and try it. When she came there again she lay under the dripping water but nothing happened. She went back to camp and came there again and lay under the water. Again she was unsuccessful and went back to her camp. She considered the matter and concluded that some day she might succeed. The next day she again lay down under the bluff. It nearly happened this time but still it was not right and she went back to her camp. She decided she would try just once more and went again the next day. She lay down under the bluff and this time the dripping water entered her and she felt good. She went back to her camp and remained there. After six months she felt of her abdomen with her hand and found it was a little enlarged. At the end of eight months she felt of herself again and when twelve months had elapsed her baby was born.3 She was happy. The baby was a girl. She made a basket cradle for it and provided a pad of grass. She took good care of it. When it was six months old it sat up; at eight months it crept; when it was a year old it was able to stand and walk.
The mother talked to the girl and told her of the many seeds on which they were living.
She also told her that she had done something shameful with the good result of producing her. The daughter asked the mother what she should do, and she told her to do a similar thing.4 She directed her to lie on her back at a certain place where the sun was shining. The girl, saying she would try, went where the sunbeams were striking and sat facing the sun. Nothing happened to her and she returned to camp and reported to her mother her lack of success. Her mother told her to go again nevertheless. She went again the next day and lay down again. It nearly happened this time. She went home again and reported to her again, encouraged by her mother that some time she would be successful. She went the next day and the sunshine nearly did what was expected. This time she reported to her mother her near success to be assured that her purpose would soon be accomplished. The next day she went again and lay as before. This time when the sun came up and its beams streamed out the girl’s hips shook. When she was still again she got up and returned to her mother saying, “Mother for some reason my hips shook and took a long time to recover.” “That is good. Now I think it has happened,” the mother replied. The two women lived there together and the mother was rejoicing because now she had a helper.
When six months had passed the girl felt of herself and told her mother her abdomen was enlarged. The mother assured her that was to be expected. When eight months had passed her abdomen was quite large. She (the mother) made a basket cradle and prepared the bark for a bed. At the end of twelve months her abdomen began to hurt. When the girl told her mother, she was told not to say that. Then the baby moved and was born. It was a boy. The woman took it up, calling it her grandchild, and washed it putting ashes on it. The next morning she took it up and began singing for it. She sang good songs for it, calling it “Grandchild.” Addressing her daughter she said, “My child, you did well. This boy was born for us because we did something shameful. I gave you birth for the clouds and water, and you gave birth to a child for the sun. You will be called Tubatc’istcine, “born for water” and the child will be called Tsitsinġai, “white head.” When the baby was six months old it sat up, and when it was eight months old it stood. By the time he was a year old he was large.1 His grandmother sang four songs for him and with them she fixed him properly. Then he stood up.
She made arrows for him and he practised shooting at a cactus which stood there and got so he could hit. His grandmother made him arrows a little larger and he shot through the cactus with them. She made him arrows still larger and he was able to shoot them through a larger cactus. “Now you are strong enough, my grandchild,” she told him. “You shall hunt for all kinds of animals.” He went away but didn’t see anything. He went in another direction and saw a mouse. Wondering what it was he went back to ask his grandmother, saying he had seen something small with glowing eyes. She told him it was called mouse and that it was one of the animals she meant for him to hunt. She directed him to kill it and bring it to her. He went there again, killed it, and brought it back to the camp. “This is the one I meant, we eat this kind.”
He went to another place and came to a rabbit which ran away from him. He went back and reported to his grandmother that he had seen an animal with broad ears which had run away from him. “That is named ga`, ‘rabbit,'” she said, “we eat that kind. Kill it.” He went there again and shooting it with an arrow killed it. He brought it back to camp.
“That is what I meant, grandchild,” she said, “they are good to eat. You are doing well. Look some distance away where an animal called bi?, ‘deer,’ lives. They are good for food. Do not pull it under a Douglas spruce to dress it for to do so will be dangerous.”
He went in the direction indicated and saw an animal which appeared to be carrying a dry tree on its head. He went back and described it to his grandmother who told him it was an animal of great value. She directed him to shoot it hard with his strongest arrow. He returned to the place and hiding behind a bush approached near to it and shot it, killing it.1 He dragged it under a Douglas spruce and began dressing it, wondering why the old woman had forbidden him to do so. When he had it nearly dressed water dropped on the boy. When he had it properly dressed water fell on him again. He looked up and saw a maiden in the tree who immediately addressed him as husband.2 Catching up only the intestines he ran toward the camp with the girl running after him calling him husband. The boy put down the intestines he was carrying which turned into gulches. Notwithstanding the gulches she was running close to him. The boy ran back to his grandmother’s camp and reported that something calling him husband was running behind him. “I told you not to do that and now it will make little difference which way you go,” she told him and digging a pit by the fire hid him in it.
In a short time the girl ran up and asked for her husband. The old woman denied having seen him. When the girl insisted that he was running in that direction the old woman denied again that she had seen him. The girl pointed out the footprints and then seated herself by the fire. She urinated. After sitting there for a time she dug the boy out and he stood up. She again called him husband and asked that from four places be brought Douglas spruce poles with which she would build her house. Consent being given, she ran off and returned with Douglas spruce. She repeated her trips in other directions until she had been to the four world quarters. She set up the poles in a circle and built her house in which they sat. The boy was not pleased and did not touch the girl for she was not as she should be. She was anxious to accomplish her purpose but could not. The boy knew what was the matter; the girl’s vagina was provided with teeth. He got pieces of brush and stuck sand on them with pitch making four implements. These he inserted one after the other as he lay with the girl. Three of these were chewed to pieces and the fourth one partly. The boy then took his white stone and broke the teeth off with it and cut around inside with his obsidian knife. “This is the proper condition,” he said. “This way it shall be named. Now I will marry you.”
The boy sat there happily but the girl, wishing his death, removed four of her public hairs and while she was gone for wood made four bears of them. She told her husband that some animals which appeared good were going around over the hill. The boy agreed that they would go to see them. When they came where they were in the brush the girl said she thought they would make good dressed skins. “Well, if you think they will make dressed skins you go around behind them and shout. I will go around in front of them.” When the boy had come in front of them the girl was shouting to them to tear up the boy who was sitting on top of the hill. The boy hearing this removed his shirt and hat and put them on a black stump and sat down behind it. As they ran up to attack the stump he shot them one after the other, killing them all. Their bodies lay there.1 The boy took up his shirt and hat again and stood there. He heard the girl still shouting “Tear the boy well to pieces, kill him.” The boy called to her to come, saying those she said would be good to make dressed skins of were lying there. She came but was not pleased. Turning away from the man she cried. They went home and now lived happily.
The boy went to his grandmother’s camp and asked her where the bad beings were living. She told him that one called Nagegani, “kills with his eyes” was one of the bad beings who kill people. The boy asked where this monster lived. She told him he lived toward the north. The boy saying he would go there; announced that he intended to kill them all. His grandmother told him also of Delgit who was hard to approach, also a killer of men. Still another was Nak?o’digedi who lived in a dangerous place where great fires were burning. Another monster she said was called Tsidaketisi who lay in a place of danger. These are all beings which kill men. The boy said again that he would kill them. The grandmother said she had enumerated them all and charged him to take with him the good medicine which had been given him by his father.
Saying he would go to all four of the bad beings and kill them, he set out. As he was walking along he came where Nagegani’s house stood. As he came near it he caused a cold wind to blow which froze the monster’s four pets which guarded him so they did not see the boy approach. As he entered he hit the pets with a stick. Nagegani looked at him and for a while his mind was inactive; then he blew with his medicine and threw four snakes which he had concealed in his clothing into the fire. The snakes exploded and pieces flew into the eyes of the Nagegani so they were blinded. Naiyenezgani took his black knife, and stabbing them all, killed them. (There were about a dozen in the family.) Naiyenezgani returned to his home and told his grandmother that he had killed Nagegani,1 for which she praised him.
He then asked where Delgit was living. His grandmother told him it was far distant on a level stretch of ground so that no one could approach. Saying he was going there he set out. When he came to the plain he saw Delgit standing there. He wondered how he should proceed and while he was pondering this, Gopher came out of his hole and asked why he was sitting there. He said he was wondering how he could kill the animal standing over there. Gopher offered to help saying that since the monster was accustomed to his coming to him he could approach him. He told Naiyenezgani to stay where he was for a short time. A short time after Gopher disappeared into his hole the animal got up, looked, and then lay down again. Gopher came back and reported that he had made four tunnels, one above the other and that he had cut away the hair under the animal’s foreleg. He advised Naiyenezgani to build a fire and heat his club red hot. Then with his knife heated he went in and stabbed the animal with his knife. The monster got up, inserted one of his horns in the topmost tunnel and tore it open. He tore out the second and third in succession and was halfway through the fourth when he dropped dead. Naiyenezgani secured the hide, the knees, and the blood. When he came back to the camp he told his grandmother that he had killed Delgit.2 , above, p. 15.
The grandmother, expressing her gratitude, asked for the hide and danced.
Naiyenezgani asked where Tsidaketisi was living. His grandmother replied that he was lying in a dangerous place in the middle of a precipice under which were his children. “He lies above, close to the trail at the only place where one can pass, and kicks the passerby over the bluff.”
Saying he would go there, Naiyenezgani came to the middle of the bluff where the old man was lying. He sent a squirrel past the old man who kicked at it. “Why did you kick my pet?” he asked. “Oh, it is just my nature to do that,” the monster replied. Next he sent a spotted rat and he was kicked and the same remonstrance made. Next he threw a snake close to his head. “That is the kind I am afraid of,” he said and tried to kick it away. Naiyenezgani cut his hair (which was fastened to the rock) and knocked him over the precipice. Naiyenezgani returned and reported that he had killed Tsidaketisi1 Goddard, (b), 235,B above, p. 12. for which she praised him.
He next inquired where Nak¸odigedi was living. “He lives in a place of danger where a fire flames up,” she replied. Naiyenezgani, saying he would go there, set out again. When he arrived near the place, he was sitting leaning against something, when Wildcat came up to him and asked why he was sitting there. Naiyenezgani replied he was considering how he would approach yonder spot. Wildcat advised him to make four firedrills in the form of arrows and that they should be very dry. These arrows were to be shot in four directions.2 When Nak¸odigedi saw the first one alight he ran toward it. When another was shot in another direction he ran there also. So he ran also when the third one was shot. The fourth time, when he had run a considerable distance, he was tired. He then called the boy by name. “Tsits’inlġai, come to me.” When the boy approached the monster suggested they should meet. They did so and went toward Nak¸odits’iyi’s house where they seated themselves. Nak¸odits’iyi asked his guest why he came. “Let us kill each other,” the boy proposed. “Well, you try first,” the other replied. Then he took out some meat and his knife and began to eat. The other did not eat any of it. “Let us go outside,” one proposed. They went outside. Both of them had obsidian knives and each had something sitting on his head which gave him information and instruction. Each urged the other to begin first. Naiyenezgani’s informant told him to stab his adversary’s shadow. Nak¸odits’iyi first stabbed his opponent, but Naiyenezgani stabbed at the shadow of the monster. Both of them lay down. Naiyenezgani got up first, ate some of his “life medicine” and entirely recovered. He took up his knife and went back to his home where he announced to his grandmother that he had killed Nak¸odigedi. “Thank you,” she said. “You have killed all those who made trouble on earth. Now it has become a good place on this earth. You used to be called ‘Tsits’inġai,’ from now on you will be called Naiyenezgani.”