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Native American Legends

Creation by Women

An Iroquois Legend

In the beginning there was no Earth to live on, but up above, in the Great Blue, there was a woman who dreamed dreams.

One night she dreamed about a tree covered with white blossoms, a tree that brightened up the sky when its flowers opened but that brought terrible darkness when they closed again. The dream frightened her, so she went and told it to the wise old men who lived with her, in their village in the sky.

"Pull up this tree," she begged them, but they did not understand. All they did was to dig around its roots, to make space for more light. But the tree just fell through the hole they had made and disappeared. After that there was no light at all, only darkness.

The old men grew frightened of the woman and her dreams. It was her fault that the light had gone away forever.

So they dragged her toward the hole and pushed her through as well. Down, down she fell, down toward the great emptiness. There was nothing below her but a heaving waste of water and she would surely have been smashed to pieces, this strange dreaming woman from the Great Blue, had not a fish hawk come to her aid. His feathers made a pillow for her and she drifted gently above the waves.

But the fish hawk could not keep her up all on his own. He needed help. So he called out to the creatures of the deep. "We must find some firm ground for this poor woman to rest on," he said anxiously. But there was no ground, only the swirling, endless waters.

A helldiver went down, down, down to the very bottom of the sea and brought back a little bit of mud in his beak. He found a turtle, smeared the mud onto its back, and dived down again for more.

Then the ducks joined in. They loved getting muddy and they too brought beakfuls of the ocean floor and spread it over the turtle's shell. The beavers helped-- they were great builders-- and they worked away, making the shell bigger and bigger.

Everybody was very busy now and everybody was excited. This world they were making seemed to be growing enormous! The birds and the animals rushed about building countries, the continents, until, in the end, they had made the whole round Earth, while all the time the sky woman was safely sitting on the turtle's back.

And the turtle holds the Earth up to this very day.

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