Native American Legends
Creation of First Man and First Woman
A Navajo Legend
The first people came up through three worlds and settled in the
fourth world. They had been driven from each successive world because
they had quarreled with one another and committed adultery.
In previous worlds they found no other people like themselves,
but in the fourth world they found the Kisani or Pueblo people.
The surface of the fourth world was mixed black and white, and
the sky was mostly blue and black. There were no sun, no moon, no
stars, but there were four great snow-covered peaks on the horizon
in each of the cardinal directions.
Late in the autumn they heard in the east the distant sound of
a great voice calling. They listened and waited, and soon heard
the voice nearer and louder than before. Once more they listened
and heard it louder still, very near.
A moment later four mysterious beings appeared. These were White
Body, god of this world; Blue Body, the sprinkler; Yellow Body;
and Black Body, the god of fire. Using signs but without speaking,
the gods tried to instruct the people, but they were not understood.
When the gods had gone, the people discussed their mysterious visit
and tried without success to figure out the signs. The gods appeared
on four days in succession and attempted to communicate through
signs, but their efforts came to nothing.
On the fourth day when the other gods departed, Black Body remained
behind and spoke to the people in their own language: "You
do not seem to understand our signs, so I must tell you what they
mean. We want to make people who look more like us. You have bodies
like ours, but you have the teeth, the feet and the claws of beasts
and insects. The new humans will have hands and feet like ours.
Also, you are unclean; you smell bad. We will come back in twelve
days. Be clean when we return."
On the morning of the twelfth day the people washed themselves
well. Then the women dried their skin with yellow cornmeal, the
men with white cornmeal. Soon they heard the distant call, shouted
four times, of the approaching gods.
When the gods appeared, Blue Body and Black Body each carried a
sacred buckskin. White Body carried two ears of corn, one yellow,
one white, each covered completely with grains. The gods laid one
buckskin on the ground with the head to the west, and on this they
placed the two ears of corn with their tips to the east. Under the
white ear they put the feather of a white eagle; under the yellow
the feather of a yellow eagle.
Then they told the people to stand back and allow the wind to enter.
Between the skins the wind blew from the east and the yellow wind
from the west. While the wind was blowing the eight of the gods,
the Mirage People, came and walked around the objects on the ground
four times. As they walked, the eagle feathers, whose tips protruded
from the buckskins, were seen to move.
When the Mirage People had finished their walk, the upper buckskin
was lifted. The ears of corn had disappeared; a man and a woman
lay in their place. The white ear of corn had become the man, the
yellow ear the woman, First Man and First Woman. It was the wind
that gave them life, and it is the wind that comes out of our mouths
now that gives us life.
When this ceases to blow, we die.
The gods had the people build an enclosure of brushwood, and when
it was finished, First Man and First Woman went in. The gods told
them, "Live together now as husband and wife."
At the end of four days, First Woman bore hermaphrodite twins.
In four more days she gave birth to a boy and a girl, who grew to
maturity in four days and lived with one another as husband and
In all, First Man and First Woman had five pairs of twins, and
all except the first became couples who had children. In four days
after the last twins were born, the gods came again and took First
Man and First Woman away to the eastern mountain, dwelling place
of the gods. The couple stayed there for four days, and when they
returned, all their children were taken to the eastern mountain
for four days.
The gods may have taught them the awful secrets of witchcraft.
Witches always use masks, and after they returned, they would occasionally
put on masks and pray for the good things they needed; abundant
rain and abundant crops.
Witches also marry people who are too closely related to them,
which is what First Man and First Woman's children had done. After
they had been to the eastern mountain, however, the brothers and
sisters separated. Keeping their first marriages secret, the brothers
now married women of the Mirage People and the sisters married men
of the Mirage People.
But they never told anyone, even their new families, the mysteries
they had learned from the gods. Every four days the women bore children,
who grew to maturity in four days, then married, and in turn had
children in four days.
In this way many children of First Man and First Woman filled the
land with people.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends