Native American Legends
Origin of the Clans
A Hopi Legend
A long time ago, when the Hopi Tribe was emerging from the First
World, their people started to hunt for the land of the rising sun.
Moving in related groups, they thought it fun to play a name game.
When the first band came upon a dead bear, immediately they thought
it a sign for them to become the Bear Clan. Another Hopi band came
upon the same skeleton but saw little gopher holes surrounding the
carcass. They agreed among themselves to become the Gopher Clan.
In the same way, other Hopis found a nest of spiders and they named
themselves the Spider Clan. Far ahead the Bear Clan traveled with
Chief Bahana leading. Always, the Bear Clan seemed to move faster
in many ways.
Spider Clan trailed all the clans because they had so many children.
One day they came upon a friendly spider sitting near her large
web. The Spider Clan encircled her as she spoke to their Chief,
"I am Spider Woman, possessed of Supernatural Power. Since
you are named for my people, I will help you in any way I can."
"Thank you, Spider Woman," replied the Chief. "We
are traveling to find the land of the rising sun. Other clans of
our Hopi Tribe are much farther ahead of us. We wish we could travel
faster, but we have much to pack on our backs as we have so many
"Perhaps I can make something to ease your travel," said
"What do you have in mind?" asked the Chief.
"First, I need something of yourself," said Spider Woman.
"You must go into my secret room where you will find a large
water jug. You must wash yourself all over and save the dust and
skin that rolls off and fetch it to me."
Because of many travel days, the Chief was so hot and dusty that
he made a sizeable ball of dirt, which he gave to Spider Woman.
With this she began her magic creation. She spread a white, fleecy
cloth in front of her, placing the ball in the center. Then she
rolled it up carefully into a white ball.
Spider Woman sang her ceremonial creation song four times, while
the Spider Clan sat in a circle and waited expectantly. Now and
then, she touched the fleecy ball with her magic web and looked
to see if any signs of life were evident within the ball. Again,
Spider Woman sang another magic song four times and behold!--the
fleecy, white ball moved back and forth and rolled about. To everyone's
surprise, through the fleecy cover emerged a tiny gray animal stretching
forth four tiny legs.
Spider Woman called it a burro. At the sight of it, the Spider
Clan knew that it needed to grow much stronger before it could be
of any help to them. Spider Woman kept the young animal warm and
gave it some of her magic food. She spent much time massaging its
tiny legs with her magic salve to make them grow faster.
After only four days, the burro was ready to travel with the Spider
Clan. They packed the sides of the burrow with their excess supplies
and started on their way to the land of the rising sun.
Later, Spider Woman decided to create a man who should know more
about caring for the burro than the Hopis. This she did and sent
the man to catch up with the Spider Clan, to teach them how better
to care for the burro.
But that man was selfish. Instead of helping the people, he ran
away one dark night, taking the burro with him. Even though saddened
over the loss of their helpful burro, Spider Clan continued their
trek to the land of the rising sun, shouldering their heavy packs
Of course, the Bear Clan arrived at their destination first. They
set about establishing their village. Gradually the other Hopi Clans
joined them, making their villages nearby. There the Hopi Tribe
grew and prospered.
But the Spider Clan, which arrived last in the land of the rising
sun, became the largest and most prosperous of all the Hopi Clans,
because they had so many children during the following years.
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