Native American Legends
Remaking the World
A Brule Sioux Legend
There was a world before this world, but the people in it did not
know how to behave themselves or how to act human. The creating
power was not pleased with that earlier world. He said to himself:
"I will make a new world." He had the pipe bag and the
chief pipe, which he put on the pipe rack that he had made in the
sacred manner. He took four dry buffalo chips, placed three of them
under the three sticks, and saved the fourth one to light the pipe.
The Creating Power said to himself:
"I will sing three songs, which will bring a heavy rain. Then
I'll sing a fourth song and stamp four times on the Earth, and the
earth will crack wide open. Water will come out of the cracks and
cover all the land."
When he sang the first song, it started to rain. When he sang the
second, it poured. When he sang the third, the rain-swollen rivers
overflowed their beds. But when he sang the fourth song and stamped
on the Earth, it split open in many places like a shattered gourd,
and water flowed from the cracks until it covered everything. The
Creating Power floated on the sacred pipe and on his huge pipe bag.
He let himself be carried by waves and wind this way and that, drifting
for a long time.
At last the rain stopped, and by then all the people and animals
had drowned. Only Kangi, the crow, survived, though it had no place
to rest and was very tired. Flying above the pipe, "Tunkshila,
Grandfather, I must soon rest." And three times the crow asked
him to make a place for it to light.
The Creating Power thought: "It's time to unwrap the pipe
and open the pipe bag."
The wrapping and the pipe bag contained all manner of animals and
birds, from which he selected four animals known for their ability
to stay under water for a long time. First he sang a song and took
the loon out of the bag. He commanded the loon to dive and bring
up a lump of mud. The loon did dive, but it brought up nothing.
"I dived and dived but couldn't reach the bottom," the
loon said. "I almost died. The water is too deep."
The Creating Power sang a second song and took the otter out of
the bag. He ordered the otter to dive and bring up some mud. The
sleek otter at once dived into the water, using its strong webbed
feet to go down, down, down. It was submerged for a long time, but
when it finally came to the surface, it brought nothing.
Taking the beaver out of the pipe's wrapping, the Creating Power
sang a third song. He commanded the beaver to go deep below the
water and bring some mud. The beaver thrust itself into the water,
using its great tail to propel itself downward. It stayed under
water longer than the others, but when it finally came up again,
it too brought nothing.
At last the Creating Power sang the fourth song and took the turtle
out of the bag. The turtle is very strong. Among our people it stands
for long life and endurance and the power to survive. A turtle heart
is great medicine, for it keeps on beating a long time after the
turtle is dead.
"You must bring the mud," the Creating Power told the
turtle. It dove into the water and stayed below so long that the
other three animals shouted: "The turtle is dead; it will never
come up again!"
All the time, the crow was flying around and begging for a place
to light. After what seemed to be eons, the turtle broke the surface
of the water and paddled to the Creating Power. "I got to the
bottom!" the turtle cried. "I brought some earth!"
And sure enough, its feet and claws -- even the space in the cracks
on its sides between its upper and lower shell -- were filled with
Scooping mud from the turtle's feet and sides, the Creating Power
began to sing. He sang all the while that he shaped the mud in his
hands and spread it on the water to make a spot of dry land for
himself. When he had sung the fourth song, there was enough land
for the Creating Power and for the crow.
"Come down and rest," said the Creating Power to the
crow, and the bird was glad to. Then the Creating Power took from
his bag two long wing feathers of the eagle. He waved them over
his plot of ground and commanded it to spread until it covered everything.
Soon all the water was replaced by earth.
"Water without earth is not good," thought the Creating
Power, "but land without water is not good either." Feeling
pity for the land, he wept for the Earth and the creatures he would
put upon it, and his tears became oceans, streams, and lakes. "That's
better," he thought.
Out of his pipe bag the Creating Power took all kinds of animals,
birds, plants and scattered them over the land. When he stamped
on the earth, they all came alive. From the earth the Creating Power
formed the shapes of men and women. He used red earth and white
earth, black earth and yellow earth, and made as many as he thought
would do for a start. He stamped on the earth and the shapes came
alive, each taking the color of the earth out of which it was made.
The Creating Power gave all of them understanding and speech and
told them what tribes they belonged to. The Creating Power said
"The first world I made was bad; the creatures on it were
bad. So I burned it up. The second world I made was bad too, so
I drowned it. This is the third world I have made. Look: I have
created a rainbow for you as a sign that there will be no more Great
Flood. Whenever you see a rainbow, you will know that it has stopped
The Creating Power continued: "Now, if you have learned how
to behave like human beings and how to live in peace with each other
and with the other living things -- the two-legged, the four-legged,
the many-legged, the fliers, the no-legs, the green plants of this
universe -- then all will be well. But if you make this world bad
and ugly, then I will destroy this world too. It's up to you."
The Creating Power gave the people the pipe. "Live by it,"
he said. He named this land the Turtle Continent because it was
there that the turtle came up with the mud out of which the third
world was made.
"Someday there might be a fourth world," the Creating
Power thought. Then he rested.
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