Native American Legends
The woman who fell from the sky
A Seneca Legend
A long time ago human beings lived high up in what is now called
They had a great and illustrious chief. It so happened that this
chief's daughter was taken very ill with a strange affection. All
the people were very anxious as to the outcome of her illness. Every
known remedy was tried in an attempt to cure her, but none had any
Near the lodge of this chief stood a great tree, which every year
bore corn used for food. One of the friends of the chief had a dream,
in which he was advised to tell the chief that in order to cure
his daughter he must lay her beside this tree, and that he must
have the tree dug up. This advice was carried out to the letter.
While the people were at work and the young woman lay there, a
young man came along. He was very angry and said: "It is not
at all right to destroy this tree. Its fruit is all that we have
to live on." With this remark he gave the young woman who lay
there ill a shove with his foot, causing her to fall into the hole
that had been dug.
Now, that hole opened into this world, which was then all water,
on which floated waterfowl of many kinds. There was no land at that
time. It came to pass that as these waterfowl saw this young woman
falling they shouted, "Let us receive her," whereupon
they, at least some of them, joined their bodies together, and the
young woman fell on this platform of bodies. When these were wearied
they asked, "Who will volunteer to care for this woman?"
The great Turtle then took her, and when he got tired of holding
her, he in turn asked who would take his place. At last the question
arose as to what they should do to provide her with a permanent
resting place in this world. Finally it was decided to prepare the
earth, on which she would live in the future.
To do this it was determined that soil from the bottom of the primal
sea should be brought up and placed on the broad, firm carapace
of the Turtle, where it would increase in size to such an extent
that it would accommodate all the creatures that should be produced
thereafter. After much discussion the toad was finally persuaded
to dive to the bottom of the waters in search of soil. Bravely making
the attempt, he succeeded in bringing up soil from the depths of
the sea. This was carefully spread over the carapace of the Turtle,
and at once both began to grow in size and depth.
After the young woman recovered from the illness from which she
suffered when she was cast down from the upper world, she built
herself a shelter, in which she lived quite contentedly. In the
course of time she brought forth a girl baby, who grew rapidly in
size and intelligence.
When the daughter had grown to young womanhood, the mother and
she were accustomed to go out to dig wild potatoes. Her mother had
said to her that in doing this she must face the West at all times.
Before long the young daughter gave signs that she was about to
become a mother. Her mother reproved her, saying that she had violated
the injunction not to face the east, as her condition showed that
she had faced the wrong way while digging potatoes.
It is said that the breath of the West Wind had entered her person,
causing conceptions When the days of her delivery were at hand,
she overheard twins within her body in a hot debate as to which
should be born first and as to the proper place of exit, one declaring
that he was going to emerge through the armpit of his mother, the
other saying that he would emerge in the natural way. The first
one born, who was of a reddish color, was called Othagwenda; that
is, Flint. The other, who was light in color, was called Djuskaha;
that is, the Little Sprout.
The grandmother of the twins liked Djuskaha and hated the other;
so they cast Othagwenda into a hollow tree some distance from the
The boy that remained in the lodge grew very rapidly, and soon
was able to make himself bows and arrows and to go out to hunt in
the vicinity. Finally, for several days he returned home without
his bow and arrows. At last he was asked why he had to have a new
bow and arrows every morning. He replied that there was a young
boy in a hollow tree in the neighborhood who used them. The grandmother
inquired where the tree stood, and he told her; whereupon then they
went there and brought the other boy home again.
When the boys had grown to man's estate, they decided that it was
necessary for them to increase the size of their island, so they
agreed to start out together, afterward separating to create forests
and lakes and other things. They parted as agreed, Othagwenda going
westward and Djuskaha eastward. In the course of time, on returning,
they met in their shelter or lodge at night, then agreeing to go
the next day to see what each had made. First they went west to
see what Othagwenda had made. It was found that he had made the
country all rocks and full of ledges, and also a mosquito which
was very large.
Djuskaha asked the mosquito to run, in order that he might see
'whether the insect could fight. The mosquito ran, and sticking
his bill through a sapling, thereby made it fall, at which Djuskaha
said, "That will not be right, for you would kill the people
who are about to come." So, seizing him, he rubbed him down
in his hands, causing him to become very small. then he blew on
the mosquito, whereupon he flew away. He also modified some of the
other animals which his brother had made. After returning to their
lodge, they agreed to go the next day to see what Djuskaha had fashioned.
On visiting the east the next day, they found that Djuskaha had
made a large number of animals which were so fat that they could
hardly move; that he had made the sugar-maple trees to drop syrup;
that he had made the sycamore tree to bear fine fruit; that the
rivers were so formed that half the water flowed upstream and the
other half downstream. Then the reddish colored brother, Othagwenda,
was greatly displeased with what his brother had made, saying that
the people who were about to come would live too easily and be too
So he shook violently the various animals; the bears, deer, and
turkeys, causing them to become small at once, a characteristic
which attached itself to their descendants. He also caused the sugar
maple to drop sweetened water only, and the fruit of the sycamore
to become small and useless; and lastly he caused the water of the
rivers to flow in only one direction, because the original plan
would make it too easy for the human beings who were about to come
to navigate the streams.
The inspection of each other's work resulted in a deadly disagreement
between the brothers, who finally came to grips and blows, and Othagwenda
was killed in the fierce struggle.
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