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First People :: Glossary :: North American Gods
 
 

North American Gods

Awonawilona (Pueblo Indians)

"The One Who Contains Everything." The Supreme God, the Creator of All. Before the creation there was only Awonawilona; all else was darkness and emptiness. Both male and female, Awonawilona created everything from himself and taking form became the maker of light, the Sun.

Breathmaker (Seminole)

Breathmaker taught men to fish and dig wells, and made the Milky Way. When the virtuous die, they follow the Milky Way to a glorious city in the western sky.

Coyote (Southwestern Indians, but known in other areas as well)

A trickster, a clown. The creator and teacher of men. Like Loki, Coyote is always lurking about, causing trouble and playing pranks. To the Zunis, Coyote is a hero who set forth the laws by which men may live in peace. The Pomo Indians maintain that Coyote created the human race and stole the sun to keep them warm. The Montana Sioux say that Coyote created the horse.

The Chinook tell how Coyote and Eagle went to the land of the dead to bring back their dead wives. On reaching the land of the dead, they found a meeting lodge lit only by the moon which lay on the floor. Every night an old woman would swallow the moon and the dead would appear in the meeting lodge. Recognizing their wives among the spirits of the dead, the two gods devised a plan. The next day, after the old woman had vomited up the moon and the dead had disappeared, Coyote built a huge wooden box and placed in it leaves of every kind of plant. Coyote and Eagle then killed the old woman, and Coyote donned her clothes. When the time came, Coyote swallowed the moon. The dead appeared, but Eagle had place the box outside the exit. When Coyote vomited up the moon, the dead filed out and were trapped in the box. Coyote pleaded to be allowed to carry the box, and Eagle gave it to him. But Coyote couldn't waitto see his wife and opened the box. The spirits of the dead rose up like a cloud and disappeared to the west. So it is that people must die forever, not like the plants which die in winter and are green again in a season.

Gahe Also Ga'an (Apache)

Supernatural beings who dwell inside mountains. The can sometimes be heard dancing and beating drums. Because they can heal and drive away disease, they are worshipped. In the ritual dances of the Chiricahua Apache masked dancers painted a different color for each point of the compass represent all the Gahe except the Grey One. The Grey One, though he appears as a clown, is really the mightiest of all the Gahe.

Kachinas (Hopi)

Nature spirits which inhabit and control everything -- animal spirits, spirits of departed ancestors, spirits of natural resources such as wind, rain and thunder. Their exact number is not known, but at least five hundred appear in the mythologies of the different villages.

Nesaru (Arikara)

Sky spirit. In the beginning, Nesaru had charge over all creation. Displeased with a race of giants in the underworld who would not respect his authority, Nesaru sent a new race to the underworld to replace them and sent a flood which destroyed the giants without destroying the new men. When the new men cried out to be released from the underworld, Nesaru sent the Corn Mother for their deliverance.

Olelbis (Wintun, Pacific Coast)

The Creator who lived in Olelpanti (Heaven) with two old women. When the first people destroyed the world with fire, Olelbis sent wind and rain to quench the flames, and repaired the earth. Olelbis intended men to live forever. When they grew old, they were to climb to heaven and join Olelbis in paradise. Olelbis set two vultures to the task of building a ladder to Olelpanti for men to ascend, but Coyote persuaded them to stop work.

Rabbit (Southeastern tribes)

Like Coyote and Michabo, a trickster god. Through a sly trick, Rabbit brought fire to man.

Raven (Northwestern tribes)

Another trickster god. Very greedy, forever seeking food. Raven stole the moon from a miser and placed it in the sky.

Thoume' (Chitimacha)

Thoume' taught the people to make clothing and fire, and how to make love. After making the moon and the sun, Thoume' sent the trickster god Kutnahin to teach medicine and food preparation to men. Kutnahin traveled through the world disguised as a derelict covered with buzzard dung.

Wachabe (Sioux/Osage)

Black Bear. A guardian. Symbol of long life, strength and courage.

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