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Two Native American Creation Myths

The Nez-Perce Indians tell the following creation myth.  Coyote made man from dirt and fire.  Man loved to run races.  When a man would lose a race he would feel sad because his brother was better than he was.  Man was unhappy.  Then Corn Maiden saw he was unhappy and promised man a gift.  “This gift will make it so no man will feel sad that his brother beats him at races.  Do you want it?”  Man said yes and Corn Maiden gave him her gift.  That was how death came into the world.

The Navajo have a similar myth.  Corn Maiden made man from dirt and water.  He was sad because he knew he was doomed to die.  Coyote saw his sadness and promised him a gift, to make him happy during his life before he died.  That gift was races and wars, so that while man lived he could feel about his fellow man as the gods feel about man — superior — and this would add sweetness to his brief life.

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2 thoughts on “Two Native American Creation Myths

  1. Matt Leibowitz says:

    How is it that the two characters in the stories play seemingly opposite roles? Reliability of the oral tradition or an important mental exercise for the subsequent interpreter of these stories?

  2. this actually comes up when you read myths — they come in a lot of different forms and things are transposed from one version to another. Both myths are saying the same thing just opposite about the consolation that death provides for failure.

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