The Creation of the World
This creation story, of the Gros Ventres Indians, is similar to the origin story of at least two other Algonquin tribes (the Arapahos and the Crees). It is also similar to stories handed down among the Huron and Iroquois tribes of eastern North America and to one related in 1953 by the oldest Chehalis Natives near the Washington coast.
The people before the present people were wild and did not know how to do anything. Because the Creator did not like the way they lived, he thought, "I will make a new world." He had the chief pipe. He went outdoors, hung the pipe on three sticks, and picked up four buffalo chips. He put one under each of the three sticks supporting the pipe, and took the fourth chip for his own seat.
The Creator said to himself, "I will sing three times and shout three times. Then I will kick the earth. There will be heavy rain, and soon, water will cover the earth."
So, he sang three times, he shouted three times, and he kicked the earth. The earth cracked and water came out. Then it rained many days and many nights until water was deep over the earth. Because of the buffalo chips, he and the pipe floated. Then the rain stopped. For days he drifted, floating where the wind and water took him. All the animals and birds had drowned except Crow.
Above the Creator, Crow flew around, crying. When it became tired, it cried, "My father, I am tired and I want to rest."
Three times Crow said these words. After the third time, the Creator replied, "Alight yourself on the pipe and rest."
At last the Creator became tired from sitting in one position and he cried. For a long time he did not know what to do. Then he remembered to unwrap the pipe. It contained all the animals. He took out all those that have a long breath and, thus, are able to dive through water. Large Loon, which he selected first, was not alive, but its body was wrapped up in the pipe. The Creator sang to it and then commanded it to
dive and try to bring up some mud. Not half way down, Large Loon lost its breath and turned back. Almost drowned, it reached the place where the Creator sat.
Then the Creator took Small Loon's body from the pipe, unwrapped it, sang, and commanded it to dive for mud. Small Loon nearly reached the bottom before it lost its breath and turned back. It was almost dead when it came back to the surface. Then the Creator took Turtle from the pipe, sang until it became alive, and sent it down after some mud.
Meanwhile, Crow flew about, crying for rest. The Creator paid no attention. After a long time, Turtle came up from the water, nearly dead.
"Did you reach the mud?" asked the Creator.
"Yes," answered Turtle. "I had much of it in my feet and along my sides, but it was washed away before I reached you."
"Come to me." The Creator looked in the cracks along its sides and in its feet. There he found a little earth, which he scraped into his hand. Then he began to sing. Three times he sang, and three times he shouted.
"I will throw this little dust in my hand into the water," he said. "Little by little, let there be enough to make a strip of land large enough for me."
He began to drop it, little by little, opening and closing his hand carefully. When he had finished, there was a small strip of land, big enough for him to sit on. Then the Creator said to Crow, "Come down and rest. I have made a piece of land for myself and for you."
Crow came down and rested, and then flew up again. The Creator took from his pipe two long wing feathers, held one in each hand, and began to sing. Three times he sang, and three times he shouted, "Youh, hou, hou!" Then he spread out his arms, closed his eyes, and said to himself, "Let there be land as far as my eyes can see around me."
When he opened his eyes, the water was hone and there was land as far as he could see. He walked over the earth with his pipe and with Crow. When he became thirsty, he did not know what to do to get water. Then he thought, "I will cry." So, he closed his eyes and cried until his tears, dropping on the ground, formed a large spring in front of him. Soon, a stream ran from out of the spring. When the Creator stopped crying, a large river was flowing. In this way he made all the streams.
When he became tired of being alone with Crow and his pipe, he decided to make persons and animals. First, he took earth and made it into the shape of a man. Then he took another piece of earth and made it into the shape of a woman. He molded more figures out of earth until he had created many men and women.
When the Creator thought he had enough people, he made animals of all kinds, in pairs. Then he gave names to the tribes of people and names to all kinds of animals. He sang three times, shouted three times, and kicked the earth. When he had finished, many pairs of living creatures stood before him, persons and animals.
He called the world "Turtle" because Turtle had helped him create it. Then he made bows and arrows, and he taught men how to use them. The pipe, he gave to a tribe called Haa-ninin (Gros Ventres).
He said to the people, "If you are good, there will be no more water and no more fire. Long before the flood came, the world had been burned. Now this is the third life."
Then he showed people the rainbow and said, "This rainbow is the sign that the earth will not be covered with water again. Whenever you have had rain, you will see the rainbow. It will mean that the rain has gone. There will be another world after this one."
He told the people to go off in pairs and to find homes for themselves. That is why human beings are scattered.