The Story of the Emergence, from Navajo Legends

from Navajo Legends (1897) by Washington Matthews


  1. At Toʻbĭlhaskĭ′di (in the middle of the first world), white arose in the east, and they17 regarded it as day there, they say; blue rose in the south, and still it was day to them, and they moved around; yellow rose in the west and showed that evening had come; then dark arose in the north, and they lay down and slept.18
  2. At Toʻbĭlhaskĭ′di water flowed out (from a central source) in different directions; one stream flowed to the east, another to the south, and another to the west. There were dwelling-places on the border of the stream that flowed to the east, on that which flowed to the south, and on that which flowed to the west also.
  3. To the east there was a place called Tan (Corn), to the south a place called Nahodoóla, and to the west a place called Lókatsosakád (Standing Reed). Again, to the east there was a place called Essalái (One Pot), to the south a place called Toʻhádzĭtĭl (They Come Often for Water), and to the west a place called Dsĭllĭtsíbehogán (House Made of the Red Mountain). Then, again, to the east there was a place called Léyahogán (Under-ground House), to the south a place called Tsĭltsĭ′ntha (Among Aromatic Sumac), and to the west a place called Tseʻlĭsíbehogán (House Made of Red Rock).
  4. Holatsí Dĭlyĭ′le (dark ants) lived there. Holatsí Lĭtsí (red ants) lived there. Tanĭlaí (dragon flies) lived there. Tsaltsá (yellow beetles) lived there. Woĭntlĭ′zi (hard beetles) lived there. Tseʻyoáli (stone-carrier beetles) lived there. Kĭnlĭ′zĭn (black beetles) lived there. Maitsán (coyote-dung beetles) lived there. Tsápani (bats) lived there. Totsóʻ (white-faced beetles) lived there. Wonĭstsídi (locusts) lived there. Wonistsídikai (white locusts) lived there. These twelve people started in life there.19
  5. To the east extended an ocean, to the south an ocean, to the west an ocean, and to the north an ocean. In the ocean to the east lay Tiéholtsodi; he was chief of the people there. In the ocean to the south lived Thaltláhale (Blue Heron), who was chief of the people there. In the ocean to the west lay Tsal (Frog), who was chief of the people there. In the ocean to the north was Idniʻdsĭlkaí (White Mountain Thunder), and he was chief of the people there.20
  6. The people quarrelled among themselves, and this is the way it happened. They committed adultery, one people with another. Many of the women were guilty. They tried to stop it, but they could not. Tiéholtsodi, the chief in the east, said: “What shall we do with them? They like not the land they dwell in.” In the south Blue Heron spoke to them, and in the west Frog said: “No longer shall you dwell here, I say. I am chief here.” To the north White Mountain Lightning said: “Go elsewhere at once. Depart from here!”
  7. When again they sinned and again they quarrelled, Tiéholtsodi, in the east, would not speak to them; Blue Heron, in the south, would not speak to them; Frog, in the west, would say nothing; and White Mountain Thunder, in the north, would not speak to them.
  8. Again, at the end of four nights, the same thing happened. Those who dwelt at the south again committed crime, and again they had contentions. One woman and one man sought to enter in the east (to complain to the chief), but they were driven out. In the south they sought to go in where Blue Heron lay, but again they were driven out. In the west, where Frog was the chief, again they tried to enter; but again they were driven out. To the north again they were driven out. (The chief) said: “None of you (shall enter here). Go elsewhere and keep on going.” That night at Nahodoóla they held a council, but they arrived at no decision. At dawn Tiéholtsodi began to talk. “You pay no attention to my words. Everywhere you disobey me; you must go to some other place. Not upon this earth shall you remain.” Thus he spoke to them.
  9. Among the women, for four nights they talked about it. At the end of the fourth night, in the morning, as they were rising, something white appeared in the east. It appeared also in the south, the west, and the north. It looked like a chain of mountains, without a break, stretching around them. It was water that surrounded them. Water impassable, water insurmountable, flowed all around. All at once they started.
  10. They went in circles upward till they reached the sky. It was smooth. They looked down; but there the water had risen, and there was nothing else but water there. While they were flying around, one having a blue head thrust out his head from the sky and called to them, saying: “In here, to the eastward, there is a hole.” They entered the hole and went through it up to the surface (of the second world).
  11. The blue one belonged to the Hastsósidĭneʻ, or Swallow People.21 The Swallow People lived there. A great many of their houses, rough and lumpy, lay scattered all around. Each tapered toward the top, and at that part there was a hole for entrance. A great many people approached and gathered around the strangers, but they said nothing.
  12. The first world was red in color; the second world, into which the people had now entered, was blue.22 They sent out two couriers, a Locust and a White Locust, to the east, to explore the land and see if there were in it any people like themselves. At the end of two days the couriers returned, and said that in one day’s travel they had reached the edge of the world—the top of a great cliff that arose from an abyss whose bottom they could not see; but that they found in all their journey no people, no animals of any kind, no trees, no grass, no sage-brush, no mountains, nothing but bare, level ground. The same couriers were then dispatched in turn to the south, to the west, and to the north. They were gone on each journey two days, and when they returned related, as before, that they had reached the edge of the world, and discovered nothing but an uninhabited waste. Here, then, the strangers found themselves in the centre of a vast barren plain, where there was neither food nor a kindred people. When the couriers had returned from the north, the Swallows visited the camp of the newly arrived people, and asked them why they had sent out the couriers to the east. “We sent them out,” was the reply, “to see what was in the land, and to see if there were any people like ourselves here.” “And what did your couriers tell you?” asked the Swallows. “They told us that they came to the edge of the world, yet found no plant and no living thing in all the land.” (The same questions were asked and the same answers given for the other points of the compass.) “They spoke the truth,” said the Swallow People. “Had you asked us in the beginning what the land contained, we would have told you and saved you all your trouble. Until you came, no one has ever dwelt in all this land but ourselves.” The people then said to the Swallows: “You understand our language and are much like us. You have legs, feet, bodies, heads, and wings, as we have: why cannot your people and our people become friends?” “Let it be as you wish,” said the Swallows, and both parties began at once to treat each other as members of one tribe; they mingled one among the other, and addressed one another by the terms of relationship, as, my brother, my sister, my father, my son, etc.23
  13. They all lived together pleasantly and happily for twenty-three days; but on the twenty-fourth night one of the strangers made too free with the wife of the Swallow chief, and next morning, when the latter found out what had happened, he said to the strangers: “We have treated you as friends, and thus you return our kindness. We doubt not that for such crimes you were driven from the lower world, and now you must leave this. This is our land and we will have you here no longer. Besides, this is a bad land. People are dying here every day, and, even if we spare you, you cannot live here long.” The Locusts took the lead on hearing this; they soared upwards; the others followed, and all soared and circled till they reached the sky.
  14. When they reached the sky they found it, like the sky of the first world, smooth and hard with no opening; but while they were circling round under it, they saw a white face peering out at them,—it was the face of Nĭ′ltsi, the Wind. He called to them and told them if they would fly to the south they would find a hole through which they could pass; so off they flew, as bidden, and soon they discovered a slit in the sky which slanted upwards toward the south; through this slit they flew, and soon entered the third world in the south.
  15. The color of the third world was yellow.22 Here they found nothing but the Grasshopper People. The latter gathered around the wanderers in great numbers, but said nothing. They lived in holes in the ground along the banks of a great river which flowed through their land to the east. The wanderers sent out the same Locust messengers that they had sent out in the second world to explore the land to the east, to the south, to the west, to the north, to find out what the land contained, and to see if there were any kindred people in it; but the messengers returned from each journey after an absence of two days, saying they had reached the end of the world, and that they had found a barren land with no people in it save the Grasshoppers.24
  16. When the couriers returned from their fourth journey, the two great chiefs of the Grasshoppers visited the strangers and asked them why they had sent out the explorers, and the strangers answered that they had sent them out to see what grew in the land, and to find if there were any people like themselves in it. “And what did your couriers find?” said the Grasshopper chiefs. “They found nothing save the bare land and the river, and no people but yourselves.” “There is nothing else in the land,” said the chiefs. “Long we have lived here, but we have seen no other people but ourselves until you came.”
  17. The strangers then spoke to the Grasshoppers, as they had spoken to the Swallows in the second world, and begged that they might join them and become one people with them. The Grasshoppers consented, and the two peoples at once mingled among one another and embraced one another, and called one another by the endearing terms of relationship, as if they were all of the same tribe.
  18. As before, all went well for twenty-three days; but on the twenty-fourth one of the strangers served a chief of the Grasshoppers as the chief of the Swallows had been served in the lower world. In the morning, when the wrong was discovered, the chief reviled the strangers and bade them depart. “For such crimes,” he said, “I suppose you were chased from the world below: you shall drink no more of our water, you shall breathe no more of our air. Begone!”
  19. Up they all flew again, and circled round and round until they came to the sky above them, and they found it smooth and hard as before. When they had circled round for some time, looking in vain for an entrance, they saw a red head stuck out of the sky, and they heard a voice which told them to fly to the west. It was the head of Red Wind which they saw, and it was his voice that spoke to them. The passage which they found in the west was twisted round like the tendril of a vine; it had thus been made by the wind. They flew up in circles through it and came out in the fourth world. Four of the Grasshoppers came with them; one was white, one blue, one yellow, and one black. We have grasshoppers of these four colors with us to this day.25
  20. The surface of the fourth world was mixed black and white. The colors in the sky were the same as in the lower worlds, but they differed in their duration. In the first world, the white, the blue, the yellow, and the black all lasted about an equal length of time every day. In the second world the blue and the black lasted a little longer than the other two colors. In the third world they lasted still longer. In the fourth world there was but little of the white and yellow; the blue and the black lasted most of the time. As yet there was neither sun, moon, nor star.
  21. When they arrived on the surface of the fourth world they saw no living thing; but they observed four great snow-covered peaks sticking up at the horizon,—one at the east, one at the south, one at the west, and one at the north.
  22. They sent two couriers to the east. These returned at the end of two days. They related that they had not been able to reach the eastern mountain, and that, though they had travelled far, they had seen no track or trail or sign of life. Two couriers were then sent to the south. When they returned, at the end of two days, they related that they had reached a low range of mountains this side of the great peak; that they had seen no living creature, but had seen two different kinds of tracks, such as they had never seen before, and they described such as the deer and the turkey make now. Two couriers were next sent to the west. In two days these returned, having failed to reach the great peak in the west, and having seen no living thing and no sign of life. At last two couriers were sent to the north. When these got back to their kindred they said they had found a race of strange men, who cut their hair square in front, who lived in houses in the ground and cultivated fields. These people, who were engaged in gathering their harvest, the couriers said, treated them very kindly and gave them food to eat. It was now evident to the wanderers that the fourth world was larger than any of the worlds below.
  23. The day following the return of the couriers who went to the north, two of the newly discovered race—Kisáni (Pueblos) they were called—entered the camp of the exiles and guided the latter to a stream of water. The water was red, and the Kisáni told the wanderers they must not walk through the stream, for if they did the water would injure their feet. The Kisáni showed them a square raft made of four logs,—a white pine, a blue spruce, and yellow pine, and a black spruce,—on which they might cross; so they went over the stream and visited the homes of the Kisáni.
  24. The Kisáni gave the wanderers corn and pumpkins to eat, and the latter lived for some time on the food given to them daily by their new friends. They held a council among themselves, in which they resolved to mend their manners for the future and do nothing to make the Kisáni angry. The land of the Kisáni had neither rain nor snow; the crops were raised by irrigation.
  25. Late in the autumn they heard in the east the distant sound of a great voice calling. They listened and waited, and soon heard the voice nearer and louder. They listened still and heard the voice a third time, nearer and louder than before. Once more they listened, and soon they heard the voice louder still, and clear like the voice of one near at hand. A moment later four mysterious beings appeared to them.26 These were: Bĭtsís Lakaí, or White Body, a being like the god of this world whom the Navahoes call Hastséyalti; Bĭtsís Dotlĭ′z, or Blue Body, who was like the present Navaho god Tóʻnenĭli, or Water Sprinkler; Bĭtsís Lĭtsói, or Yellow Body; and Bĭtsís Lĭzĭ′n, or Black Body, who was the same as the present Navaho god of fire, Hastsézĭni.
  26. These beings, without speaking, made many signs to the people, as if instructing them; but the latter did not understand them. When the gods had gone, the people long discussed the mysterious visit, and tried to make out what the gods meant by the signs they had made. Thus the gods visited four days in succession. On the fourth day, when the other three had departed, Black Body remained behind and spoke to the people in their own language. He said: “You do not seem to understand the signs that these gods make you, so I must tell you what they mean. They want to make more people, but in form like themselves. You have bodies like theirs; but you have the teeth, the feet, and the claws of beasts and insects. The new creatures are to have hands and feet like ours. But you are uncleanly, you smell badly. Have yourselves well cleansed when we return; we will come back in twelve days.”
  27. On the morning of the twelfth day the people washed themselves well. The women dried themselves with yellow corn-meal; the men with white corn-meal.27 Soon after the ablutions were completed they heard the distant call of the approaching gods. It was shouted, as before, four times,—nearer and louder at each repetition,—and, after the fourth call, the gods appeared. Blue Body and Black Body each carried a sacred buckskin. White Body carried two ears of corn, one yellow, one white, each covered at the end completely with grains.28
  28. The gods laid one buckskin on the ground with the head to the west; on this they placed the two ears of corn, with their tips to the east, and over the corn they spread the other buckskin with its head to the east; under the white ear they put the feather of a white eagle, under the yellow ear the feather of a yellow eagle. Then they told the people to stand at a distance and allow the wind to enter. The white wind blew from the east, and the yellow wind blew from the west, between the skins. While the wind was blowing, eight of the Mirage People came and walked around the objects on the ground four times, and as they walked the eagle feathers, whose tips protruded from between the buckskins, were seen to move. When the Mirage People had finished their walk the upper buckskin was lifted,—the ears of corn had disappeared; a man and a woman lay there in their stead.
  29. The white ear of corn had been changed into a man, the yellow ear into a woman. It was the wind that gave them life. It is the wind that comes out of our mouths now that gives us life. When this ceases to blow we die. In the skin at the tips of our fingers we see the trail of the wind; it shows us where the wind blew when our ancestors were created.
  30. The pair thus created were First Man and First Woman (Atsé Hastín and Atsé Estsán). The gods directed the people to build an enclosure of brushwood for the pair. When the enclosure was finished, First Man and First Woman entered it, and the gods said to them: “Live together now as husband and wife.” At the end of four days hermaphrodite29 twins were born, and at the end of four days more a boy and a girl were born, who in four days grew to maturity and lived with one another as husband and wife. The primal pair had in all five pairs of twins, the first of which only was barren, being hermaphrodites.
  31. In four days after the last pair of twins was born, the gods came again and took First Man and First Woman away to the eastern mountain where the gods dwelt, and kept them there for four days. When they returned all their children were taken to the eastern mountain and kept there for four days. Soon after they all returned it was observed that they occasionally wore masks, such as Hastséyalti and Hastséhogan wear now, and that when they wore these masks they prayed for all good things,—for abundant rain and abundant crops. It is thought, too, that during their visit to the eastern mountain they learned the awful secrets of witchcraft, for the antíhi (witches, wizards) always keep such masks with them and marry those too nearly related to them.
  32. When they returned from the eastern mountain the brothers and sisters separated; and, keeping the fact of their former unlawful marriages secret, the brothers married women of the Mirage People and the sisters married men of the Mirage People. They kept secret, too, all the mysteries they had learned in the eastern mountain. The women thus married bore children every four days, and the children grew to maturity in four days, were married, and in their turn had children every four days. This numerous offspring married among the Kisáni, and among those who had come from the lower world, and soon there was a multitude of people in the land.
  33. These descendants of First Man and First Woman made a great farm. They built a dam and dug a wide irrigating ditch. But they feared the Kisáni might injure their dam or their crops; so they put one of the hermaphrodites to watch the dam and the other to watch the lower end of the field. The hermaphrodite who watched at the dam invented pottery. He made first a plate, a bowl, and a dipper, which were greatly admired by the people. The hermaphrodite who lived at the lower end of the farm invented the wicker water-bottle.30 Others made, from thin split boards of cottonwood, implements which they shoved before them to clear the weeds out of the land. They made also hoes from shoulder-blades of deer and axes of stone. They got their seeds from the Kisáni.
  34. Once they killed a little deer, and some one among them thought that perhaps they might make, from the skin of the head, a mask, by means of which they could approach other deer and kill them. They tried to make such a mask but failed; they could not make it fit. They debated over the invention and considered it for four days, but did not succeed. On the morning of the fifth day they heard the gods shouting in the distance. As on a previous occasion, they shouted four times, and after the fourth call they made their appearance. They brought with them heads of deer and of antelope. They showed the people how the masks were made and fitted, how the eye-holes were cut, how the motions of the deer were to be imitated, and explained to them all the other mysteries of the deer-hunt.31 Next day hunters went out and several deer were killed; from these more masks were made, and with these masks more men went out to hunt; after that time the camp had abundance of meat. The people dressed the deerskins and made garments out of them.
  35. The people from the third world had been in the fourth world eight years when the following incident occurred: One day they saw the sky stooping down and the earth rising up to meet it. For a moment they came in contact, and then there sprang out of the earth, at the point of contact, the Coyote and the Badger. We think now that the Coyote and the Badger are children of the sky. The Coyote rose first, and for this reason we think he is the elder brother of the Badger. At once the Coyote came over to the camp and skulked round among the people, while the Badger went down into the hole that led to the lower world.
  36. First Man told the people the names of the four mountains which rose in the distance. They were named the same as the four mountains that now bound the Navaho land. There was Tsĭsnadzĭ′ni in the east, Tsótsĭl in the south, Dokoslíd in the west, and Depĕ′ntsa in the north, and he told them that a different race of people lived in each mountain.
  37. First Man was the chief of all these people in the fourth world, except the Kisáni. He was a great hunter, and his wife, First Woman, was very corpulent. One day he brought home from the hunt a fine fat deer. The woman boiled some of it and they had a hearty meal. When they were done the woman wiped her greasy hands on her dress, and made a remark which greatly enraged her husband; they had a quarrel about this, which First Man ended by jumping across the fire and remaining by himself in silence for the rest of the night.32
  38. Next morning First Man went out early and called aloud to the people: “Come hither, all ye men,” he said; “I wish to speak to you, but let all the women stay behind; I do not wish to see them.” Soon all the males gathered, and he told them what his wife had said the night before. “They believe,” he said, “that they can live without us. Let us see if they can hunt game and till the fields without our help. Let us see what sort of a living they can make by themselves. Let us leave them and persuade the Kisáni to come with us. We will cross the stream, and when we are gone over we will keep the raft on the other side.” He sent for the hermaphrodites. They came, covered with meal, for they had been grinding corn. “What have you that you have made yourselves?” he asked. “We have each two mealing-stones, and we have cups and bowls and baskets and many other things,” they answered. “Then take these all along with you,” he ordered, “and join us to cross the stream.” Then all the men and the hermaphrodites assembled at the river and crossed to the north side on the raft, and they took over with them their stone axes and farm implements and everything they had made. When they had all crossed they sent the raft down to the Kisáni for them to cross. The latter came over,—six gents of them,—but they took their women with them. While some of the young men were crossing the stream they cried at parting with their wives; still they went at the bidding of their chief. The men left the women everything the latter had helped to make or raise.
  39. As soon as they had crossed the river some of the men went out hunting, for the young boys needed food, and some set to work to chop down willows and build huts. They had themselves all sheltered in four days.
  40. That winter the women had abundance of food, and they feasted, sang, and had a merry time. They often came down to the bank of the river and called across to the men and taunted and reviled them. Next year the men prepared a few small fields and raised a little corn; but they did not have much corn to eat, and lived a good deal by hunting. The women planted all of the old farm, but they did not work it very well; so in the winter they had a small crop, and they did not sing and make merry as in the previous winter. In the second spring the women planted less, while the men planted more, cleared more land, and increased the size of their farm. Each year the fields and crops of the men increased, while those of the women diminished and they began to suffer for want of food. Some went out and gathered the seeds of wild plants to eat. In the autumn of the third year of separation many women jumped into the river and tried to swim over; but they were carried under the surface of the water and were never seen again. In the fourth year the men had more food than they could eat; corn and pumpkins lay untouched in the fields, while the women were starving.
  41. First Man at length began to think what the effect of his course might be. He saw that if he continued to keep the men and the women apart the race might die out, so he called the men and spoke his thoughts to them. Some said, “Surely our race will perish,” and others said, “What good is our abundance to us? We think so much of our poor women starving in our sight that we cannot eat.” Then he sent a man to the shore to call across the stream to find if First Woman were still there, and to bid her come down to the bank if she were. She came to the bank, and First Man called to her and asked if she still thought she could live alone. “No,” she replied, “we cannot live without our husbands.” The men and the women were then told to assemble at the shores of the stream; the raft was sent over and the women were ferried across. They were made to bathe their bodies and dry them with meal. They were put in a corral and kept there until night, when they were let out to join the men in their feasts.33
  42. When they were let out of the corral it was found that three were missing. After dark, voices were heard calling from the other side of the river; they were the voices of the missing ones,—a mother and her two daughters. They begged to be ferried over, but the men told them it was too dark, that they must wait until morning. Hearing this, they jumped into the stream and tried to swim over. The mother succeeded in reaching the opposite bank and finding her husband. The daughters were seized by Tiéholtsodi, the water monster, and dragged down under the water.
  43. For three nights and three days the people heard nothing about the young women and supposed them lost forever. On the morning of the fourth day the call of the gods was heard,—four times as usual,—and after the fourth call White Body made his appearance, holding up two fingers and pointing to the river. The people supposed that these signs had reference to the lost girls. Some of the men crossed the stream on the raft and looked for the tracks of the lost ones; they traced the tracks to the edge of the water, but no farther. White Body went away, but soon returned, accompanied by Blue Body. White Body carried a large bowl of white shell, and Blue Body a large bowl of blue shell. They asked for a man and a woman to accompany them, and they went down to the river. They put both the bowls on the surface of the water and caused them to spin around. Beneath the spinning bowls the water opened, for it was hollow, and gave entrance to a large house of four rooms. The room in the east was made of the dark waters, the room in the south of the blue waters, the room in the west of the yellow waters, and the room in the north of waters of all colors.36
  44. The man and the woman descended and Coyote followed them. They went first into the east room, but there they found nothing; then they went into the south room, but there they found nothing; next they went into the west room, where again they found nothing; at last they went into the north room, and there they beheld the water monster Tiéholtsodi, with the two girls he had stolen and two children of his own. The man and the woman demanded the children, and as he said nothing in reply they took them and walked away. But as they went out Coyote, unperceived by all, took the two children of Tiéholtsodi and carried them off under his robe. Coyote always wore his robe folded close around him and always slept with it thus folded, so no one was surprised to see that he still wore his robe in this way when he came up from the waters, and no one suspected that he had stolen the children of Tiéholtsodi.
  45. Next day the people were surprised to see deer, turkey, and antelope running past from east to west, and to see animals of six different kinds (two kinds of Hawks, two kinds of Squirrels, the Hummingbird, and the Bat) come into their camp as if for refuge. The game animals ran past in increasing numbers during the three days following. On the morning of the fourth day, when the white light rose, the people observed in the east a strange white gleam along the horizon, and they sent out the Locust couriers to see what caused this unusual appearance. The Locusts returned before sunset, and told the people that a vast flood of waters was fast approaching from the east. On hearing this the people all assembled together, the Kisáni with the others, in a great multitude, and they wailed and wept over the approaching catastrophe. They wept and moaned all night and could not sleep.
  46. When the white light arose in the east, next morning, the waters were seen high as mountains encircling the whole horizon, except in the west, and rolling on rapidly. The people packed up all their goods as fast as they could, and ran up on a high hill near by, for temporary safety. Here they held a council. Some one suggested that perhaps the two Squirrels (Hazáitso and Hazáistozi) might help them. “We will try what we can do,” said the Squirrels. One planted a piñon seed, the other a juniper seed, and they grew so very fast that the people hoped that they would soon grow so tall that the flood could not reach their tops, and that all might find shelter there. But after the trees grew a little way they began to branch out and grew no higher. Then the frightened people called on the Weasels (Gloʻdsĭlkái and Gloʻdsĭlzĭ′ni). One of these planted a spruce seed and one a pine seed. The trees sprouted at once and grew fast, and again the people began to hope; but soon the trees commenced to branch, and they dwindled to slender points at the top and ceased to grow higher. Now they were in the depths of despair, for the waters were coming nearer every moment, when they saw two men approaching the hill on which they were gathered.
  47. One of the approaching men was old and grayhaired; the other, who was young, walked in advance. They ascended the hill and passed through the crowd, speaking to no one. The young man sat down on the summit, the old man sat down behind him, and the Locust sat down behind the old man,—all facing the east. The elder took out seven bags from under his robe and opened them. Each contained a small quantity of earth. He told the people that in these bags he had earth from the seven sacred mountains. There were in the fourth world seven sacred mountains, named and placed like the sacred mountains of the present Navaho land. “Ah! Perhaps our father can do something for us,” said the people. “I cannot, but my son may be able to help you,” said the old man. Then they bade the son to help them, and he said he would if they all moved away from where he stood, faced to the west, and looked not around until he called them; for no one should see him at his work. They did as he desired, and in a few moments he called them to come to him. When they came, they saw that he had spread the sacred earth on the ground and planted in it thirty-two reeds, each of which had thirty-two joints. As they gazed they beheld the roots of the reeds striking out into the soil and growing rapidly downward. A moment later all the reeds joined together and became one reed of great size, with a hole in its eastern side. He bade them enter the hollow of the reed through this hole. When they were all safely inside, the opening closed, and none too soon, for scarcely had it closed when they heard the loud noise of the surging waters outside, saying, “Yin, yin, yin.”37
  48. The waters rose fast, but the reed grew faster, and soon it grew so high that it began to sway, and the people inside were in great fear lest, with their weight, it might break and topple over into the water. White Body, Blue Body, and Black Body were along. Black Body blew a great breath out through a hole in the top of the reed; a heavy dark cloud formed around the reed and kept it steady. But the reed grew higher and higher; again it began to sway, and again the people within were in great fear, whereat he blew and made another cloud to steady the reed. By sunset it had grown up close to the sky, but it swayed and waved so much that they could not secure it to the sky until Black Body, who was uppermost, took the plume out of his head-band and stuck it out through the top of the cane against the sky, and this is why the reed (Phragmites communis) always carries a plume on its head now.38
  49. Seeing no hole in the sky, they sent up the Great Hawk, Ginĭ′tso, to see what he could do. He flew up and began to scratch in the sky with his claws, and he scratched and scratched till he was lost to sight. After a while he came back, and said that he scratched to where he could see light, but that he did not get through the sky. Next they sent up a Locust.39 He was gone a long time, and when he came back he had this story to tell: He had gotten through to the upper world, and came out on a little island in the centre of a lake. When he got out he saw approaching him from the east a black Grebe [an aquatic bird], and from the west a yellow Grebe.40 One of them said to him: “Who are you and whence come you?” But he made no reply. The other then said: “We own half of this world,—I in the east, my brother in the west. We give you a challenge. If you can do as we do, we shall give you one half of the world; if you cannot, you must die.” Each had an arrow made of the black wind. He passed the arrow from side to side through his heart and flung it down to Wonĭstsídi, the Locust.41 The latter picked up one of the arrows, ran it from side to side through his heart, as he had seen the Grebes do, and threw it down.42 The Grebes swam away, one to the east and one to the west, and troubled him no more. When they had gone, two more Grebes appeared, a blue one from the south and a shining one from the north. They spoke to him as the other Grebes had spoken, and gave him the same challenge. Again he passed the arrow through his heart and the Grebes departed, leaving the land to the locust. To this day we see in every locust’s sides the holes made by the arrows. But the hole the Locust made in ascending was too small for many of the people, so they sent Badger up to make it larger. When Badger came back his legs were stained black with the mud, and the legs of all badgers have been black ever since. Then First Man and First Woman led the way and all the others followed them, and they climbed up through the hole to the surface of this—the fifth—world.
  51. The lake43 was bounded by high cliffs, from the top of which stretched a great plain. There are mountains around it now, but these have been created since the time of the emergence. Finding no way to get out of the lake, they called on Blue Body to help them. He had brought with him from the lower world four stones; he threw one of these towards each of the four cardinal points against the cliffs, breaking holes, through which the waters flowed away in four different directions.44 The lake did not altogether drain out by this means; but the bottom became bare in one place, connecting the island with the mainland. But the mud was so deep in this place that they still hesitated to cross, and they prayed to Nĭ′ltsi Dĭlkóhi, Smooth Wind, to come to their aid.45 Nĭ′ltsi Dĭlkóhi blew a strong wind, and in one day dried up the mud so that the people could easily walk over. While they were waiting for the ground to dry, the Kisáni camped on the east side of the island and built a stone wall (which stands to this day), to lean against and to shelter them from the wind.46 The other people set up a shelter of brushwood. The women erected four poles, on which they stretched a deerskin, and under the shelter of this they played the game of three-sticks,47 tsĭndĭ′, one of the four games which they brought with them from the lower world.
  52. When they reached the mainland they sought to divine their fate. To do this some one threw a hide-scraper into the water, saying: “If it sinks we perish, if it floats we live.” It floated, and all rejoiced. But Coyote said: “Let me divine your fate.” He picked up a stone, and saying, “If it sinks we perish; if it floats we live,” he threw it into the water. It sank, of course, and all were angry with him and reviled him; but he answered them saying: “If we all live, and continue to increase as we have done, the earth will soon be too small to hold us, and there will be no room for the cornfields. It is better that each of us should live but a time on this earth and then leave and make room for our children.” They saw the wisdom of his words and were silent. The day they arrived at the shore they had two visitors,—Puma and Wolf. “We have heard,” said these, “that some new people had come up out of the ground, and we have come over to see them.” Puma took a bride from among the new people.
  53. On the fourth day of the emergence some one went to look at the hole through which they had come out, and he noticed water welling up there; already it was nearly on a level with the top of the hole, and every moment it rose higher. In haste he ran back to his people and told them what he had seen. A council was called at once to consider the new danger that threatened them. First Man, who rose to speak, said, pointing to Coyote: “Yonder is a rascal, and there is something wrong about him. He never takes off his robe, even when he lies down. I have watched him for a long time, and have suspected that he carries some stolen property under his robe. Let us search him.”48 They tore the robe from Coyote’s shoulders, and two strange little objects dropped out that looked something like buffalo calves, but were spotted all over in various colors; they were the young of Tiéholtsodi. At once the people threw them into the hole through which the waters were pouring; in an instant the waters subsided, and rushed away with a deafening noise to the lower world.49




  1. No antecedent. We are first told to whom “they” refers in paragraph 139.
  2. In symbolizing by color the four cardinal points, the Navahoes have two principal systems, as follows:—

East.      South.   West.    North.

First System        White.   Blue.      Yellow.  Black.

Second System  Black.    Blue.      Yellow.  White.

Both systems are the same, except that the colors black and white change places. The reasons for this change have not been satisfactorily determined. In general, it seems that when speaking of places over ground—lucky and happy places—the first system is employed; while, when places underground—usually places of danger—are described, the second system is used. But there are many apparent exceptions to the latter rule. In one version of the Origin Legend (Version B) the colors are arranged according to the second system both in the lower and upper worlds. In the version of the same legend here published the first system is given for all places in the lower worlds, except in the house of Tiéholtsodi under the waters (par. 178), where the east room is described as dark and the room in the north as being of all colors. Yet the Indian who gave this version (Hatáli Nĕz), in his Prayer of the Rendition (note 315), applies the second system to all regions traversed below the surface of the earth by the gods who come to rescue the lost soul. Although he does not say that the black chamber is in the east, he shows it corresponds with the east by mentioning it first. Hatáli Natlói, in the “Story of Natĭ′nĕsthani,” follows the first system in all cases except when describing the house of Tiéholtsodi under the water, where the first chamber is represented as black and the last as white. Although in this case the rooms may be regarded as placed one above another, the black being mentioned first shows that it is intended to correspond with the east. In all cases, in naming the points of the compass, or anything which symbolizes them, or in placing objects which pertain to them (note 227), the east comes first, the south second, the west third, the north fourth. The sunwise circuit is always followed. If the zenith and nadir are mentioned, the former comes fifth and the latter sixth in order. The north is sometimes symbolized by “all colors,” i.e., white, blue, yellow, and black mixed (note 22), and sometimes by red. In the myth of dsĭlyĭ′dze hatál314 (the story of Dsĭ′lyiʻ Neyáni) five homes of holy people underground are described, in all of which the second system is used. See, also, note 111, where the second system is applied to the house of the sun. In the story of the “Great Shell of Kĭntyél” at the home of the Spider Woman underground, in the sky world, the east is represented by black and the north by white. (See par. 581 and note 40.)

  1. There are but three streams and but nine villages or localities mentioned, while twelve winged tribes are named. Probably three are supposed to have lived in the north where no stream ran, or there may have been a fourth river in the Navaho paradise, whose name is for some reason suppressed.

References to the sacred number four are introduced with tiresome pertinacity into all Navaho legends.

  1. Version B.—In the first world three dwelt, viz.: First Man, First Woman, and Coyote.
  2. The swallow to which reference is made here is the cliff swallow,—Petrochelidon lunifrons.
  3. The colors given to the lower worlds in this legend—red for the first, blue for the second, yellow for the third, and mixed for the fourth—are not in the line of ordinary Navaho symbolism (note 18), but they agree very closely with some Moki symbolism, as described by Victor Mindeleff in his “Study of Pueblo Architecture,”324 p. 129. The colors there mentioned, if placed in order according to the Navaho system (note 18), would stand thus: red (east), blue (south), yellow (west), white (north). Mixed colors sometimes take the place of the north or last in Navaho symbolism. Possibly Moki elements have entered into this version of the Navaho legend. (See par. 91.)
  4. Version B.—In the second world, when First Man, First Woman, and Coyote ascended, they found those who afterwards carried the sun and moon, and, beyond the bounds of the earth, he of the darkness in the east, he of the blueness [217]in the south, he of the yellowness in the west, and he of the whiteness in the north (perhaps the same as White Body, Blue Body, etc., of the fourth world in the present version. See par. 160). Sun and First Woman were the transgressors who caused the exodus.
  5. Version B.—When the five individuals mentioned in note 23 came from the second world, they found the “people of the mountains” already occupying the third world.
  6. Version B.—The people were chased from the third world to the fourth world by a deluge and took refuge in a reed, as afterwards related of the flight from the fourth world.
  7. In the Navaho tales, when the yéi (genii, gods) come to visit men, they always announce their approach by calling four times. The first call is faint, far, and scarcely audible. Each succeeding call is louder and more distinct. The last call sounds loud and near, and in a moment after it is heard the god makes his appearance. These particulars concerning the gods’ approach are occasionally briefly referred to; but usually the story-teller repeats them at great length with a modulated voice, and he pantomimically represents the recipient of the visit, starting and straining his attention to discern the distant sounds.

Nearly every god has his own special call. A few have none. Imperfect attempts have been made in this work to represent some of these calls by spelling them; but this method represents the original no better than “Bob White” represents the call of a quail. Some of the cries have been recorded by the writer on phonographic cylinders, but even these records are very imperfect. In the ceremonies of the Navahoes, the masked representatives of the gods repeat these calls. The calls of Hastséyalti and Hastséhogan are those most frequently referred to in the tales…

  1. Yellow corn belongs to the female, white corn to the male. This rule is observed in all Navaho ceremonies, and is mentioned in many Navaho myths. (Pars. 164, 291, 379; note 107, etc.)
  2. An ear of corn used for sacred purposes must be completely covered with full grains, or at least must have been originally so covered. One having abortive grains at the top is not used. For some purposes, as in preparing the implements used in initiating females in the rite of klédzi hatál, not only must the ear of corn be fully covered by grains, but it must be tipped by an arrangement of four grains. Such an ear of corn is called tohonotĭ′ni.
  3. The Navaho word nátli or nŭ′tle is here translated hermaphrodite, because the context shows that reference is made to anomalous creatures. But the word is usually employed to designate that class of men, known perhaps in all wild Indian tribes, who dress as women, and perform the duties usually allotted to women in Indian camps. Such persons are called berdaches (English, bardash) by the French Canadians. By the Americans they are called hermaphrodites (commonly mispronounced “morphodites”), and are generally supposed to be such.
  4. These so-called hermaphrodites (note 29) are, among all Indian tribes that the author has observed, more skilful in performing women’s work than the women themselves. The Navahoes, in this legend, credit them with the invention of arts practised by women. The best weaver in the Navaho tribe, for many years, was a nátli.
  5. Masks made from the skins of deer-heads and antelope-heads, with or without antlers, have been used by various Indian tribes, in hunting, to deceive the animals and allow the hunters to approach them. There are several references to such masks in the Navaho tales, as in the story of Natĭ′nĕsthani (par. 544) and in the myth of “The Mountain Chant,” page 391.314 In the latter story, rites connected with the deer mask are described.[218]
  6. The quarrel between First Man and First Woman came to pass in this way: When she had finished her meal she wiped her hands in her dress and said: “Eʻyéhe si-tsod” (Thanks, my vagina). “What is that you say?” asked First Man. “Eʻéhe si-tsod,” she repeated. “Why do you speak thus?” he queried; “Was it not I who killed the deer whose flesh you have eaten? Why do you not thank me? Was it tsod that killed the deer?” “Yes,” she replied; “if it were not for that, you would not have killed the deer. If it were not for that, you lazy men would do nothing. It is that which does all the work.” “Then, perhaps, you women think you can live without the men,” he said. “Certainly we can. It is we women who till the fields and gather food: we can live on the produce of our fields, and the seeds and fruits we collect. We have no need of you men.” Thus they argued. First Man became more and more angry with each reply that his wife made, until at length, in wrath, he jumped across the fire.
  7. During the separation of the sexes, both the men and the women were guilty of shameful practices, which the story-tellers very particularly describe. Through the transgressions of the women the anáye, alien gods or monsters, who afterwards nearly annihilated the human race, came into existence; but no evil consequences followed the transgressions of the men. Thus, as usual, a moral lesson is conveyed to the women, but none to the men.
  8. 34, 35. Notes 34 and 35 are omitted.
  9. Version A.—Water in the east, black; south, blue; west, yellow; north, white. In the ceremony of hozóni hatál a picture representing Tiéholtsodi and the four waters is said to be made.
  10. Version A says that the nodes were woven by the spider, and that different animals dwelt in the different internodes. Version B says that the great reed took more than one day to grow to the sky; that it grew by day and rested by night; that the hollow internodes now seen in the reed show where it grew by day, and the solid nodes show where it rested by night. Some say four reeds were planted to form one, others that one reed only was planted.
  11. Version B.—The Turkey was the last to take refuge in the reed, therefore he was at the bottom. When the waters rose high enough to wet the Turkey he gobbled, and all knew that danger was near. Often did the waves wash the end of his tail; and it is for this reason that the tips of turkeys’ tail-feathers are, to this day, lighter than the rest of the plumage.
  12. Version A.—First Man and First Woman called on all the digging animals (ĭ′ndatsidi dáltso) to help. These were: Bear, Wolf, Coyote, Lynx, and Badger. First, Bear dug till he was tired; then Coyote took his place, and so on. When badger was digging, water began to drip down from above: then they knew they had struck the waters of the upper world, and sent Locust up. Locust made a sort of shaft in the soft mud, such as locusts make to this day.
  13. Version A says there were four cranes; Version B, that there were four swans. Both versions say that the bird of the east was black, that of the south blue, that of the west yellow, and that of the north white. (See note 18.)
  14. Two versions, A and B, have it that the bird passed the arrows through from mouth to vent, and vice versa, but all make the Locust pass his arrows through his thorax. Another version relates that two of the birds said: “You can have the land if you let us strike you in the forehead with an axe.” Locust consented. They missed their aim and cut off his cheeks, which accounts for his narrow face now. Version A relates that the arrows were plumed with eagle-feathers.
  15. Version A.—The Locust, before transfixing himself with the arrows, shoved his vitals down into his abdomen; then he changed his mind and shoved them high into his chest. That accounts for his big chest now.
  16. A small lake situated somewhere in the San Juan Mountains is said to be the place through which the people came from the fourth world to this world. It is surrounded, the Indians tell, by precipitous cliffs, and has a small island near its centre, from the top of which something rises that looks like the top of a ladder. Beyond the bounding cliffs there are four mountain peaks,—one to the east, one to the south, one to the west, and one to the north of the lake,—which are frequently referred to in the songs and myths of the Navahoes. These Indians fear to visit the shores of this lake, but they climb the surrounding mountains and view its waters from a distance. The place is called Ha-dzi-naí, or Ni-ho-yos-tsá-tse, which names may be freely translated Place of Emergence, or Land Where They Came Up. The San Juan Mountains abound in little lakes. Which one of these is considered by the Navahoes as their Place of Emergence is not known, and it is probable that it could only be determined by making a pilgrimage thither with a party of Navahoes who knew the place. Mr. Whitman Cross, of the United States Geological Survey, who has made extensive explorations in the San Juan Mountains, relates that Trout Lake is regarded by the Indians as a sacred lake; that they will not camp near it, and call it a name which is rendered Spirit Lake. This sheet of water is designated as San Miguel Lake on the maps of Hayden’s Survey. It lies near the line of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, at the head of the South Fork of San Miguel River. It has no island. A small lake, which accords more in appearance with the Navahoes’ description of their sacred lake, is Island Lake. This has a small, rocky island in the middle. It is situated on a branch of the South Fork of Mineral Creek, three miles southeast of Ophir, Colorado, at an altitude of 12,450 feet. Prof. A. H. Thompson has suggested that Silver Lake, about five miles southeasterly from Silverton, Colorado, may be the Place of Emergence. This lake is 11,600 feet above sea-level, and is surrounded by four high mountain peaks, but it has no island.
  17. Version A.—Gánaskĭdi struck the cliffs with his wand. “Gong ê′” it sounded, and broke the cliffs open. Version B.—He of the darkness of the east cut the cliffs with his knife shaped like a horn.
  18. Version A.—They prayed to the four Winds,—the black Wind of the east, the blue Wind of the south, the yellow Wind of the west, and the white Wind of the north,—and they sang a wind-song which is still sung in the rite of hozóni hatál. Version B.—They prayed to the four Winds.
  19. The Kisáni, being builders of stone houses, set up a stone wall; the others, representing the Navahoes, set up a shelter of brushwood, as is the custom of the Navahoes now.
  20. Tsĭ-dĭ′l, or tsĭn-dĭ′l is a game played by the Navaho women. The principal implements of the game are three sticks, which are thrown violently, ends down, on a flat stone, around which the gamblers sit. The sticks rebound so well that they would fly far away, were not a blanket stretched overhead to throw them back to the players. A number of small stones, placed in the form of a square, are used as counters; these are not moved, but sticks, whose positions are changed according to the fortunes of the game, are placed between them. The rules of the game have not been recorded. The other games were: dilkón, played with two sticks, each the length of an arm; atsá, played with forked sticks and a ring; and aspĭ′n.
  21. Version A.—Coyote and Hastsézĭni were partners in the theft of the young of Tiéholtsodi. When Coyote saw the water rising, he pointed with his protruded lips (as Indians often do) to the water, and glanced significantly at his accomplice. First Man observed the glance, had his suspicions aroused, and began to search.
  22. Other variants of the story of the restoration of Tiéholtsodi’s young speak [220]of sacrifices and peace offerings in keeping with the Indian custom. Version A.—They got a haliotis shell of enormous size, so large that a man’s encircling arm could barely surround it. Into this they put other shells and many precious stones. They sprinkled pollen on the young and took some of it off again, for it had been rendered more holy by contact with the bodies of the young sea monsters. Then they put these also into the shell and laid all on the horns of Tiéholtsodi; at once he disappeared under the earth and the waters went down after him. The pollen taken from the young was distributed among the people, and brought them rain and game and much good fortune. Version B.—“At once they threw them (the young) down to their father, and with them a sacrifice of the treasures of the sea,—their shell ornaments. In an instant the waters began to rush down through the hole and away from the lower worlds.”



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