Indian creation myths
The Genesis of Native American creation stories
Published: 10 June 2010 (GMT+10)
Is Genesis real history or just another attempt primitive mankind invented to explain his existence, prior to our enlightenment via “science” about evolutionary theory? If biblical creation is simply a myth that spread from the Middle East’s “cradle of modern civilization” that became diluted over time, what about the stories from peoples far removed, living on the vast continents across the seas?
‘Indian’ creation myths?
Columbus’ error in believing he had circumnavigated the globe and arrived in India produced the generic name ‘Indians’ given thereafter to most Native Americans (NA). This persisted long after his discrepancy was realized and considerable knowledge about the peoples of north (and south) America was subsequently discovered.
The controversy as to the origins of these (and all) people has been hotly debated. The standard evolutionary explanation that has primitive man coming ‘out of Africa’ and then up and over the Bering Strait over hundreds of thousands of years is the most commonly accepted explanation amongst modern western scholars. But what do these people say about themselves without the bias of modern academic speculations?
The history of the world as my Blackfeet Elders told it …
“My name is Percy Bullchild. I’m sixty-seven years of age. I’m a Blackfeet Indian from Browning, Montana. With what little education I have I am going to try to write the version of our own true ways in our history and in our legends … ”
So starts The Sun Came Down, a retelling of the Blackfeet1 tribe’s history. What was Percy’s motivation for writing these stories down? “Most written history of us Indians … has been written by non-Indians … . Most of these are so false and smearing that it gets me very mad.”2 “But this is our history and our legends of our beginnings, the very beginning of all life … ”3
Percy describes his people’s beginnings like this:
“This story is about a lone spirit that lived in this spiritual place before there was a world of any kind of life … He has been alive from ever and will continue to live forever … Life is given to all of us humans and to all the creations of the earth … ”4
The Blackfeet describe the Creator God as “Creator Sun”, who’s first living beings were snakes that rebelled against their creator and were punished for their transgressions. He then decided to make “ … something that will look like my image.”5 This creation was a woman (Creator Sun’s wife), animated when, “He had blown in the nostrils of the mud figure, which gave it life”.6
This woman was looking for food one day when she was tempted by a “snakeman” who told her a half-truth7 and caused her to betray her husband. The Creator “ … knew what was going on … but, as always, he is so forgiving to all his creations.”
“Nevertheless, all of us are to pay for whatever sins we commit … ”
The first creation of humans
“From the mud Creator Sun molded a form in his own shape, his own image … This mud figure came to life as Creator Sun blew into his nostrils.8
“ … he wanted to do for the mudman … Some way to help him overcome that loneliness. Using that strange power, Creator Sun put the mudman into a deeper sleep so he wouldn’t know what was going on.
“Kneeling down beside him, Creator Sun took out the mudman’s lowest, smallest left rib. With this rib he made an image after the mudman and himself … To bear fruit, to bear offspring.”
Such striking similarities between creation stories from numerous cultures worldwide and the Genesis account have been hard to explain for evolutionists. They typically dismiss them as resulting from ‘Christian influence’. However, despite the fact that this may have occurred in some instances, this has been flatly denied from many indigenous people (including the above), many of whom are hostile to a biblical view. Furthermore, the deviations in the stories from the biblical account support their originality.
In his book Red Earth, White Lies, Vine Deloria9 (no friend of Christianity) makes some interesting statements regarding flood tales that show up in virtually all NA creation stories.
“Flood stories are almost always linked with the concerns of fundamentalist Christians, who believe that Indian accounts of a great flood will provide additional proof of the accuracy of the Old Testament. With their cultural blinders in place, it never occurs to them that the Old Testament may very well provide evidence of the basic accuracy of the Indian story.”10
Of course the reverse argument (that the ‘Indian story’ may very well provide evidence of the basic accuracy of the OT) could be used as well, and the OT contains provable geographical locations, dates and events as well as prophecies like those leading up to the coming Messiah and His resurrection, the most verifiable event in ancient history. Most NA stories begin with familiar biblical themes and eventually wander off into fanciful stories with no verifiable way to support them, unlike the OT which becomes more and more testable as it progresses.
Anti-evolutionist (but Bible skeptic) Deloria points out some obvious reasons why evolutionists avoid or downplay most references to flood stories:
“Scholars in comparative religion, anthropology, psychology, and folklore usually steer well clear of using flood stories for anything except demonstrating that all societies have these kinds of traditions … Accepting that these flood stories speak of a planetary event, not so long ago, involving significant psychological trauma, would free minds to make progress in all sciences.”11
As to their frequency he says, “When we reach Washington State we discover that hardly an Indian group exists that does not have a flood story … ”12
Deloria is highlighting that evolutionists cannot afford to entertain the concept of a global flood as a real historical event because to do so would upset the time scale on which they have built their own secular creation myth, millions of years (MOY). Evolution needs MOY and if there were no MOY it points to creation rather than evolution.
Evolutionists have been hard pressed to explain away the abundance of flood stories (which indicate a common history amongst people groups of the world) other than ‘missionary contamination’. Some have suggested that local floods were common experiences for all people groups and therefore these incredibly similar tales (flood sent as punishment for sin, favoured survivor(s), wooden vessel, animals on board, etc.) must have appeared by happenstance.
David Leeming’s The Children’s Book of Mythology13 lists common “themes of mythology” on its back cover with the following: Quest, Flood, Creation, Fertility, Afterlife …
Certainly answers to where we came from and the quest for knowledge about life and the afterlife are common to all of humanity, but why would ‘Flood’ be a common theme of mythology? Bastion and Mitchell point out, “Mythological narratives regarding a great deluge abound worldwide. In North America, flood stories are found not only where people lived near large bodies of water, but also in the drier interior of the continent.”14
Why wouldn’t a common mythology of a gigantic earthquake, plague or a worldwide hurricane be common amongst all people groups if the stories simply came from a common natural experience of local catastrophes rather than knowledge of a common historical event? The reasoning seems desperate.
The battle of true history
In addition to flood stories there are many other aspects of the biblical narrative that are similar to so-called ‘Indian creation myths’. “Apart from tribes having migration stories descriptive of their origins, the majority of stories of origin suggest a creation in which people are given, simultaneous with their creation, an awareness that they were created.”15
Deloria attacks the evolutionary story of natives coming from pre-humans (ape man/hominid) on one hand, while denying biblical authority on the other. However, in also promoting Native American creation stories as having historical/scientific validity, Deloria finds himself having to explain away the similarity of what he believes and what Genesis plainly says in many areas.
For example, while quoting Clarence Pickernell (a man with Quinault, Chehalis and Cowlitz ancestry) regarding earth’s early climate he writes:
“ … when the world was young, the land east of where the Cascade Mountains now stand were very dry. This was in the early days before rains came to the earth. In the beginning of the world, moisture came up through the ground, but for some reason it stopped coming”16
Realizing the direct connection to the biblical account, Deloria quotes Genesis 2:5–6 and offers the following apologetic:
“Lest scientists begin to hemorrhage, these citations, in my mind, have nothing to do with the validity of any religions—Indian, Christian, Islamic, or Jewish. What we may have here is simply a description of a rather unusual planetary climate which characterized the initial state of the world—when human beings were around to experience it and how they remembered it.”
But why would “ … scientists begin to hemorrhage … ” because of his belief that the planet operated this way in the past? It is because this seems to validate a common history that all the mentioned religions share (found in the OT). CMI has pointed out for years that if the history of the Bible is not true, then neither are the doctrines that depend upon that history.
The main point of Deloria’s book is to bolster the scientific validity of native beliefs. However, his contention over which origin story is the original, or the true one, highlights the problem that it is a matter of historical (unobserved), not operational (observable) science. The crux of the origins debate is “Which version of history is true?”
Re-writing world history (denying any validity to Native American creation stories) to defeat Christianity
Deloria identifies the main reason he believes evolutionary scientists would want to ignore any account that supports belief in creation as follows:
“Of those societies that found a way to create a written record of the past, the Hebrews have been the most influential, since it was the adoption of the Hebrew version of ancient events that came to be accepted, through the spread of Christianity, as the valid and incontestable explanation of how this planet came to be.”17
“ … if the Bible were to be shown to be mythical fairy tales, and it was the confirmed word of God, the accounts of other peoples … would be even less reliable. When secular science defeated Christian fundamentalism, in its victory it was able to promulgate the belief that all accounts of creation or of catastrophic events were superstitions … ”18
So by downplaying the OT creation narrative, he is actually shooting himself in the foot! He does encapsulate the evolutionist stranglehold on the scientific establishment quite well however:
“Any group that wishes to be regarded as the authority in a human society must not simply banish or discredit the views of their rivals, they must become the sole source of truth for that society and defend their status and power to interpret against all comers by providing the best explanation of the data.”
“ … we have been trained to believe that science is infallible in the sense that … its processes of investigation and experimentation are the best available so that, given time and resources, the truth will eventually be discovered. This belief has degenerated into a strange form of religious belief … ”19
In the beginning according to ‘Indian creation myths’
“In the beginning there was only sky and water and the world was in darkness. Coiled in the water lay the Feathered Serpent … in the sky dwelt Heart of Heaven appearing as three kinds of huracan, or lightening … they fashioned a man out of clay … So the gods made a great flood during which resin fell like rain … most were killed … Finally the people separated, going in different directions and speaking different languages … ”
“It was in this manner, according to the Popul Vuh, the Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya, that the world was created and populated.”20
The body of evidence is substantial and the conclusion undeniable. Throughout the Americas various NA groups share similar, highly detailed creation accounts that mirror not only the Genesis account in the Bible, but parallel accounts from virtually every culture on the planet. Although distorted by time and countless re-telling, these tales support the Bible’s account of recent creation, fall (corruption by a ‘serpent’), Flood and Babel (languages) as real history that would have been known to all people groups at one time as they began their journey away from Babel and made their way across the globe.
With the mounting evidence from Geology, Biology, Astronomy and Anthropology in support of the biblical creation account, perhaps it is time for people around the world to dust off their Bibles and re-read the true history of humanity that really reveals both a common brotherhood of man and their desperate need for the Saviour.
- Bullchild, P., The Sun Came Down (The history of the world as my Blackfeet Elders toldiIt), 1st edition, Harper & Row, Publishers Inc., New York, NY, 1985, pp. 64, 65 (Original territory stretching almost from North Saskatchewan river, Canada, to the southern headstreams of the Missouri in Montana, USA, and from about long.105° to the base of the Rocky Mountains.) Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 2. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 2. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 3. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 8. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 9. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 14. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 39. Return to text.
- Deloria, Vine, JR Professor of history, law, religious studies and political science at University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. Return to text.
- Deloria, V., Red Earth, White Lies (Native Americans and the myth of scientific fact), Scribner, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, 1995, p. 207. Return to text.
- Ref. 2, pp. 207, 208. Return to text.
- Ref. 2, p. 209. Return to text.
- Leeming, D., The Children’s Dictionary of Mythology, Franklin Watts (a division of Grolier Publishing) USA, 1999, back cover. Return to text.
- Bastion, D., Mitchell, J., Handbook of Native American Mythology, Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, 2008, p. 97. Return to text.
- Ref. 2, p. 233. Return to text.
- Ref. 2, p. 234. Return to text.
- Ref. 2, p. 37. Return to text.
- Ref. 2, p. 38. Return to text.
- Ref. 2, pp. 40, 41. Return to text.
- Hunt, N., Gods and Myths of the Aztecs, Brockhampton Press, 20 Bloomsbury Street, London, UK, WCIB 3QA. Return to text.