Native American Mythology

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NATIVE AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY CREATION MYTHS: Marriott and Rachlin. “How the World Was Made” (Cheyenne) Thompson, Stith. ed. “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky” (Iroquois/Seneca) Erdoes and Ortiz. eds. “Pushing Up the Sky” (Snohomish) CRITICAL READING: Allen, Paula Gunn. “The Sacred Hoop: A Contemporary Indian Perspective on American Indian Literature” Weigle, Marta. “Creation and Procreation, Cosmogony and Childbirth: Reflections on Ex Nihilo, Earth Diver, and Emergence Mythology” Dundes, Alan. “Earth-Diver: Creation of the Mythopoeic Male” Matthews, Washington. “Myths of Gestation and Parturition” Reader's Guide Background The Cheyenne, a Native American people, have inhabited the North American continent for centuries. During the seventeenth century, the Cheyenne migrated from the Great Lakes region to the central plains. Their life on the plains was firmly linked with nature in general-and with the buffalo in particular. They came to depend upon the buffalo for their livelihood, and they made use of virtually every part of the animal: its flesh, its hide, and even its bones. Many Cheyenne religious rituals, such as the Sun Dance, were designed to ensure the abundance of buffalo. This Cheyenne myth is in many ways a "typical" creation story. It contains several common motifs, or recurring story features. Of special interest is the "earth-diver" motif. In this motif, a god sends a bird or animal to the depths of the ocean to bring back a bit of soil from which the entire earth can be created. This motif occurs among a variety of Native American peoples, but it occurs in remote parts of the world as well, such as Siberia. The turtle, too, is a recurring figure in the mythologies of many lands, from North America to China and India. Oral Response Many cultures view the earth as a female figure. The ancient Greeks, for example, personified the earth as a

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