Myths & Legends


Navajo: Jicarilla Apache Creation

Jicarilla Apache refers to the members of the Jicarilla Apache Nation currently living in New Mexico and speaking a Southern Athabaskan language. Referred to as “Apache” by the Spanish explorers, the people and the legends here explored are properly Navajo.

The source for this legend is the work “The North American Indian, Being A Series Of Volumes Picturing And Describing The Indians Of The United States And Alaska,” Written, Illustrated, And Published By Edward S. Curtis, Edited By Frederick Webb Hodge with a Foreword By Theodore Roosevelt.
— Orly

In the beginning all people, birds, and beasts were far beneath this earth, somewhere in the darkness; there was no sun, no moon. It was not a good place in which to live, because of the darkness. After a time came Chunnaái, the Sun, and Klĕnaái, the Moon. They directed the people to leave the world of darkness, showing the way they were to go by passing up through a rift in the sky. But the sky was so far above that the people knew of no way to reach it, so they made a pile of sand in the form of a mountain, and painted the east side white, the south blue, the west yellow, and the north side all colors.  Then they gathered seeds from all the plants they knew and placed them inside the little mountain. Chunnaái sent back his messenger, Ánltsĭstn, the Whirlwind, to instruct them how to make the mountain increase in size.

Then all gathered about it and danced and sang, until after four days the seeds sprouted and the mountain began to expand and to increase in height. This continued for four days, at the end of which time the mountain seemed almost to reach the sky; but suddenly its growth ceased, and none knew the cause. From Chunnaái came Whirlwind to tell the inhabitants how two of their maidens had entered the sacred space on the mountain top and had wantonly broken and destroyed plants and fruits, thus causing the mountain to cease growing.

With two long poles and four buffalo horns, which then were straight, the people made a ladder, which, when placed on the mountain top, reached the sky. One of the four Great Whirlwinds, Níchitso, went up to see what this new place was like. He put his head through the opening, and seeing that the world was covered with water, at once descended the ladder. The four Whirlwinds then went up; White Wind rolled the water to the east, but still there was water at the south; Blue Wind rolled it away to the south, but still there was water at the west; so Yellow Wind blew it away to the west, and then there was water only at the north, which All-Color Wind quickly blew away. Then the Winds blew over the earth for four days to dry it; but they left some of the water, which flowed along in streams.

When they returned and told what they had done, the people sent Ká̑gĕ, the Crow, who was wise, to view the land. They waited long, but Ká̑gĕ did not return. Then they sent Little Whirlwind, who found the Crow perched upon some dead bodies, plucking out their eyes; and because of his wickedness in forgetting the people, his feathers, once white, had turned black. Then Nagánschitn, the Badger, was sent to see if the land was good, but just as soon as he had crawled through he sank in the black mud and could go no farther, so Little Whirlwind was despatched to succor him. To this day Badger's legs are black. Next Kĕldinshé̆n, the Skunk, was sent, because he was light in weight; but even he sank in the mud and blackened his legs. Then the people sent Cha, the Beaver, who travelled about for a long time, and finding all the water running away in streams, built dams and thus formed many lakes. He came back and told the people that the land was good to live in, which pleased them greatly. Then they started up the ladder, and when all had passed over, it was found that their weight had bent the buffalo horns, which ever since have been curved. Thus all the people came out upon this earth at a place in the north.

During the first days the Sun did not rise above the horizon, having been held back in the east by a web that Mansché̆, the Spider, had woven about him. But the people succeeded in tearing the web away, and from that time the Sun each day has travelled across the whole sky.

On emerging from the underworld the inhabitants began moving in a great circle, travelling from the north to the east, then to the south, then to the west. When any found a spot that pleased them, they settled there, and Chunnaái and Klĕnaái gave them a language of their own. Four times the land was thus encircled, but each time the circle became smaller, and when the people came the last time to the north, Haísndayĭn, the Jicarillas, found their home in the mountains near the Rio Chama.


Pacific Coast: The Lost Salmon Run

Sioux: How Rabbit Caught the Sun

Sioux: How Rabbit Caught the Sun