Myths & Legends



Apache: Naiyenezgani

The White Mountain Apache are one of several Western Apache tribes, each of which has a different language, history, and culture despite being related. The account of their legends is the result of anthropological work done in and about 1910, recorded for the American Museum of Natural History, collected by Pliny Earle Goddard in Myths and Tales from the White Mountain Apache. Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History Vol. XXIV, Part II

Pliny Earle Goddard (November 24, 1869 – July 12, 1928) was an American linguist and ethnologist noted for his extensive documentation of the languages and cultures of the Athabaskan peoples of western North America. He played a major role in creating the academic infrastructure for American Indian linguistics and anthropology in North America.

This tale is attributed to the father of Frank Crockett, the interpreter for Pliny Earle Goddard. Frank’s father was of the Bissaxa clan and was about sixty years old in 1910, the time of transcription.
— Orly

Long ago the Sun set and, there in the west, he became the son-in-law of Toxastinhn (Water-old-man) whose daughter he married. She, who was to become the wife of the Sun, built a house with its door facing the sunrise. She sat in the doorway facing the rising sun from which the red rays streamed toward her. These rays entered her and since her period was about to occur she became pregnant as a result.

When the child was born, its hands and feet were webbed. There was no hair on its head and it had no nose. When the boy was grown up he asked where his father lived. His mother replied that his father lived where one could not go, for the Sun was his father. The boy asked again where he lived. His mother said he lived at the sunrise, but that one could not go there. The boy then said that he would go there and set out on the journey.

He came where the cliffs come down of themselves. They moved in front of him. The lightning shot across with him. Beyond that place he came to the mountain of cactus which formed a dark barrier in front of him. There a black whirlwind twisted through for him so that he passed by. From there he went on where the mountain of mosquitoes stood like a black ridge in front of him. A female rain fell for him and the wings of the mosquitoes became damp; then he passed over. From there he went on where the mountains moved up and down toward each other. He jumped away from them and then toward them, but in no way could he get through. Black-measuring-worm, whose back is striped with lightning, bent over it with him.

He walked on toward the house of the Sun. As he was going along, near sundown, a spider drew its thread across below the boy's knee and tripped him. He got up and went back, but fell again at the same place. Wondering why he had fallen, he started on again, when he saw the head of Spider-old-woman projecting from her hole so far (three inches) away. “Grandchild, where are you going?” she asked. He replied that he was going to the house of his father, the Sun. She told him to come into her house instead. He replied that the opening was too small. When assured that it was large enough, he went in. She told him one could not go to the Sun. The spider girls were lying there without skirts or shirts. They lay with the head of one toward the feet of the next. Spider-woman asked what was the piece of cloth tied to his shirt. He gave it to her and she worked with it all night; and the next morning each girl had a shirt and a skirt. She made them from the young man's piece of cloth.

Spider-woman is of considerable importance in the mythology of the Hopi. The Navajo account omits the clothing-making episode. Spider-woman is the originator of spinning. She is sometimes said to be the mother of the Sun and therefore Naiyenezgani’s paternal grandmother.
— Orly

When the Sun rose, Spider-old-woman went out-of-doors. “It is not yet time, my grandson,” she said. She held up five fingers horizontally and said it would be time when the Sun shone over them. When the time came to go, they set out toward the house of the Sun. He came to the front of the house where there were twelve doors and all of them were shut. Without anyone opening a door for him, he came to Sun's wife. “What sort of a person are you?” she asked. He replied he had come to see his father. The woman warned him that no one was allowed around there. She rolled him up in a blanket, which she tied with lightning, and hid him by the head of the bed.

When the sun set, he heard the noise of the Sun's arrival. The Sun came inside his house. “I do not see anyone,” he said, “but from the mountain where I go down some man had gone along.” “You tell me you do not have love affairs where you go around. This morning your son came here.” She went to the head of the bed, undid the lightning with which he was tied up and took the boy out. The Sun saw it was his boy. There were twelve pipes in which tobacco was burned. The Sun fixed a smoke for him in one of these. It was not the Sun's proper tobacco, but a kind that killed whoever smoked it. The boy drew on the pipe just once and the tobacco was burned out. The Sun prepared another pipeful, which was gone when the boy had drawn on the pipe twice. He filled a third pipe; this time the boy drew on it three times and the tobacco was consumed. The last time the pipe was filled, the boy drew four times before the tobacco was burned out.

Toward the east, there was a blazing fire of black yabeckon into which the Sun threw the boy. He turned into a downy feather and landed in front of his father who expressed his surprise. There was a fire of blue yabeckon toward the south into which the boy was next thrown. He again turned into a feather and landed in front of his father. The fire toward the west was of yellow yabeckon from which the boy escaped in the same manner. Finally, the boy was thrown into a white fire of yabeckon which blazed up in the north. He escaped in the same manner as before. Each time when the boy was thrown in, the fire had been poked with lightning of the corresponding color.

When the boy had successfully withstood this last test, the Sun directed his wife to prepare a sweat bath. She did this by spreading four blankets of cloud: black, blue, yellow, and white. She put on the four blankets from the four sides in proper rotation. The Sun went in with all his boys. While they were in the bath, the skin between the boy's fingers and toes was pulled back and joints made in his fingers. He was also provided with hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, nose, and ears. Hair was placed on his body and nails supplied for his fingers and toes. Counting this boy, the Sun had twelve sons with whom he formed a line. He then asked his wife to find him in the line, but this she was unable to do because they all looked alike, she said.

The Sun then placed a gun and a panther-skin quiver on a shelf and asked his son to choose which he would have. After sighting the gun, he concluded he did not like it. He put the quiver over his shoulder and took out two arrows. When he tried these, he hit the target in the center. He chose the panther-skin quiver saying he liked it. All the other sons of the Sun had guns. The Sun had them shoot at each other in fun. Those who had guns beat the boy who had arrows and drove him off.

On one side, horses were being made and on the other deer. The one who was in charge of making these is named Iltca'nailt'ohn.

They put, for him, a light brown mountain, inside of which, cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, horses, mules, and donkeys were living. All these are the food of white people. In this mountain also were guns, blankets, and all kinds of metals.

On the other side he put, for him, a mountain on which century plants were growing with their yellow flower stalks standing all around the edges. On this mountain, too, were sunflowers, yellow with blossoms, cactus, yucca, piñon, oaks, junipers, the fruit of all of which was perpetually ripe. All the other wild vegetable foods of the Indians grew there also. The mountain was always yellow with flowers.

The Sun asked the boy which of these two mountains he would choose. He decided to take the one which was yellow with flowers where fruit was always ripe. He did not care for the light brown mountain which stood toward the east. He announced that the yellow mountain would be his and would belong in the future to the Indians.

They then opened a door in the side of the brown mountain and drove out cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, horses, donkeys, and mules. These became the property of your white people's nation. The Sun's son asked that some horses be given him. The Sun reminded him he had asked for the other mountain, and wanted to know why he had not then asked for horses.

From the east, mirage people rounded up some horses for him. The red dust of the round-up covered the ground. “There are no horses,” the Sun said. The boy asked again for horses only to be told he should have asked before when he chose between the two mountains. He asked, that notwithstanding, he be given some horses. The Sun took up a rope and led back a chestnut stallion from the east. He tied the horse which stood pawing the ground and nickering. The boy rode back on it to the place where I suppose Toxastin and his grandmother lived. He rode back in a single day and tied his horse. The horse kept nickering and pawing the earth all the time; he would not graze and the boy was not satisfied. He rode back to the house of the Sun, took off the rope; and the horse ran off toward the east kicking up his heels.

The boy told his father, the Sun, that the stallion he had given him was not satisfactory, and that he had come to ask for a different horse. His father went away and returned with two horses, a stallion and a mare. “These are what you want, I suppose,” the Sun said, and gave the boy a rope, a halter, a saddle blanket, and a saddle.

The boy led the horse back to the place where Toxastin, his grandmother, and his mother lived. He led the horses back to a place called Cottonwood-branches-hang-down. To the south, blue cottonwood branches hung down; to the west, yellow cottonwood branches hung down; to the north, white cottonwood branches hung down. The place was named the center of the earth. The saddle was placed at the east; the saddle blanket at the south; the halter, at the west; and the rope, at the north.

In the dry stream bed to the east, black burdocks grew; to the south, blue burdocks grew; to the west, yellow burdocks; and to the north, white burdocks. He turned out the two horses here to the east. Each time the Sun's son came back there, he found the two horses playing. After four days, he drove the horses up the valley a little way four times. When he went the fourth day to see them he found the tracks of a colt.

That cottonwood tree stood in the center. On the east side of it a black stallion stood; on the south side, a blue stallion; on the west side, a yellow stallion; on the north side, a white stallion. Horses were walking around in the valleys to the east, south, west, and north. Thus there came to be horses here on the earth.



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