Apache: The Emergence

This creation story begins in the underworld, and the people are coming up from that underworld into the earth that we know. Here is Goddard's note on the two who remain behind in that underworld: "These two are the rulers of the world of the dead which the ghosts reached through the place of emergence. They pass down easily but cannot return because the ladders are worn out. This place is said to be situated somewhere many miles north of Taos and is reached by four trails."

Goddard also explains just who "he" is who makes the mountain, causes the reeds to stand, etc.: "The person who did this was Xastc'iniLgaiyîn, White god of the east, assisted by Xastc'inyaLkîdn, Talking god of the south, Xastc'inîLtsôyin, Yellow god of the west, and Xaste'inîdlôyin, Laughing god of the north. This was the order in which they were mentioned. It is usual to associate Xastc'inyaLkîdn with the east."

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Apache unit. Story source: Jicarilla Apache Texts edited by Pliny Earle Goddard (1911).

The Emergence

In the beginning, the people were coming up. He made a mountain that continued to increase in height. Then he caused reeds to stand vertically in the center. The people were gathered about the mountain, watching. When the reeds were approaching the sky, four girls went up the mountain and twisted them. They went down and left them in this condition.

The people tried in vain to make the reeds grow. "Go up and see what has happened to them," he told someone. This person, on ascending the mountain, found the reeds were twisted and that those who had done it had gone down. The messenger, when he came down, said, "The reeds are twisted."

Then four ladders were made and placed in position: one black, one blue, one yellow, and one variegated. Then whirlwind went to the world above and looked. When he came back he reported that there was much water there.

After a time, the one in charge, told Beaver to go and see how conditions were. When Beaver got to the upper world, he found the water receding and commenced piling dirt in front of it to retain it.

When Beaver did not return, Badger was told to go after him and see what had happened. He found Beaver building a dam in front of the water. "When the people come up and the children are dying of thirst, they will drink this," said Beaver in explanation of his conduct. Badger went into the mud, producing certain markings. The two went down and reported that the land was already exposed.

The people prepared to ascend. The black ladder was placed in position and the people went up by means of it until it was worn out. The blue ladder was next put in place. When it was worn out the yellow ladder was put up. By the time it was worn out nearly all the people had gone up. Last of all, the variegated ladder was placed in position. When the last of the people had gone up it, too, was worn out.

There remained behind a feeble old woman and an old man. The people went away and left them sitting there. "Take us out," one of them called after them. The people stopped and looked back at the couple but did not take them out. Then one of them said, "You will come back here to me."

Then the people moved away towards the east along four parallel trails under four chiefs. Those who went by the first road had fighting. Those going along the second road were fortunate and came back without having had a fight. The people who had gone by the third road, having had a fight, returned. The fourth man came back without having had any trouble. The leadership of the chief of the first band was unfortunate, that of the second band fortunate, that of the third band unfortunate, and that of the fourth band fortunate. They moved back to their own country near Taos.

(500 words)

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