MS/Lakes: The Earth-Maker

For variations on this story of Earth-Maker's creation, see this collection by Richard L. Dieterle: The Encyclopedia of Hočąk (Winnebago) Mythology. The version you are reading here is a "Bear Clan" version of the story.

For more about the Ho-Chunk / Winnebago people, see Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Mississippi Valley / Great Lakes unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes, edited by Katharine Berry Judson (1914).

The Earth-Maker

WHEN Earth-maker came to consciousness, he thought of the substance upon which he was sitting. He saw nothing. There was nothing anywhere. Therefore his tears flowed. He wept. But not long did he think of it. He took some of the substance upon which he was sitting; so he made a little piece of earth for our fathers. He cast this down from the high place on which he sat.

Then he looked at what he had made. It had become something like our earth. Nothing grew upon it. Bare it was, but not quiet. It kept turning.

“How shall I make it become quiet?” thought Earth-maker. Then he took some grass from the substance he was sitting upon and cast it down upon the earth. Yet it was not quiet.

Then he made a man. When he had finished him, he called him Tortoise.

At the end of all his thinking, after he came to consciousness, he made the two-legged walkers.

Then Earth-maker said to this man, “The evil spirits are abroad to destroy all I have just created. Tortoise, I shall send you to bring order into the world.” Then Earth-maker gave him a knife. But when Tortoise came to earth, he began to make war. He did not look after Earth-maker’s creation. So Earth-maker took him back.

Then he sent Hare down to earth to restore order.

Hare said, “See, Grandmother, I have done the work my father directed me to do. The lives of my uncles and aunts, the two-legged walkers, will be endless like mine.”

His grandmother said, “Grandson, how could you make the lives of your uncles and aunts endless like yours? How could you do something in a way Earth-maker had not intended it to be? Earth-maker could not make them thus.”

Hare thought, “My grandmother must be related to some of the evil spirits I have killed. She does not like what I have done, for she is saying that I killed the evil spirits.”

Now grandmother heard him think. “No, Grandson, I am not thinking of that. I am saying that our father made death so there should not be a lack of food on earth. He made death to prevent overcrowding. He also made a spirit world in which they should live after death.”

Hare did not like what she said. “Grandmother surely does not like it,” he thought. “She must be related to the evil spirits.”

“No, Grandson, it is not so. But to quiet you, your uncle and aunts will live to be very old.”

Then she spoke again, “Now, Grandson, stand up. The two-legged walkers shall follow me always. I shall follow you always. Therefore try to do what I tell you. Remember you are a man. Do not look back after you have started.”

Then they started to go around the earth.

“Do not look back,” she said.

“I wonder why she says that,” thought Hare. Then he turned his head the least little bit to the left, and looked back to the place from which they had started. Instantly everything caved in.

“Oh, my! Oh, my!” exclaimed grandmother. “Grandson, a man you are, but I thought you were a great man, so I greatly encouraged you. Now even if I wished to, I could not prevent death.”

This she meant, so they say.

Then they went around the earth, to the edge of the fire which encircles the earth. That way they went, so they say.

Next: Creation

(600 words)

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