Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Mohawk Legend of Adam and Eve by A.F. Chamberlain 1888


A Mohawk Legend of Adam and Eve by A.F. Chamberlain 1888

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An interesting study might be made of the influence which the teachings of the missionaries of the Christian church have exerted in modifying primitive Indian myths; interesting also is the effect produced upon the stories of the Bible by the Indian imagination. As a contribution to this study, the following, obtained in November, 1888, from an intelligent Mohawk from the Reservation at Brantford, Ont., may be of some value. The narrator stated that it was current at Caughnawaga.

At first the bodies of Adam and Eve were all smooth and shining, as men's finger - nails are now. But one day Adam was walking about in the garden near the tree on which the fruit was, when he heard something say to him: "Take! take!" and something, again, saying: "Don't take! Don't take!" After a while, however, Adam became bold enough and took a fruit and began to eat it. The first bite he took stuck in his throat, and is there to this day. He then gave Eve-a-piece which she ate. Then they both began to suffer change, and all the smoothness and shininess of their bodies began to disappear, and all that was left of it is seen now in our finger-nails and toe-nails. It was the Devil, who had become a snake and climbed up the tree, that tempted Adam. After doing this the Devil returned to the centre of the earth. Even at this day a common form of assertion among the Mohawks is, "As sure as the Devil returned to earth again!" The Indians believed that Owistos (?Christ) would kill the Devil-snake by driving a sword through the centre of his head, and pinning him to the earth with his wings outspread. The Indians all hate snakes, and every one (even the women) will kill a snake when he sees it; when so doing they call out, "Owistos! ooayerle! Owistos! ooayerle!" (Owistos! I kill! Owistos! I kill!)

The variations from the Biblical narrative are too obvious to need comment.


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The Blackfoot version of creation is as follows: The great Manitou was a friend to the people, but he had an enemy who dwelt under the water, and who created a deluge. This deluge destroyed all the people and compelled the Manitou to reconstruct the earth, which he did. The creator is called "the old man," and the story is that he floated upon a log in the water, and had with him four animals—the fish (mamed), the frog {matcokupis), the lizard {mamskeo)- and the turtle (spopeo). He sent them down into the waters in the order named to see what they could find. The first three descended but never returned; the turtle (the turtle is a common symbol for the earth), however, arose with his mouth full of mud. Wapioa took the mud from the mouth of the turtle, rolled it around in his hand and let it fall into the waters. It made the earth. At first it was an island, but afterward grew to a great size. He was the secondary creator. He was not the ancestor of the Blackfeet, but was the creator of the Indian race.

According to the Huron story, in the beginning there was nothing but water. It so happened that a woman fell down from the upper world through a rift in the sky. Two loons, who were flying over the water, hastened to place themselves beneath her and hold her up. They began to cry to the other animals to aid them. The turtle came and received the woman upon his back. The turtle then called the different animals to dive to the bottom. Each one tried—the beaver, muskrat, diverduck—but the only one that succeeded was the toad. From the toad the woman took the earth and placed it around the edge of the tortoise shell It became the earth and was supported by the tortoise. Twins were born to the woman. The name of the good one was Ioskeha, and the bad one was Tawascara. The good one created useful animals, but the bad brother monstrous creatures, such as serpents, wolves, and among them a monster toad, which swallowed all the water.

Among the Athapascans, as well as the Dakotas, the creator was a mighty bird, whose eyes were fire and whose glances were lightning, on whose descent to the ocean the earth instantly arose and remained on the surface of the water. Among the Muskogees, before the creation, a great body of water alone was visible, and two pigeons flew to and fro over its waves and at last spied a blade of grass. Dry land gradually followed and islands and continents took their present shapes.

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