Tag Archives: creation

Creationism of the Iroquois League

First, it should be mentioned that the Iroquois, despite popular belief, was not a tribe in itself but a league of five Native American tribes: the Cayuga, Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, and Tuscarora (Converse, 2006). I believe that it is this amalgamation of heritage and culture that lends to such a diverse and rich mythology. The creation story of the Iroquois is not a single story but a selection of variations upon a common theme. This story has been handed down in oral fashion well before colonial times. As such, the variations have grown with the inflections and understanding of each storyteller. Some of the common themes in this story describe a heavenly island in space upon which there is no suffering, no war, and no death, only eternal peace and abundance. This island hovers above an earth covered in water. On the floating island there is a tree, the tree of light or the council tree. This tree was “perpetually laden with fruit and blossoms” (Converse, 2006, p. 32). One day, the ruler, the Great Creative Being, decided to create a new place for the people to grow. In knowing that the world of the cloud sea (earth) existed under the council tree, he commanded the tree uprooted so that the cloud sea might be nurtured to grow. After uprooting the tree, the Great Creative Being sent a woman who was with child down to the cloud sea. As she descended, the animals of the cloud sea created a place for her to rest upon the back of Great Turtle.

At this point, the story breaks into many of the known variations (Converse, 2006; Iroquois Indian Museum, 2010; Williams College, 1997). In some tellings, the woman gives birth to twins, one good and one evil. In at least one account, the woman gives birth to a girl who in turn gives birth to the hero and villain of the story. In all versions, ultimately, the twins are born and the good twin creates beauty and abundance while the bad twin attempts to destroy these things that his brother has created. The brothers eventually take up battle against each other, with the good twin victorious, and life goes on. Each facet of life and nature being a personified allusion of spirit-beings. The story varies so much at this point that to continue in detail would bring this discussion outside of its purview.

The Iroquois creation story, as so many others, tells of a beginning of life on earth, but it fails to tell the story from the initial creation. In this story, there is already a civilization of beings in existence that bears our ancestors. What this story does accomplish, however, is tying a primeval importance to the creatures and land that they rely upon. This story teaches to nourish the land and respect the animals, probably instilling a sense of responsibility because they understand, if not fully, that their existence and quality of life is dependent on the abundance of the land. Parallels can be drawn to some of the interpretations of the Sumerian creation story (Langdon, 1915) and the variations leading to the classical religions’ (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) telling of creation (Al-Baqarah 30, Qu’ran; Al-Hijr 28, Qu’ran; Al-A’raf 54, Qu’ran; Ar-Rahman 14, Qu’ran; Al-Sajdah 4, Qu’ran; Genesis 1-11, King James Bible; Genesis 1-11, Torah).


Converse, H. M. (2006). In A. C. Parker (Ed.), Myths and legends of the New York State Iroquois. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=C0A8zSkQJrEC

Iroquois Indian Museum. (2010). Creation story I. Retrieved from http://www.iroquoismuseum.org/creation.htm

Langdon, S. (1915). Sumerian epic of paradise, the flood and the fall of man. The University Museum Publications of the Babylonian Section, 10(1-4). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Museum. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=5w4TAAAAYAAJ

Williams College, Computer Science Department. (1997). Iroquois creation myth. Retrieved from http://www.cs.williams.edu/~lindsey/myths/myths_12.html

Creation (Revelations of Genesis)

Beginning the week anew, I still search for the meaning of indigenous identity and how it might apply to me. This week allows me to search, not only my ancestry, but my cultural beliefs in the Creation. If only I believed in the Creation as taught to me in my childhood, the biblical teachings, I could describe the wondrous event that first saw mankind on Earth. Alas, I have grown an independent and scientific mind, and I not only question the existence of a god, but with boldness I question my own existence. This is a very philosophical question for me, and while it is not so important to the comparison of cultural beliefs, per se, that I describe my unwillingness to believe the story that I was told as a child, it is important to me that this distinction be made.

As a child, I was taught a simplistic variation of the Book of Genesis from the King James version of the Christian Bible. The allegory tells of a god, personified, who creates a man, Adam, from dust and a woman, Eve, from Adam’s rib. Unfortunately, after being told this story, I spent a great amount of time and energy convincing my fellow disciples that, in deed, men and women have the same number of ribs. Further reading reveals the story describes a human ascent into an age of agriculture where respect of and responsibility to the land are of great import (Dalley, 1998; Langdon, 1915). I fear that the oversimplification of such a beautiful tale of our coming of age led to its diminished significance.

The Jewish faithful, who share the Genesis story with Christians, celebrate Rosh Hashanah, a feast to celebrate the creation of Adam and his female companion on the sixth day (Leviticus 23:24). Christians, on the other hand, celebrate Easter at about the same time; some with the fervor of the pagan civilizations that celebrated Easter originally before the indoctrination of the Catholic Church. Many of the same traditions and rituals used to celebrate fertility are done during the vernal equinox. This is seen widely during the Spring season. Pardoe (2006) tells of the origins of one of the most peculiar traditions of a Christian celebration: the Easter bunny. Carried to the United States by the German and Dutch immigrants involved a bunny delivering eggs to boys and girls. The story tells of the goddess granting the easter bunny the ability to lay eggs once a year because the bunny was upset after being transformed from a bird. The Easter bunny particularly missed laying eggs and flying, so during the vernal celebrations of the creation of life, The Easter bunny laid colored eggs and hid them in nests designed by children. The Easter bunny was also granted flight as the constellation Lepus through Autumn and Winter.

However, as my family is a fair-minded and clever clan, the biblical description of our origins was juxtaposed with the tellings of science. It is this scientific belief that I will present in comparison to the religious tale.

The theory of evolution and natural selection as researched and published by Darwin (1859) was presented to me at a very early age. Darwin’s theory, in conjunction with many others before and during his time, believed that we as humans exist in the contemporary manner solely on the basis of a series of changes and adaptations that promoted our growth and dominance of our environment. Arguably, no one can say with any certainty how life came to exist from non-life, but Darwin’s research offers a path from just beyond that singularity to the present explaining all life on Earth.

The biblical story of the Creation seems to disagree with science if read without understanding. A closer look, though, tells of man entering into an era when he can use intelligence above cunning and strength over force. Darwin (1859) tells of a process of biological adaptation while the biblical Genesis story imparts the importance of using the mind and body to promote mankind while considering our place on the Earth. Science, however, is not celebrated with grand ritual in the likes of religion. As I was brought up with both stories, I am impartial to neither. Both stories, I feel, are valuable contributions to contemporary life (in the grander scheme of our existence).


Dalley, S. (1998). Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the flood, Gilgamesh, and others. New York, NY: Oxford.

Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species (Sixth ed.) [Adobe Portable Document Format version]. Retrieved from http://www.netlibrary.com/Reader/

Langdon, S. (1915). Sumerian epic of paradise, the flood and the fall of man. Philadelphia, PA: The University of Philadelphia Museum.

Pardoe, E. (2006, April 11). A look at Easter symbolism and the holiday’s pagan roots. Retrieved from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/27142/a_look_at_easter_symbolism_ and_the.html?cat=74