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The story of Creation

This Kanyen'kehà:ka story of creation was shared with us by Jennifer Glenister from Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na (Language and Culture Centre) in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. We give credit and thanks to both Jennifer and all other keepers of tradition including this telling from Credible Mohawk Entertainment Indigenous Media.


There was once no land, only water and the creatures that inhabited it. Up above, however, there was a place called Isi’nakaronya’ti — Skyworld. It was here that beings lived who were human in some ways and in some ways not. These beings from Skyworld were more powerful than humans. It’s said that they could make things happen with their mind.

At the centre of Skyworld was the Tree of Life. Upon it grew many different kinds of fruit and blossoms, which lit it up. The beings in Skyworld understood that they should not disturb the tree.

One of the beings in Skyworld, whose name was Katsitsaka;yon, which means something like “ancient flower,” was expecting a baby. It was tea, made from the roots of the Tree of Life, that she began to crave. She asked her husband to get her these roots, telling him it was important. Her husband dug around the bottom of the tree to get at the roots. As he did, however, some of the dirt caved in, causing the Tree of Life to fall down. In its place was an enormous hole.

Katsitsaka;yon went to see what had happened. Some say she lost her balance, some that she was pushed, some that she jumped, and some that it was her destiny, but no matter the reason, Katsitsaka;yon fell into the hole. She screamed. She clawed. Roots and seeds she caught in her fingers, but, alas, she kept falling, and this she did for a long time.

After some time, the water animals and the birds down below saw her falling. The birds at once came together and caught her on their backs in order to slow her fall and lessen her impact on the water. A giant turtle, who had just then broken the surface of the water, then told the birds that they could put Katsitsaka;yon on his back, and so that’s what they did. This is why we now call this land Turtle Island.

Katsitsaka;yon thanked the creatures. She told all the water animals about the place she had fallen from. She told them that she needed dirt in order to survive in this watery world. The animals said that they would try and help. They knew that there was dirt at the bottom of the water. One by one the animals dove down to try and get the dirt from under the water. Many did not survive their attempt.

Then, the little muskrat broke the surface of the water. In her paw were a few grains of dirt from the bottom of the water. Katsitsaka;yon placed the dirt on the back of the turtle, who then stood up and sang and danced in a counterclockwise direction, giving her thanks. As she did this, the turtle’s shell grew and the grains of dirt multiplied.

She sprinkled the seeds and roots from Skyworld in the dirt. They started to grow. Once she finished singing and dancing, there was, as far as the eye could see, land and plant life.

We remember that Katsitsaka;yon was going to have a baby. She had a girl. Being from Skyworld, this baby grew very quickly. Katsitsaka;yon told her daughter, who was now a young woman, to stay close because the land had grown very large. Katsitsaka;yon told her to never walk towards the West.

One day, Katsitsaka;yon’s daughter became curious, so she decided to walk westward. As she did, however, a great wind started to blow. She saw a storm moving towards her as well as the outline of a man within. Scared, she fainted.

When she woke up, she found two crossed arrows on her stomach. She ran back to her mother to tell her what had happened. Katsitsaka;yon told her that she was now the Bride of the spirit of the West Wind, whom she had seen in the clouds. The daughter would give birth to two twin boys.

These two boys were very special. After all, their grandmother was from Skyworld, and their father was the spirit of the West Wind. They were able to talk to one another as they grew inside their mothers belly, but they didn’t always agree with each other.

When it was time for the twins to be born, the right-handed twin was born in the usual way. The left-handed twin, however, decided to push his way out his mother’s armpit, which she did not survive.

Katsitsaka;yon buried her daughter, and from her daughter’s head grew corn, beans, and squash, which are the three sisters. From her heart grew sacred tobacco, which is used to communicate with the creator. From her feet grew wild strawberry, which is known as the pink medicine. Even after death, the mother of the two boys made sure they had everything that they needed to survive.

Today, we know Katsitsaka;yon’s daughter as Mother Earth. She still supports all of the people, the animals, and the plants that live on Turtle Island. We have a responsibility to take care of Mother Earth in return for all that she gives to us.

The twin boys grew up. They went on to create everything that is found in the natural world. They made the rivers, the flower, the animals, and, eventually, they even made human beings. The left-handed twin became the keeper of the night and the right-handed twin became the keeper of the day. When they were finished, everything was in perfect balance.

When the right-handed twin created people, he created some from the sea foam, some from the sand, some from the soil, and some from the clay. These people fought and were not ready to live together. So, he separated them into the four directions. Some even say that the right-handed twin separated Turtle Island to create the separate land masses.

When Katsitsaka;yon passed away, her head was flung into the sky. She’s still there today. We call her grandmother moon. She reflects light at night, she helps people keep track of time, and she controls the rise and fall of the waters.


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Revised: 2 June 2022