The story comes from the
earliest time in our language - a time when our language, symbols,
beliefs, the world we saw around us, and life as we understand it -
were completely different from the way we understand them now.
We lived in a complete world. This story expresses our
understanding of we came to this complete world.
The Sky World
The story says that there was
another place not of this world where people lived. The life
of that world was very similar to the life of this world. The
Beings that walked about up there were very similar to ourselves and
enjoyed many of the same things that we enjoy, such as the birds and
There were various
kinds of trees up there, but in the centre of that place grew a
special kind of tree. The best way to describe that tree in
English is by calling it "the tree of life". It was in the
centre of their world. There was a man living there who was
given the task of protecting that tree, looking after it and caring
for it. The "tree of life" was not supposed to be marked or
any of the beings who lived in that world. From that tree grew
all kinds of branches and all sorts of fruit. In that world,
the man who was taking care of that sacred tree got married.
Not long after, his wife became pregnant, so she and her husband
made plans to prepare for a family. The man soon found out
that his wife was very demanding and hard to please. He would
go out of his way to make her happy but was seldom successful.
The woman soon
developed a yearning for strange foods, as women often do when they
are expecting a child. She enticed her husband into brining
various delicacies to eat. As days turned into months, this
woman became curious about the tree with its various fruits.
The woman suddenly decided that she wanted some of the bark, roots
and fruits from the "tree of life" to help satisfy her appetite, but
her husband would not hear of it. This, however, did not stop
There were times
when she dreamed that there was something beneath the tree, that
there was something beyond... below that world... that there was
some other place, some other life. She kept kept considering
this, wondering about it. She kept asking her husband what he
knew about it. He didn't know anything about it, because he
never dug around that tree or tampered with it. She kept after
her husband until she finally convinced him to dig around the area
of the tree's roots.
When they uprooted
the tree, they saw beneath, a huge hole. She looked inside the
hole, and she couldn't see anything, for it was dark as far as she
could see. She leaned further into the hole and started fall
from her world. Then, she reached around quickly and tried to
grab something so as to save herself, but she couldn't. As she
fell, with one hand, she grabbed a strawberry plant. With the
other hand, she grabbed tobacco leaves.
The story tells us
that she fell through the hole for a very long time. She fell
into blackness and kept falling. Around her, she could hear a
whooshing sound, a sound that was very similar to a bird rattle.
This was the sound she heard as she fell.
After a long
period of falling, she saw beneath her a great body of water.
On that water, there were all kinds of water fowl living, and when
they saw this being falling from the sky, they flew up together to
see what it was. They got very close together and caught her.
While they were
brining her down, they were wondering where this woman came from.
Close to the water, a giant sea turtle was beginning to surface.
They called down to him and asked him if it was possible to put this
woman on his back. The turtle said it would be okay. So,
the beings of this world gathered around her and began talking to
They asked who she
was and where she was from. She told them how she missed her
home, and that she was lonely. They asked her what they could
do to make her more comfortable and happy now that she was in their
home. She saw what she was missing - "What I don't see here
that is in my world is land. All there is here is water."
The water beings
told her, "Underneath the water there is land. If that will
make you happy, we will try to go down and get some for you."
The different beings started trying to dive down to get what they
could, but one after the other, they failed. The beaver tried
first and failed, then the loon, the duck, seagull, etc. They
all experienced the same fate.
The land was so far
beneath the water that many of them couldn't get to it. They
would come to the surface belly up. Finally, the otter offered
to try. He went down deep and got a little bit of earth.
When he hit the surface, he died... but in his paws was a little bit
of earth. They took the dirt and put it on the back of the
giant sea turtle.
Once this was
done, a strange transformation began to take place. The earth
and the turtle began to grow and spread. To keep the earth
growing, the woman walked in a circle, following the direction of
the sun. It wasn't long before she had a very large place to
stand. All around her was land. This land began to
develop and take shape. Not long after the land formed, the
woman gave birth to a baby girl. This new world was now their
As years passed,
the woman and her daughter did their best to adapt to their new
surroundings. One night, after her daughter had developed to
maturity, she was visited by a spirit of the "west wind".
As the daughter gazed
upon her visitor, she felt uneasy, but a strange feeling overcame
her, and she fainted into a peaceful sleep. Later, her mother
came by to awaken her and found two crossed arrows on her stomach.
One was sharp, and the other was blunt. She realized what had
happened, that her daughter had become pregnant. She realized
also that her daughter was going to have twins.
When the time came
for them to be born, she cam birth to twin sons. The first one
that was born came out the right way. He was in good form,
good to look at, and didn't have anything wrong with him. When
the other one was born, he didn't come out the right way. He
broke through the mother's side, and, in so doing, killed her.
Our elders say
that even while she was carrying them in her womb, the two sons
would argue and have fights. As soon as they were born the
right-handed twin asked his brother why he had decided not to come
into the world the natural way, thus saving his mother's life.
An argument began, but their Grandmother told them to stop their
buried her daughter and planted in her grave the plants and leaves
that she had clutched in her hands when she fell from the sky world.
Not long after, over her daughter's head grew corn, beans, and
squash. There were later known as the "three sisters" and
became the main life support groups for the people of the "HOTINONSHONNI".
From her heart grew the sacred tobacco which would later be used as
an offering to send greetings to the Creator. at her feet grew
the strawberry plants, as well as other plants that would be used as
medicines to cure sickness. The earth itself was referred to
as "OUR MOTHER" by the Master of Life, because their mother had
become one with the earth.
It was then up to
the Grandmother to raise the twins. The Grandmother gave the
twins their names. The left-handed she called " Sawiskera"
(Mischievous One), and the right-handed twin was given the name "Teharonhiawako"
(Holder of the Heavens). The Grandmother made a mistake in
thinking that it was Teharonhiawako, the one who looked right, that
was responsible for the death of her daughter.
Now that she had
the responsibility of raising the twins, and because she felt bad
that her daughter had been killed, she started mistreating
Teharonhiawako and giving more attention to Sawiskera. By the
time the twins grew up to be men, their Grandmother was old and
ready to die. They came to their Grandmother who had raised
them, but who had also been mistaken about what had happened to her
felt bad that his Grandmother had favoured his brother during their
youth. He also felt that she blamed him for the death of their
mother. In spite of this, he still loved his Grandmother.
This was revealed in one of the arguments the twins had over their
Grandmother when she died.
to kick her body off the edge of the world, and into the water.
But the other one said, "No! The best thing to do is to place
her back into the earth, because she felt so strongly about being a
part of the earth." In the course of the argument, they fought
over the body. Somehow, Sawiskera pulled the head off their
Grandmother's body, and it was thrown up into the air. This is
why within our tradition, we talk about our Grandmother, the Moon,
who helps brighten the night world for her favourite Grandson, the
left-handed twin, Sawiskera.
took her body away and put her back into the earth. Then, he
began to go about this world, creating things we understand - the
various animals, different medicines, flowers, all the different
things. - but as he was going around doing this, his brother was
right behind him making his own creations.
Sawiskera tried to
create beings himself, and they came out looking ugly. He also
tried to alter what his brother had made. Teharonhiawako made
the rose, and his brother put thorns on it. Teharonhiawako
created the deer, elk and moose, and Sawiskera altered the mind of
the mountain lion to kill these mild-mannered creatures.
Teharonhiawako would create beautiful trees, and his brother would
refashion them to create the opposite side effect. This went
on until Teharonhiawako created everything he could think of , but
his brother was always behind him, disrupting or altering what he
created. At the end, it seemed that everything balanced out
evenly. But it always looked like one would win over the
got tired of this constant tampering and confronted his brother.
They entered into a discussion, finally agreeing to a contest to see
who would be "The Ruler of The World".
The first contest
the played was a form of the lacrosse game, but after six days, it
ended in a draw. Then, they played the great peach bowl game,
and again, after six days, it ended in a draw. Finally, they
agreed that they must fight until one of them was a clear winner.
Sawiskera fashioned himself a spear, while Teharonwiawako took the
antlers of a deer to defend himself. After many days of
fighting, Sawiskera appeared to gain the upper edge on his brother.
Finally, he lunged at his brother and fell on top of the deer
antlers, disabling him.
didn't want to kill his brother or do anything terrible to him, so
what they did was divide the world in half. The night time
would belong to Sawiskera, and Teharonwiawako would get the day
time. Sawiskera would take his part of the world and his time
of doing things. He warned his brother that he would always be
there and would be thinking about how he had bee beaten and how he
was going to get revenge, so they agreed to split up.
finished his creation yet. There was one more thing he wanted
The Origin of Man
created all the waters, plants, trees and animals of the world, he
decided that he should create a being in his likeness from the
He wanted this being to
have a superiour mind so it would have the responsibility of looking
after his creations. Then he decided that it would be better
if he created more than one being and give to each similar
instructions and see of over a period of time, they would carry them
All this he did in
one day. He started early in the morning as the sun greeted
the new day by picking certain types of bark from the tree life and
created human form, reflected against the sky the form gave a
yellowish appearance. Teharonwiawako decided that this would
be one type of human that would exist on this world. After
Teharonwiawako finished his first human, he then went to the great
salt waters and took from the sea some white foam, together with
other elements of the natural world he created another being.
This being appeared pale in contrast to the natural surroundings,
but he was satisfied that he has created another special kind of
human being. Next Teharonwiawako travelled to the thickest
part of a large forest and brought out some black soil, again with
other elements of the natural world he created another human being.
This being was very dark in colour and he was pleased that he had
created still another type of being for the world.
thought to himself, it is getting towards the end of the day and I
have created these three beings, since everything on this world
exists in cycles of four, I will create one more being. Thus
he again looked for something different within the natural world and
this time he found some reddish-brown earth. With this he
again combined other elements found from the land and created a
gathered the four beings forms into one area and said to himself, "I
have been very careful in providing certain characteristics into
each form that will reflect their own unique and strong qualities.
I will now give life to each form and see if they benefit from their
As the beings came to
life he observed just how evident their uniqueness became. The
white being was the first one to move about, he was also the most
curious, observing closely all his surroundings. Next, the
black and yellow slowly started to move about. When the black
being picked a brightly coloured object that he was attracted to,
the white pounced on him and pushed him to the ground, taking over
the object. At the same instant, the yellow being stood up for
the black and soon, a fight broke out between the three.
that the fourth being was still sitting on the ground, camouflaged
by his surroundings. Now it became clear to Teharonwiawako
that there was no way these four could exist in the same environment
stopped their quarrelling and brought them back to one place and
told them, "There is a reason why you were not created in the same
manner, just as there are birds and animals who look alike, they are
different in their ways, and so are you. They have their own
language, their own songs but have learned to share their world.
It is for this reason that I have created you, that in time you will
all learn to respect and appreciate your differences. It is
very evident that I can not put you together to watch over my
creations, for you would probably destroy it as well as yourselves.
You will need to learn how to get along with each other, as well as
with other living things. I will help you with this, but first
I will have to keep you apart. You will come back together
after a time when I have sent a messenger to visit each of you and
give you a way to be thankful for the good things, as well as
respect for other living creatures."
Teharonwiawako then took
the white, black and yellow beings across the salt waters and placed
them far from each other. The red being he kept at his place
of origin. Teharonwiawako told him, "You will be called
Onkwehonwe (original being). You will call me Sonkwaiatison
(The Creator), I have given you the gift of life. You were
created from the earth of this island. I now realize that you
would not survive very long among the others, for you are too much a
part of nature, which is good, but you will need time before you
come in contact with the other beings. You will also be given
a sacred way by a messenger who will visit you and your
thought to himself, "They will all have a chance to learn of the
reason for their existence and of a good way to live."
In the case of the
Onkwehonwe, he followed his instructions and lived in harmony with
the natural world. He knew that if he strayed from his path,
that Sonkwaiatison would send a messenger to remind him how to be
thankful for his gift of life.
Origin of the Four Sacred
Before the time
of the Peacemaker and Hiawatha, and at a time when the Onkwehonwe
were without spiritual beliefs and had had no laws to guide them -
the origin of the Four Sacred Ceremonies took place.
boys were born at the same time. Eleven of the children had
fathers. The one who did not have a father was born with a
all their sons were born at the same time, the mothers of these
children felt a bond with each other. Therefore, they often
brought their sons together. Soon they realized that their
children had a common bond among themselves. The one who had
no father became their Leader. From the day he was born, there
was something special about him that would attract the others.
Even when they were babies playing around in the dirt, the others
would go to him. He was a natural leader.
As the boys grew up, their
mothers began to notice a pattern about them. they would go
off... they would leave the village... they would go off into the
woods somewhere. Finally, the mother of one of the boys began
wondering about this pattern. One time, she trailed them,
trying to stay out of sight. She found them all sitting in a
circle near a tree. To her surprise, their Leader was speaking
to them. She overheard him explain that he was born into this
world with a purpose. His father had sent him here to teach
the humans how to give thanks to their Creator for a good life.
She observed him speaking in a certain way. Each time he would
finish, he would point to the forehead of one of the boys and say,
"This is what you will be able to do." He did this to each of
eleven boys in a circle. he would point to one of the
children and say, "You will be the speaker of the Thanksgiving
Greeting. These words will be used to offer greetings to our
Father. This you will do to open and close each gathering.
You will speak these good words on behalf of the people."
Then, to another, he would say, "You will be a Singer of the Great
Feather Dance. This song and dance will be the one chosen to
honour the Creator and the good mind that the people have. In
this manner, they will acknowledge the Sonkwaiatison (Creator)."
To another boy, he would say, "You will be the Singer of the Atonwa.
This song will be used to open the ceremonies when the young ones
receive their names so that all the natural life will acknowledge
them and provide them with good fortune during their life cycle.
This will also be the time for the men to sing their personal chants
and share their song with the people." To another, he would
say, "You shall learn the Drum Song which will express the
appreciation of all the people for the many things they have in this
world." They would keep this going all day till close to
When the boys
returned from the forest, their Leader went to their mother and told
her, "I know you came by us. I know you were out there.
All I can tell you right now is that we haven't finished our work.
When that is done, we will come and explain it to the people.
We will put it into words for the people to understand."
By the time the
boys were young men, they were finished with their work. They
began to explain to the people in the Village what they had been
learning all this time. The Leader explained to the people
that he had been sent here by his father to teach people how to be
grateful for all the things that we have in this world... how to be
grateful for our "Sonkwaiatison" (Creator). He said, "We must
remember that all other life Creatures are our relatives.
They, too, have a special purpose in life, and we are to respect
that. This manner in which we will do this is through our
songs and our dances. In this way, we will honour the things
they will bring to us.
To express our
appreciation for all life, I have taught my brothers three main
dances, which they will teach you. These dances are:
The Great Feather Dance
The Drum Dance
The Atonwa or The
Personal Chant "
He then told the people that
these dances were to be done at certain times throughout the year
when the people will come together, to pay respect to life and
beings that they live with and the things that keep life going.
Referring to the eleven boys as brothers because they were born at
the same time - he explained why all his brothers had been learning
the Thanksgiving songs and dances.
"No one man will ever
be able to remember all these things. Thus, they will be shared
among the people, and from the people will come the next ones who
will learn them. So, you are to keep your eye on the little
ones as they grow up because, as you do, you will see that certain
ones have an interest in these things. You will see that they
have the gist for picking up the songs, dances or speaking.
You will watch and work with these children to teach them all these
brothers gave their instructions to the people, they adapted these
ceremonies to the cycle of the seasons. They are as follows:
MIDWINTER CEREMONY - in the
middle of winter
MAPLE SYRUP - at the end of
THUNDER DANCE - early summer
MOON DANCE - early summer
STRAWBERRY - early summer
PLANTING CEREMONY - early
BEAN DANCE - midsummer
GREEN CORN DANCE - midsummer
HARVEST DANCE - end of summer
MOON DANCE - early fall
END OF SEASONS CEREMONY - fall
Midwinter, the time when all things are new again, will remind us
that we are starting a new cycle. The Thunder Dance will help
us honour the water life. The Moon Dance will help us pay
respect to our Grandmother for working with us, for helping with the
crops, for working with the females to make sure that life continues
and to keep everything in order, such as the female life, the plant
life, the animal life, the water life, and many others. The
Moon Dance, we will celebrate twice in our yearly cycles.
Strawberry will help us pay respect to the medicine plants and other
healing powers. Planting ceremonies will help us to
acknowledge our food substance. Other ceremonies, such as bean
and corn, will remind us that these are our main foods. The
Harvest Dance will be a celebration for our good fortune of the
year. The End of Season Dance will remind us of the good cycle
and of the time when we must prepare for the next. 'All these
ceremonies will bring us closer to our Creator to remind us of our
purpose in this life, to be grateful for all the things we have.'
The Good Words that will be spoken in these ceremonies will bring
about a better life for all the people.
At this time, the
Leader told the people that he was not finished with his work.
"I have been instructed by my father to go across the salt water
because there are people living over there who need to hear how to
be grateful for the good way to live. They need to hear a
message that will bring them closer to their Creator."
Then, he took
his brother back to the spot where they had learned their lessons
and told them, "I am going to leave, and I might not come back."
He made a mark on the tree that his brothers could watch. He
said, "If they harm me on the other side, my blood will flow from
this tree." And so, he left.
He was gone for a
long time. He was gone for so long that many of his people,
many of his followers, had grown to be old men and were beginning to
think that he would never come back. Some had even given up
watching the shore line, watching the water, to see if he would come
back. Finally, a sign did come; there was blood on the mark,
and his brother knew that something had happened to him at the other
place across the salt water.
Soon after, one
last person, walking along the shore and looking out across the
water thinking about this man, saw a disturbance in the water.
He watched it for a while, and he could see that the disturbance was
moving towards him. So, he ran to the people and started
telling them that it looked like the man was coming back. And
the people went down to the shore and waited.
And it was him.
And when he came out of the water, they could see that he had been
hurt. He had been cut up. There was blood on his face.
There was also blood on his body.
And he told the people, "Don't touch me. On the side, they
think they have killed me, but I had to come back. I came back
because my father instructed me to leave you with one more ceremony
- the Great Peach Bowl Game. I will teach you the purpose of
the game and how it is played. The three other major
ceremonies that you have now are for the purpose of expressing
thanks to your Creator. The Peach Bowl Game will be played for
his amusement. It will be played to express a good time for
the people and a good time for the Creator. One of the main
purposes of the game is to remind you that the things you have
around you are not yours. They do not belong to you.
They belong to the world. You just happen to have them around
you. You just happen to have the ability to convert them with
your hands into something else. Whether of the animal world,
tree world or water world - all is because of another life. So
the things you have with you during your life cycle are never really
yours. And the message you send back to the Creator is that,
'You are grateful for what you have and are willing to share it with
'So now you
have the four dances. This will be your way of thanking the
Creator for all the things he has left here on Earth for your people
to live by and appreciate.'
Then, he told
his brothers that he was on a journey back to the land of his
people across the Great Salt Waters who refused similar teachings,
he said, "They must find their own way from now on because of what
they have done. There will always be great turmoil in that
part of the world. They will never have peace of mind and will
always be fighting over what they believe is the true religion.
Many branches will sprout from the original teachings, and they will
always be fighting over them. But the religion of the Onkwehonwe people will always be one and will be expressed through
With that, the
Teharonhiawako Meets "Hadoui"
came to a spot that was open and found a being sitting there on a
rock, looking into the mountains. As he walked up the the
being, he said, "Who are you?" The being told him, "I am
called Hadoui. I am the most powerful being on this earth.
I have the power to change the natural life and beings that live on
it." Teharonhiawako then introduced himself by saying, "I am
the Creator of all that you see, the valleys, mountains, rivers,
animals and beings that walk about this land. I am called
Teharonhiawako, and if you are as powerful as you say then I would
like to see your powers for there can only be one true "Creator".
Hadoui replied that they should resolve who had the most power for
only one could rule the world. They finally agreed to a
contest of who could move the mountain closest to them in the valley
where they were standing. Hadoui started first, and to the
amazement of Teharonhiawako he caused the mountain to tremor and
even move slightly. Finally Hadoui said, "This is what I can
do, now it is your turn." Teharonhiawako asked Hadoui not to
look behind him. Hadoui did not realize that the mountain was
already behind him and as he turned his head he scraped his face
against the side of the mountain, breaking his nose and contorting
his features in the process. Hadoui said, "I now realize that
you are the true "Creator", and your power is greater than mine."
The "MASTER OF LIFE"
then told him, "I recognize that you are a powerful being and that
you have strong power - the power to help people. My brother
is still around, and I know that in the future he will try to cause
problems. I am going to ask you if you will help watch over
all my children and take care of them, in case of disease, sickness
or other problems." At that moment, the Hadoui said, "I will
do that, for I recognize that you are the one that made this place.
In return the people will have to give me some tobacco and food.
For their protection, for their health, they will have to feed me."
This was when the songs were made, when they were put together.
They agreed that a
certain kind of food would be given to Hadoui and thanks would be
given to him. He does work and good things for the people.
At that point, the "CREATOR" returned to the first people he had
He told them,
"All the living creatures are your relations, and they all have the
instructions as to how they must live in this world. The
natural life will always be ready to assist the living beings, if
they live in harmony with one another. The humans must always
look after their relations of the natural world."
To this day,
this has been the Traditional Belief of the people of the