Tuesday, March 12

Legends of the Southwest + Native American Mythology

*Shout out to our 15yo son for creating the Modern Mythology posts*

One thing that is important to understand is that the Native Americans didn't have one mythology. They had many different stories, and it depended on what tribe you belonged to and where you lived. Each had stories passed down from generation to generation, and they slow changed. 

There were some things that they all believed though. Most of them believed in nature, spirits, and things such as the moon. They believed that everything had a spirit, from living things to inanimate objects. This is one of the oldest forms of religion. Much of their religion and history were interlinked to form myths and stories. 

There are several similarities, like how the creator gods created everything from life to death. The primary gods for most of the tribes were Mother Earth and Father Sky, but there were other gods as well, such as the Spider Woman, Napi, or Awonawilona. 

Most of the deities, besides the creators, were things like tricksters and shape shifters. They wanted to keep the spirits happy, to avoid any conflict with them. Tricksters often took the shape of animals to cause havoc. Commons shapes were the coyote, the spider, or the rabbit. The Native American mythology is so varied that it makes it hard to study as a whole.

Creation Story
First there was only darkness over everything. It filled all space. It covered the whole world. The ancient Sun Father, dwelling in the Great Outer Spaces, gazed around with his all-seeing eyes and saw that all was covered with water. So he rubbed his hands together and from the skin that flaked off, he formed two great balls. 

Raising one arm high, he flung one of the balls into the water. It melted slowly and spread far and wide and grew bigger and bigger. As it grew, part of it sank into the water and it became Mother Earth. Then he threw the second ball into the water. That, too, spread all over, growing even larger than the first. It drew up all the water that was left by the first ball and became Father Sky. (Slowly increase the brightness of the starfield). So there is water on Mother Earth and water in Father Sky — and that is why the sky is blue. 

Time went on and Mother Earth gave birth to man and creatures. One day Mother Earth and Father Sky held a great council. “How will our children live?” said Mother Earth. “We must have food for our children. How, after they are born, shall they live and be guided?” Father Sky answered, “They will be guided by my hands when I am not near. Behold!” He spread out his great hands, palms downward. There was golden yellow corn kernels in every line and wrinkle of his palms and fingers. “The shining kernels will tell them what to do and how to live. They will be their guiding stars!” That, say the Zuni, was in the beginning

Make / Do
  • Alliance
  • Ancestors
  • Barter
  • Blood-brother
  • Bluff
  • Breech-cloth
  • Ceremonial
  • Communal
  • Elders
  • Father Sun
  • Garb
  • Gourd
  • Headdress
  • Insufficient
  • Kinship
  • Long house
  • Maize
  • Mohawk
  • Pow-wow
  • Pueblo
  • Reservation
  • Rite
  • Sachem
  • Shaman
  • Succotash
  • Totem pole
  • Wampum
  • Wily
  • How is the Native American creation myth similar to other cultures' creation myths?  How is it different?
  • How do the myths reflect how the Native Americans viewed the world around them? 


  1. I love the studies you put together, definitely worth saving

  2. Some of our favorite stories have been stories from native cultures. Legend of the Bluebonnet and Legend of the Indian Paintbrush are two of my girls' favorites.

    1. They're both Tommie DePaolo, right? Our yard is covered with paintbrush right now....so pretty!