Apache Indian Legends

Published on June 4, 2014 by Carol

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Creation Legends

Creation and Emergence Legend

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It is dark in the underworld before the emergence. Dissatisfied, Holy Boy decides there should be light. He tries without success to make the sun and moon, using specular iron ore and pollen.

He tries again and again, using many different materials, but is unsuccessful. Whirlwind, who spies on the hactcin, tells Holy Boy that White Hactcin has the sun, and he should get it from him.

pinhead. White Hactcin tells Holy Boy that Black Hactcin has the moon, and Holy Boy is able to acquire it as well. The hactcin instruct Holy Boy in the ritual acts of creating the sun and moon. When the song rituals are complete the sun and moon rise, bringing light to the underworld.

The many medicine people living in the lower world immediately claim responsibility for creating the sun and moon, arguing fiercely with one another. The hactcin warn them to be silent for four days, but the medicine people ignore the warning. On the fourth day, the sun rises to the center of the sky. Because the medicine people continue to argue, it goes through the hole in the center of the sky into the present earth. Only faint light comes through into the lower world. The Jicarilla identify this incident with solar eclipses.

The hactcin challenge the boasting medicine people to bring back the sun and moon. The medicine people demonstrate their considerable abilities, but nothing they do brings back the sun and moon. Next, all the birds and animals are challenged to try. Each animal comes forward and offerssome kind of food. The hactcin accept all their offerings as
useful items, but the sun and moon remain in the world above.

Finally, the hactcin direct the representation in sand (sandpainting) of a world bordered by four mountains. The mountains are represented by four differently colored piles of sand. On each mountain are placed leaves of the trees and seeds of the fruits that will grow upon it. The people sing and pray as the mountains begin to grow. Eventually the mountains grow together, forming a single mountain.

The hactcin choose 12 medicine people, painting and costuming them so that six represent summer and six represent winter. The hactcin choose six more medicine people as clowns (the Jicarilla word for clown translates “striped excrement”). The clowns are painted white all over with black stripes across the face, chest, and legs. Their hair is formed into two horns, painted white with four black stripes. Jicarilla clowns are powerful healers.

When the mountain has grown nearly to the sky, Fly and Spider are sent to the world above. They bring back four rays of the sun, from which the hactcin construct a ladder of 1 2 steps. Animals sent up the ladder report that the world above is full of water. The hactcin go up into the world and prepare the earth for others to enter. The emergence proceeds from this point, the clowns first, laughing to scare away anything that will cause illness.

Then the hactcin emerge, followed by First Man and First Woman. Next come the 12 medicine people, followed by all the people and animals. Finally two old people try to enter the world, but the ladders are now worn out and they cannot climb them. They call for help, but there is no way for them to emerge.

The old people angrily proclaim they will remain in in the underworld, but that those who have emerged must some day return, thus designating the underworld as the place of death.

The Lipan Apache Indians have a similar emergence story. In the Lipan version Killer-of-Enemies, identifed as the Sun, is a principal creator and culture hero. Killer-of-Enemies seems to be synonymous with Child-of-the-Water, the child of
Changing Woman, who is identified as the Moon and Thunder. Child-of-the-Water is a name rarely used. In Lipan stories Killer-of-Enemies has a younger brother known as Wise One.

The Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache Indians do not have an emergence story. Their creation story begins with the flooding of a world that seems in retrospect to have fallen into malevolence. These stories proceed to the creative efforts of White Painted Woman and Child-of-the-Water who, rather than Killer-of-Enemies, is the dominant culture hero.

The western Apache Indians seldom tell the emergence story. More commonly they begin with a brief account of the creation of the earth, moving on quickly to the slaying of monsters.

Source: nativeamerican-art

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