Native American Earth Legends: Lenape Creation

Published on January 10, 2013 by Casey

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Lenape Creation
Lenape Creation

Native American Earth Legends: Lenape Creation

In the beginning there was just spirit matter. This spirit matter is called Kittanitowet by our people. From Kittanitowet came Kishlamekong, or “Thinking Grandfather”. One day the Thinking Grandfather had a dream about a material world of the sun, the moon, the stars and the earth with all the animals and all the people. Because he dreamed this, it was destined to become a reality. This is why he is called “He Who Creates with His Thoughts”.

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To help him create this world, the Thinking Grandfather created four helpers, the Keepers of Creation. They were to have the qualities of rock, water, air, and fire. Into each he breathed life and spirit. Each one had different characteristics according to their nature.
Mukumsa Lowanuk, Grandfather North, controls the power of rock. He gives solidness of physical form. He gives us our bodies and the ground we live on. He brings forth winter. His color is white.

Mukumsa Wapanuk, Grandfather East, controls the power of air. He gives us our life breath and brings forth springtime. His color is Yellow. Thank him for the air, our breath, springtime, new beginnings, light, creative knowledge, music, and song.

Ohum Shawnuk, Grandmother South, controls the power of fire. She gives us our spirit and brings forth summer. Her color is red. Thank her for our spirit, growth, maturity, and the warmth of the sun.

Mukumsa Wochenuk, Grandfather West, controls the power of water. He gives us our softening influences and brings forth autumn. His color is black. Thank him for the rain, the creeks, the rivers, the lakes, and the oceans. Thank him for healing, intuition, emotions, dreams and visions.

Once created, Thinking Grandfather brought all the directions together and orchestrated their powers. The effect of this was the creation of a synchronized universe. Once the universe was created, Kishlamekong created a wife, Natami Gaho, and they lived together under a great tree, called the Spirit Tree, in the Sky World for a long time.

At this time our world was a great tidal sea. The only land was under the sea. One day, Thinking Grandfather had a bad dream that his wife, Natami Gaho, fell through a hole in the Sky World and into the tidal sea. Because he creates with his thoughts, this happened, and Natami Gaho did in fact fall through the hole. As she did so, she grabbed hold of a root from the Spirit Tree and fell toward the tidal sea with it in her hand. She fell and fell. As she approached the tidal sea, Kishlamekong created a giant turtle, Grandmother Turtle, to catch Natami Gaho. Because he thought it; it was done. Once Natami Gaho was situated, she gave birth to Kishlamekong’s daughter, Manito Dasen– Spirit Daughter– who grew quickly and then gave birth to two men, Nanapush and Makimani. Nanapush, the positive force, was born first, and Makimani, the negative force, was born second. Dasen died giving birth to Makimani.

Upset that her daughter had died in this material world, Natami Gaho wished to bury her to try to bring her back to life. To do so, she would have to get mud from the bottom of the sea. She asked her husband, Thinking Grandfather, to get some mud so they could bury her daughter. But because it was not the Sky World, Kishlamekong only had limited powers. He therefore created an otter to do it for him. But otter couldn’t do it. The water was too deep. He then created muskrat to dive down. Muskrat was gone for a long time. She floated back to the surface dead. Nanapush examined her body and found mud between were claws. Natami Gaho took this mud and blew spirit into it, spreading it across Grandmother Turtle’s back. As a result, this Spirit Island which we live on is sometimes called Turtle Island. To show her thanks to muskrat, Natami Gaho breathed life back into muskrat and Thinking Grandfather put her paw prints on the back of all future turtles to thank her.

With Turtle Island now created, Natami Gaho buried her daughter Dasen. Her spirit went throughout the island and brought it to life. She is our Earth Mother, Kahmahsuma. From her, all things grow up from the land. Once the land was fertilized by Dasenkahmasuma, Natami Gaho planted the root she still held from the Spirit Tree and planted it over Dasen’s grave in the center of the island. From this root grew the Tree of Life in which all things living things were created in this world. Natami Gaho and her two grandchildren then helped Thinking Grandfather create the rocks, plants, and animals. While Nanapush made positive things, Makimani made negative things. For example, Nanapush made snakes to hunt mice. Makimani then made the snakes bite with poison. Nanapush made bees to pollenate the plants. Makimani made them sting. This shows that the Great Spirit is balanced.

Once creation was complete, Natami Gaho said farewell to her grandchildren, Nanapush and Makimani, and walked into the western sky to rejoin Thinking Grandfather. Her path back to the Sky World can be seen at night with the stars. In this world, Natami Gaho lives in the moon and Kishlamekong lives in the sun.

Once Natami Gaho returned to the Sky World, the Tree of Life gave birth to the first man and the first woman. They walked across Turtle Island with wolf guiding them. Nanapush took pity on them. He showed them how to live and created spirit helpers to guide them. Makimani however, tried to kill them. He created disease, poison, old age, accidents, hatred, etc. to harm them. This eternal battle rages to this day. He even created serpents to try destroy the original people. To help them, Nanapush created Thunder Spirits or Pet-ha-ko-way-yuk to drive the serpents back into the earth. From time to time, the serpents try to come out of the earth but the Thunder Spirits drive them back with bolts of lightning. After this, Nanapush walked into the northern wind and took the form of a giant snow rabbit. There he smokes his pipe in contemplation. Sometimes we see this smoke in the morning. Makimani, upset with Nanapush, walked into the southern wind. There he lives in a cave with some of his serpents.

The original people then populated Turtle Island and broke off into many different tribes. From the Lenni Lenape broke the Iroquois and the Sioux. The Lenape then branched off into Mahican, Pequot, Showano, Wampanoag, Chickahominy. Then into the wolf, turtle, turkey, bear, bird, and deer clans. Today, the Lenape are the direct descendants of the original people.

Source: Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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