Columbia River, Washington, Oregon
A big canoe (Orion's belt) and a small canoe (Orion's dagger) are in
a race to see who can be the first to catch a salmon in the Big River (Milky Way). The little canoe
is winning the race. Can you tell which star is the fish? It is the very bright star in the
middle of the river (Sirius).
Bear and Three Hunters
Musquakie, Iroquois Tribes
East Coast, Great Lakes
The bowl stars of the Big Dipper form a bear. The stars of the Dipper's handle
are hunters. The tiny star near the elbow of the handle is a small dog named "Hold Tight." In
autumn, when the Dipper is low to the horizon, the blood from the bear's arrow
wounds drips on the trees and turns them red and brown.
Maui was a powerful god but a poor fisherman. He snagged his hook (Scorpius) and
line on the bottom of the sea and thought he had hooked a big fish. He
pulled hard and pulled up the North Island of New Zealand, Te ika a Maui - The fish of Maui.
Alberta, Montana, Idaho
The Spider God (Corona Borealis) sits in his web (Hercules) and
watches over the land. Sometime he climbs down the summer Milky Way to
visit the Earth.
Wyoming, Southern Idaho
A grizzly bear (Cygnus) climbed up a tall mountain to go hunting in
the sky. As he climbed, snow and ice clung to the fur of his feet
and legs. Crossing the sky the ice crystals trailed behind him forming
the Milky Way.
A Hunter killed a great elk and stretched the skin to dry by driving
wooden stakes through it. Afterwards he threw the skin into the sky
(Cassiopeia) where the light above shines through the stake holes forming
Pacific Northwest Coast
The Coyote liked to take out his eyeballs and juggle them to impress the girls.
One day as he was juggling them he threw one so high it stuck in the sky (Arcturus).
There are two dogs (alpha and beta Canis Majori) who guard the
path (Milky Way) to the land of
souls. To get past the dogs one should bring food. Be warned, if
you give food to the first dog (alpha) he will let you pass, but if
you fail to save some food for the second dog (beta) you will be trapped
between them forever.
Sierra, Paiute Tribes
Grizzly sisters (Aries) use to play with Deer sisters (Pleiades) in a cave. One
day Grizzly mother ate Deer mother. Deer sisters retaliated by trapping
Grizzly sisters in the cave.
Western Mono Tribe
Six wives (Pleiades cluster) were hiking in the woods and discovered some wild onions. They
ate the onions which gave them skunk
breath. Their Husbands (Hyades cluster) threw them out of their huts.
When the wives went up into the sky to live, the lonely husbands eventually followed
but never catch up to them.
Walks All Over the Sky
Pacific Northwest Coast
Back when the sky was completely dark there was a chief with two
sons, a younger son, One Who Walks All Over the Sky, and an older son,
Walking About Early. The younger son was sad to see the sky always so
dark so he made a mask out of wood and pitch (the Sun) and lit it on
fire. Each day he travels across the sky. At night he sleeps below the
horizon and when he snores sparks fly from the mask and make the stars.
The older brother became jealous. To impress their father he smeared fat
and charcoal on his face (the Moon) and makes his own path across the
Three Legged Rabbit
Western Rocky, Crow Tribes
A three legged rabbit made himself a fourth leg from wood. The
rabbit thought the Sun was too hot for comfort so he went to see what
could be done. He went east at night to the place where the Sun would
rise. When the Sun was half way up the Rabbit shot it with an arrow. As
the Sun lay wounded on the ground the Rabbit took the white of the Suns
eyes and made the clouds. He made the black part of the eyes into the
sky, the kidneys into stars, and the liver into the Moon, and the heart
into the night. "There!" said the Rabbit, "You will never be too hot
Coyote and Eagle Steal the Sun and Moon
Southwest, Arizona, New Mexico
Back when it was always dark, it was also always summer. Coyote and
Eagle went hunting. Coyote was a poor hunter because of the dark. They
came to the Kachinas, a powerful people. The Kachinas had the Sun and
the Moon in a box. After the people had gone to sleep the two animals
stole the box. At first Eagle carried the box but Coyote convinced his
friend to let him carry it. The curious Coyote opened the box and the
Sun and Moon escaped and flew up to the sky. This gave light to the land
but it also took away much of the heat, thus we now have winter.
The Boy and the Sun
A boy lived with his mother's mother and didn't know his
father. His grandmother said to ask the Sun about it, surely
the Sun would know. The boy made a flour of crushed
tortoise shell, cornmeal, coral, and seashells. He threw the mix
upwards and made a path into the sky (Milky Way). He climbed up
and found the Sun. He asked "Who is my father?" The Sun
replied, "You have much to learn." The boy fell to Earth. He made a
box from cottonwood and sealed himself in it as it floated
west down a river. The box washed ashore where two
rivers join. He was freed from the
box by a young female rattlesnake.
Together they traveled west. They saw a meteor fall into
the sea on its way to the Sun's house. They asked it for a ride. In this
way they made it to the Sun's house. They met the Sun's mother (the
Moon) who was working on a piece of turquoise. That evening when the Sun
came home from his day's work, the boy asked again, "Who is my father?" And
then the Sun replied "I think I am."
The Sun and Her Daughter
As the Sun traveled across the sky she would stop in the middle each
day to have dinner at her daughter's house. Now the Sun hated people
because they would always squint when they looked at her. "They screw up
their faces at me!" she told her brother the Moon. "I like them," said the
Moon, "they always smile at me." They Sun was jealous and decided she
would kill the people by sending a fever. Many people were dying and
those remaining decided they would have to kill the Sun. With some
magic, one of the people was turned into a rattlesnake and sent to wait
by the daughter's door, to bite the Sun when she stopped for dinner. But
when the daughter opened the door to look for her mother the snake bit
her instead. The snake returned to Earth with the Sun still alive and
the daughter dead. When the Sun discovered what had happened she shut
herself up in the house and grieved. The people no longer had the fever
but now it was cold and dark. So, seven people were chosen to visit the
land where ghosts dance to see if they could retrieve the daughter. As
she danced past them they struck her with rods so she fell down, then
they trapped her in a box. On the trip home she complained of not being
able to breath so they opened the lid just a crack. She became a redbird
and escaped, flying back to the land of ghosts. Seeing the seven people
return empty handed, the Sun began to cry. This caused a great flood.
To amuse the Sun and stop the flood, the people danced. This is why the
people do the Sun dance to this very day.
Spider and the Sun
In the beginning there was only darkness and people kept bumping into
each other. Fox said that people on the other side of the world had
plenty of light but were too greedy to share it. Possum went over there
to steal a little piece of the light. He found the Sun hanging in a
tree, lighting everything up. He took a tiny piece of the Sun and hid it
in the fur of his tail. The heat burned the fur off his tail. That is
why possums have bald tails. Buzzard tried next. He tried to hide a
piece in the feathers of his head. That is why buzzards have bald
heads. Grandmother Spider tried next. She made a clay bowl. Then she
spun a web (Milky Way) across the sky reaching to the other side of the
world. She snatched up the whole sun in the clay bowl and took it back
home to our side of the world.
Little Brother Snares the Sun
Great Lakes, Michigan
In the old days people were not the chiefs and did not hunt animals.
Animals were the chiefs and hunted people. They killed all the people
except one girl and her little brother who hid in a cave. The boy
learned to kill snowbirds with a bow and arrow and made a robe from the
feathers. They made soup from the bodies of the birds and that was the
first time people ate meat. The bright sunlight eventually ruined the robe and
the boy swore revenge. His sister helped him fashion a
snare. He traveled to the hole in the ground where the Sun rises every
morning. As the Sun rose he snared it and tied it up so that there was
no light or warmth that day. The animals were afraid and amazed by the
boy. They sent the biggest and most fearsome animal to try and free the
sun. This was the dormouse which in those days was as big as a
mountain. The mouse chewed through the snare freeing the sun but
meanwhile the intense heat shrunk him down to his present size. Since
that time the people have been the chiefs and the hunters.
The Fifth World
Five worlds and five suns were created, one after the other. The
first world was destroyed because it's people acted wrongfully. They were
eaten by ocelots and the sun destroyed. The second sun saw it's people
turned into monkeys due to lack of wisdom. The third sun had it's world
destroyed by fire, earthquakes, and volcanoes because the people didn't
make sacrifices to the gods. The fourth world perished in a flood which
also drowned its sun. Before creating the fifth world, our world, the
gods met in the darkness to see who would have the honor of igniting the
fifth sun. Tecciztecatl volunteered. The gods built a big fire on top
of a pyramid and the volunteer prepared to throw himself into the
flames. He was dressed in beautiful hummingbird feathers, with gold and
turquoise. Four times he tried to force himself into the suicidal fire
but each time his fear drove him back. Then the lowliest of all the
gods, Nanautzin, dressed in humble reeds, threw himself into the fire.
Teccitztecatl was so ashamed that he too jumped into the fire. The new
sun rose into the sky giving light to the fifth world.
Fox and the Moon
Long ago, Snoqualm (Man in the Moon), had a spider make him a rope out of
cedar bark and stretch it from the sky to the Earth. One day Fox and
Blue Jay found the rope and climbed up to where the rope was fixed to the
underside of the sky. Blue Jay pecked a hole in the sky and they climbed
through to the sky world. Blue Jay flew to a tree while Fox changed
himself into Beaver and swam in a lake. Snoqualm had set a trap in the lake
which caught Beaver. Snoqualm skinned him and threw the body in the corner
of the smokehouse. That night when Snoqualm was asleep Beaver got up and put
his skin back on. He looked around. He took a few of the trees, and the
Snoqualm's daylight making tools, some fire, and the Sun which was hidden in
Snoqualm's house. He changed back into Fox then he found the hole that Blue
Jay had made and took the things to Earth. He planted the trees, made
daylight, gave the fire to the people, and put the Sun in it's place.
When Snoqualm awoke he was very angry. He found the tracks that led to the
hole. He started down but the rope broke and he fell to the Earth in a
heap where he became a mountain. One can see the face of Snoqualm on one
of the rocky cliffs. Today the mountain is called Mount Si and it is near the cities of Snoqualmie and
Northbend in Washington State.
Raven and the Sun
Pacific Northwest Coast
Once the sky had no day. When the sky was clear there was some light
from the stars but when it was cloudy it was very dark. Raven had put
fish in the rivers and fruit trees in the land but he was saddened by the
darkness. The Sun at that time was kept in a box by a chief in the sky.
The Raven came to a hole in the sky and went through. He came to a
spring where the chief's daughter would fetch water. He changed himself
into a cedar seed and floated on the water. When the girl drank from
the spring she swallowed the seed without noticing, and became pregnant. A
boy child was born which was really Raven. As a toddler he begged to
play with the yellow ball that grandfather kept in a box. He was allowed
to play with the Sun and when the chief looked away he turned back into
Raven and flew back through the hole in the sky, bringing the sun to our world.
Coyote, Wolves, and Bears
Columbia River, Washington, Oregon
Once there were five wolves who would share meat with Coyote. One
night the wolves were staring at the sky. "What are you looking at?" asked
Coyote. "There are two animals up there." they told him. "But we can't
get to them." "That is easy." said Coyote. He took his bow and shot an arrow
into the sky where it stuck. He shot another arrow which stuck into the
first. Then he shot another and another until the chain of arrow reached
the ground. The five wolves and Coyote climbed the arrows into the sky. The oldest
wolf took along his dog. When they reached the sky they could see that
the animals were grizzly bears. The wolves went near the bears and sat
there looking at them and the bears looked back. Coyote thought they
looked good sitting there so he left them and removed his arrow ladder.
The three stars of the handle of the Big Dipper and the two stars of the
bowl near the handle are the wolves. The two stars on the front of the
bowl are the bears. The tiny star
by the wolf in the middle of the handle is the dog.
Morning Star Wins Evening Star
Skidi Pawnee Tribe
Great Plains, Kansas, Nebraska
In the beginning there was only Tirawahat, which is the Universe and
everything in it. Morning Star (Venus) and the Sun and the other males in
sky were in favor of creating the world but Evening Star (Venus) and the Moon
and the other females were against it. To win the debate it was clear that Morning
Star would have to win the heart of Evening Star. Many had tried and failed, she
was guarded by Wolf (Sirius), Cougar (Auriga), Bear (Sagittarius),
Bobcat (Procyon), and worst of all, Snake (Scorpius). One by one
Morning Star defeated them and won the hand of Evening Star. And so the
world was created.
The Lost Children
Northern Plains, North Dakota, Montana
There were once six young brothers who were orphans.
They lived from handouts and wore castaway clothing.
No one cared much about them except the camp's pack of
dogs. They loved the dogs and played with them every
day. People were unkind to the boys because of their
ragged clothes and uncombed hair. The brothers were
teased by the other children who wore fine buffalo
robes. The boys no longer wanted to be people. They
considered becoming flowers but the buffalo might eat
them. Stones? No, stones could be broken. Water could
be drank, trees could be cut and burned. They decided
they wanted to be stars. Stars are always beautiful
and always safe. Up went the boys to the sky to
become stars (Pleiades). The Sun welcomed the boys and the Moon called them
her lost children. Then the Sun punished the people with a drought. Meanwhile
the people heard the dogs howling at the sky. The dogs missed the boys.
Finally the dog cheif asked the Sun for pity because drought hurts all creatures.
Then the rains came.
Coyote and the Moon
Once there was no Moon for someone had stolen it. The people asked "Who
will be the Moon?" The Yellow Fox agreed to give it a try but he was so
bright it made the Earth hot at night. Then the people asked Coyote to
try and he agreed. The Coyote was a good moon, not to bright - not to
dim. But from his vantage point in the sky the Coyote could see what
everyone was doing. Whenever he saw someone doing something dishonest he
would shout "HEY! That person is stealing meat from the drying racks!" or
"HEY! That person is cheating at the moccasin game!" Finally, the people
who wished to do things in secret got together and said "Coyote is too
noisy. Let's take him out of the sky." So someone else became the moon.
Coyote can no longer see what everyone else is doing but he still
tries to snoop into everyone else's business.
Fisher Goes to Skyland
Fisher was a small animal but a great hunter. Hunting was difficult in those days because it was always winter. "Come
with me." he told his friends, "We will go where the Earth is closest to
Skyland. The Skyland is always warm and we will bring some of the warmth
down to Earth." The Otter, Lynx and Wolverine traveled with Fisher up
the mountains, closer and closer to Skyland. When they were very close
Fisher said "We must jump up and break through to the land above the
sky." The Otter jumped up and bumped his head on the sky. He fell on
his back and slid all the way down the mountain. Lynx jumped up and
bumped so hard it knocked him unconscious. Wolverine jumped up and
bumped hard against the sky. He jumped again and again until the sky
cracked a little. He jumped again and broke through. Fisher jumped
through after him. They found Skyland to be a beautiful place, full of
warmth and plants and flowers. They found cages full of birds which they
released. The birds flew through the crack in the sky to the world
below. The warmth of Skyland began to flow to the Earth and melt the
snow. The Sky-People came out of the lodges and said "Thieves! They are
taking our warm weather!" Wolverine escaped back through the crack but
Fisher started working to make the crack bigger. He knew that if it were
too small the Sky-People might be able to patch it. The Sky-People began chasing
him and shooting arrows. Athough he was powerful, they eventually hit a
fatal spot. The great Gitchee Manitou took pity on poor Fisher because
he had tried to help his friends. He healed him and placed him in the sky
(Big Dipper). Each autumn as Fisher is falling towards Earth the Sky-People try to patch the
crack and Winter comes.
Then in spring Fisher climbs back high in the sky and reopens the crack and Summer comes.
Nanuk the Bear
Nanuk the Bear was attacked by a pack of large fierce dogs. he tried to escape
by running away over the ice, but the dogs followed close behind. For many hours the dogs chased
Nanuk and he could not lose them.
Eventually, they had came to the very edge of the world, but neither
Nanuk or the dogs noticed. Suddenly they all fell off the edge into
the sky, where they all turned into stars (Pleiades).
Changing Woman lived alone without a husband.
One day she climbed up on a hill and build a wickiup with four poles.
She faced the door to the east so the first rays of the sun would enter the lodge in the
morning. As she lay inside, the sun came up and saw her, and she saw him as a young man.
"Who are you" she asked. "You see me all the time." He said. "It is I that takes care of all things,
whatever there is on Earth. I am the sun's inner form." That day they made a boy child
together and Changing Woman called him Nayé nazgháné (The Slayer of Monsters).
Four days later she was bathing and the young man appeared in the water.
They made another child that day, a twin to the first, which she named Túbaadeschine
(Born of the Water-Old-Man). There are many stories of the adventures of the two
boys, as they made the Earth a safer place for future generations.
This collection assembled by Brad Snowder.