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The Earth on Turtle’s Back, When Grizzlies Walked Upright, and The Navajo Origin Legend

When this world came to being, there was no single explanation of its origin. Many Native American tribes and other religious groups throughout the world created their own origin or creation myths for the earth as a whole or just the people of the earth. The basis of these myths was the cultural and social beliefs of the many different tribes around the world. The Earth on Turtle’s Back, When Grizzlies Walked Upright, and The Navajo Origin Legend is the three creation myths by the Onondaga, the Modoc, and the Navajo. Each of these myths is by far original and different, yet at the same time share many of the customs, attitudes, and beliefs of each of the individual groups, which were revealed to us throughout the stories. Origin Legends not only teach how a natural aspect of the world came to be but also dives into the soul of the tribe that created a specific legend. If read closely enough, so much can be learned about the lifestyle of a whole group of people, from a single myth.

The Earth on Turtle’s Back is created by the Onondaga, from Northeast Woodlands. This myth portrays many beliefs and attitudes that are found in the Onondaga culture. No customs could be picked up from this myth because the legend did not go in-depth describing whether a social or individual, idea or action was repeated over a period of time. This myth reveals to us that these people are hard-working and find joy in helping others, rather than being self-centred. When the animals noticed that a lady was falling from the sky, the swans immediately flew up to her rescue. The people of the tribe are knowledgeable and keep an understanding of all types of people or creatures that may surround them; also, having an understanding of how to assist them when needed. Noticing right from the start that the lady that fell from the sky did not have webbed feet told the animals that they needed to find land for her to rest on, which could only be brought from the bottom of the ocean.

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They believe that everyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small; which can be seen when the small Muskrat was the only one who never gave up and made it to the bottom of the sea. Women were given much respect; they were not only given the power to give birth to people but also gave birth to the earth. Sacrifice, shown by the turtle was a great example of cooperation and teamwork even if there may not be personal gain from it. When Grizzlies Walked Upright is an origin legend created by the Modoc. From the context of the myth, it can be seen that the Modoc gave great importance to nature and wildlife. Even at times of conflict, the myth does not jump out and yell in your face that there is trouble. It is written in a serene and orderly manner, from which it can be inferred that the people of this tribe have the ability to keep calm. When the daughter of the Sky Spirit decided that she wanted to let curiosity get to the best of her, it was her fault because she had been warned; the Sky Spirit understood this and did not feel the need for creating commotion throughout the entire mountainous region he had created.

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Attitudes such as the ones discussed above are the key factors to the organization of many Native tribes, including the Modoc. Natives believed that the Indians originated from the grizzly bears the Sky Spirit had created. For this reason, in the Mount Shasta area, no grizzly bear was killed by an Indian and when an Indian was killed by a grizzly bear, the body would be burned immediately. This shows that they respect the animal life surrounding them, especially grizzly bears. Many of the beliefs exposed dealt with serenity and nature. They calmly accept what is brought to them in life, like when the daughter did not create a big fuss in having to live with grizzly bears. Curiosity should be kept within its limits and when given instructions they should be followed, or else the consequences will be suffered.

The Navajo Origin Legend is an origin legend created by the Navajo people. It seems as though the Navajo people were very simple in what they did or the way they presented something. They were holy people and they cleaned themselves every morning of the 12th day. The legend is short and straight to the point, showing that these people do not mess around and do as they are told. Not much individual emotion can be picked up from the way the story was written, but on a whole, it can be seen that most of their emotions come from the gods. It is not mentioned how the people were feeling or reacting to the miracle of the wind and Mirage People, so it can be inferred that the people did not have much say in this society. The Navajo believe that the custom of men and women living together as husband and wife had not originated until the First Man and First Woman had transformed from the corn.

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Many of their beliefs revolve around the Gods and other higher beings. The wind is expected to be quite spiritual and also given a higher ranking than women since it gives birth to the First Man and First Woman. The colour white is always associated with men and the colour yellow is always associated with women, showing us that men are more pure and superior to women in this society as well.  All three origin legends are discussing their own ideas of how they believe something came to being. How they portray this idea and what kind of tone they use builds up to the attitude of the myth. While the first two myths are kept fast-paced and flowing, the Navajo Origin Legend seems a bit slower and the way the people behave in a routine manner is quite depressing. All the myths incorporate a great deal of nature, building the basis of the myths and assist to set the mood and attitude. All three are similar because the myths portray optimistic ideas or views.

In the first two, the people or animals play an actual role in the story while in the last one they sit there and watch, forming a dull attitude for the legend. The people and animals of the first two understand their mistakes and also what they need to follow through in, but in the Navajo legend, no idea can be established on what the people are thinking or feeling. Various customs were portrayed to us within the three stories. The Earth on Turtle’s Back did not have any customs in it, to my understanding. When Grizzlies Walked Upright discussed the custom that the Modoc Natives had of not killing grizzlies because they believed that they were their ancestors. In The Navajo Origin Legend, they explained to us the origin of husbands and wives. Men and Women living together and being bound by marriage became a custom for the Navajo.

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Many common beliefs were established in all three tribes. Hard work, teamwork, never give up, you should always try; even if you don’t think you’ll have a chance, strength, courage, and many more. These were the basis or foundations of the Native beliefs and were also understood as the morals of all three stories. Each of the individual stories has different attitudes and customs, yet many of the beliefs are commonly shared. Many Natives had many of the same beliefs which were reflected through their origin legends. The Earth on Turtle’s Back, When Grizzlies Walked Upright, and Navajo Origin Legend all revealed differing attitudes, customs and beliefs of their own tribes. These three aspects greatly portray the culture and lifestyles of the Native tribes these legends belong to. They not only teach us the variety in culture but also their creativity and ability to create their oral traditions. Creation myths were also a great way to teach the young of the tribe the type of values they would have to live up to and what kind of lives they should lead. It was a great way to get multiple messages across to their own people and the entire world.

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The Earth on Turtle's Back, When Grizzlies Walked Upright, and The Navajo Origin Legend. (2021, May 04). Retrieved December 3, 2021, from