Online Exhibitions

Creation of People

Drawing by Kalieh Patencio, age 13

Preliminary sculpture of the Creation Story by Eric Grohe, which will be used in the rotunda of the new Museum

 (c) Eric Grohe, 2013

By Shannon Mirelez

Now that the earth was solid and ready to walk upon, Mukat asked what they should do next. Tamaioit said, “You say you are the older, so go ahead with your ideas.” Mukat said that he thought it was now the time to create people, for they needed someone to talk to and play with.

This they did, Mukat making dark people and Tamaioit light people. As he made them, Tamaioit placed his people in a circle around him. When his circle was nearly completed, Mukat had only enough to go half-way around him. Mukat wondered how Tamaioit could make them so fast, so he made Sun, in order to see. Sun was too hot to hold and slipped away from him and went east, so there was not very much light yet.

Mukat told Tamaioit about the escape of Sun and asked him what they had better do about it. Tamaioit said, “You insist that you are older than I; if you are, it is strange that you have to ask me what to do all the time.” However, he consented to help, and the two of them created Moon. Moon was a woman and very bright and beautiful and white. After she was created, Mukat could see Tamaioit’s people, for there was more light. He did not like the people at all.

Tamaioit’s people were exactly alike on both sides. They had faces on both sides, toes pointing in both directions, breasts both in front and in back. All the fingers and toes were webbed.

Mukat said, “No wonder you could make them so fast, they don’t look good at all. You should make them right: look at mine.” A quarrel followed. Tamaioit said, “My people do not have to turn around to see behind them, nor will mine drop things through their fingers as yours will.” Mukat said, “Mine can close their fingers when they wish to hold things.” Tamaioit said that people should live always; or, if there was death, the person should return to life the next day and be young; or else people should remain young always. Mukat said it would never do not to die, for the world would get overcrowded and there would not be enough food for all. Tamaioit said they could make both more food and more room to live in. Mukat said it was intended that people should die, for after-birth’s blood was meant to bring disease into the world and thus cause death.

They then said that they must create doctors to take care of the people. They had created an old wood far north and a mermaid under the water. The wood and the mermaid were the ones chosen to give power to the doctors.2  They created a very short man in the north, Keketumnamtum, who was to be a medicine man and give power to the people through their dreams of North Wind or Rain. After obtaining this power, they would be able to create wind or rain.

This world is a man. Rain was created and sent to the sky. Rain is a man and makes things grow. North Wind is a man and makes things dry up.

Mukat and Tamaioit tried to decide when things should grow and ripen. First they said it should take fifty menyil (moons), but later they decided that it should be four menyil, and thus it is today.

They quarreled continually about which people had been made the proper way, and as to whether there should be death or not. Finally Tamaioit got angry and said that since his suggestions did not seem to amount to anything here, he would go to another world and take his people. He said that, if he went down into the ground, the world would turn over; Mukat said he would prevent that.

Tamaioit then sang his song and sank into the earth, taking all of his people. In his hurry he forgot Palm, Coyote, Duck and Moon. Earth and Sky want to follow him, but Mukat knelt on the earth and held his hand up to the sky; by doing this, he prevented their going. There are now five stars in the sky where his fingers rested.

As Tamaioit went into the ground, there was a tremendous rumbling and earthquake. Mountains arose at this time and the water in the ocean shook so that it overflowed and caused the rivers and streams we now have. The sky became bent and curved. Because of this, the sun seems to stop at noon when it gets to the highest point. While the sun is making it light for us here, it is dark in the world below; when we see it go over the horizon in the evening, it is beginning to get light there and dark here.

Mukat took the people Tamaioit forgot and made them into the right shape, but he forgot the duck’s feet; so they are still webbed.

While Mukat and Tamaioit were creating people, Mukat created a place in the east for the spirits of the dead to go to. He pulled out a whisker and pointed it east. This made a road. At the end of this road was a gate. Montakwet, a man who never dies, guards this gate. Just beyond this gate are two large hills constantly moving apart and then together. As they move apart, an opening is left through which the spirits may enter.

If the spirit has been wicked during its lifetime, it is caught between these moving hills and crushed; it then becomes a rock, bat, or butterfly. If it has lived a good life, it gets through this opening safely and passes into the regions beyond, known as Telmekish.

Because this road over which the spirits travel is toward the east, one must never lie with his head in that direction while sleeping; death might result. It is well enough to do this when old, for an old person can live only a short while longer anyway.


2 This statement is not clear, but it is as clear as my interpreter could make it.

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