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Maricopa Creation Story

This version of the legend comes from Edward S. Curtis' 1908 collection The North American Indian.

The Earth was the mother and the Sky the father. Two children, yet unborn, moved westward under the earth, seeking the place whence they were to issue, but they did not find it. Then they moved east, south, and north, and at last found the place. The first to be born was Thoshipa. Kokomat soon followed, first having called to the other to know if he had come out with his eyes open or shut. "With my eyes open," answered Thoshipa falsely. So Kokomat came forth with his eyes open, and the salt water running into them made him blind; for the earth was then covered with water.

As soon as they were born, they began to sing of what they were to do. Thoshipa cut the hair from his temples and twisted a little rope, which he laid before him; immediately the water dried up, leaving a vast expanse of mud, so the creator made ants, which bored holes and brought up dry earth. Then the two brothers decided it was time to make human beings. Said Kokomat, "We will stand back to back, I to the west and you to the east, and make men." So they did. After a while Thoshipa asked, "In what form are you creating men?" When Kokomat exhibited his creatures, Thoshipa discovered that they had webbed hands and other deformities, and he objected. "Men must not have webbed hands," said he, "for they will need fingers to point with and to pick up things." "They will need webbed hands to dip up water to drink," was Kokomat's answer. The other insisted also that they be given minds, to know how to use their hands, and Kokomat, becoming angry, threw his clay images into the water and they became ducks and other web-footed creatures. Then Kokomat sank down into the ground; but first, in his anger, he struck the sky and broke it, so that Thoshipa, to keep it from crushing his people, had to support it with his hand at the north, where we still see the marks of his fingers in one of the groups of stars. Kokomat lay under the ground and became very ill and thin. He rubbed himself, and the sickness flew into the air, turning into birds of many kinds. Then he moved toward the ocean, and said, "Here I lie forever; but whenever I turn over there will be a shaking of the earth and the people will know that Kokomat is moving."

Thoshipa proceeded to make people, placing them in rows, one row for each tribe that was to be, and when all the rows were finished he blew on them from the feet to the head, twice, and life came into their bodies. He gave them languages, each different from the other's, and the last one was the Chemehuevi. By the time he reached their row it was night, and he could not work so well as in the light, so that now no one can understand a Chemehuevi.

The people were left romping about like children. They played games and swam in the water. One of them said, "Thoshipa has a snake; let us send for it and play with it." So a man was sent to bring back the snake, and they played with it, throwing it about and treating it very roughly. At the end of the day they took the snake back. Thoshipa was angry because they had treated it so badly, so digging into the earth, he took gravel, chewed it, and made fangs for the snake. Next day the man returned for the snake, and, taking it up, was bitten. He cried out to Thoshipa that the snake had bitten him, but the creator gave no heed, and the man started back, dying before he could reach his people. When they saw this man dead, they asked each other how he happened to be without life, and learned that the snake had poisoned him. Thoshipa told the people to wrestle and kick each other, and they did so. Then he told them to fight with poles and sticks, and finally to make bows and arrows, and with several men on each side to fight and shoot one another. That night many men were lying wounded and dying, for Thoshipa was angry with them on account of their mistreatment of his snake.

Hanye, the Frog, was a powerful witch, and the people told her to give poison to Thoshipa. The Frog asked them what Thoshipa did in the night, and they answered that he had a long pole near the ocean, up which he climbed every night. So she went under the ocean, and one night, when Thoshipa was on the top of the pole and vomiting, Hanye swallowed the discharge and blew it back into his mouth, thus poisoning him. When he became sick, Thoshipa directed the people to make a house. After three attempts that resulted in imperfect structures, they succeeded in building a round, earthcovered house, in which they laid the god. Before leaving his children he instructed them how they were to burn his body, telling them they should always observe the same custom when one of their number died. When the people saw that Thoshipa was dying, they cried bitterly. The creator told his people about the moons, and what time of the year was proper for the planting of various crops, giving to each new moon a name. As he began to name the second six, he died. Then the men made a pile of wood for burning the god, and after it was finished carried the body toward the place of the pyre, laying it down twice on the way, and the third time on the pyre itself. Thus arose the custom of burning the dead. When pyre and body had been consumed, they buried the ashes in the sand and left the place, migrating to the south of the Mohave, where they made their home on the bank of the river Havil, the Colorado.

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More stories to read:

 Native American Indian creation myths
 Myths about the first people
 Myths about poison
 Myths about snakes

Learn more about:

 Maricopa stories
 The Maricopa language
 The Maricopa people

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