Indigenous languages            Native cultures            What's new on our site today!

The Great Flood

This version of the legend was collected by Ruth Benedict and published in her 1935 book Zuni Mythology.

The people were living at Itiwana. The corn clan was the largest of all the clans. The young people of corn clan were handsome, and they played with each other and lay together. Only one man could not overlook their wrongdoing and he was a priest's son and a member of corn clan. He thought to himself; "I will call my uncle, who was killed by the Navaho, and I will ask him for help." He made four prayersticks and took them to Hawiku. He sat down and dug a hole and sprinkled prayer meal in it. He held his prayersticks in his hand and prayed. "Help me, my uncle, you who were killed in the Navaho fight; come to me. My clan does wrong and I am calling on you for help." He put down the prayersticks and covered them. Presently he heard his uncle coming. he heard the moaning and rattling of a dead man in a distance. he was not frightened because it was his uncle. He saw his body rolling toward him. They went together toward Itiwana. It was dark, and when they reached Pinawa the uncle brushed against the boy and he became a dead man. He was sorry at this for he had an old grandmother, and he lived with her and with his sister who had a little boy and a little girl.

The dead man came close to Itiwana. In all the kivas the corn clan was carrying on it's shameful practices. The apparition went from kiva to kiva. People were terrified, and they cried out for they were afraid of the earthquake. Especially those who had been taking their pleasure in the kivas started to run toward Corn Mountain to save themselves. Everybody in the village began to run for refuge there.

All the others had left the village when at last the sister [of the priest's son] and her little children heard of what had happened. They went to their old grandmother and told her that they were going to Corn Mountain to take refuge from the earthquake. The grandmother climbed the ladder and they all set out as fast as they could toward Corn Mountain. The boy carried his little sister on his back. When they came to Matsaka, they felt the earth rumble, and the boy who was now the apparition turned into Kolowisi. They said to their grandmother, "Stay here, Grandmother, and we will go on to Corn Mountain; it is too dangerous to wait for you." The grandmother said, "It is well, I hae only a little while to live. Let the young ones go quickly; I must die one of these days."They went on to Corn Mountain without her, and Kolowisi kept back the floods until they had reached the mountain. Then he let loose the waters and they filled all the valley.

One of the priests said to the people, "This flood has come upon us because of the shameful practices of the corn clan. You were always taking your pleasure in the kivas. For this reason the apparition came to us and to all of the kivas, and he has caused this flood. You who are of one clan should be as brothers and sisters, and never desire one another." All the people repeated what he had said, and they stopped these practices. They agreed that no one must have sexual relations within his own clan but always with those of others. That is why we have learned not to have intercourse with those of our own clan even if they do not live with us. And if one of them has a baby or dies in the farthest corner of the pueblo, we go there and help, and if they are providing a feast we grind for them.

Sponsored links:

More stories to read:

 American Indian flood myths
 Legends about giant serpents
 Legends about the corn

Learn more about:

 Zuni mythology
 The Zuni language
 Zuni Indians

Back to Native American stories for kids
Buy some American Indian books

Indian crafts            Indian tattoos            Aymara Indians            The Montauk            Indian jewelry

Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?

Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2020 * Contacts and FAQ page