previous chapter
Part 1— Genesis
next chapter

Part 1—

By the time of the conquest mythology, from the mid-nineteenth century onward, nearly every Pima-Papago narrator had an account of the creation of the world out of nothing, or almost nothing. All of the dozen-odd accounts known to me begin with a god in a dark void, the same as the first sentences of Genesis. In the Smith-Allison text, this god is God, who soon creates the god with whom the rest of the Pima-Papago texts begin. At the moment of his first mention this native god is either in the process of becoming a material man or has already become one. Thus, he differs from the Christian God the Father who remains heavenly and spiritous. The Pima-Papago man-god will live on the earth, and his name is always given as Earth Doctor, Jewed Ma:kai.[a] He is in all versions a completely nice person, neither bitter like Siba nor capable of anger like the Drinker. He makes the earth, generally from crusts off his own skin, then the sun, moon, stars, Vulture, and the first humans; and he causes the sun, moon, earth, and sky (which may have preceded him) to make Siuuhu/the Drinker and Coyote.

Immediately below is the Smith-Allison version of these events, and then afterward two other versions are presented, one from the Lloyd rendition of the Pima Thin Leather (1911: 27–33) and one as rendered by the Papago Juan Dolores and edited and published by Dean Saxton and Lucille Saxton (1973: 1–10). The bulk of this text is from a turn-of-the-century Papago narrator. The last segment was rendered by Saxton and Saxton from the recent Papago nar-


rator, Joe Thomas. Finally, for comparison is Genesis, chapter 1, as given in the New English Bible (1970: 1–2).

Story 1—
First Creation

When there was no earth, no heaven, nothing but darkness, the only person that was here was Jeoss.[b] Jeoss had no form, no flesh, no bones, and was nothing but pure spirit, like the wind. This Jeoss planned out a way that he could form an earth on which to rest his soul. This earth that he formed was really the heavens (damkatchim ,[c] something over above).

He made a person up in damkatchim who was nothing but light.[1] The next person that Jeoss created was a man who came down and made the world where we now are.

Now here's what this Jeoss was singing:

Earth Doctor, Earth Doctor  (Juut makai)[d
You make the earth now
And started it going .[2]

Now, this Earth Doctor thought he might make another person and thought to call his name Siuuhu.[e]


While he was thinking of making another person, he sang:

Siuuhu doctor, Siuuhu makai[f
You've made the mountains
And placed them around.
And you started it going

Now the earth and heavens came closer together and connected, and in that Siuuhu came out, son of the earth (mother) and of the heavens (father).

Now this Earth Doctor and Siuuhu made another man, from whom the Pimas came. They made some clay and from that formed a man. While this clay figure lay with no life, they sat around it and were looking at what they had made. Then they formed the insides of this clay. But it still had no life. Then they breathed life into the form, and it moved around and was living.

This first one was made as a man, and the next was a woman, made in the same manner as the man. When they finished the two persons, these three, Jeoss, Earth Doctor, and Siuuhu, were living with the same spirits that they have now. At that time there was no sun. All was dark, but after everything was completed, it was good. The thing the man and woman needed was sleep.

Then later, Jeoss, Earth Doctor, and Siuuhu worked to create the dawn, and it began to dawn in the east.


Morning came and the two persons woke up. When everything came out as the three wanted, they sang a song:

I have made the morning
I have made the morning
I have set it in the east
And the morning came out of the east
And began to light the earth

Then they worked and made the sun and made it follow the dawn, and it came out and began to shine on the earth. They placed it where the dawn came out, and it followed the dawn. Then they sang:

I have made the sun
I have made the sun
I have placed it in the east
And it is coming out and lighting the world

By this time the two persons they had made were waking up, and now the three worked to make the food that these were to live on. They made the deer, which a person must kill and eat, and they sang:

This gray deer that I made for you,
Whenever the mountains in the distance look dusty,
As if in a dust storm,
Then the deer comes out

Then they worked on the next animal, the jackrabbit, which people must also kill and eat for food. Another song:


The grey jackrabbit, the grey jackrabbit,
This is for you, this is for you.
The earth looks like a mirage,
Water all over

Then they worked and made the wind storm and clouds, and it began to rain. When the rain stopped, grass came out. Certain kinds of grass [neantum ][g] the people used for their food. The woman went out and picked some of the grass and took it and cooked it and ate it. When through eating, the man went out with bow and arrow and killed a deer, and they had it for supper that evening. At that time, the sun went down, and darkness fell over the earth, as it had been before. This was the end of the first day.

Then they worked and made the moon, and it came out at night and lighted the earth a little bit. When it went down in the west, darkness fell over the earth, just as it was before.

At that time, the sun and moon got very close together and touched, and another person came out. They called him Coyote—not an animal but a person. The moon was his mother and the sun his father.

The creators saw that at night when the moon goes down there is nothing but darkness on the earth.


They decided to make smaller lights in the heavens. They sang:

We're going to make the stars
We're going to make the stars
And we're going to place them in the skies.
We're going to make everything,
And place them in the skies
To light the earth
To light the earth.

After they created all three lights in the skies, they thought that that would be all, but seeing that there would not be enough light, they decided to make the Milky Way (Tomuk).[h]

They are going to make the Milky Way so that when a man goes to an unknown place, he could guide himself by the Milky Way. They sang a song before they made it:

We are going to make the Milky Way
We are going to make the Milky Way
And it is made
And it is stretching in the sky
From one end to the other
Grey Coyote, our cousin, was breathing in
     the Milky Way.

After they completed the Milky Way, they threw darkness in the east. That is why night begins there. Before they threw the darkness, they sang a song:


I am acting one of the great earth doctors
And I have thrown the night toward the east
Which goes over all the land
Down to the setting sun in the west.

Now the sun was setting, and the dark was beginning to fall.

After they completed these things, the earth wasn't still but was shaking. When Siuuhu saw that the earth was shaking, he had a hat with a gold hatband. He reached for his hat, took the hatband off, and broke the band into pieces. He scattered this gold and put it in the mountains so its weight would hold the earth down. He reached his [right image] hand way back in the east and held the earth down, and with his right foot he reached toward the west and put the foot on the earth and held it down. He sang two songs:

He has reached way back in the east
And felt that the land was shaking over there.

Away down in the west
Where I set my foot
I found out that the mountains were shaking
Which I have found out.

Then the land was still, and everything was all right.

At that time the earth was all level, no hills, no low places. Everything was even. The mountains, too, were all even and smooth. Now it was Earth Doc-


tor's turn to make something. He was sitting with streams of light coming out of his eyes, with which he sees everything. He reached and got some of this light and made a buzzard (Nui)[i] with it.

When this was made, Juut makai and Siuuhu sang two songs together:

Buzzard bird, buzzard bird,
You have made the land just right

Buzzard bird, buzzard bird,
You have made the mountains just right.

Then they sang two more songs:

The land is still now
And on it everything seems to be all right
Everything is made perfect.

The mountains were shaking
But now they are still
And on them everything is perfect.

Earth Doctor picked up his two children. He picked up the woman with his left hand and the man with his right.


So they lived together happily, for a certain period, in the ways Earth Doctor told them to live. Then the evil spirit got into the woman. Then Earth Doctor saw that what he had made perfect didn't come out the way he wanted, so he made a rule for women. From [after] twelve years, she must have sickness every month, and in pain she must bring out her children, and that would be all right for her. Since then this sickness was upon the female, and they multiplied from then on.

Then they [man-gods] got a stick and made a shallow hole in it and placed another stick in the shallow hole they had carved and twisted it and made fire from that wood. They also got a stone and got fire from the stone. That was the way they should get fire and cook their food with it.

First Creation (Thin Leather)

The Story of Creation.

In the beginning there was no earth, no water—nothing. There was only a Person, Juh-wert-a-Mahkai [Jewed Ma:kai] (the Doctor of the Earth).

He just floated, for there was no place for him to stand upon. There was no sun, no light, and he just


floated about in the darkness, which was Darkness itself.

He wandered around in the nowhere till he thought he had wandered enough. Then he rubbed on his breast and rubbed out moah-haht-tack,[j] that is, perspiration, or greasy earth. This he rubbed out on the palm of his hand and held out. It tipped over three times, but the fourth time it stood straight in the middle of the air, and there it remains now as the world.

The first bush he created was the greasewood bush. And he made ants, little tiny ants, to live on that bush, on its gum that comes out of its stem. But these ants did not do any good, so he created white ants, and these worked and enlarged the earth; and they kept on increasing it, larger and larger, until at last it was big enough for himself to rest on.

Juhwerta Mahkai's song of creation:

Juhwerta mahkai made the world—
Come and see it and make it useful!
He made it round—
Come and see it and make it useful!

Then he created a Person. He made him out of his eye, out of the shadow of his eyes, to assist him, to be like him, and to help him in creating trees and


human beings and everything that was to be on this earth. The name of this being was Noo-ee [Ñu:wi] (the Buzzard). Nooee was given all power, but he did not do the work he was created for. He did not care to help Juhwertamahkai but let him go by himself.

And so the Doctor of the Earth himself created the mountains and everything that has seed and is good to eat. For if he had created human beings first, they would have nothing to live on.

But after making Nooee and before making the mountains . . ., Juhwertamahkai made the sun. In order to make it he first made water, and this he placed in a hollow vessel, like an earthen dish, to harden into something like ice. And this hardened ball he placed in the sky. First he placed it in the north, but it did not work; then in the west, but it did not work; then in the south, but it did not work; then he placed it in the east, and there it worked as he wanted it to.

And the moon he made in the same way and tried in the same places with the same results. But when he made the stars he took the water in his mouth and spurted it up into the sky. . . .

Now Juhwertamahkai rubbed again on his breast, and from the substance he obtained there he made two little dolls, and these he laid on the earth. They were two human beings, man and woman.


Now for a time the people increased till they filled the earth. For the first parents were perfect, and there was no sickness and death. But when the earth was full, there was nothing to eat, so they killed and ate each other. Juhwertamahkai did not like the way the people acted . . . and so he let the sky fall to kill them. When the sky dropped, he, himself, took a staff and broke a hole thru, thru which he and Nooee emerged and escaped, leaving behind them all the people dead.

And Juhwertamahkai, being now on the top of this fallen sky, again made a man and a woman, in the same way as before. But this man and woman became grey when old, and their children became grey still younger, and their children became grey younger still, and so on till the babies were grey in their cradles. Juhwertamahkai, having made an earth and sky just as there had been before, did not like his people becoming grey in their cradles, so he let the sky fall on them again and again made a hole and escaped, with Nooee, as before.

And Juhwertamahkai, on top of this second sky, again made a new heaven and new earth, just as he had done before, and new people. These new people made a vice of smoking. Before, human beings had never smoked until they were old, but now they smoked younger, and each generation still younger, till the infants wanted to smoke in their cradles.


Juhwertamahkai did not like this, and he let the sky fall again, and created everything new in the same way, and this time he created the earth as it is now.

But at first the whole slope of the world was westward, and though there were peaks rising from this slope, there were no true valleys, and all the water that fell ran away, and there was no water for the people to drink. So Juhwertamahkai sent Nooee to fly among the mountains and over the earth, to cut valleys with his wings, so that the water could be caught and distributed, and there might be enough for the people to drink.

Now, the sun was male and the moon was female, and they met once a month. The moon became a mother and went to a mountain that is called Tahs-my-et-tahn Toe-ahk[k] (Sun Striking Mountain), and there was born her baby. But she had duties to attend to, to turn around and give light, so she made a place for the child by tramping down the weedy bushes and there left it. And the child, having no milk, was nourished on the earth.

This child was a coyote, and as he grew, he went out to walk and in his walk came to the house of Juhwertamahkai and Nooee. . . . When he came there, Juhwertamahkai knew him and called him


Toe-hahvs,[l] because he was laid on the weedy bushes of that name.

Now out of the north came another powerful personage, who has two names, See-ur-huh and Ee-ee-toy.[m] Seeurhuh means older brother, and when this personage came to Juhwertamahkai, Nooee, and Toehahvs he called them his younger brother.[5] But they claimed to have been here first and to be older than he, and there was a discussion between them. Finally, because he insisted so strongly and just to please him, they let him be called older brother.

Creation (Dolores)

Long ago, they say, when the world was not yet finished, darkness lay upon the water and they rubbed each other. The sound they made was like the sound at the edges of a pond.

There, on the water, in the darkness, in the noise, and in a very strong wind, a child was born. The baby lay upon the water and did as a child does when it is being made to stop crying. (Like when its mother sings and tosses it up and down and walks


back and forth with it.) The wind always blew and carried the child everywhere. Whatever made the child took care of him, fed him, and raised him.

One day he got up and found something stuck to him. It was algae. So he took some of the algae and from it made termites. Then he sent them out to get more algae to be put in one place so he could sit down and think about things to do. And the little termites did that for the firstborn one.

The termites gathered a lot of algae and First Born tried to decide how to make a seat so the wind could not blow it anywhere. This is the song he sang:

Earth Medicine Man finished the earth.
Come near and see it and do something to it.
He made it round.
Come near and see it and do something to it.

In this way, First Born finished the earth. Then he made all the animal and plant life. There was no sun or moon then, and it was always dark. The living things didn't like the darkness, so they got together and told First Born to make something so the earth would have light. Then the people would be able to see each other and would live contentedly with each other.

So the First Born said, "Alright, you name what will come up in the sky to give you light." They dis-


cussed it thoroughly and finally agreed that it would be named "sun." But about then Coyote came running and said, "It rose! It rose! It will be named 'light.'" But nobody agreed.[6]

The sun rose and went over to one side, but it didn't light up the whole earth. Then it went down, and again it was dark. So the firstborn one sang like this:

Didn't we make the sun and talk with it image Hihih.
Didn't we make the sun and talk with it image Hihih

Then it began to get light again, and First Born said, "The sun will rise and come overhead." It did as he said, but it came very low and so was hot. First Born sang again and pointed to another place, saying that this sun would come up there. This is the way he did so it would always come up there.

Next he made the moon and stars and the paths that they always follow. Now the living things could see themselves. Some were large and some very small, some were very fast and some very slow. Many of them were dissatisfied with themselves. Those that were small wanted to be large, and those that were slow wanted to be fast.

Along came the Black Beetle and said, "Soon the living things will multiply and crush me with their feet because I'm not a fast runner and have no possible way to save myself. I think that when someone has lived a long time he should die and go away and


never come back here again. That way the earth will never get overpopulated and no one will crush me."

At that time Rattlesnake's bite was harmless. The children would play catch with him and take out his teeth. He could never sleep and always cried, so he went to First Born and said, "The children are making life miserable for me. You must make me different so I can live contentedly somewhere."

First Born changed many of the animals. When he finished them, he took Rattlesnake, pulled out his teeth, and threw them far away. They landed and grew into what we now call "Rattlesnake's Teeth."[8]

As the sun was about to rise, its rays beamed over the horizon. First Born got them and threw them in the water. Then he took them out and made teeth . . . and said, "Now that I have done this for you, when anything comes near you, you must bite it and kill it. From now on the people will be afraid of you. You will not have a friend and will always crawl modestly along alone."

Then the sun rose in the place it is now, and First Born looked at it and sang:

First Born[9]  made the earth.
First Born made the earth.
Go along, go along, go along.
It's going along. Now all will remain as it is.

When he finished his song, he told them where they would be living. Some would live in the forests,


some in the mountains, and some would live in the valleys. He also said this, "I have finished all things and they will always be as they are now."

In the east, as you know, the singing and dancing had begun for those who will die here. They will go to the singing and dancing ground. The land around the dancing ground will be beautiful. There will be plenty of prickly pears, and the people will always be happy.

That's the way First Born prepared the earth for us.

[Here begins the segment added by Joe Thomas]

The sky came down and met the earth, and the first one to come forth was I'itoi, our Elder Brother. The sky met the earth again, and Coyote came forth. The sky met the earth again, and Buzzard came forth. (Saxton and Saxton 1973: 1–10)

Genesis, Chapter 1—
(New English Bible)

In the beginning of creation, when God made heaven and earth, the earth was without form and void, with darkness over the face of the abyss, and a mighty wind that swept over the surface of the waters. God said, "Let there be light," and there was


light; and God saw that the light was good, and he separated light from darkness. He called the light day, and the darkness night. So evening came, and morning came, the first day.

God said, "Let there be a vault between the waters, to separate water from water." So God made the vault, and separated the water under the vault from the water above it, and so it was; and God called the vault heaven. Evening came, and morning came, a second day.

God said, "Let the waters under heaven be gathered into one place, so that dry land may appear"; and so it was. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters he called seas; and God saw that it was good. The God said, "Let the earth produce fresh growth, let there be on earth plants bearing seed, fruit trees bearing fruit each with seed according to its kind." So it was; the earth yielded fresh growth, plants bearing seed, plants bearing fruit according to their kind and trees bearing fruit each with seed according to its kind; and God saw that it was good. Evening came, and morning came, a third day.

God said, "Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to separate day from night, and let them serve as signs both for festivals and for seasons and years. Let them also shine in the vault of heaven to give light on earth." So it was; God made the two great lights,


the greater to govern the day and the lesser to govern the night; and with them he made the stars. God put these lights in the vault of heaven to give light on earth, to govern day and night, and to separate light from darkness; and God saw that it was good. Evening came, and morning came, a fourth day.

God said, "Let the waters teem with countless living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of heaven." God then created the great sea-monsters and all living creatures that move and swarm in the waters, according to their kind, and every kind of bird; and God saw that it was good. So he blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase, fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds increase on land." Evening came, and morning came, a fifth day.

God said, "Let earth bring forth living creatures. . . ." Then God said, "Let us make man in our image and likeness to rule the fish in the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all wild animals on earth, and all reptiles that crawl upon the earth." So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase, fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, and every living thing that moves upon the earth." God also said, "I give you all plants that bear seed everywhere on earth, and every tree bearing fruit which yields seed:


they shall be yours for food. All the green plants I give for food to the wild animals, to all the birds of heaven, and to all reptiles on earth, every living creature." So it was; and God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Evening came, and morning came, a sixth day.


previous chapter
Part 1— Genesis
next chapter