The Natives


The earliest evidence of habitation in North America is found off the coast of California, on Santa Rosa Island.

Long before Europeans came to North America, it was already heavily populated with thousands of Indian Nations.  There were over 250 different languages, with different dialects.  Here is a map:

Map of American Indian Tribes Before 1492

Here’s a video of the history of North America before and during contact with the Europeans (especially the Spaniards):

There was an extensive trading network with a lot of contact between tribal peoples.  

One obvious example of this extensive trade is that when the Pilgrims arrived, they were taught how to grown corn–a native species of Mexico known as Maze.  Maze (corn) had been genetically modified by Native Americans over time to not only produce large grains, but to grow in different climates.

Archeologists have found shells from the North Coast of California in Maine, and flint from New Hampshire in Mexico.  Native peoples had a thriving economic system.

NA Trade Map

The Iroquois Confederacy

The Iroquois Confederacy was created by five nations of Indians who shared similar languages and cultures about 500 years before the first Europeans set foot in North America.  Eventually, the Tuscarora also joined, forming a six nation confederacy.  They protected each other, and had greater access to hunting, fishing, and settlement areas because of their combined strength.  They were put together by two Chiefs:  Hiawatha and Dikanawada.

Map of the Iroquois Confederacy

Many historians have suggested that the Iroquois Confederacy was the basis of the Constitution of the United States, and most agree that the Iroquois Confederacy was one of the first democracies in the world.  

“Iroquois” was the name they were given by French traders.  The name actually comes from Basque: “Hilo” (killer) and “Koa” (people).  They called themselves “Haudenosaunee” or “Kanosoni”–people of the Long House.  

Iroquois Longhouse Infographic

The government of the Confederacy was made up of 50 elders who declared war, solved disputes, and ordained religious festivals for the six tribes. Compromise was important, because all decisions required a unanimous vote.

Although all members of the council were men, women elected them and the “Mothers of the Nation” reserved the right to remove Chiefs who did not do an adequate job.  Women also had the right to own personal wealth, divorce their husbands, and wield political power.

The Iroquois have a strong oral tradition, and a form of iconic memory known as “wampum”–beaded belts woven with ideagrams–patterns that referred to important historical events that can be read by those trained to do so.  This is one reason why the Iroquois history has been remembered so well, even though they do not have a traditionally written language.

This particular Wampum represents the original Iroquois Confederacy of Five Nations:

Hiawatha's Wampum Belt

Key to Wampum Belt

The Iroquois Creation Story

(The Same One in the Book)

As told by David Cusick in 1827, in Sketches of the Ancient History of the Six Nations


A Tale of the Foundation of the Great Island, Now North America;—the Two Infants Born, and the Creation of the Universe

            Among the ancients there were two worlds in existence. The lower world was in great darkness—the possession of the great monster; but the upper world was inhabited by mankind; and there was a woman conceived and would have the twin born. When her travail drew near, and her situation seemed to produce a great distress on her mind, and she was induced by some of her relations to lay herself on a mattress which was prepared, so as to gain refreshments to her wearied body; but while she was asleep the very place sunk down towards the dark world. The monsters of the great water were alarmed at her appearance of descending to the lower world; in consequence all the species of the creatures were immediately collected into where it was expected she would fall. When the monsters were assembled, and they made consultation, one of them was appointed in haste to search the great deep, in order to procure some earth, if it could be obtained; accordingly the monster descends, which succeeds, and returns to the place. Another requisition was presented, who would be capable to secure the woman from the terrors of the great water, but none was able to comply except a large turtle came forward and made proposal to them to endure her lasting weight, which was accepted. The woman was yet descending from a great distance. The turtle executes upon the spot, and a small quantity of earth was varnished on the back part of the turtle. The woman alights on the seat prepared, and she receives a satisfaction. While holding her, the turtle increased every moment and became a considerable island of earth, and apparently covered with small bushes. The woman remained in a state of unlimited darkness, and she was overtaken by her travail to which she was subject. While she was in the limits of distress one of the infants in her womb was moved by an evil opinion and he was determined to pass out under the side of the parent’s arm, and the other infant in vain endeavoured to prevent his design. The woman was in a painful condition during the time of their disputes, and the infants entered the dark world by compulsion, and their parent expired in a few moments. They had the power of sustenance without a nurse, and remained in the dark regions. After a time the turtle increased to a great Island and the infants were grown up, and one of them possessed with a gentle disposition, and named Enigorio, i.e. the good mind. The other youth possessed an insolence of character, and was named Enigonhahetgea, i.e. the bad mind. The good mind was not contented to remain in a dark situation, and he was anxious to create a great light in the dark world; but the bad mind was desirous that the world should remain in a natural state. The good mind determines to prosecute his designs, and therefore commences the work of creation. At first he took the parent’s head, (the deceased) of which he created an orb, and established it in the centre of the firmament, and it became of a very superior nature to bestow light to the new world, (now the sun) and again he took the remnant of the body and formed another orb, which was inferior to the light (now moon). In the orb a cloud of legs appeared to prove it was the body of the good mind, (parent). The former was to give light to the day and the latter to the night; and he also created numerous spots of light, (now stars): these were to regulate the days, nights, seasons, years, etc. Whenever the light extended to the dark world the monsters were displeased and immediately concealed themselves in the deep places, lest they should be discovered by some human beings. The good mind continued the works of creation, and he formed numerous creeks and rivers on the Great Island, and then created numerous species of animals of the smallest and the greatest, to inhabit the forests, and fishes of all kinds to inhabit the waters. When he had made the universe he was in doubt respecting some being to possess the Great Island; and he formed two images of the dust of the ground in his own likeness, male and female, and by his breathing into their nostrils he gave them the living souls, and named them Ea-Gwe-Howe, i.e. a real people; and he gave the Great Island all the animals for game for their maintenance and he appointed thunder to water the earth by frequent rains, agreeable of the nature of the system; after this the Island became fruitful and vegetation afforded the animals subsistence. The bad mind, while his brother was making the universe, went throughout the Island and made numerous high mountains and falls of water, and great steeps, and also creates various reptiles which would be injurious to mankind; but the good mind restored the Island to its former condition. The bad mind proceeded further in his motives and he made two images of clay in the form of mankind; but while he was giving them existence they became apes; and when he had not the power to create mankind he was envious against his brother; and again he made two of clay. The good mind discovered his brothers contrivances, and aided in giving them living souls, (it is said these had the most knowledge of good and evil). The good mind now accomplishes the works of creation, notwithstanding the imaginations of the bad mind were continually evil; and he attempted to enclose all the animals of game in the earth, so as to deprive them from mankind; but the good mind released them from confinement, (the animals were dispersed, and traces of them were made on the rocks near the cave where it was closed). The good mind experiences that his brother was at variance with the works of creation, and feels not disposed to favor any of his proceedings, but gives admonitions of his future state. Afterwards the good mind requested his brother to accompany him, as he was proposed to inspect the game, etc., but when a short distance from their moninal [sic] residence the bad mind became so unmanly that he could not conduct his brother any more. The bad mind offered a challenge to his brother and resolved that he who gains the victory should govern the universe; and appointed a day to meet the contest. The good mind was willing to submit to the offer, and he enters the reconciliation with his brother; which he falsely mentions that by whipping with flags would destroy his temporal life; and he earnestly solicits his brother also to notice the instrument of death, which he manifestly relates by the use of deer horns, beating his body he would expire. On the day appointed the engagement commenced, which lasted for two days: after pulling up the trees and mountains as the track of a terrible whirlwind, at last the good mind gained the victory by using the horns, as mentioned the instrument of death, which he succeeded in deceiving his brother and he crushed him in the earth; and the last words uttered from the bad mind were, that he would have equal power over the souls of mankind after death; and he sinks down to eternal doom, and became the Evil Spirit. After this tumult the good mind repaired to the battle ground, and then visited the people and retires from the earth.


“The Iroquois Creation Story.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Shorter Seventh Edition. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: Norton, 2008.

The Navajo Creation Story (The same one that is in the book)

The Winnebago Trickster Cycle (The same one that is in the book)–Read 19-25

Summary of Ikto Conquers Iya, the Eater

This is a great video, in Navajo, of the Coyote, Skunk and Prairie Dog Story.  If you have read it, you will understand what is happening.  This brings it to life!


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