THE LEGEND OF SKY WOMAN
The Onondowaga people who are known to the world as the Seneca Tribe are an Indigenous people whose homeland is the the NorthEastern region of what is now the United States. At the height of their history they controlled a territory that included areas of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and western New York state along the southern shore of Lake Ontario.
The Onondowaga tell a story that remembers a time when there was no solid or dry land available on the earth. Everything was water as far as the eye could see from horizon to horizon. In the water, aquatic animals such as fish, beavers, river otters, water snakes and water birds dwelled. In the air the flying creatures such as geese and hawks circled endlessly on extended wings
Surmounting it all the dome of the sky arched overhead. On the upper surface of that sky dome there existed an universe of celestial life. There was a village there where the sky people lived in their elm-bark longhouses just like the Seneca People of later times would. At the center of the sky world there grew a mighty tree from whose branches hung bright flowers and fruit which sparkled at night, and these were the stars.
The chief of the sky people had a wife and she was expecting a child. One day the woman approached her husband and placing her hand gently on her great belly she informed him that she had grown curious about what was under the giant tree at the center of the sky and wished him to use his prodigious power and magic to uproot it so she could take a look beneath it.
The chief reluctantly agreed to his wife's request and placing his arms around the trunk of the tree, pulled it out by the roots. There soon was a huge hole in the sky where the tree had been.
The woman fell helplessly and would have perished but was unexpectedly saved by a great flock of geese who spread their enormous wings together and held her gently aloft lowering her slowly.
First they called upon the great primordial turtle to rise from the depths of the water and allow its enormous shell to emerge above the surface. Now there was a solid surface upon which the geese could gently place the woman.
Fortunately for Sky Woman, she happened to be wearing a leather thong around her neck from which hung a pouch full of plant seeds of all kinds. With these Sky Woman would have the chance to populate her new home with all the plants needed for a proper earth surface. Unfortunately seeds can only sprout in soil and a turtle's hard shell is hardly an appropriate place to plant anything.
The creatures of the water decided that one of them should swim down to the bottom and bring up a bit of mud from down there. Sky Woman could use her magic to spread that mud across the whole surface of the giant turtle shell and create a place where plants could grow.
First the big beaver with his strong flat paddle tail attempted the task but he ran out of breath half way down and had to return quickly to the surface, gasping for breath. The duck, the river otter and the loon also all tried but failed just like the beaver for the same reason, almost drowning in the process.
After several other water animals tried and failed, the tiny muskrat declared that he would try. The others laughed and ridiculed him, exclaiming that how did he think he could accomplish a task so difficult that it had stymied others much stronger than him. But he persisted and dove down. To everybody's surprise, the muskrat re-emerged sometime later with a bit of mud held against his chest by his two tiny front paws.
Once the wet soil was placed at the center of the turtle shell, Sky Woman began to walk around it and with each circle the patch of mud grew and grew until it covered the whole surface establishing a firm base for the creation of a motherland. The Seneca people call this motherland Turtle Island and it is known by others by the name of North America.
Sky Woman gave birth to a daughter. This daughter grew up to then eventually marry the West Wind and bear the divine twins; Sapling (The Creator Spirit) and Flint (The spirit of misfortune). After her death the daughter of Sky woman was buried, and from three separate places of her grave sprouted the three sacred plants that sustain the Seneca people; Maize, Beans and Squash. The Seneca identify these three givers of life as the Three Sisters.
Last updated by Miguel Sague Jr Nov 27, 2021.