How The People Came To The Middle Place

1658 words - 7 pages

There are various diverse creation myths from Native American cultures, though many hold similar characteristics. One of the more common forms of creation myth seems to be emergence myth. Generally, in the emergence myth, instead of seeing how the world is created, we see how the people arrive in an already created world. This particular story type is commonly found in Native American cultures from the southwest (Ryan). The Tewa Pueblo version of this myth, entitled How the People Came to the Middle Place, has been collected and written down by the anthropologists Alice Marriott and Carol K. Rachlin in their book, American Indian Mythology. The myth was told to them by two separate sources, Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso and Leonidas Vigil of Nambe Pueblo. This myth helps to illustrate important parts of their culture and probably held multiple functions for the Pueblo people.
The emergence myth differs greatly from the common western Christian way of thinking. In Christianity, humans were once in a perfect place until they disobeyed God and were sent into the current world, which is thought of as a punishment. In the Tewa Pueblo emergence myth, the people are stuck in a place of darkness until their friend, the Mole, helps lead them to a new world (Marriott, Rachlin 66-67). They do not view this world as their punishment but as a good place, improved from where they were before. Many of the things that appear in this myth are characteristic of other Native American myths as well. For example, Mole is an animal but talks and acts similarly to a human. This shows the great respect that the culture held for animals. They did not believe that they were superior to or dominant over the animals. They recognized their differences to the animals but respected them and thought that there were things the animals could teach them, evident in the way the Mole knew how to find the other world because of his unique qualities and ability to dig through the earth. This myth helps illustrate the culture’s belief system and their ethics regarding the world around them, particularly other creatures.
This myth shares many of its divine figures with the cultures around it. After the people arrive to this new land, they meet Grandmother Spider and her grandsons, the War Twins. Grandmother Spider warns the people to not act like the War Twins and constantly fight, and she tells them that to be happy they must never hurt anyone. She then tells the people about corn and teaches them how to grow it (Marriott, Rachlin 67). Grandmother Spider is a character who appears to be ubiquitous in mythology throughout North America, though she does not always play the same role and is sometimes simply known as Spider Woman. Twins are also a common theme throughout Native American mythology (Leeming). These common elements show that while the Pueblo have their own unique culture, they share many elements of their beliefs with other groups of Native Americans. Grandmother Spider’s...

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