Our Creation Story
As told by Lipan Storyteller Hermelinda Ryan Walking Woman,
daughter of Anita Elatsoe Soto
of the Lipan Apache Tribe
"In the beginning, there was nothing on the earth, but
there was a lower world where all of the Tree people, the Animal people, and the Human
people lived. They all lived in a dark world since there was no light down there. But there
were stories of a different place, an upper world with lots of light and lots of water. This
was a time when all of these people could talk to each other since they had only one
language. So the leaders of all the people held a council meeting in order to discuss
searching for this other world. The leaders of the Trees, Animals, and Humans decided
they needed to send someone to look on the surface.
One of them said, “We need someone strong. How
about asking our friend Wind?”
Wind was all around and he was listening. He knew
he was strong and that he could travel far quickly; so when the leaders asked Wind, he
agreed to go.
To travel to the upper world, Wind moved through a
tunnel path with such speed that he was a powerful whirlwind by the time he reached the
upper world. When Wind got to the surface, he forced himself through a mass of water
which covered the earth. Then he pushed the water to one side, using his strength and his
tail so that some land finally appeared. With water on one side and land on the other,
Wind relaxed. He blew gently over the land until it dried.
“Come up,” Wind whispered down to the lower
Yet, the leaders were uncertain about the upper
world. They needed someone else to check. Crow had felt Wind’s whisper and he wanted
“Send me,” Crow said, “I will check the surface,
then I promise to come back to tell you all about it.”
The leaders agreed. So Crow walked up the path to
the surface. When Crow got to the upper world, he saw that the land was dry, but it was
also white like solonchak. Crow spread his arms to become like wings so that he could fly.
He quickly found dead fish which had been left on the land. Crow started to eat the fish
and he forgot all about the people in the lower world.
After some time, the leaders decided that Crow was
not coming back as he promised.
“I know both land and water,” said Beaver, “send
me to the upper world and I promise to come back and tell you all about it.”
The leaders knew Beaver was a hard worker, so
they all agreed that he should go next. When Beaver got to the surface, he followed the
beach until he found a stream. Old plants like trees scattered the banks and Beaver saw that he
could build a good home with them. Beaver got straight to work building a dam and was so
busy that he forgot all about his people in the lower world.
After some time, the leaders decided that Beaver
was not coming back as he promised.
“I am strong and smart,” said Badger, “send me to
the upper world and I promise to come back and tell you all about it.”
The leaders knew Badger was very clever, so they
agreed that she should be the next to go. When Badger got to the surface, she saw lots of
dry land and water and plenty of light. She knew that this was a good place for all the
people in the lower world. Badger quickly ran back and told them. The leaders praised
Badger for being trustworthy.
The leaders of the Tree people, the Animal people,
and the Human people decided that it was now time to send four makers to the surface to
prepare it for everyone. These four people represented all the Ndé. From the lower world,
the makers selected a ball of essence called Mirage. The four then carried Mirage to the
surface where they laid it gently on the ground and walked away. Mirage looked
beautiful, as it settled on the earth and became part of it. From Mirage, the makers
created the hills and the mountains. With dry land, mountain, hills, and water, the upper
world was now ready for all the people from the lower world.
First, the Tree people came out and they started to
walk along the edge of the land, traveling clockwise. There were many different Tree
people and each represented a tribe. The Willow people, the Juniper people, the Oak
people, the Chokecherry people, and the Mesquite people all walked together. When they
came to a stream, the Willows stopped.
“We will stay here,” they said. Both green and grey,
the Willows represented both the young and old. This was a good place for them, near
water which is needed by all living things.
The Tree people continued their walk. The Oaks
wore black stones. The alligator-bark Junipers wore turquoise beads and other Junipers
wore red beads. Some Chokecherries wore red beads and others wore black beads. The
Mesquite people danced while they walked, shaking many strings of rattles. As the Tree
people walked clockwise, they found their own place to stop, a place just right for them.
The Oak’s black stones became acorns, the Juniper’s turquoise and red beads became
berries, and the Chokecherries red and black beads also became berries. The Mesquite
people were the last to stop on land which had little water, but this land was just right for them.
They sang with joy, as their rattles became their sweet pods. The Mesquite’s pods still
rattles with joy each summer.
Next, the animal people came out and they, too,
started to walk the clockwise path of the Trees. There were many different Animal people
and each represented a tribe. The Animal people from the ground such the Gophers, the
Coyotes, the Buffalo, the Skunks, and the Horned-toads walked the path. The Bird people
such as the Sparrows, the Owls, the Hawks, the Mockingbirds, and the Roadrunners also
walked the path because they were still Animal people. As the Animal people walked,
some stopped because they had found the place that was right for them. The Horned-
toads and the Roadrunners were the last to stop on land which had little water. The
Horned-toads had skin like the earth, so they could disappear when an enemy was near.
The Roadrunner could run fast on the earth, so they decided they did not have to fly. This
land was just right for them.
Finally, the Human people came out from the lower
world and they, too, started to walk the clockwise path of the Trees and Animals. At
first, all of the Human people were the same with the same language; but as groups were
dropped off, they became different tribes with different languages. This is the way that
the Navajos, the Chiricahuas, the Mescalleros, the Jicarillas, the Plains Apache, and the
Lipans came to be. Once all the Peoples started their journey, they did not stop, not
even to sleep. All of them just kept on moving. The Sun, who was Killer-of-Enemies, and
the Moon, who was Changing Woman, took the lead on this journey because they, too,
were people back then. But then, Sun and Moon decided to separate from the Peoples.
“We will go ahead of you, but do not worry because
we will still be your lead,” they said. So in the daytime, the Sun would lead, and at night,
the Moon would lead. Sometimes the Sun and Moon would meet and this was called an
The Lipans were the very last to stop because
finally they, too, found a place to live. There was plenty of food everywhere, even where
there was little water. They had mountains, desert, and grasslands. This was the right
place for them."