A Comparison of Aboriginal Creation Stories
Different societies have creation stories that explain the beginning of different things such as animals, trees and the beginning of the world. Although these stories vary from one society to the other, they have a common theme, which is creation. Because most of these stories are very old, they are used as the best ways of learning about the history of certain communities. For example, from these stories it is possible to learn about geographical locations of communities, human attitude towards creation and their relationships with animals, their roles and responsibilities, and about different generations. This paper will therefore compare and contrast the creation stories of Winnebago and the Iroquois native societies, the regions they come from, their history and features.
One of the creation stories by the Winnebago Native community is The Shawnee Prophet – What he told the Hotcagara. According to this legend, the Shawnee Prophet was fashioned by the creator in order to accomplish a certain special earthly mission. The prophet, however, was led astray by the devil that made him follow the wrong path and forget his mission on Earth. The creator then asked someone to bring him back to him, after which the prophet remembered what his first mission was. Although other prophets arose after him, none ever advocated for truth like he did (“The Shawnee Prophet – What he Told the Hotcagara,” n.d.).
The Iroquois creation story, on the other hand, talks of a past world which was only full of water and had no land. The story also talks of another world in the sky which was different from the earthly world. The sky world had a tree, which, despite being important, was uprooted by a pregnant woman. The woman fell into the hole that was created after uprooting the tree, and the birds and sea animals saw to it that the woman was comfortable by gathering soil for her to live in. Since she was pregnant, she gave birth on the island, which was a turtle. Her daughter married and had twins, although one of them caused her death. The children had creation powers, and after her their grandmothers’ death, her head became the moon as it was thrown into the sky (“The creation story: An Iroquois legend,” n.d.).
A comparison of the two stories shows that both of them describe some other world far from this one, which contributed to the earth governing. The two stories also include women, either as passive or active participants in creation. For example, in the Winnebago story, women are used as objects with whom the prophet prostituted (Smith, 1997). In the Iroquois story, a woman is seen as the source of life on Earth (Mann, 2000). Another similarity between the two creation stories is the relationship between people and animals. In the Iroquois story, animals were the ones that took care of the sky woman until she gave birth. The turtle acted as an island for the woman while the birds helped her when she was falling from the sky. This is also the case with the Winnebago story, as the tribal leaders were given the names of animals and referred to using these names fondly. For example, names such as Dog Head and Small Snake were used to refer to important people in the story. This means that the relationships between these people and animals were warm. Although they share some similarities, the two stories are dissimilar in various ways. As mentioned above, the Iroquois story puts much stress on the woman as the source of life, while the Winnebago story views the creator as a man who communicates with the Earth through a prophet.
A look at the history of each of the two tribes shows that the Iroquois homeland was in New York. However, migration pushed them further to the Northeastern part of the United States. One of their notable features, which have been stated in the creation story, is the role of women in the society. The women in this society owned all the properties and were the ones to determine the kinship. Women did not move into men’s longhouses, but it was the men who moved. The most important part of their lifestyle was that they were farmers, and women were the ones endowed with the tasks of tending the fields. The role of women in this community explains why women are valued in the creation story and are seen as the source of life on earth (Mann, 2000).
The Winnebago, on the other hand, were located in Nebraska and were known for their distinctive culture which put emphasis on religion and social structure. However, much of their past was affected by the intermarriages with other tribes which had come to them during periods of war, famine and disease. Just like the Iroquois, the Winnebago aboriginal tribe’s way of life can be seen in their creation stories. As mentioned earlier, the tribe emphasized the religion, which is the reason why one of their creation stories talks of prophets and the creator. The religion part also underlined good and evil, whereby good seemed to overcome evil and men were allowed to choose between the two. The devil was depicted as the one that fathered evil while the creator fathered goodness (Smith, 1997).
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In conclusion, comparing and contrasting the creation stories of Winnebago and the Iroquois native society helps in learning their history, their perception of creation and religion, relationships with animals, their roles and responsibilities in the tribes. The creation stories of the two societies are similar in several ways, like the existence of a creator and relationship between animals and humans. The Winnebago is mostly a religious community, while the role of women stands out quite well in the Iroquois creation story.