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December 27, 2005

Potawatomi Creation Story

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There is a place that is far, far away and it is nowhere near earth and it is so far away that nobody can travel there from earth. This place is kind of like the North Pole because it is always winter time. There is a man that lives on this land and his name is Wisaka. Wisaka used to live on earth with his younger brother.
 

There was a group on earth called the Manitou, which means supernatural forces and they did not like Wi’saka and his brother. The Manitou called a council meeting to discuss how they were going to get rid of Wi’saka and his brother. 

The Manitou decided to set everything on fire in order to kill Wi’saka and his brother. The Manitou killed Wi’saka’s brother, but Wi’saka survived. 

Next the Manitou caused a big flood to try to kill Wi’saka. Wi’saka found a huge mountain and began to climb it, but he eventually started to run out of mountain, so he started climbing a huge pine tree that was at the top of the mountain. Miraculously there was a canoe at the top of the pine tree so Wisaka got into the canoe. 

Wi’saka started paddling around in the canoe but there was nothing but water everywhere and no land could be seen. When he realized he was alone, Wisaka began crying. After a time, he noticed something shining in the distance, and began paddling towards it.

After a while, a muskrat climbed up on the canoe and said: “Greetings, grandfather! Why are you crying?” The man answered “I have been here a long time, and I cannot find any land.” The muskrat replied, “But there is earth under all this water!” The man asked the muskrat to get him some land, and the muskrat dove down and came up again with both paws full of mud. He dived again and brought up a ball of earth in his mouth. The man did not think this was enough land to live on.

The man asked the muskrat if he was all alone, and the muskrat answered no. The muskrat gave out a call and the animals chiefs of the water swam up to the canoe. The first to come was a white muskrat. “I hear that you want to see us,” he said to the man.

“Yes,” answered the man, “I want you to bring me some earth so I can make the world. I will make it a good world where we can all live.” The animals agreed and they all began to dive. They all brought up earth, and the man they called Grandfather kneaded the mud that they brought, and molded it into a long column that reached from the surface of the water to the earth beneath it. It showed above the waves, and he kept adding to it. They kept on day after day until it was finally solid and there was a lot of land there. Then the man planted a great tree there. He kept adding to the island.

As Wi’saka worked on the north end of the island, he noticed that the ground grew dry and dusty. He asked his animal helpers how they liked what he had made, and they told him that it was a good place to sun themselves. He told them to keep on bringing him earth, and he would make it better. Thus he kept on until the world was completed. Then he told his animal friends that it would be covered with green grass and trees. He took a stick and marked out where he wanted the rivers to run, and then he had the muskrats dig out the channels.

At last Wi’saka built a wigwam. When he had it ready the muskrats were close by in a lake, so he went over and planted rushes along the shore for them. Then he got into his canoe and paddled out into the ocean, and called on the muskrats to help him again while he built another world. He built it up until it met the first one. “Now,” he said, “I have it the way that I want it.”

One day Wi’saka walked up to the north end of his island and found some people there. He approached them and asked them where they came from. They were the Potawatomi, and they asked who he was.

“I am Wi’saka,” he replied. The Potawatomi replied, “Well, we have heard of you, you must have come from above, as we did.”

“No,” answered Wi’saka, “I have always been here, and I made this earth and all that you can see on it.” “Well then,” said one, “You must be the Great Spirit.” “Yes,” answered Wi’saka, “That is who I am. Who can do any more than I have?”

Wi’saka asked the muskrats to dive into the lake and fetch him some tasty roots. When he had plenty he told them to stop, and then he gave the roots to the Potowatomi people. They camped beside his lodge and he lent them his cooking utensils. He showed them how to make clay pots and how to cook their food.

Wi’saka showed the people the forest that he had made, and in the woods he showed them how to peel bark and make household utensils like baskets. He showed them how to make string to tie their lodge poles together. He instructed them how to gather and prepare reeds to weave mats, and how to make rush-mat wigwams. The next day he told them that there would be animals in the world, and deer, buffalo, and other game appeared. 

Wi’saka also initiated the clan structure and gave each clan a sacred medicine bundle, which he brought to individuals in the past through dreams or visions. He instructed each clan in the ways and ceremonies required to use these sacred bundles. In this way, Wi’saka made the world right for the Potawatomi.

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