Potawatomi Creation Story
Potawatomi Creation Story:
“The Creation of the World”
In the beginning of things, there was nothing but water everywhere and no land could be seen. On the
waves, a canoe floated, and a man sat in it and wept because he had no idea what would happen. 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 the man 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, the man 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 he 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 Indians. 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. In this
way, Wi’saka made the world right for the Potawatomi.
What does this story explain? What does this explanation tell you about this particular culture and what is important to it? Why does the phenomenon merit an explanation?