The Arapaho story of Creation

Creation Story | Prayer | Religious Organization

There was a deluge, nothing but water. A man was walking around on the water for four day and four nights, carrying a Flat Pipe.  He wondered what he could do to protect it. For a total of six days he walked around with the Pipe, weeping and fasting. 

On the morning of the seventh day, he decided that there needed to be earth for the Pipe to rest on.  So he called to the four directions (northwest, northeast, southeast, and southwest) for people to come and help find land.  Then he called forth seven cottonwood trees (though there was still no dry land), and then called forth creatures of the air and of the sea.

He asked if anyone knew where land was.  The Turtle said that it was at the bottom of the ocean.  So the Man asked the animals if they could dive down and find it.   A series of creatures dives for the land.  First: The Grebe; Second: two waterfowls; Third: three waterfowls, including the Kingfisher; Fourth: Otter, Beaver, Packed Bird (coot), and Garter snake; Fifth: black snake, two kinds of ducks, goose, and crane; Sixth: all the creatures dive. But each time, they fail. 

Then, the seventh dive is made by Turtle in the company of the Man.  Before the Man dives, he ritually moves the Flat Pipe four times, then touches it to his body a fifth time.  It turns into a Red-headed Duck and it accompanies him on the dive along with the Turtle.  Both the Duck and the Turtle succeed in bringing up a sod of earth for the Man (Arapaho). 
The Man then dried the earth, then cast it in four directions (southeast, southwest, northwest, and northeast) and created the Earth. 


Abstracted by Andrew Cowell, University of Colorado,
based on a version recorded and published in 1903 by George Dorsey

Quillwork design from an Arapaho cradle.
Univ. of Colorado Museum #10734