Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD REFERENCE ( (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single entry from a reference work in OR for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

Subscriber: null; date: 13 December 2018

Acoma Creation

A Dictionary of Creation Myths

David Adams Leeming,

Margaret Adams Leeming

Acoma Creation 

The Acoma Indians of New Mexico live in an ancient pueblo commonly called the Sky City, since it is perched atop a 600‐foot maternal mound or butte. Like many of the Western American Pueblo cultures, Acoma society is matrilineal (ownership is passed down through the female line). Not surprisingly, then, the Acoma creation is orchestrated by a female spirit and is representative of the emergence type of creation myth, a birth process that begins in the earth womb (see also Creation by Emergence).

In the beginning two sister‐spirits were born in the underground. Living in constant darkness they grew slowly and knew one another only by touch. For some time they were fed by a female spirit named Tsichtinako (see also Spider Woman; Thinking Woman) who taught them language.

When the proper time had arrived, the sisters were given baskets containing seeds for all the plants and models of all the animals that would be in the next world. Tsichtinako said they were from their father and that they were to be carried to the light of the upper world. She helped the sisters find the seeds of four trees in the baskets, and these seeds the sisters planted in the dark. After a long time the trees sprouted and one—a pine—grew sufficiently to break a small hole through the earth above and let in some light. With Tsichtinako's help, the spirits found the model of the badger, to whom they gave the gift of life and whom they instructed to dig around the hole so it would become bigger. They cautioned the animal not to enter into the world of light, and he obeyed. As a reward he was promised eventual happiness in the upper world. Next the sisters found the model of the locust in the baskets. After they gave him life, they asked him to smooth the opening above but warned him not to enter the world of light. When he returned after doing his job he admitted he had indeed passed through the hole. “What was it like up there?” the sisters asked. “Flat,” he answered. Locust was told that for having done his work he could accompany the spirits to the upper world but that for his disobedience he would live in the ground and would have to die and be reborn each year.

Then it was time for the sister‐spirits to emerge. Instructed by Tsichtinako, they took the baskets, Badger, and Locust, climbed the pine tree to the hole above, and broke through into the world. There they stood waiting until the sun appeared in what Tsichtinako had told them was the east. They had learned the other three directions from her, too, as well as a prayer to the sun, which they now recited, and the song of creation, which they sang for the first time.

Tsichtinako revealed that she had been sent to be their constant guide by the creator, Uchtsiti, who had made the world from a clot of his blood. The sisters were to complete the creation by giving life to the things in the baskets. This they did by planting the seeds and breathing life into the animals, but when the first night came the sisters were afraid and called on Tsichtinako, who explained that the dark time was for sleep and that the sun would return.

The creation was duly completed by the sisters, who took the names Iatiku (Life‐Bringer) and Nautsiti (Full Basket). Some say the sisters quarreled and that Nautsiti disobeyed their father by giving birth to two sons fathered by hot rain drops from the rainbow and that, as punishment, the sisters were deserted by Tsichtinako.

It is said that one of the boys was brought up by Iatiku. When he was old enough, he became his aunt's husband. Together they made the people. Some say that Iatiku later created the spirits, or kachina, who would spend part of the year in the sacred mountains and part of the year with the people dancing for them in a way that would bring rain.

Sources: Erdoes, 97–105; Weigle, 215–218.