Apache Indian Legends       

Creation and Emergence Legend

It is dark in the underworld before the emergence.
Dissatisfied, Holy Boy decides there should be light.
He tries without success to make the sun and moon, using
specular iron ore and pollen.

He tries again and again, using many different materials, but is unsuccessful. Whirlwind,
who spies on the hactcin, tells Holy Boy that White Hactcin has the sun, and he should
get it from him.

pinhead. White Hactcin tells Holy Boy that Black Hactcin has the moon, and Holy Boy is
able to acquire it as well. The hactcin instruct Holy Boy in the ritual acts of creating
the sun and moon. When the song rituals are complete the sun and moon rise, bringing
light to the underworld.

The many medicine people living in the lower world immediately claim responsibility for
creating the sun and moon, arguing fiercely with one another. The hactcin warn them to
be silent for four days, but the medicine people ignore the warning. On the fourth day,
the sun rises to the center of the sky. Because the medicine people continue to argue,
it goes through the hole in the center of the sky into the present earth. Only faint light
comes through into the lower world. The Jicarilla identify this incident with solar

The hactcin challenge the boasting medicine people to bring back the sun and moon. The
medicine people demonstrate their considerable abilities, but nothing they do brings
back the sun and moon. Next, all the birds and animals are challenged to try. Each animal
comes forward and offerssome kind of food. The hactcin accept all their offerings as
useful items, but the sun and moon remain in the world above.

Finally, the hactcin direct the representation in sand (sandpainting) of a world bordered
by four mountains. The mountains are represented by four differently colored piles of
sand. On each mountain are placed leaves of the trees and seeds of the fruits that will
grow upon it. The people sing and pray as the mountains begin to grow. Eventually the
mountains grow together, forming a single mountain.

The hactcin choose 12 medicine people, painting and costuming them so that six
represent summer and six represent winter. The hactcin choose six more medicine
people as clowns (the Jicarilla word for clown translates "striped excrement"). The
clowns are painted white all over with black stripes across the face, chest, and legs.
Their hair is formed into two horns, painted white with four black stripes. Jicarilla
clowns are powerful healers.

When the mountain has grown nearly to the sky, Fly and Spider are sent to the world
above. They bring back four rays of the sun, from which the hactcin construct a ladder
of 1 2 steps. Animals sent up the ladder report that the world above is full of water.
The hactcin go up into the world and prepare the earth for others to enter. The
emergence proceeds from this point, the clowns first, laughing to scare away anything
that will cause illness.

Then the hactcin emerge, followed by First Man and First Woman. Next come the 12
medicine people, followed by all the people and animals. Finally two old people try to
enter the world, but the ladders are now worn out and they cannot climb them. They call
for help, but there is no way for them to emerge.

The old people angrily proclaim they will remain in in the underworld, but that those who
have emerged must some day return, thus designating the underworld as the place of

The Lipan Apache Indians have a similar emergence story. In the Lipan version
Killer-of-Enemies, identifed as the Sun, is a principal creator and culture hero.
Killer-of-Enemies seems to be synonymous with Child-of-the-Water, the child of
Changing Woman, who is identified as the Moon and Thunder. Child-of-the-Water is a
name rarely used. In Lipan stories Killer-of-Enemies has a younger brother known as
Wise One.

The Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache Indians do not have an emergence story. Their
creation story begins with the flooding of a world that seems in retrospect to have
fallen into malevolence. These stories proceed to the creative efforts of White
Painted Woman and Child-of-the-Water who, rather than Killer-of-Enemies, is the
dominant culture hero.                

The western Apache Indians seldom tell the emergence story. More commonly they
begin with a brief account of the creation of the earth, moving on quickly to the slaying
of monsters.
Native American Art Heading
Apache Indian Creation Legend Image