Long before humanity inhabited the Earth, a vast ocean and complete darkness engulfed the world. Above the water lay Sky-World, a realm inhabited by spirits and mythical beings. Among them was Sky Woman, a pregnant woman residing with her family in this beautiful abode. Sky-World housed a remarkable tree with roots so deep that they could be seen from Earth, its branches reaching towards a hole in the sky. One day, curiosity led Sky Woman to the tree, where she began inspecting. As she dug deeper, she caught glimpses of the water beneath the Earth’s surface. Birds on Earth observed her from below as she continued her exploration until, inadvertently, she fell through the clouds. Swiftly, the birds came to her aid, carrying her on their backs to prevent her fall. Searching for a place for her to rest, the birds spotted a benevolent sea turtle and asked if he would allow Sky Woman to sit on his back. The sea turtle agreed, and there she sat, surrounded by the creatures of Earth.
Yearning to bring life to the desolate land, Sky Woman sought to create soil. She asked the animals for assistance, and after several attempts, the muskrat courageously dived deep into the water. Although the muskrat lost his life in the endeavor, he succeeded in retrieving a handful of dirt, which Sky Woman used to create Turtle Island. Living on Turtle Island, Sky Woman gave birth to a daughter who grew into a young woman.
One day, while wandering the island, the young woman encountered a man, causing her great fear. When she awoke, she discovered two arrows on top of her stomach, and soon she realized she was pregnant with twins. The twin fetuses were conscious and debated over who should be born first. Eventually, the right-handed twin was born first, while the left-handed twin chose a different path, coming out through the young woman’s armpit. Tragically, their mother did not survive the unusual birth, and both twins blamed each other for her death. Finding the twins in this dire situation, their grandmother could not discover the truth behind the tragedy, leading to a lack of trust in the boys. To resolve their dispute, they challenged each other in the traditional Peach Bowl game
The two brothers became creators of their own creations during the time after their mother passed. When they were asked to bury their mother, the decomposition process of her body in the ground created plants and crops to arise from her grave. Inevitably, the left-handed twin grew opposite from the right-handed twin, with each of their gifts resembling what their intentions are, as the left-handed brother is considered to be the evil twin, and the right-handed twin is the loving twin.
The tale of Sky Woman and her twin sons remains etched in the hearts of the Oneida Nation, symbolizing the creation of Turtle Island and the enduring bond between the spiritual world and Earth. Their sacred story honors the origins of the Oneida people and serves as a reminder of the resilience and unity that define the rich heritage of the Iroquois.
Oneida Nation | Creation Story (oneida-nsn.gov)
Elm, D. Antone, H. (n.d.). The Oneida Creation Story.
Oneida Language & Cultural Centre