Diné bahané, part three

4. The Men and Women Live Apart

Now at that time there were four chiefs: Big Snake, Mountain Lion, Otter, and Bear. And it was the custom when the black cloud rose in the morning — as there was no sun, and no true division of night and day, time was counted by the black cloud rising and the white cloud rising — for First Man to come out of his dwelling and speak to the people. After First Man had spoken, the four chiefs told them what they should do that day. They also spoke of the past and of the future.

But after the harvest, the Turquoise Boy from the East had come and visited First Woman. When First Man had returned to his home, he found his wife with this boy. First Woman told her husband that Turquoise Boy was of her flesh and not of his flesh. She said that she had used her own fire, the turquoise, and had ground her own yellow corn into meal. This was corn that she had planted and cared for herself.

When First Man found his wife with Turquoise Boy, he would not come out to speak to the people. The black cloud rose higher, but First Man would not leave his dwelling; neither would he eat or drink. No one spoke to the people for four days. All during this time First Man remained silent, and would not touch food or water. Four times the white cloud rose, and still he would not come out.

Then the four chiefs went to First Man and demanded to know why he would not speak to the people. The chiefs asked this question three times, and a fourth, before First Man would answer them.

He told them to bring him an herb which was an emetic. He made a hot brew from the herb, and drank it, and it caused him to vomit, and in this way he purified himself. First Man then asked them to send Turquoise Boy to him.

When Turquoise Boy came, First Man asked him if the stone for grinding corn, and the brush, belonged to him. Both these things were usually used by women, but not by men. Turquoise Boy said that they were. First Man asked him if he could cook and prepare food like a woman, if he could weave, and brush the hair.

And when Turquoise Boy had assured First Man that he could do all manner of woman’s work, First Man said: “Go and prepare food and bring it to me.” After he had eaten, First Man told the four chiefs what he had seen, and what his wife had said.

At this time the Great-Coyote-Who-Was-Formed-in-the-Water came to First Man and told him to cross the river. They made a big raft and crossed at the place where the Male River followed through the Female River. And all the male beings left the female beings on the river bank; and as they rowed across the river they looked back and saw that First Woman and the female beings were laughing.

In the beginning the women did not mind being alone. They cleared and planted a small field. On the other side of the river First Man and the chiefs hunted and planted their seeds. They had a good harvest. Turquoise Boy, the first man to become as a woman, ground the corn and cooked the food. The men had plenty and were happy.

Four seasons passed. The men continued to have plenty and were happy; but the women became lazy, and only weeds grew on their land. The women wanted fresh meat. Some of them tried to join the men and were drowned in the river.

First Woman made a plan. The women missed the men. One woman gave birth to a big stone. This stone-child was later the Great Stone that rolled over the earth killing men. Another woman brought forth the Big Birds of Tsa bida’hi; and others gave birth to the giants and monsters who later destroyed many people.

On the opposite side of the river, the men also missed the women, and they did not know what to do. Then the second chief spoke: he said that life was hard and that it was a pity to see women drowned when they tried to cross the river to join the men. He asked why they should not bring the women across the river and all live together again.

“Now we can see for ourselves what comes from our wrong doing,” he said. “We will know how to act in the future.” The three other chiefs of the animals agreed with him, so First Man told them to go and bring the women.

After the women had been brought over the river First Man spoke

“We must be purified,” he said. “Everyone must bathe. The men must dry themselves with white corn meal, and the women, with yellow.”

This they did, living apart for four days. After the fourth day First Woman came and threw her right arm around her husband. She spoke to the others and said that she could see her mistakes, but with her husband’s help she would henceforth lead a good life. Then all the male and female beings came and lived with each other again.

N.B.: This is as far as I got when I presented the Diné bahané to kids. We moved on to a different creation myth after this installment.

 

This version of the Diné bahané is adapted from a public domain source edited by Aileen O’Bryan, The Dîné: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians, Bulletin 163 of the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, (1956), pp. 1-13. To read part one, click here.

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