This collection covers a range of cultures and themes based around the California Basin and South Western nations. There is no single mythology of the Indigenous North American peoples. There are numerous traditions and narratives associated with religion, ethics and core beliefs. These stories are deeply based in nature and are rich with the symbolism of seasons, weather, plants, animals, earth, water, fire, sky and the heavenly bodies. Common elements are the principle of an all-embracing, universal and omniscient Great Spirit, a connection to the Earth and its landscapes, a belief in parallel worlds in the sky and beneath our feet, diverse creation narratives, visits to the 'land of the dead', and collective memories of ancient sacred ancestors.

 

A characteristic of many of the myths is the close relationship between human beings and animals including birds and reptiles. They often feature shape-shifting between animal and human form. Marriage between people and different species, particularly bears, is a common theme.

 

Most of the myths from the California Basin and the South West were first transcribed by ethnologists during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These sources were collected from Native American elders who still had strong connections to the traditions of their ancestors. They may be considered the most authentic surviving records of the ancient stories.

 

Myths of this region are dominated by the sacred creator and trickster, Coyote. Other significant characters include the Sun People, the Star Women and Darkness.

 

Myths of the Navajo, Apache and Pueblo peoples tell how the first human beings emerged from an underworld. According to the Hopi Pueblo people, the first beings were the Sun, two goddesses known as Hard Being Woman, or Huruing Wuhti, and Spider Woman. It was the goddesses who created living creatures and human beings. Other themes include the origin of tobacco and corn, and horses.

Jóhonaaʼéí -Tales From America's South West

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