An Abenaki Creation Story
Told by Gerard Rancourt Tsonakwa,
as told to him by his father,
Gerard Tsonakwa Tsemitzewa
In my dream, I awakened, I turned to my side and saw the morning sun shining through a dew-covered spider web. So beautiful it was! It was filled with sparkling color, a million tiny lights in a hand’s breadth. A black and yellow spider was busy repairing a tear in the web from an insect that got away. The spider stopped and stared at me. It spoke to me in a tiny little voice and said, “This is a Dream Net, it only lets goo dreams through. This hole was lift by the dream you are dreaming now!”
—My father’s dream
in the shadow of Odziozo,
Maheo, the Great Manito, became tired of the endless silence at the beginning. The Great Manito, Creator, was tired of the terrible darkness at the beginning of time. He wished to fill endless space with light and the joyful movement of life. Out of His great hands flew the sparks of the creation fire, filling endless space with light. He bid Mikchich, the Great Turtle, to emerge from the water and become land. With His strong hands He molded a creation world with mountains and valleys. He put the waters all where they should be and set white clouds sailing in the blue sky. Then, the Manito looked at all this and laughed. He looked at this and said to Himself, “This is good. This is the creation world I want. Everything is ready now. I will fill this place with the happy movement of life.”
Maheo, the Great Manito, thought about what kind of life He would make. He carefully considered how He would make a perfect web of life with each creature just so and in perfect place. Each should have a perfect way of life and all would be happy in this creation world. Long into that last night before creation began, the Manito thought out a perfect plan. He was sure at last there was no flaw, no imperfection. Long into that night He thought until He became exhausted and went to sleep. Soundly did He sleep, and His sleep was filled with dreams. Strange dreams He had.
The Great Manito dreamed of a strange creation world, filled with strange beings, not at all what He had planned. They walked on four legs, some on two. Some creatures crawled, some flew with wings. Some of these swam with fins. There were plants spreading out, covering the ground everywhere. Insects buzzed, geese honked, and moose bellowed. Men sang and called to each other in this strange dream. This was a world with no design at all, no order. This was a bad dream indeed, no world of creation could be this imperfect, this mad!
And then the Great Manito awakened to see a porcupine nibbling on a twig and to His dismay He realized the world of His dream had become Creation indeed!
From Welcome the Caribou Man. A Catalogue of Images and Stories from the San Diego Museum of Man by Gerard Rancourt Tsonakwa and Yolaikia Wapitaska (1992), 12-13.