A very long time ago the Apache Black Hactcin* held out his hand and a drop of rain fell into his palm. He mixed it with earth and fashioned the first bird from the resulting mud. The bird flew and the Hactcin saw that the bird needed companions so he grabbed the mud-bird and whirled it around his head, faster and faster. The mud-bird grew very dizzy and began to see many images as it whirled around. He saw hawks and eagles, other raptors, and song birds too. When the Hactcin stopped whirling the mud-bird, those images became real birds. To this day the raptors created in that Apache’s whirl live in the air and seldom land on the ground because the rain that helped create them fell from the sky.
High on the mountain in New Mexico known as Shiprock (above) lived the bird-monsters that were eating all the people on the earth. This was before modern raptors. It is said that one of the Navajo Hero Twins, Monster Slayer climbed the huge rock and killed both of the bird monsters. Two fledglings in the nest were terrified, but Monster Slayer decided not to kill them. To the eldest he said, “You will give us plumes for our rites and bones we will use to make whistles.” Whirling the fledgling around his head four times he flung it high in the air and it became First Eagle.
To the younger monster-bird he said, “You will be an oracle to my people and foretell the future. Sometimes you will tell the truth and other times you will lie.” He whirled that bird around his head four times and, as he did so, the bird’s head became large and round and its eyes grew larger and larger until the bird became First Owl.
Once a water-monster made war on the people and flooded the earth. Only one person survived, a young woman. As she was about to drown, a great eagle — perhaps the one made by the Apache or maybe the Navajo one — flew over the young woman, allowing her to grab his talons. He flew with her to the top of a spire in the Black Hills where he lived in his aerie. It was the only dry place on earth. There they lived as man and wife and they had two children, a boy and a girl. When the waters finally receded these two children of an eagle and a human returned to the earth and founded the Lakota Nation.
*Hactcin — Jicarilla Apache Supernatural beings that personify the power of natural forces and objects, creator of all things.
Photo Credit for Shiprock, NM | Kent Winchester | www.landofclearlight.com