Acoma Creation Story

This version of the Acoma story is abridged and based on the one provided in Ramón Gutiérrez, When Jesus Came, The Corn Mothers Went Away, pp. 3-8.

In the beginning, two females were born underneath the earth at a place called Shipapu. Tsichtinako (Thought Woman) nursed them in total darkness, taught them language, and gave them each a basket that their father Uchtsiti had sent to them, containing the seeds and fetishes of all the plants and animals that were to exist in the world. Thought Woman told them to plant the four pine tree seeds that they had in their baskets, and then to use the trees to ascend into the light. One of the trees grew so tall that it pushed a hole through the earth. Before the sisters climbed the tree out of the underworld, Thought Woman taught them to praise the sun with prayer and song.

When they reached the earth’s surface and the sun rose, they were shown the six directions of the cosmos, the four cardinal points, the earth below, and the four skies above. The sisters prayed to the sun, and as they did, Thought Woman named one Iatiku and made her the Mother of the Corn Clan; the other she named Nautsiti, Mother of the Sun Clan.

They asked Thought Woman why they were created. She answered that their father Uchtsiti made the world by throwing a clot of his blood into space, which by his power grew to be the earth. He planted them in it so that they could bring life to all of the things in their baskets so that the world would be complete and the sisters could rule over it.

Over time, the sisters lived and offered regular prayer to the sun. Their father Sun also gave them fire to cook with and keep warm by. Thought Woman taught them to give life to the animal fetishes in their baskets so that the animals would provide them with life in return. Thought Woman always counseled them to handle their baskets with care; at first they did, but as they gave life to the snakes, one fetish fell from the basket and came to life of its own power, becoming the serpent Pishuni.

Pishuni bred selfishness and competitiveness between the sisters until Nautsiti became sullen and refused to associate with Iatiku. At that point, Pishuni convinced Nautsiti that to be happy again, she needed offspring. She believed him and agreed to meet him near a rainbow where drops of rain entered her body as she lay on the ground. From this she conceived and bore twin sons.

Because Father Sun had prohibited the sisters from having children, he took Thought Woman from them.

When the boys grew up, the sisters separated. Nautsiti went toward the east with her favorite son and Iatiku remained with Tiamuni, the son disliked by his mother. Eventually, Tiamuni and Iatiku married and had many daughters to whom they gave clan names representing all of the things Father had given them when they originally emerged from the earth: Sky, Water, Fire, and Corn.

Iatiku, the Corn Mother, made the season spirits from earth in her baskets. She told the people that if they prayed properly to these spirits, they would bring moisture, warmth, ripening, and frost, respectively. Iatiku then took dirt from her basket and created the katsina, the cloud-spirits or ancestor dead who were to live beneath a lake in the West. Tsitsantis (Big Teeth) was brought to life as the first ruler of the katsina and many others were also brought to life.

Iatiku also provided for houses and appointed a Hunt Chief who soon became overburdened with work, so she appointed a War Chief (or Outside Chief) to rule over everything outside the Pueblo.

The people knew no sickness until Pishuni returned to them as a plague. To break his curse over the people, Iatiku created the chaianyi, the Medicine Man.

Eventually, the young people no longer respected Iatiku, so she returned to Shipapu. The Medicine Men and chiefs led the people on many journeys until they found their home, Haako (Acoma), and the people rejoiced knowing their journey had ended and they were home.

Lesson tags: The History of New Mexico Resource