This is a creation story of sorts, from our continued lessons in First Nations oral history. There are practical and moral issues at play here, for life and the garden, as it is and should be.
In the time before man, Mother Earth and Father Sky were united in their work and lives. The world thrived and the plants and animals were happy and healthy. Both Earth and Sky rejoiced in the wonderful paradise they had helped to create. One would think they might rest now and look over the world in peace, but pride and arrogance began to eat into their hearts. They became restless and began looking at each other to find answers to their undefined longings. Mother Earth questioned why she even needed Father Sky. It was she who had created the life on land and sea around her, and frankly Father Sky was a bit blustery in his efforts to alleviate his boredom. The big winds and lightning storms were, in her opinion, too showy and disruptive, they were getting on her nerves. Father Sky was unhappy, he was jealous of Mother Earth’s constant companionship with the plants and animals. They both became bitter and deeply questioned their commitments to the world and each other. This resentment grew and one dark day they had a huge argument. “I don’t need your snow and rains!” yelled Mother Earth. “Well I don’t need your plants and trees!” responded Father Sky, and with a great show of anger he left to the heavens.
For a time all was well, the quiet sky’s stayed clear and the waves from the great waters stopped crashing on the shores. In the stillness, without the rain and snow, the plants began to die. They needed Father Sky’s rain just as much as Mother Earth’s soil. Time marches on and with its passing more and more of Mother Earth’s creations disappeared, she didn’t want to see or hear the lonely world that was forming around her. The destruction and death continued for a long time, Father Sky looked down with his heart still full of anger and frustration. Finally all that lived in this world were the four sacred plants, Tobacco, Sweet Grass, Sage, Cedar plus one terrified and desperate animal, this was the Golden Feathered Eagle, he had survived the carnage by eating carrion. With all the bravery in the world Eagle approached Mother Earth and tried to reason with and comfort her. Mother Earth loved her world, her family, she wept for the dead and found in her sorrow that she needed Father Sky. She needed him to live and to love, to laugh and to cry but most of all she needed his support for her children. She asked Eagle to be a messenger and advocate for her to her long-lost friend, Father Sky.
Mediating between these two powerful beings took every ounce of wisdom and bravery that Eagle possessed and with resolution and perseverance he began to negotiate. Father Sky continued storming around the heavens and was difficult to talk to in his anger, at first he lashed out at Eagle, forever marking his head with the white feathers we see today. Both were miserable, Eagle not knowing if he would live out the day and Father Sky consumed by his anger. It was his view that Mother Earth had started the whole mess by hurting his feelings when she rejected him. It was a very dark time indeed. With his heart growing sadder, his loneliness overwhelmed his anger and in time Father Sky began to see the message in Eagle’s words. When he calmed down and listened, he realized that Mother Earth wanted him back! She did need him just as he needed her, he missed her companionship and her lovely world and family. He agreed to come home. As they returned to Earth, Father Sky reached out to touch Eagle in gratitude instead of anger, he brushed his tail and it turned white like his head. When Mother Earth and Father Sky reunited our world was again balanced. The rain fell and the plants grew, the animals lived and life as we know it was born again.
It’s not uncommon for meanings to be a bit wishy-washy in oral history, but the lessons in this story are certainly as important today as they were for our ancestors.