Maxed Out 

Life explained, beliefs imposed

By G.D. Maxwell

Where did I come from?

Having known three of my four grandparents, having met one great grandparent I can remember, having left the country of my birth and never having put down roots any deeper than those I have now, I can’t say that was ever one of the questions I lost sleep over.

But apparently, many people do.

The Salish believe we’re largely the result of a trick played on Old Man Coyote by that rascally Mountain Sheep. In the beginning, Old-Man-in-the Sky created the world, draining the land of water and corralling it into the big salt holes, leaving only lakes and rivers and dry land.

Everybody seemed happy with this except Old Man Coyote who trotted up to Sky World to have a cry and a chat. Old-Man-in-the Sky, seeing Old Man Coyote crying asked him, in a rather peevish way, what he had to complain about.

"I’m very lonely because I have no one to talk to," bawled Old Man Coyote.

A bit concerned that fickle Old Man Coyote’s tears were going to undo all the hydroengineering he’d accomplished, Old-Man-in-the Sky gave his weepy friend a rawhide bag and bid him bring it back filled with red soil from the mountains. "I will make people to keep you company," he promised.

Old Man Coyote traveled far to find the red earth and when he’d filled the bag he was tired and slept. That’s when Mountain Sheep, the trickster, came upon him and ignorant of the design of his labours, dumped the red soil out of the bag, refilling the lower bag with white soil and the upper part with red soil.

When Old Man Coyote returned to Old-Man-in-the Sky, the sun was entering sleep and neither of them could see very well what was in the bag. Old-Man-in-the Sky took its contents and made two men and two women, telling Old Man Coyote these were his people and to stop bothering him.

Returning to dry land, Old Man Coyote breathed life into the forms and was surprised to see both red people and white people. "Carumba! Mountain Sheep," he thought.

He resolved his dilemma by putting the white people on land near the big salt hole and keeping the red ones on his land so he wouldn’t be lonely. And that’s how red people and white people came into being.

Or, if you prefer, in the beginning , for Apache people, there was nothing. From this darkness, a disc, yellow on one side and white on the other appeared, suspended in the nothingness. A small bearded man, Creator, sat within the disc.


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