3.5 : Comparing and Contrasting the Native Creation Story with the Biblical Creation Story

3. What are the major differences or similarities between the ethos of the creation story or stories you are familiar with and the story King tells in The Truth About Stories ?

I was raised in a Christian home so since I was old enough to attend Sunday school I’ve had the biblical creation story recounted to me more times than I can remember. As a child I accepted the creation story as truth, the way things came to be, how we came to be, and why there was good and evil in the world. However as I got older there were some things about this creation story that didn’t sit quite right with me. The question of whether the creation story is true or not aside, the fact that bothered me was that the story of “The Fall” following the creation story places blame for the existence of evil in the world on Eve, the woman.

You don’t have to look far back in history at all to see that women have blamed for a lot. From the middle ages with the witch hunts, today with so many unfortunate instances of women being victim blamed for sexual assault, and everything in between, before and after, points to a reality that women have been perceived as inferior to men. In many Eurocentric societies its not much of a leap to draw connections from the biblical creation story to the way women are treated.

And then, there is the Native creation story. A story that completely subverts the role of women and her role in the creation of the world. Rather than being responsible for bringing evil into the world and corruption it like Eve was, She, the Sky Woman is the creator! I perceive this to be the most significant difference between the Biblical creation story and the Native creation story. From this main difference stems many more, which are discussed by Thomas King in his 2003 talk “The Truth About Stories : A Native Narrative” for CBC’s Massey Lectures.

While I found that the role of women in each creation story is the contrast that stood out as a major difference, King discusses the difference between the hierarchies associated with biblical story, and the co-operative nature of the Native story. According to King the two creation stories are different because the creation of the world in one is a “solitary, individual act,” while the creation of the other is a “shared activity” (King 24-25). King contrasts these two stories and is quick to label them as a dichotomy. While I agree that the two stories can be greatly contrasted there are a few similarities that should not be over looked.

When I first considered the biblical and the Native creation stories side by side, I found that all I could see was differences rather than similarities, but after reading this great article by Brittany Kussman I found that there were actually a few similarities connecting these creation stories. In Kussman’s article she points out that all the similarities between the stories have not been considered much because for the early settlers in Canada, the idea that a Native creation story could be anything like a Christian one was unthinkable. However, she goes on to discuss the similarities; both have a concept of a pleasant sky world (Heaven) and a world that was originally covered in darkness and water below (the Earth). Both stories also have a clear concept of good and evil, with God and the devil in the Christian version and the “Evil Mind” and “Good Mind” in the Native version. Kussman notes that in the Native story, its the “Evil Mind” that creates all the dangers and terrible things in the world, and when viewing the Christian story through the lens of the Native story this explains why Eve was convinced to eat the forbidden fruit. I like this observation and this connection of both stories because it forces us to look at the woman’s role in the creation story in a different light. It seems to remove the blame from woman for the existence of evil in the world, and simply leaves the question of “evil” as something that is in the world to balance out “good”.

When considering both of these creation stories we can’t assume that one is better than the other, and the question of which is true or not is irrelevant because for the people who believe in these stories they are true. In my opinion however, since the biblical story has been privileged in our Canadian society over the Native one, I think its important for people to hear both stories and realize what good moral lessons can be learned from the Native version. Collaboration, co-operation and respect for women are all elements of the Native creation story that I liked. If you are familiar with both stories what do you think? Any similarities or differences that I missed?

– Natasha

Works Cited

Kaussman, Brittany, “Native American vs. Biblical Creation Stories”. Hubpages. April 17 2016. Web. July 18 2016.

King, Thomas, “The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative.” CBC Massey Lectures. CBC Ideas. Web. July 18 2016.

Linder, Douglas, “A Brief History of Witchcraft Persecutions Before Salem”. University of Missouri -Kansas. 2005. Web. July 18 2016.

“Rape Culture, Victim Blaming, and the Facts”. Southern Connecticut State University. n.a n.d. Web. July 18 2016.

12 thoughts on “3.5 : Comparing and Contrasting the Native Creation Story with the Biblical Creation Story”

  1. Hi Natasha!

    Great post. I also tackled question three so I appreciate your insights here.

    I’m glad you mentioned the different role women play in Genesis versus in King’s story- it’s sad that, though they both have a certain agency (and with that comes some power and influence), only Eve’s is portrayed in a negative light.

    Your mention of viewing the Christian creation story through the lens of the Native story is something I hadn’t considered, though, and that perspective certainly does lessen the misogyny rooted in the former.

    I think the greatest difference I perceived between the two stories was the cooperative/harmonious creation effort of King’s story versus the solitary creation effort in Genesis, which you also mentioned in your post. This difference between the two perhaps hints at a larger difference- that between Western and Indigenous thought. Many people believe that Western thought/society is extremely individualistic in comparison to their Indigenous thought/society. What’s your take on this theory?

    Thanks again for the read.

    Victoria

    1. Thank you for the wonderful blog Natasha and your insight here Victoria.

      I found your theory very interesting and is a connection I had not made. I think you could be right about Western society being about the individual and Aboriginal society being about the group as a significant connection between creation stories and the cultures they come from.

      Natasha, I also grew up in a Christian household and knowing what I know today as a proud feminist, I find that it was hindering to my view of gender and the world. The creation story in particular is what was taught so often to me and I never perceived Eve as the bringer of evil as anything atypical. Had the story been more team center like the Native creation story, it may have changed my relationships and the way I viewed men as I grew older.

      Thanks for the discussion
      ~Stef~

      1. Hi Stef,

        As someone who identifies as both a feminist and a Christian I’m aware that my beliefs can sometimes seem somewhat contradictory, and the biblical creation story is one of the better examples of this conflict. On one hand how do I believe in these scriptures that I live my life by (I wouldn’t call myself a Creationist, but I do believe the Creation story has its purposes for Christians) while the story essentially places blame on women for every evil in the world, and for tempting men into bringing about this evil too! I find the whole idea of the woman as the “temptress” who brings out the worst in men to be absolutely disgusting because it is linked to a whole mentality that nothing is ever a man’s fault. See the link in this post about victim blaming and how ridiculous it is that the way a woman talks/dresses/behaves etc. can all be taken as an act of “tempting” a man to mistreat her, whether we’re talking sexual harassment or not. I think the creation story isn’t the only example of biblical stories being contorted into something they are not. The Bible has some really beautiful stories and messages in it, but society has a way of twisting things to make them seem like something completely different (don’t even get me started on how I feel as a Christian and LGBTQ supporter haha). From this assignment though, I’ve really learned how to see the value in comparing my faith to other belief systems. Like what I mentioned in my last paragraph, viewing one story though the lens of another can be a very enriching experience that does not discredit either belief. Thank you for your comment!

        – Natasha

    2. Hi Victoria,

      I’m really glad you liked my insights from this post. I was a little nervous about where it would go, bringing perspectives of my own faith into the mix, but I’m glad I did it because I learned a lot!

      To answer your question, I agree with you that Western thought and society can be seen as more individualistic compared to Indigenous societies. While it can be said that beliefs and faith do play some part in this I don’t think it should to be the only factor. I would argue that capitalism has a lot to do with the way Western societies are all about the individual. We get so much stimulus from media on a day to day basis that tells us we should buy this product to help ourselves in some way or another. Whether its the latest smartphone, or toothpaste that will make your teeth whiter, everything is about how you, the consumer, the individual, can be improved. This leads to a society-wide mentality that the individual is more important than the community. I don’t know as much as I would like to know about the societal structures of Indigenous communities, but I know there are some deeply rooted traditions that are more about community living, that Western society just doesn’t have. Like the whole concept of the Potlatch ceremony, which is based on sharing and exchanging goods and wealth. And I think I read somewhere that in many indigenous communities child-rearing is not just something for immediate family, literally putting the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” into practice. From answering this question I think I’ve figured out that I would like to compare Western and Indigenous societies more. Creation stories were a good start, now I’ll see what else I can find! Thank you for your question, if you have any of your own insights that you want to add to this feel free!

      – Natasha

    3. This article, and many of the comments are completely off the mark. The Bible does not indicate that Eve brought evil into the world. It’s very clear that Satan did. Iniquity was found in Satan. He is responsible for brining sin into Heaven and the world and deceiving angels and humans. This is nothing more than reading a lot gender bias into the text that simply isn’t there… to support personal experiences endured in life.

      1. I agree 100% Mr. O’Neill. God never said Eve brought evil to the world. She was faced with a choice. She heeded Satans temptations and ignored what her husband had told her. She then went and tempted her husband and invited him into sin with her. That’s why Eve recieved the greater punishment, but both her and Adam faced results for tasting the fruit which gave knowledge of good and evil.

  2. Hi Natasha,

    I’m glad you brought up the issue of women in these creations stories, seeing as we are still living with the consequences of the Creationist narrative in European and North American culture. Perhaps to a lesser extent, but the difference in treatment between men and women stemming from religious reasoning still exists.

    I remember when I was little and heard the Creationist story of God and Adam and Eve, I said something along the lines of,
    “Well ok, but this book (The Bible) was written by a bunch of old guy farts in the middle of nowhere. What if they messed around with it to better suit them?”
    And while that not be the most accurate thing to say, right now it does make me wonder about the issue of authorship and the many translations the story might have gone through before it was even written down. So I guess my question to you is what are your thought on all this?
    (Also this isn’t meant to offend you or your beliefs, and I’m sorry if it does)

    Cheers

    1. Hi Delini,

      No offence taken at all, I’ve definitely asked myself that same question before. As a Christian I’m supposed to believe that the bible is the infallible word of God, and it was just a human writing down what God’s words were. A lot of the times I’m like “yes, got it, that all sounds good to me” but then there are things like woman’s role in the creation story and other things that I really struggle with, and I think that’s common for a lot of Christians. I just try to live my life by taking the best of what I can from the bible and weaving in some feminist beliefs in too. Things do get lost in translation, and as I mentioned in my response to Stefanie’s comment, the words of the bible have always been twisted and result in evil actions. So I think in this case the reader has a lot of power in what they decide they want to do with those words, and its not as much about authorship. I hope that I’m making sense. The question of authorship is interesting in the context of the Native creation story though, because it is traditionally an oral story and has no author! I guess that’s another contrast between the two stories. Thanks for your comment!

      – Natasha

  3. Hi Natasha,

    Thank you for your reflections on this question. I was considering writing on this question myself, as my childhood was quite similar to yours.

    In reflecting on both of these creation stories, what struck me the most was how God is portrayed in both renditions. In King’s version, God is portrayed as selfish, insecure, belittling, and confrontational. So much so, that the God in King’s novel is almost comical. This God is not one the characters aspire to know, pursue, or be devoted to. On the other hand, in the Christian version, God is portrayed as generous for having given Adam and Eve everything in the garden. And by giving Adam and Eve agency, God is portrayed not as a controlling puppeteer, but more like a wise parent, encouraging Adam and Eve to go out and make decisions, mistakes, and lives of their own.

    What I found interesting was how both stories are shaped by apriori assumptions about who “God” is and also how these assumptions shape how stories are told.

    In King’s version, I related best to First Woman. I appreciate that she doesn’t react to GOD’s taunts and confrontations. She combats God’s autocracy by asserting her agency and leaving the situation to find a new home.

    It’s interesting that First Woman’s approach to life seems much more in line with what I have learned about compassion and humility that mark stories from New Testament Christian literature. It makes me wonder if, like with so many belief systems throughout history, the Christian story was melted down to provide a scapegoat for implementing harmful and oppressive patriarchal and political systems. I wonder if stories like King’s can serve to combat the harmful dogmatic perspectives and beliefs that lead to close-minded thinking, prejudice, oppression, and hate.

    By integrating so many stories, King opens the attentive reader up to new ways of thinking critically about the stories that we have been told and stories that we tell. I think his approach leads to better listening, more questioning, and ultimately (hopefully) more understanding.

    What are your thoughts?

    Janine

  4. Hi Janine,

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, I completely agree with everything you said. Its interesting that with these apriori assumptions that you mentioned, neither Native nor Non-Native seem to have realized the value of reading both stories together and extracting a message that feels more complete, like the stories seem to mutually reinforce each other in different ways, rather than just being stark contrasts. I say this with the sincere hope that I don’t sound insensitive to Native communities who have been harmed by the forcing of the Christian faith upon them for centuries. I guess what I mean is from a Christian perspective I can see how the Native creation story has aspects that I can see as also having value in my beliefs, like the ideas of working together, and peaceful collaboration – what a beautiful thing! I think the Native creation story should have a more of a prominent place in our society, and King’s book is a great medium for it to be accessed! Thank you for your comment!

    – Natasha

  5. Enjoyed your comments. If you think Genesis portrayal of Eve is bad notice that the story has Adam throwing Eve under the bus by saying “the woman you gave me”. Ultimately blaming God. A true expression of man’s condition. The universal human memory of creation story is interesting even though it varies from culture to culture. Indeed the 17th century Jesuit missionaries to New World native population used their creation story commonalities with Genesis to introduce Christ.

  6. When I die, I will face the Creator. That makes it imperative that I know who this person is before I die! After all, whatever the Creator planned for creation determines how well (or poorly) we are doing in fulfilling that plan and what he/she plans to do about any inconsistencies.

    What settles everything for me is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As soon as we calibrate the eye-witness testimony of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, along with God’s Book showing us that it was Jesus himself who created us, his resurrection certifies him as our Creator.

    God’s Book makes it very clear that Adam (referred to as “the first Adam”) is responsible for bringing sin into the world, and that Jesus (referred to as “the second Adam” in a final-Adam kind of way) is responsible for bringing salvation into the world.

    As a son of Adam, obviously a sinner just like our first forefather, the fact that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead not only certifies him as the Creator, but as the Living Savior, gives me certainty about the future, that the Creator who made me is also the Savior who saved me and the coming King who will one day take me into his new creation.

    I recommend that we do not make this an issue over Adam and Eve’s distinctive roles in falling for the red dragon’s first temptation to Man. As God’s Book says, “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and, “the wages of sin is death” for us all, so it is imperative that we all receive the salvation God offers us in his Son rather than arguing whether it is men or women who are most responsible for the sinful mess we are in.

    There is good news of great joy for us all; a Savior has come to us who is Christ the Lord (who is also our Creator), and all who receive him become the children of God forever. It isn’t about what Adam and Eve decided in the garden, but what you and I decide now when offered the invitation of the resurrected Christ to come to him and find rest for our souls.

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