Land of Many Hands: Women in the American West

By Harriet Sigerman | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
“THE LAND OF
MY FOREFATHERS”
NATIVE PEOPLES AND EARLY
HISPANIC SETTLEMENT

The first toilers on the land were native peoples who came to North America by foot, crossing over from what is now Russia to Alaska and across North America. They built communities throughout the Americas and developed their own languages and cultures. Their histories are not completely known, but some of their stories survive. As they huddled around campfires on bitterly cold winter nights, seeking the warmth and comfort of the crackling flames, or planted and harvested their crops, the elder members instructed the young people about the origins of their people, and about the beauty and power of the natural world.

The Acoma Pueblo people of what is now western New Mexico tell an ancient story of creation, migration, and cultural identity that goes back at least a thousand years. In this creation story, a spirit named Tsichtinako encountered two sisters, Iatiku and Nautsiti, who lived underground. Following the spirit’s instructions, the sisters planted four kinds of pine trees underground. One of the pine trees grew faster than the others and made a small hole in the earth above, and the two sisters came up into the world aboveground.

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