How The Milky Way Came To Be
Cherokee Indian Mythology
Long ago when the world was young, not many stars were in the night sky.
In those days the people depended on corn for their food. Dried corn could be
made into corn meal by placing it inside a large hollowed stump and pounding it
with a long wooden pestle. The cornmeal was stored in large baskets. During the
winter, the ground meal could made into bread and mush.
One morning an old man and his wife went to their storage basket for some cornČ
meal. They discovered that someone or something had gotten into the cornmeal
during the night. This upset them very much for no one in a Cherokee village stole
from someone else.
Then they noticed that the cornmeal was scattered over the ground. In the middle
of the spilt meal were giant dog prints. These dog prints were so large that the
elderly couple knew this was no ordinary dog.
They immediately alerted the people of the village. It was decided that this must
be a spirit dog from another world. The people did not want the spirit dog coming
to their village. They decided to get rid of the dog by frightening it so bad it would
never return. They gathered their drums and turtle shell rattles and later that night
they hid around the area where the cornmeal was kept.
Late into the night they heard a whirring sound like many bird wings. They look
up to see the form of a giant dog swooping down from the sky. It landed near the
basket and then began to eat great mouthfuls of cornmeal.
Suddenly the people jumped up beating and shaking their noise makers. The noise
was so loud it sounded like thunder. The giant dog turned and began to run down
the path. The people chased after him making the loudest noises they could. It ran
to the top of a hill and leaped into the sky, the cornmeal spilling out the sides of
The giant dog ran across the black night sky until it disappeared from sight. But
the cornmeal that had spilled from its mouth made a path way across the sky. Each
grain of cornmeal became a star.
The Cherokees call that pattern of stars, gi li' ut sun stan un' yi (gil-LEE-oot-soon
stan-UNH-yee), "the place where the dog ran."
And that is how the Milky Way came to be.