Creators, Gods, and Spirits. Many Native American mythologies have a high deity—sometimes referred to as the Great Spirit—who is responsible for bringing the universe or the world into existence. Often, however, the Great Spirit merely begins the process of creation and then disappears or removes itself to heaven, leaving other gods to complete the detailed work of creation and to oversee the day-to-day running of the world.
In many Native American mythologies, Father Sky and Mother Earth or Mother Corn are important creative forces. The high god of the Pawnee people, Tirawa, gave duties and powers to the Sun and Moon, the Morning Star and Evening Star, the Star of Death, and the four stars that support the sky. The Lakota people believe that the sun, sky, earth, wind, and many other elements of the natural, human, and spiritual worlds are all aspects of one supreme being, Wakan Tanka. The secondary gods are often personifications of natural forces, such as the wind. In the mythology of the Iroquois people, for example, the thunder god Hunin is a mighty warrior who shoots arrows of fire and is married to the rainbow goddess.
For many centuries, Native Americans have passed their myths from generation to generation though oral stones and artistic repesentations.
The character Coyote figures in some tales as a trickster and in others as a creator whose actions benefit humankind. Kachinas, spirits of the dead who link the human and spiritual worlds, play an important role in the mythologies of the Pueblo peoples of the American Southwest, including the Zuni and Hopi Indians. In Hopi mythology, the creator deity is a female being called Spider Woman. Among the Zuni, the supreme creator is Awonawilona, the sun god. The mythology of the Navajo Indians—who live in the same area as the Hopi and Zuni but are not a Pueblo people—focuses on four female deities called Changing Woman, White Shell Woman, Spider Woman, and First Woman.