According to “the world on turtle’s back,” which best demonstrates the iroquois view of women?

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According to “the world on turtle’s back,” which best demonstrates the iroquois view of women?

The Iroquois, a confederation of Native American tribes, possesses a rich cultural tapestry woven with myths and legends. “The World on Turtle’s Back” is a foundational narrative within Iroquois folklore, offering profound insights into their worldview. In this exploration, we delve into the integral role of women as depicted in this creation story, unraveling the layers of symbolism and cultural significance.

Unveiling the Creation Story

“The World on Turtle’s Back” begins with a pregnant Sky Woman falling from the celestial realm. Through the cooperation of animals, land, and elements, she finds a resting place on the back of a giant turtle, creating Earth. This narrative serves as a metaphorical genesis, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all life.


The Feminine Principle in Creation

Sky Woman as Creatrix

Central to the story is the character of Sky Woman, whose descent marks the inception of life on Earth. Unlike many creation myths where male deities hold the primary creative role, the Iroquois celebrate the feminine principle as the source of life. This challenges conventional narratives, reflecting the Iroquois commitment to balance and harmony.

Animal Guides and Women’s Wisdom

Animals play a crucial role in assisting Sky Woman. Here, symbolism is profound – animals are not mere aides, but spiritual guides representing virtues essential for a balanced existence. Women, as nurturers and caretakers, find resonance with these animal spirits, embodying wisdom, compassion, and resilience.


Women as Stewards of Life

The Life-Giving Earth

The turtle, upon whose back the world is formed, becomes a potent symbol of fertility and stability. The Iroquois perceive the Earth as a maternal entity, sustaining and nourishing all life. Women, in turn, are viewed as the stewards of this life-giving force, responsible for maintaining the delicate balance between humanity and nature.

Agriculture and Women’s Dominion

In Iroquois society, agriculture is a domain predominantly overseen by women. The cultivation of crops is not merely a practical necessity but embodies a deeper spiritual connection. The act of sowing and reaping becomes a sacred dance, echoing the rhythm of creation described in “The World on Turtle’s Back.”


The Power of Women in Iroquois Society

Clans and Matrilineal Lineage

The Iroquois confederacy is organized into clans, and membership is determined through matrilineal descent. This societal structure acknowledges and empowers women as the transmitters of cultural identity. It challenges Western notions of patriarchy, emphasizing the importance of the maternal line in preserving traditions and values.

Council of Women

In addition to the clan structure, Iroquois governance includes a Council of Women, where female elders hold significant influence. This council provides a unique perspective, balancing the decision-making process by incorporating the wisdom and experiences of women. It exemplifies the Iroquois commitment to inclusive and egalitarian governance.


Challenges and Resilience

Sky Woman’s Trials as a Metaphor

The challenges faced by Sky Woman during her descent can be seen as metaphors for the struggles women encounter in life. From the pain of childbirth to the obstacles on her journey, the narrative reflects the resilience and strength inherent in women. This interpretation underscores the Iroquois recognition of women as not just life-bringers but as warriors and survivors.



“The World on Turtle’s Back” unfolds a narrative that goes beyond the conventional creation myths. It unveils a worldview where women are not relegated to the peripheries but are central to the very fabric of existence. The Iroquois celebrate the feminine as a force of creation, nurturing, and governance, challenging us to rethink our perceptions of gender roles. In understanding the significance of women in Iroquois culture, we find a profound lesson in embracing balance, harmony, and the interconnectedness of all life.