Inuit Creation Myth - Sedna and the Giants
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Inuit Creation Myth

Inuit bird carving
Inuit carving of a bird
(from the American Museum
of Natural History)

May 2016 - First there were giants. The giants lived on the land and ate plants that they gathered. One day, when it was almost winter, a mother giant and a father giant had a baby girl. Her name was Sedna.

As the days got shorter, Sedna got bigger and bigger. Every day she got bigger. Soon she was huge - bigger than her giant mother and father. She got so big that there wasn't enough food for her anywhere. She got so hungry that she started to bite her mother and father's legs!

Well, that was too much for her parents. They managed to push Sedna into a blanket and between them they carried her to their canoe. It was dark but there was a moon to see by and they paddled the canoe out to sea. When they got way out in the middle of the ocean, where you couldn't even see the land, they dumped Sedna overboard into the cold water and left her to drown.

Inuit kayak
Inuit kayak (about 1890 AD)

That was that. They started to paddle their canoe home, feeling cold and ashamed of themselves for dumping their own daughter overboard. But they had just started when the canoe stopped - they couldn't seem to make it go no matter how hard they paddled. Oh no! They saw that Sedna's huge hands were holding their canoe and rocking it. She was going to toss them into the ocean and they would drown!

Inuit sea lion carving
Inuit carving of a sea lion
(American Museum of Natural History)

So Sedna's mother and father started to chop at Sedna's fingers with their sharp stone knives and they cut off her fingers, one by one. But as Sedna's big fingers splashed into the water, they changed into animals. One finger became a whale. One finger became a seal. One finger became a walrus. One became a salmon.

Sedna swam to the bottom of the ocean and stayed there. The fish built her a tent there to live in. She still lives there, and if we are hungry, we can ask Sedna to send us more food, even in the winter.

This is only one version of Sedna's story, and there are many others. Here's another version in a video made by a kid for school:


Learn by doing: go see some sea lions and seals at the coast, or at an aquarium or zoo
More about the Inuit people

Bibliography and further reading about the Inuit creation myth:

More Native American creation myths
Native American religion
More about Native Americans
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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