Grandmother Turtle - A Cherokee Creation Story


Cheroeke creation story - Grandmother turtle and mountainIN THE BEGINNING 

When the earth was first made, it was covered all over with water except for one small island.  This island was at the top of a high mountain. This was Blue Mountain (Shaconage), in the Cherokee country. Everyone lived together on this mountaintop island. The human beings and the animals all lived in harmony.  In those days they could understand one another's speech, for this was before the humans broke the harmony. It was a good place to live. 

Sure, the island was small, but it was what everyone knew and was used to.  All were content, until there came to be more of them than the small bit of land could support. As they noticed they were getting crowded, a general council of all the people (both humans and animals) was called. The question was asked, "What can we do?"  The only answer given was, "We can pray. All we can do is pray and ask the Grandfather Above to please give us some more land.

So all the people prayed, and Creator answered, "Oh my precious children, there is nothing I enjoy so much as giving good gifts to my children. But if I do everything for you without asking you to help in any way, how will you ever learn any responsibility? I really want to teach you some responsibility. Here's what I will do: If one of you will swim to the bottom of the ocean and bring up some mud, just a little bit of mud, I will take that mud, that little bit of mud, and make a whole great land of it."


All the people (animals and humans) began to look at one another.  Someone asked, "Who will go?  Who will get the mud?"

 A slow, deep voice answered, "I will go.  I will get the mud."  It was Grandma Turtle.

  "Grandma Turtle, you can't go!"  They said.  "You're too old and slow.  We don't know what it's like down there.  We don't know how deep it is."

  "I'll go," quacked Duck.

"Now that's more like it," they said.  "You're a good swimmer, Duck. You can go; you can do it."

 Duck paddled out onto the ocean and dived, but he popped right back up to the surface. 

Duck dived again and again and again, but the same thing happened each time. Well, you know how ducks are. They dive well, but they float much better. Duck paddled back to shore, shook the water off his tail and said, "I can't dive that deep. I float too well."

The question was asked again, "Who will go? Who will get the mud?"

Grandma Turtle said, "I will go. I will get the mud."

"Grandma Turtle," they said, "we settled that before! You can't go. You're too old. Who will go? Who will get the mud? Hey Otter, how about you?"


What?" Otter said.

  "How about you going to get the mud?"

  "Mud?  What mud?"

  "The mud we need so Creator can make more land!"

  "Oh, sure," said Otter, and he slid off into the water and was gone a good long while. When he came back, he had a fish in his mouth, but no mud. Without a word to anyone, Otter climbed up onto the beach and began munching on the fish.

Everyone was watching him, but Otter paid them no mind, just kept eating his fish.  "Hey Otter!" someone yelled.

  "What?"  Otter said.

  "Where's the mud?"

  "Mud?  What mud?" Otter asked.  "Ohhh the mud! Well, I left here to go and get it. Then I started playing. Then I caught this fish. Then I forgot all about the ummm, ummmm, whatever it was I was supposed to get."

They were nearly at their wits end. "Who will go?" they all asked. "Who will get the mud?"

  Grandma Turtle said, "I will go. I will get the mud."  No one even paid her any mind.

  "Who will go?  Who will get the mud?"

  "I will go," said Beaver.  "I will get the mud. I don't play, and I do not eat fish."

  Resolutely, Beaver swam out into the ocean.  He took a deep, deep breath and dived.  Wow, Beaver was gone a long time.  Some of the people watching and waiting were holding their breath in sympathy, but none seemed able to hold it that long.  Finally, Beaver popped to the surface gasping for air.  He swam to shore and climbed onto the beach shaking his head.  "It's too deep!" Beaver said.  "I don't know how deep it is.  I never reached the bottom."

  Everyone was in despair.  Beaver was the last best hope.  How would they ever get mud?  Maybe there would never be anything but the little mountaintop island.  "Who will go?" they asked.  "Who will get the mud?

A slow deep voice answered, "I will go.  I will get the mud."

  "You can't go, Grandma Turtle, you're too...."


There were no other volunteers, so they let Grandma Turtle go. She slowly paddled her way out onto the surface of the ocean. As everyone watched, she took a slow, deep breath, then another and another and another. She took three more breaths and disappeared beneath the water.

They waited a long time. Grandma Turtle was gone much longer than Duck or Otter or even Beaver had been. She was gone all that day and the next and the next and the next. 

They posted a sentry up on the very top of the mountain.  Finally, on the seventh day, the sentry called out, "I think I see something coming up.  Yes, yes, something is rising in the water.  Could it be?  Could it be?  Yes!  It's Grandma Turtle!"

  Sure enough, Grandma Turtle rose to the surface of the ocean, and there she lay, not moving, with her legs, her tail, her head all hanging down....  Grandma Turtle was dead.

  Quietly, reverently, Duck, Otter and Beaver swam out and drew Grandma Turtle's body to the shore.  They pulled her up on the beach, as all the people (humans and animals) gathered sadly around, and what's this?  There, under her front feet, they found.... mud.

  Someone took the mud, that little bit of mud from under Grandma Turtle's front feet, rolled it into a ball and lifted it up toward the sky.  The Creator  took that mud, that little bit of mud and cast it out, making this whole, great land that many nations call Turtle Island .

We were so inspired by the story of Grandmother Turtle that we created this special necklace. The design is reminiscent of the pre-Columbian, Mississippian cutlures whose mounds still stand today in the Southeastern part of the United States. 

Our family started Cherokee Copper to help us and others connect to Cherokee culture. We make everything we sell in our home studio near, Tulsa, OK. Greg is an award winning Cherokee Coppersmith who is helping to keep the tradition of coppersmithing alive .


We were so inspired by the story of Grandmother Turtle that we created this special necklace. The design is reminiscent of the pre-Columbian, Mississippian cutlures whose mounds still stand today in the Southeastern part of the United States. 

Each time we wear this necklace we are reminded of Grandmother Turtle's sacrifice and her determination to help others. You can keep these ideals of Grandmother Turtle close to your heart too, with the Grandmother Turtle Necklace. Find it here. 

 grandmother turtle necklace by cherokee copper

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  • Author image
    Ann Wilde : April 03, 2024

    I really enjoyed your story. Very enjoyable.

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    Susam: April 03, 2024

    Thankful for people like you please keep sharing

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    Melanie : April 03, 2024

    I love you Grandma Turtle. Because of your sacrifice for the future, I will always sacrifice as well; to honor you and the elders, always. “The way of the turtle🪶”.

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    Margaret Herrera: April 03, 2024

    Beautiful story thanks for sharing.

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    Delia Marie Bushey : April 03, 2024

    My father’s family came off the trail of tears I wish I knew his family am knew more about being indian

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    Linda: December 13, 2023

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

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    Amanda : November 14, 2023

    Always love ❤️ to hear our traditional stories I could sit and listen to them over and over again and it never gets old !!! EBCI enrolled!! Sgi..🤎🪶🙏🏽💯🙌❤️

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    Billi Lynn : November 14, 2023

    Thank you for bringing this story to me and I bought the grandmother turtle necklace for my granddaughter. We are part Cherokee but our heritage is diminished. I want my granddaughter to know more about her Cherokee heritage and I love ❤️ your work. Thank you!

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    George Marion Green : November 14, 2023

    I heard stories through my life like this . It’s amazing all the stories passed down. Obviously the great flood, how could others say our that first people didn’t have God. As with all everything thing is a circle, as with grandmother turtle her circle had ended here. To save everyone, and give her life so the rest could live on. A little bit of church in there. And to be Called Savages ,along with many other thing . We were misrepresented, makes it easier to for them to destroy and exploit. With out feeling bad.

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    Lori Lipscomb : November 14, 2023

    There is so much wisdom we have lost and rob ourselfs out of because of the w way we treated all the Indian tribes. I like reading these types of stories because of the messages and the lessons it can an teaches us.

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    Sandra woods : November 14, 2023

    Love the stories much appreciated

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    Paula: November 14, 2023

    Is this story published? Would love to buy it for my grandkids. It is beautifully written. Loved it so much, I would happily buy the necklace for my granddaughter to remind her of the story. Please let me hear back from you.

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    April Johnston : November 14, 2023

    I am of Cherokee decent. My Mom was 3/4 and loved to learn and speak on her heritage. I too am marvelled to no end the brilliance and heart of the Cherokee. I read this story aloud to my grand daughter. No surprise to her amazement and questions. I would love to read more for bedtime. Thank you for for sharing.

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    Jennifer Jones: November 14, 2023

    If I purchase the necklace. Does it come with a copy of the story? Thank you.And how could I send one 2 a friend. But, pay for it. And without her finding out who sent it. Thank you very much. Sincerely Jennifer Jones

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    amber: November 14, 2023

    That is a great inspirational story I would love to be able to tell it to children

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    Lannie Mendoza : September 06, 2023

    How can I get a hard copy for my grandson how is in love with turtles

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    Belva : September 06, 2023

    Thank for the beautiful store. I enjoyed reading it. We all are so blessed to have a grandfather and grandmother guide over all of us. Thanks 🙏

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    Malinda: September 06, 2023

    Wado for the story I have cherokee blood in me but I lost all of that wado again

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    Angie Hughes : August 25, 2023

    Thank you I enjoyed it

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    Sam Moreau : August 25, 2023

    A ho thankyou for telling the story….TSITSALAGI !!! GWY 💚💚💚💚💚💚💚

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