Navajo creation story – The First World “Nihodilhil” (Black World)

Navajo origin stories begin with a First World of darkness (Nihodilhil). From this Dark World the Dine began a journey of emergence into the world of the present.

It had four corners, and over these appeared four clouds. These four clouds contained within themselves the elements of the First World. They were in color, black, white, blue, and yellow.

Navajo creation story – The First World “Nihodilhil” (Black World)

Creation Story Poster- Ni’hodilhil First World
Illustrations by Theresa Breznau.
© 2013 Heritage Language Resource Center. All rights reserved
To purchase see bottom of page.

Thing in the Black World
1. Insects – Ch’osh
a. Black Ants – Wo’ia’zhini Dine’è
b. Bee People – Tsi’s’na’ Dine’è
c. Wasp People – Na’azozii Dine’è

1., Divine Spirit
2. First Talking God
3. Second Talking God
4. Coyote
5. Primordial Dawn
6. Primordial Blue Sky
7. Primordial Twilight
8. Primordial Darkness
9. Everlasting life and happiness

The Black Cloud represented the Female Being or Substance. For as a child sleeps when being nursed, so life slept in the darkness of the Female Being. The White Cloud represented the Male Being or Substance. He was the Dawn, the Light Witch Awakens, of the First World.

In the East, at the place where the Black Cloud and the White Cloud met, First Man, was formed ; and with him was formed the white corn, perfect in shape, with kernels covering the whole ear. Dohonotini is the name of this first seed corn,  and it is also the name of the place where the Black Cloud and the White Cloud met.

The First World was small in size, a floating island in mist or water.

On it there grew one tree, a pine tree, which was later brought to the present world for firewood.

Man was not, however, in his present form. The conception was of a male and a female being who were to become man and woman.

The creatures of the First World are thought of as the Mist People they had no definite form, but were to change to men, beasts, birds, and reptiles of this world.

Now on the western side of the First World, in a place that later was to become the Land of Sunset, there appeared the Blue Cloud, and opposite it there appeared the Yellow Cloud. Where they came together First Woman was formed, and with her the yellow corn.

This ear of corn was also perfect. With First Woman there came the white shell and the turquoise and the yucca.
First Man stood on the eastern side of the First World. He represented the Dawn and was the Life Giver. First Woman stood opposite in the West. She represented Darkness and Death.

First Man burned a crystal for a fire. The crystal belonged to the male and was the symbol of the mind and of clear seeing. When First Man burned it, it was the mind’s awakening. First Woman burned her turquoise for a fire. They saw each other’s lights in the distance.

When the Black Cloud and the White Cloud rose higher in the sky First Man set out to find the turquoise light. He went twice without success, and again a third time ; then he broke a forked branch from his tree, and, looking through the fork, he marked the place where the light burned. And the fourth time he walked to it and found smoke coming from a home.

“Here is the home I could not find,” First Man said.

First Woman answered : “Oh, it is you. I saw you walking around and I wondered why you did not come. ” Again the same thing happened when the Blue Cloud and the Yellow Cloud rose higher in the sky. First Woman saw a light and she went out to find it. Three times she was unsuccessful, but the fourth time she saw the smoke and she found the home of First Man.

“I wondered what this thing could be,” she said.

“I saw you walking and I wondered why you did not come to me,” First Man answered.

First Woman saw that First Man had a crystal for a fire, and she saw that it was stronger than her turquoise fire. And as she was thinking, First Man spoke to her. “Why do you not come with your fire and we will live together. ” The woman agreed to this. So instead of the man going to the woman, as is the custom now, the woman went to the man.

About this time there came another person, the Great-Coyote-Who-Was-Formed-in-the-Water, and he was in the form of a male being.

He told the two that he had been hatched from an egg. He knew all that was under the water and all that was in the skies. First Man placed this person ahead of himself in all things.

The three began to plan what was to come to pass; and while they were thus occupied another being came to them. He also had the form of a man, but he wore a hairy coat, lined with white fur, that fell to his knees and was belted in at the waist.

His name was , First Angry or Coyote. He said to the three: “You believe that you were the first persons. You are mistaken. I was living when you were formed. ” Then four beings came together. They were yellow in color and were called the wasp people. They knew the secret of shooting evil and could harm others. They were very powerful.

This made eight people.

Four more beings came. They were small in size and wore red shirts and had little black eyes. They were the or spider ants.

They knew how to sting, and were a great people.

After these came a whole crowd of beings. Dark colored they were, with thick lips and dark, protruding eyes. They were the , the black ants. They also knew the secret of shooting evil and were powerful ; but they killed each other steadily.

By this time there were many people. Then came a multitude of little creatures. They were peaceful and harmless, but the odor from them was unpleasant. They were called the wolazhini nlchu nigi, meaning that which emits an odor.

And after the wasps and the different ant people there came the beetles, dragonflies, bat people, the Spider Man and Woman, and the Salt Man and Woman,  and others that rightfully had no definite form but were among those people who peopled the First  World.

And this world, being small in size, became crowded, and the people quarreled and fought among themselves, and in all ways made living very unhappy.

The First World “Nihodilhil” (Black World)

Nihodootlizh – Second World (Blue World)

 Nihaltsoh -The third World (Yellow World)

 Nihalgai – The Fourth, Glittering or White World


Creation Story Poster Set of Four

4-creation posters

This poster set illustrates and explains the Creation Narrative in simple, design and text.
Each poster depicts the beings and landmarks associated with that World.
Illustrations by Theresa Breznau.
17” x 22” laminated on heavy cardstock.
Sold as a set for $24.00
Also available individually for $6.00 each

To Purchase:
Heritage Language Resource Center
Navajo and Ute Language Resources
28 West 20 North
Blanding, Utah 8451
435 -678 -1230


  1. Me and my partner were looking for some Navajo facts and came across this one thank you 🙂

  2. Blabberingsheep says:

    I’m a Navajo nerd thx for teaching giving me so much info

  3. It’s obvious that it was written before 1900 and doubtless sometime round

  4. Most, if not all of these books are written by non Navajos.
    The only way to hear these stories, is to ask an elder.
    Most elders are happy to tell you these stories. But most
    don’t ask their elders.

  5. Alk’idaa’ magitsoh holoo nit’ee’ jini. Bijaa’ dahnaadeel doo bitsee’ yidiltazh. jini.

  6. william Kingdon says:

    the L with the slash through it is pronounced by putting the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and then blowing gently. Your lips should be in a sort of smile.

  7. i love you guys comments and

  8. I so wish that I could have grown up with these stories….I am half Navajo living on the east coast and was taught nothing of my heritage. Does anyone know of any websites or books that I can read? I want to learn more. 🙂

  9. Harold Carey Jr says:

    Post this comment to the Navajo People Facebook page you will get more comments:

  10. My name is Angelica and I am doing research on the Navajo myths. My research is on how Navajo myths and narrations have created social norms and how they have affected how people live and see the world around them. If anyone could address that, my e-mail address is .
    If anyone knows any place where I could find further information on that, it would be great also!

  11. Harold Carey Jr says:
  12. Hello,
    I am putting together a website for a native American teen pregnancy prevention initiative. I have been delegated to providing a traditional perspective on the above subject. Can anyone help me with books, films, websites, and articles to put on our website to help those who want to help others? THANKS

  13. I envy all of you. I love history and my wish is to sometime in my future to sit with the historian of any indian nation and listen to the origin of that nation.

  14. josh begay says:


  15. Jaye John I would recommend reading Dine Bahane:The Navajo Creation Story by Paul G. Zolbrod I am Navajo from southeastern Utah and I grew up with similar stories by my grandmother that Zolbrod clearly states in his book. Another good read is Navajo Indian Myths by Aileen O’ Bryan. This book reads more like short stories as to Zolbrod has a poetic writing style.

    Seth you have to have knowledge of the Navajo sound systems in our vowel system a would sound like the a in autumn and the e would sound like the e in the word “met” the i would be the same as in the work sit. And finally the o would sound like the o in the word note.Its hard to phonetically explain the word nihodiilhil as I cannot explain the slash l sound. As for the entire word; Niho would be pronounced “knee-hoe” the best I can explain the di sound like is maybe the word dill as in dill pickles but you would still have to do the slash l sound which is a very complicated sound to describe unless you hear it. Sorry I was no real help but just thought I would give it a shot.

  16. how do you pronounce Nihodilhil?

  17. Jaye John says:

    I like reading about the creation story and i’m very interesting in it and if i want to order the hold of the creation story how can a go about it and i would be appreciated. Thank for your time.


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