Male/Female Separation

Altse' hastiin the First Man became a great hunter in the fourth world. So he was able to provide his wife Altse' asdzaa' the First Woman with plenty to eat. As a result, she grew very fat. Now one day he brought home a fine, fleshy deer. His wife boiled some of it, and together they had themselves a hearty meal. When she had finished eating, Altse asdzaa' the First Woman wiped her greasy hands on her sheath.
She belched deeply. And she had this to say:
"Thank you shijoozh my vagina," she said.
"Thank you for that delicious dinner."
To which Altse' hastiin the First Man replied this way:
"Why do you say that?" he replied.
"Why not thank me?
"Was it not I who killed the deer whose flesh you have just feasted on?
"Was it not I who carried it here for you to eat?
"Was it not I who skinned it?
"Who made it ready for you to boil?
"Is nijoozh your vagina the great hunter, that you should thank it and not me?"

To which Altse' asdzaa' offered this answer:
"As a matter of fact, she is," offered she.
"In a manner of speaking it is joosh the vagina who hunts.
"Were it not for joosh you would not have killed that deer.
"Were it not for her you would not have carried it here.
"You would not have skinned it.
"You lazy men would do nothing around here were it not for joosh.
"In truth, joosh the vagina does all the work around here."
To which Altse' hastiin the First Man had this to say:
"Then perhaps you women think you can live without us men," he said.
"Maybe you need only nihijoozh your vaginas.
"Nihijoozh your great huntresses.
"Nihijoozh your tireless workers."
Quickly came this reply from Altse' asdzaa' the First Woman:
"All things do not exist thanks alone to you," she replied quickly.
"We could live alone if we wanted to.
"We are the ones who till the fields, after all.
We are the ones who gather the food, after all.
"We can live on the crops that we grow.
We can live on the seeds that we gather.
We can live on the berries that we find and on the fruits that we bring.
"Things exist thanks as much to us as to you. We have no need of you men."
On and on they argued that way, Altse' hastiin the First Man permitting himself to grow angrier and angrier with each reply his wife made; Altse' asdzaa' the First Woman permitting herself to grow more and more vexing with each reply she offered. Until at length he stalked out of the shelter where they had lived together as man and wife. Out he stalked and jumped across the fire in front of their home, where he remained all that night with only his anger to keep him company.
Early next morning he walked to the center of the village and called loudly so that everyone could hear:
"All you men!" he called. "Gather round me.
"I wish to speak to you. "I wish to instruct you.
"As for the women, let them stay where they are.
"Not one woman do I wish to see.
"I have nothing to say to any woman around here."
Soon all the males were assembled around Altse' hastiin the First Man. And he repeated to them what his wife had said the previous night. Then he told the men this:
"The women think they can live without us," he told the men.
"They think that things can continue to exist thanks as much to them as to us.
"Well, let us see if all that is true.
"Let us see if they can hunt and till the fields, with only joosh the vagina to help them. Let us see what
sort of living they can make, with only joosh to assist them.
"We will cross the stream and live apart from them. And from joosh.
"We will keep the raft with us on our side of the water, so that even when they long for us they may not
have us.
"If they seek companionship, let them seek it with joosh the vagina.
"And if joosh wishes to shout, let her shout to herself. "Let us see what joosh the vagina brings forth
when she hears the sound of her own voice. We will see what happens when they try to sustain life
without help from us."
So it was that all the men gathered at the river.
Altse' hastiin even summoned the twins na'dleeh, who were neither entirely male nor entirely female. They were covered with meal when they arrived, for they had been grinding corn.
This is what Altse' hastiin the First Man asked them:
"What do you have that you have made all by yourselves?" he asked them.
"What is there that you have made without the help of any woman?"
Answered the twins na'dleeh, who were no more female than they were male:
"We each have a set of grinding stones that we have made," they answered.
"We have cups and bowls. We have baskets and other utensils. "We have made those things by ourselves
with the help of no woman."
To which Altse' hastiin the First Man had this to say:
"Go fetch those things and bring them here; for you must come with us," he said.
"You are as much men as you are women. And you have made those things with no woman's help.
"Let the women learn what it means to live without the help of any man.
"Let them learn to live without anything that has been made by someone who is even part of a man."
So the men ferried across the river, taking the non-childbearing twins na'dleeh with them. They crossed over to the north bank. And with them they carried their stone axes, their wooden scythes, their hoes of bone, and the utensils that the twins had invented. In fact, they took anything that they had made themselves. After they had crossed, they sent the raft downstream, inviting the men of the Kiis aanii to join them, from whom six clans did join. They too had allowed their women to anger them.
As some of the young men rode across the stream they wept at having to part with their wives. They had not been angered by anything the women had said. But they had become used to doing whatever Altse' hastiin had told them to do. The men left behind everything the women had made by themselves. And they left behind everything the women had helped them to make or to raise. They took only what they had produced without the help of any woman. Once they reached the north bank of the river, some of the men set out to hunt. For the young boys needed food. Others set to work cutting willows for huts. For the young boys also needed shelter.
It seems that they managed very well. Within four days they had plenty of food, and they built strong homes for themselves and the boys. Within four days they were sure that they could get along without women.
They were sure they would thrive without women to make them angry. And their spirits were high, at least at first, it is said. It is also said that the women, too, were in high spirits at first. That winter they had plenty of food. They worked and they ate. They sang songs and they told stories. Often they came down to the bank of the river where the men could hear them and see them. And there they taunted them.
One of them would pull her sheath over her head and shake her bare body. Another would do likewise; then she would turn her back toward the men, and bend forward, and wiggle her buttocks.
"Hey you men," called yet another meanwhile. "Look over here. Look at that!"
"Don't you see what you're missing?" shouted still another.
Others would then similarly bare themselves to the men. All together they would laugh and cry out. Thus they teased the men, alternately calling them obscene names and coaxing them suggestively. They used their bodies to tempt the men until they were sure that the men longed for them as much as they longed for the men.
In the spring the men prepared a few small fields and managed to raise a little bit of corn. Still, they did not have much of it to eat, and they had to depend on hunting for most of their food. Meanwhile, the women cultivated their entire farm. But without hoes they could not work the soil properly. And without scythes they were unable to harvest well. So that during their second winter alone they were forced to live on a smaller crop. They did not sing as much or tell as many stories as they had done the previous winter.
The women planted less the second spring, while the men cleared more land than they had cleared the year before. So the crops of the men increased while those of the women decreased. And during the winter that followed, the women began to suffer for want of food. Some of them had to gather the seeds of wild plants to get enough to eat.
During the autumn of the third year of the separation many women jumped into the river and tried to swim over to the north shore where the men lived. But they were carried away by the current and were never seen again. By the end of the fourth year the men had more food than they could eat. Corn and pumpkins lay untouched in the fields while the women starved.
But the separation was still having a bad effect on the men, even if they had raised enough crops for themselves. For during the entire time that they lived apart, the men longed for the women just as badly as the women longed for them. That longing grew, in fact, on both sides of the stream. So strong did it become that members of both sexes indulged in the practice of masturbation. The women sought to satisfy themselves with long stones and thick quills. They attempted intercourse with cactus or with bone. The men, meanwhile, tried to relieve their longing with mud, or else they used the flesh of freshly slain game.
There was one in particular called K'iideesdizi, whose name means Man With Wrappings On in the White Man's language. One morning he went out hunting alone and found a place far from the village where nobody would see him. Once out there he killed a deer just as the light of day began to wane. He then made a brush circle and lit a fire therein, according to the manner of doing such things in those times. Into the fire he placed a piece of venison from his quarry, meaning to eat a little of it and then to spend the night there, satisfying his longing for the companionship of his wife. He would return the next morning with the rest of his game and share it with the others.
As darkness fell, he ate the meat. And while he watched the sky darken, he began thinking about his wife on the opposite bank of the river. The more he thought of her, the more he longed for her. The
greater his longing, the more he desired her, especially as the sky in the west darkened and gave way to black night.
"It was not I who was angered by a woman, thought he. "It was not my wife who said she could get along
without us men."
And as he reflected on such things, he found himself longing all the more. In the darkness he pictured the women standing on the far shore of the river beckoning to the men. He pictured them cupping their hands under their breasts suggestively. He pictured them as they shook their naked bodies to tease the men. He imagined he could see them wiggling their buttocks at them. Surely his own wife was among the women who desired the company of their husbands. Full of such thoughts, and longing so for her, he took the liver from the body of the slain deer and cut a slit into it. then he placed it by the fire to warm.
"So be it," said he when the liver felt as warm as his wife had felt whenever he and she would lie close
together. "I have no quarrel with my wife or any woman.
"No quarrel whatsoever."
Upon saying which, he placed the liver carefully below himself where his legs joined. But just then Ne'e'shjaa' the Owl cried out. He had come unseen upon Man With Wrappings On.
"Wu'hu'hu'hu'," cried he from somewhere just outside the brush circle.
"Wu'hu'hu'hu'," he was heard to cry.
"Stop, K'iideesdizi! Stop that.
"Do nothing with that liver if you do not intend eating it!"
Startled, Man With Wrappings On returned the liver to the fire. Then he stepped outside the brush circle and walked around, looking in vain for whomever had just spoken. Finding no one, he came back to the fireside, lay down, and tried to sleep, attempting at first to put his wife out of his mind and to forget his longing. Well into the night he lay there unable to sleep. Try as he might, he could not stop thinking of her, and the more he thought of her the more he missed her. The more he missed her the more he desired her. Until he finally reached for the liver again, which still lay warm by the fire. Taking it into his hands again, he listened carefully for the cry he had heard earlier. But he could hear nothing.
"Ah," thought he. "Now's the time."
"Come, wife-liver.
"Come to me now!"
Upon thinking which, he again positioned the liver below himself. But hardly had he done so when again he heard the cry of Ne'e'shjaa' the Owl.
"Wu'hu'hu'hu'," he heard him cry.
"Stop, K'iideesdizi! Stop that.
"Eat that liver; do not have intercourse with it!"
Startled again, Man With Wrappings On quickly returned the liver. Then he curled up and tried again to sleep, doing what he could to forget that he missed his wife. But he was unable to do so. On into the night he lay there, missing her. The more he missed her, the more he desired her. The more he desired her, the more easily he imagined that she lay there close to him. Thus he waited, listening for any sound that might break the silence and stop him. Hearing nothing, however, he once more longed for the warm liver.
"Now perhaps that meddling fool is gone," he thought as he took it in his hands and once again placed it
against himself.
"Now," he whispered hoarsely.
"Let it be now, no matter who's out there."
His having hardly said so, the voice again broke the silence.
"Wu'hu'hu'hu'," cried the voice.
"K'iideesdizi, stop! Stop that.
"If you do not intend to eat that liver, keep it away from yourself."
With a start, K'iideesdizi replaced the liver by the fire. Again he tried to rid himself of his desire and sleep. Unable to do that, though, he lay there until the eastern sky began to show the gray light of the oncoming dawn. He lay there desiring his wife, longing for her all the more as he thought of her, all the more anxiously imagining that she lay close beside him, nestling her warmth against the full length of his great longing. He lay there in the silence until he could contain himself no longer, and until he cried out, scarcely in control of himself.
"I don't care," he gasped.
"I don't care who's out there. I don't care where he may be. It's got to be now. It must be now."
And he grabbed the liver and thrust it against his penis. No sooner than which the voice of Ne'e'shjaa' the Owl rang out.
"K'iideesdizi! you must stop that. Stop!
"Do not have intercourse with that liver; leave it alone."
Man With Wrappings On then threw the liver back to the fire and sprang to his feet. "Who are you, anyway?" he demanded. He faced one way, then another. He stalked to the outer edge of the brush circle and paced around it, first one way, then the next twice around, then back again the way he originally went. "Where are you?" he asked.
"Can't you leave a person alone?
"Or can't you at least face a man and explain yourself as someone ought to do?"
Whereupon Ne'e'shjaa' the Owl suddenly appeared. And he softly spoke these words.
"I really mean you no harm, grandchild," spoke he.
"But I also insist on what I am telling you.
"What you are trying to do is altogether out of place. You cannot make things normal by treating the
liver of a slain deer as if it were your wife."
K'iideesdizi took a moment to consider. Indeed, the liver was not his wife.
Nothing he might do with it would bring her to him. Nothing he did with it would take him to her.
"Wait right there, granduncle," he said to Ne'e'shjaa' after a short pause.
Then he returned to the center of the brush circle and built a fresh fire. From the carcass of the slain deer he cut a choice tenderloin. He sliced it thin and cooked it together with the liver. Taking that for himself to eat, he
offered the steak to Owl.
"Here, granduncle," he said, handing it to Ne'e'shjaa'.
"You eat this while I eat the liver."
"Thank you, my grandchild," said he. "But turn your back to me. I do not eat in anyone's plain sight."
Thus he ate behind the back of K'iideesdizi the Man With Wrappings On, promising that after he finished he would explain himself, which indeed is as much as anyone ought to do.
"It has been nearly four years, now," explained Ne'e'shjaa' the Owl, "since you men left the women
over there on the other shore, as you yourself certainly know.
"Whether the women are to blame or the men, no good can come of the separation.
Fewer of the women now remain than you menfolk left behind. Many of them have plunged into the water and disappeared. As for those who remain, they are abusing themselves any way they can in the absence of you men. They have intercourse with long stones. They seek to satisfy themselves with thick quills. Some insert cactus into themselves. Some handle the bones of animals as if they were their husbands.
"What is more, they grow hungry for want of food. "Suppose that those who remain eventually threw themselves into the water because they are in such misery? That will leave only you men living on the surface of this world. Do you think you can sustain life by yourselves? Will the liver of a slain deer bear your children? "I do not know how long they can endure over there, meanwhile. Just yesterday I overheard Altse' asdzaa, the First Woman lament to her followers. She grieved for those who had disappeared into the water, and she pitied those who have survived only to long for their husbands on empty stomachs. She even confessed that she wished to hear the voice of her husband Altse' hastiin the First Man once more.
"I mention all of that for your sake, grandson. And for the sake of the others. "Somehow you must contrive to have the women brought across the river so that they can rejoin the men. Otherwise this disorder will continue until the world we now know comes to an end. Even the sky will disappear, and with it all the work that has been done so far. Life can go on only if the women and the men reunite. "Now I must go, grandson," concluded Ne'e'shjaa' the Owl to K'iideesdizi the Man With Wrappings On. "I have nothing more to say. "Except that I leave it to you to devise a way to bring the men and the women together again."
K'iideesdizi thought carefully about what he had been told, and then he returned to the village. Once there he started straight toward Altse' hastiin the First Man to repeat outright what Ne'e'shjaa' had said. But he thought the better of that, remembering how angry he had been after his quarrel with Altse' asdzaa the First Woman.
Instead, he assembled several of the older men and began to reason with them. "Think about it," he reasoned, after he had explained what he had heard. "Over there our women are starving. What good is our food over here if they have little to eat? "One by one they plunge into the water. Or else they abuse themselves with long stones and thick quills, or with cactus and the bones of animals. Suppose that they were all to perish while we survived? Could we possibly sustain life without them? Can mud bear our children? Can the livers of slain deer nurture our offspring?
"If life is to go on, we and the women must rejoin each other. Otherwise this disorder will continue until the world as we know it disappears. "Who knows? "Even the sky could come to an end, together with all the work that has so far been done." Thus he spoke to various men, getting them all to agree. And together they decided to induce Altse' hastiin the First Man to change his mind and initiate a reunion.
One by one they managed to get him to reconsider. "Did you hear plaintive voices over there on the other shore last night?" someone would ask him early one morning. "Unless I'm mistaken I believe that yet another woman jumped into the river" someone else might say. "Over there across the water. Where they struggle to survive." "How terrible it must be on the opposite bank," said still another. "No food to eat. No men for companionship." Said yet another:"Perhaps I was dreaming, but all night long I thought I heard a woman pleading. I cannot be sure-after all, I have not heard her voice up close for four years now-but it sounded like Altse' asdzaa the First Woman. But then why should that matter to me? She insisted that the women can get along just fine without us men, after all."
By the end of the fourth year of the separation, Altse' hastiin the First Man did indeed wonder whether he had acted wisely. So he called the men together and asked them what they thought. And this is what one of them said:
"Over there our women are starving," he said. Added another:
"What good is our food on this side of the river if our women starve on the other side?" he added.
And another spoke these words:
"One by one they leap into the water.
Meanwhile, those who remain abuse themselves with long stones and thick quills, or with cactus and the bones of animals," were his words.
And asked still another:
"Suppose we survived while they all perished?" he asked. "Could we possibly sustain life without
them? Can mud bear our children? Can the livers of slain deer raise our offspring?
"If this present disorder continues, the world as we know it will come to an end.
"Who knows?
"Even the sky would disappear, along with everything else that has so far been created."
Altse' hastiin the First Man thought carefully about what the men were saying. And he finally sent one of them down to the river. He instructed him to call across the stream and ask if Altse' asdzaa the First Woman was still there. If so, would she be willing to come to the water's edge and hear something her husband had to say? When she received that message she gladly came to the river. Whereupon Altse' hastiin asked her this question:
"Do you still think you can live alone?" he asked her. To which she gave this response:
"I no longer believe that I can," she responded. "I do not think that any woman here can live alone. "And
now regret the things I said to you." That is what she told him.
And this is what he replied to her:
"And I am sorry that I let the things you said make me angry," he replied.
So it was that the men and the women put their quarrel to an end. Altse' asdzaa the First Woman instructed her followers to gather at the bank of the river on their side. And Altse' hastiin the First Man instructed his to gather at the bank on their side.
He then sent the raft over to the women's side, where they were ferried across to the opposite shore. There they were told to bathe and to dry their bodies with meal. The two sexes would remain separated until nightfall. Then they would rejoin each other and resume their lives together, it is said. Pgs. 58-70

Dine Bahane', The Navajo Creation Story; By Paul G. Zolbrod, 1984