After years of traveling along the western shores of America and across Polynesia, the reality of a former high civilization—man-kind’s first civilization—gradually revealed itself in the numerous traditions of numerous tribal peoples I collected. This lost homeland was known to various population groups by different names, but the most commonly encountered were “Mu” and “Lemuria,” which came to a sudden end in the distant past when “fire from heaven” precipitated first a global conflagration, then a world-class flood. For example, New Zealand’s Maori preserve the memory of Rongo-mai, a war-god who long ago attacked the world in the guise of a comet. After decimating humanity, he transformed himself into a gigantic whale, which sank into the sea.
This myth is not only descriptive of the final destruction of Mu, but also remarkably similar to Lemurian versions on both sides of the Pacific. The ancient Chinese Huainanzi relates that a gargantuan whale, symbolic of a large island, perished in the Sunrise Sea after the beginning of time when “a broom-star” (an extraordinarily large and brilliant comet) appeared in the sky.
Meanwhile, the Koryak, Kamchadal, and Chuckchee Indians of coastal British Columbia recall Quikinna’qu, “the first man” and only survivor from an island that had been transformed into a whale by the Thunderbird. To escape attack from its talons, the whale dove to the bottom of the sea, drowning everyone on its back except Quikinna’qu, who floated on a log to what is now Vancouver Island. There he married an indigenous girl, whose children became the tribes of the Pacific Northwest.
The Haida likewise told of a killer whale upon whose back mankind first resided, until it sank beneath the waves under savage attack from the sky. Many drowned, but some floated to the shores of British Columbia, where they became the ancestors of today’s native peoples, referred to as the Killer Whale people. Significantly, the whale-island was remembered as “Nammu.”
These flood stories are retold in oral tradition and preserved in the famous wooden obelisks erected by various native Pacific peoples of western Canada. However, these tall structures were not worshiped as idols, but are more accurately defined as heraldic monuments symbolically depicting the lineage of the family before whose home or lodge they stood. The poles “read” from the top, signifying the remote past, usually ending with a portrait of a recent, the latest or current head of the household at the bottom. As the totem pole specialist, Edward Keithahan, made clear, “These myths cannot be read in the strict sense of the word. Rather, it should be said that they may be recognized, for they contain nothing more or less than a system of memory devices which, taken in their proper sequence, will recall a myth.
The legends of these totem carvers are principally made up of tales of migrations, the flood, inter-tribal wars and early contacts with white men. All groups have accounts of a flood that inundated all of the land save the highest peaks. The story is the inspiration for several totem poles, notably the Bear totem mortuary pole of the Nanyaayi at Wrangell and the Devil’s Thumb pole of the same place.”
In Northwest Coast myth, a bear led survivors of the deluge to the shores of British Columbia. The Devil’s Thumb post was sacred to the Talqoe-di tribe, because it was meant to have been a stylistic representation of Talth Qua Na Sha, the holy mountain on which their forefathers found refuge from the flood. More commonly positioned at the top was an effigy of the Thunderbird grasping Nammu in its talons, thereby boasting of a family’s allegedly antediluvian descent. The same whale was famously portrayed on the front of Chief Johnson’s house, in Alaska, and as a large petroglyph at the Hetta Inlet. Haida belief held that the souls of persons who drowned at sea joined the Killer Whale people in their ancestral home on the ocean floor.
The first totem pole was introduced by Alaska’s Kaigani Haidas, originally from Langara Island, and their story of its Lemurian origins was paraphrased by Keithahan: “The birthplace of the totem pole is a sunken land where hilltops become islets, and mountains rise sheer from the water’s edge. Its valleys are bays and inlets, while its farmland is presently inundated.” A Haida folk story recounted how some fishermen went down to the beach early one morning long ago, when they were surprised to find a waterlogged totem pole floating in the tide. They took it to their village, where it was recognized as a post from one of the Killer Whale people’s undersea temples.
Thereafter, the Northwest Pacific Coast inhabitants erected carved poles after the example found by the fishermen. Their first post-deluge post was set up on Dall Island, at Cape Muzon, whose name memorialized the lost Motherland. James Churchward, who published the first books about Mu, concluded in 1926, “these legends and carvings on the totem poles strongly confirm the fact that the forefathers of those Indians came from Mu.”
Refugees arriving from the cataclysm were depicted in local myth as fair-skinned, red-haired seafarers who took wives among the ancestors of the Indians. This legendary portrayal seems borne out by the natives themselves, who exhibited a high incidence of white characteristics that perplexed early European visitors. British explorer, George Dixon, marveled that an indigenous woman of Yakutat he saw in 1787 “had all the cheerful glow of an English milk-maid and the healthy red which flushed her cheek was even beautifully contrasted with the whiteness of her neck her forehead so remarkably clear that the translucent veins were seen meandering even in their minutest branches—in short, she was what would be reckoned handsome even in England.”
The following year, another British visitor, John Meares, said the Nootka women of Vancouver Island “not only possessed the fair complexion of Europe, but features that would have attracted notice for their delicacy and beauty in those parts of the world where the qualities of the human form are best understood.”
In 1817, Camile de Roquefeuil, a French navigator, said, “We saw several men and a greater number of women whose complexion differed from white only by a tinge of pale yellow. The greater number of Indians have black hair, the remainder have a light red.” Among the Kaigani Haidas, who originated totem pole construction after discovering the first example, “red hair is still quite common,” according to Keithahan.
These anomalous physical traits appear to be genetic traces of Killer Whale people who, as stated in native myth, arrived on British Columbian shores after the inundation of their homeland. So too, in stories of a Great Flood repeated throughout Oceania the survivors are often, if not usually, characterized as light-skinned and red-haired. Native tradition and a mixed racial legacy combine to offer persuasive evidence on behalf of survivors from Lemuria in western Canada.
Many Northwest Coast accounts identify the lost realm of the Killer Whale people as Dzilke. Also known as Dimlahamid, its story is preserved by the We’suwet’en and Gitksan in northern British Columbia. For many generations, they recall, the inhabitants of Dzilke prospered and spread their high spirituality to the far corners of the Earth. In time, however, they yielded to selfish corruption and engaged in unjust wars. Offended by the degeneracy of this once-valiant people, the gods punished Dzilke with terrible earthquakes.
The splendid “Street of the Chiefs” tumbled into ruin, as the ocean rose in a mighty swell to overwhelm the city and most of its residents. A few survivors arrived first at Vancouver Island, where they sired the various Canadian tribes. Researcher Terry Glavin, relying on native sources, estimated that Dzilke or Dimlahamid perished around three thousand five hundred years ago, the same period assigned by geologic evidence for the final destruction of Lemuria.
Similar versions are known down the west coast and into the American Southwest. California’s Chemehuevi and Mohave Indians believe Hawichyepam Maapuch was responsible for keeping the Great Deluge from totally obliterating all life on Earth. The sea goddess spared the last two creatures, Coyote and Puma, who sought refuge at the summit of Charleston Peak. As the flood receded, they descended the mountain to repopulate the world.
The Yokut creation myth of southern California tribe recounts that mankind originated on an island in the middle of a primeval sea, where Eagle and Coyote fashioned the first men and women. The Maidu, another California Indian tribe, told of Talvolte and Peheipe, the only survivors of a natural catastrophe that destroyed their earthly paradise after its inhabitants, grown corrupt, had offended heaven.
The Lemurian identity of this lost homeland is suggested in Mu-ah, Shoshone for “Summit of Mu,” a sacred mountain in California, which may have been chosen by Lemurian adepts for the celebration of their religion, and regarded as holy ever since by native peoples. So too, Pimugnans, the original name of coastal southern California’s Gabrielino Indians, echoes the same sunken civilization.
Mythographer Joseph Wherry cites a native myth that told of Hokan-Siouan origins: “In the dim and distant past, the forebears of many California Indians lived on an island somewhere in the Western Ocean. This island was Elam, and they worshiped the powerful god named Mu.” Like Haida stories of the Great Deluge, the Hokan-Siouan version includes a bear as flood-hero.
Patkinya-Mu was the Hopi “Dwelling-on-Water Clan” whose members anciently crossed the Great Sea from the west. Flood refugees in North America, known as the Patki, or “Water people,” were met by Massau, a native guide, who directed them to what is now southern California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, where they could live in peace. The only object the Patki were able to save during their haste to escape from their sunken homeland was a stone tablet broken at one corner.
A great prophet, Massau, envisioned that some day in the distant future a lost white brother, Pahana, would deliver the absent fragment, thereby signaling the beginning of a new age, when brotherhood would again prevail upon earth. Over the millennia, the stone was in the special care of the Fire Clan. When their representative gave it to a Conquistador in the 1500s, the Spaniard did not reciprocate as expected, so the Hopi continue to wait for Pahana. He is remarkably similar to Pakeha, a name bestowed by New Zealand natives on the first modern Europeans they met in the late 18th century. It derives from the Pakahakeha, the Maui version of an ancestral sea people, a white-skinned race from the sunken kingdom of Haiviki.
Coastal Peru is no less rich in native traditions of the Lemurian catastrophe, as recounted in the Yurukare Indian story of Tiri. It tells how their ancestors hid in a mountain cave during two worldwide cataclysms that destroyed a former age. A fire that fell from the sky, followed by an all-consuming deluge, killed all other humans. Tiri alone of all the other deities took pity on the survivors of a sinful mankind by opening the Tree of Life, from which new tribes stepped forth to repopulate the world. According to Churchward, Mu itself was known as Tau, the “Tree of Life.”
The Motherland’s name lived on in the identity of a great people, the Chimu, who raised a powerful civilization, Chimor, that dominated the Peruvian coast from circa A.D. 900, until their defeat by the Incas during the late 15th century. The capital, Chan-Chan, lies just north of Trujillo, and was founded, according to Chimu historians, by Taycana-mu. His superior, who ruled a kingdom in the Pacific Ocean, had sent him on a culture-founding mission.
Another important Chimor city was Pacatna-mu, christened after an early Chimu general who became the regional governor. The so-called “Palace of the Governor” at Chan-Chan features a wall decorated with a frieze depicting a sunken city, i.e., fish swimming over the tops of linked pyramids. The scene memorializes the drowned civilization of Mu, from which the ancestors of the Chimu—literally, the “Children of Mu”—arrived on Peruvian shores after the catastrophe.
The foregoing hardly represents a thumbnail sketch of the abundant evidence for the former existence of lost Lemuria and its lingering impact on the folkish consciousness of Native Americans, from the Arctic Circle to Peru.
Lemuria, it is said, perished in cataclysm of fire and water
Stylistic depiction of the Thunderbird-comet destroying Nammu, a killer whale symbolizing a lost, ancestral homeland in the Pacific. Close-up of Nimkish totem pole (Vancouver Island, British Columbia).
Ritual costume impersonation of “Raven,” one of several “flood-heroes” who saved Haida ancestors from the Great Deluge
Restored Tlingit totem pole at Japan’s Mu Museum (Kagoshima prefecture). It represents the Thunderbird (comet) pouncing on the Pacific Motherland (encircled star emblem).
March/April 2005 – #50