Geology is typically what people think about when studying how Grand Canyon formed. But the region also preserves cultural evidence in Native American flood traditions, which are still being retold.
The Hualapai—“people of the tall pines”—occupy remote lands in western Grand Canyon where Ponderosa pine, elk, bighorn sheep, and cougar abound. At the foot of Wikahme, or Spirit Mountain, in southernmost Nevada, are ancient pictographs with a flood story interpreted for us in a published account by tribal elder and scholar, Lucille Watahomigie.1
Prior to this, the story had been recounted only in oral tradition via dance and song. It contains these elements. Rains fell on the earth for 45 days. The rising waters wiped out all peoples with the lone exception of an old man atop Spirit Mountain. The Creator eventually sent a bird to the man with instructions to dig with a ram’s horn into the foot of the mountain to enable the waters to drain. The man obeyed and soon the bird returned a second time with grass in its beak to inform the man that the waters had receded.
A second pictograph depicts a vessel carrying eight passengers “across the waters,” from whom all the peoples of the earth were descended. It is unclear how the two pictographs are related. Mrs. Watahomigie insists the account came to her by oral tradition from her forefathers and that it borrowed no elements from Christian influences.2
The Havasupai—“people of the blue-green waters”—live in western Grand Canyon, along beautiful Havasu Creek. According to their tradition, the medicine man prepared a hollow log for a young girl, animals, and provisions to survive the great flood. The rains came and the log floated on the water many days. The floodwaters covered the whole earth, killing all people. The log eventually came to rest at Grand Canyon, and this young girl became the mother of all peoples. In an interview, Dianna Uqualla, director of the Havasupai tribal museum, shared the Havasupai belief that Grand Canyon was formed by the receding waters of this great worldwide flood. In fact, other neighboring tribes have similar stories about the forming of Grand Canyon.3
These Native American stories are part of a growing list of hundreds of ancient flood traditions all over the world that share common elements with the Genesis account. While details vary, these traditions all share elements of the whole earth being flooded and only a few survivors. It appears that cultures around the world have a distant memory of a common event in history, which God’s Word flawlessly records in Genesis 6–8.