I think I've always known this story--it's a traditional tale often shared with children here in the Swampland. As a little kid, I always thought that I'd have done just fine with the sky the way it used to be...but I also always figured that when I got big enough, it would have been a problem.
Alas, I never did get that tall.
This version is most like the one I've always heard, and was collected from the Snohomish Tribe.
Pushing Up the Sky – (Snohomish Tribe, North America)
Creator and Changer made the world. Creator started in the East, and travelled to the West, making new lands and new people as he came. To each group of people, Creator gave a new language. When he got to the Puget Sound, Creator stopped making more land, but he still had a lot of languages left over so he scattered those up and down the coast. That’s why there are so many languages there.
The people there did not like the way Creator made the world. The sky was too close to the ground. Tall people bumped their heads on it, and some of the wicked people would climb up trees to spy on the Sky World.
Finally, the wise people of all the tribes had a council to see what they could do about lifting the sky. They agreed that all the people should work together to push it up higher.
“We can do it if we all work together,” they said. “All of the people and all of the birds and animals will help, and we can push the sky up higher. But how will we know when to push? We live so far apart, and we speak different languages.”
At last one of them suggested that they all use the same word to signal the time for pushing up on the sky. “When the time comes for us to push, when everything is ready, let someone shout ‘Ya-hoh!’ That will mean it is the time to lift together.”
The people of the council told all the people and birds and animals what to do. Everyone made long poles from fir trees to push.
The day for sky lifting came. Everyone raised their poles up to the sky. Then, they shouted, “Ya-hoh!” and everyone pushed at the same time. The sky lifted up a little bit.
“Ya-hoh!” they shouted again, and everyone pushed again. The sky lifted a little bit higher. All day long, they worked together, shouting and pushing on the sky until it was as high as it is today. Nobody ever bumped into it again, and nobody has ever climbed into the Sky World again.
Now, three hunters had been chasing four elk during all the meetings, and did not know about the plan. Just as everyone was about to lift up the sky, those hunters and those elk came to a place where the sky and the earth are close together. The elk jumped up into the sky, and the hunters followed them. When the sky was lifted, the elk and the hunters were lifted up too.
In the Sky World, they all became stars. The three hunters became the tail of the Great Bear, and the middle hunter has his dog with him—it is now a tiny star. The elk became the body of the Bear, and they are visible in the night sky even now.
And when people work even now, it’s good to have a word to help the work go together. When people say “Ya-hoh!” together, it makes them stronger.