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Native American Myths, Legends & Folklore

Read retellings of famous Native American Myths, Legends and Stories such as Rainbow Crow, the Maid of the Mist, and the King of Sharks, as well as First Nation tales from Canada. The evil Windigo stalks a local tribe during a long winter, Nanabozho paints the flowers, and the patient heron outraces the hummingbird in this grouping of Native American myths and stories of truly legendary proportion.

How Selfishness was Rewarded

How Selfishness was Rewarded

    A young warrior came to the coast with his wife and mother one summer and settled in the place where Sitka now stands. It was a summer of hardship for the family because the fish stayed away from the coast and the game had moved far away over the mountains. The warrior set traps and laid nets in the water and wandered many miles hunting for food, but he found nothing. The family had to eat berries and green sprouts and dig for roots to eat. Even so, there was barely enough each day to keep the family going.

    Wendigo

    Wendigo

      The storm lasted so long that they thought they would starve. Finally, when the wind and swirling snow had died away to just a memory, the father, who was a brave warrior, ventured outside. The next storm was already on the horizon, but if food was not found soon, the family would starve.

      The Ice King

      The Ice King

        Once upon a time there was a village built on the bank of a wide river. During the spring, summer, and autumn the people were very happy. There was plenty of fuel and game in the deep woods; the river afforded excellent fish. But the Passamaquoddy dreaded the months when the Ice King reigned.

        Scraping the Clouds: An Inuit Legend

        Scraping the Clouds

          Long ago, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, two Inuit boys were walking from their own home to a far-away village. While they were going along, a terrible storm overtook them, and they had to hold each other by the hand to keep from falling.

          Strangers

          Strangers

            Wallen’s Ridge, a rough eminence about a dozen miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was once an abiding place of Cherokee Indians, among whom lived Arinook, their medicine-man, and his daughter. The girl was pure and fair, and when a passing hunter from another tribe saw her one day at the door of her father’s home he was so struck with her charm of person and her engaging manner that he resolved not to return to his people until he had won her for his wife.

            Storm Man Brings the Summer

            Storm Man Brings the Summer

              Long, long ago, on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, there lived an old woman with her little grandson. They were very poor, so poor that the old woman had a hard time to feed and care for the boy. It was always cold and stormy, and sometimes they had almost nothing to eat for days at a time, because the wind blew so hard that the little boy could not stay out to catch tom-cods.

              The drummer--Nunivak. Nunivak native playing a very large drum.

              The Giant’s Drum

                Long ago, in a village in Alaska, there lived a man with his wife and five sons, of whom they were very proud.
                One day the oldest son came to his father and said, “Father we have always been in the same place, and seen the same kind of people. I think it is time for me to go in search of another village and see something of the world.”

                The Giant's Cave

                The Giant’s Cave

                  Long ago, near the mouth of the Copper Mine River, which flows into the Arctic River, there lived an enormous giant. His cave was not far from an Inuit village, and he kept the people of that village in constant terror because when he could not get enough whale meat, or seal to eat, he would capture the little children and eat them up.

                  Shooting the moon

                  Shooting the Moon

                    Long ages ago, when the first people roamed the land, a little yellow moon floated across the sky in the wake of the bigger one that is still shining. Melgasoway, a boy who – like other boys his age – would rather practice with his bow and arrows, go fishing and swimming, climb trees and pick berries than gather firewood and do errands, was sent by his mother to fetch a pumpkin out of a cornfield, for supper.

                    Wampus Cat

                    The Wampus Cat

                      They say that the Wampus cat used to be a beautiful Indian woman. The men of her tribe were always going on hunting trips, but the women had to stay home. The Indian woman secretly followed her husband one day when he went hunting with the other men. She hid herself behind a rock, clutching the hide of a mountain cat around her, and spied on the men as they sat around their campfires telling sacred stories and doing magic…

                      Wraith of the Creek

                        When he left his tribe to work with the white lumbermen, he changed his name to William Cloud, and the lumberjacks started calling him “Cloudy.” They liked to hear Cloudy tell the story of the wraith that lived in the creek that powered the local log chute. The wraith was an evil creature that desired nothing more than to wrap its long arms around humans or animals and pull them down into the water to drown.

                        Vampire Hermit

                          She was nervous when her husband said they were to stay in the abandoned house, for it contained the corpse of the hermit who once lived there, enshrined in a coffin in the loft. It was an old custom and one no longer popular among the Iroquois people, but the hermit had insisted upon it before his death. There was good hunting in this place, her man had declared, and so they moved in and she unpacked their few belongings in the front room, refusing to go up into the loft where the hermit’s body lay.

                          The Heart of a Monster

                          The Heart of the Monster

                            There was during the time of the Watetash a monster living in the country of Kamiah in Central Idaho. This monster had the peculiar property of an irresistible breath, so that when it inhaled, the winds and grass and trees and even different animals would be sucked into its devouring maw.

                            The First Tears

                              Once long ago, Man went hunting along the water’s edge for seals. To Man’s delight, many seals were crowded together along the seashore. He would certainly bring home a great feast for Woman and Son.

                              The Trickster Tricked

                              The Trickster Tricked

                                Rabbit and Terrapin met near the stream one morning. It was a lovely clear day, and they both basked in the warm sunshine and swapped some stories. Rabbit started boasting that he was the fastest runner in the world. Terrapin wasn’t having any of that! No sir!

                                Why the Possum Plays Dead

                                Why the Possum Plays Dead

                                  Rabbit and Possum each wanted a wife, but no one would marry either of them. They talked over the matter and Rabbit said, “We can’t get wives here. Let’s go to the next village. I’ll say I’m messenger for the council and that everybody must marry at once, and then we’ll be sure to get wives.”

                                  The Eagle's Revenge

                                  The Eagle’s Revenge

                                    Once a hunter in the mountains heard a noise at night like a rushing wind. He went outside his tepee, and found an eagle was sitting on the drying pole, feasting at the deer he had shot. So, he shot the eagle.

                                    The Man Who Shot a Ghost

                                    The Man Who Shot a Ghost

                                      In the olden time, a man was traveling alone, and in a forest, he killed several rabbits. After sunset he was in the midst of the forest. He had to spend the night there, so he made a fire. He thought this: “Should I meet any danger by and by, I will shoot. I am a man who ought not to regard anything.”

                                      Old Woman Who Never Dies

                                      Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies

                                        In the sun lives the Lord of Life. In the moon lives Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies. She has six children, three sons and three daughters. These live in the sky. The eldest son is the Day; another is the Sun; another is Night.

                                        Origin of the Wind

                                        Origin of the Wind

                                          Napioa, the Old Man who made the earth, is determined to have the bags that hold the summer and winter, so he asks prairie chicken to take them from the lodge where they are kept by man and woman.

                                          The Catskill Witch by S.E. Schlosser

                                          The Catskill Witch

                                            At the peak of this mountain lived the Catskill witch who managed the weather for the whole of the Hudson Valley.

                                            The Thunderers

                                              Three men set out on a hunting expedition, but when one breaks his leg, the others abandon him in a pit rather than risk their lives carrying him home. The wounded hunter is rescued instead by a mysterious hermit who is not what he seems…

                                              Ghost Land

                                              The Ghost Land

                                                The young wife of a chief’s son died, and the young man was so sorrowful he could not sleep. Early one morning he put on his fine clothes and started off. He walked all day and all night. He went through the woods a long distance, and then to a valley. The trees were very thick, but he could hear voices far away. At last, he saw light through the trees and then came to… Read More »The Ghost Land

                                                Two Ghosts

                                                Two Ghosts

                                                  There lived a hunter in the north who had a wife and one child. His lodge stood far off in the forest, several days’ journey from any other. He spent his days in hunting, and his evenings in relating to his wife the incidents that had befallen him. As game was very abundant, he found no difficulty in killing as much as they wanted. Just in all his acts, he lived a peaceful and happy life.

                                                  Origin of Corn

                                                  The Origin of Corn

                                                    In times past, a poor man was living with his wife and children in a beautiful part of the country. He was not only poor, but inexpert in procuring food for his family, and his children were all too young to give him assistance. Although poor, he was a man of a kind and contented disposition. He was always thankful to the Great Spirit for everything he received. The same disposition was inherited by his eldest son, who had now arrived at the proper age to undertake the ceremony of the Ke-ig-uish-im-o-win, or fast, to see what kind of a spirit would guide him through life

                                                    Osseo, Son of the Evening Star

                                                    Osseo, Son of the Evening Star

                                                      There once lived a man in the north, who had ten daughters, all of whom grew up to womanhood. They were noted for their beauty, but especially Oweenee, the youngest, who was very independent in her way of thinking. She was a great admirer of romantic places, and paid very little attention to the numerous young men who came to her father’s lodge for the purpose of seeing her. Her elder sisters were all solicited in marriage from their parents, and one after another, went off to dwell in the lodges of their husbands, or mothers-in-law, but she would listen to no proposals of the kind. At last she married an old man called Osseo, who was scarcely able to walk, and was too poor to have things like others. They jeered and laughed at her, on all sides, but she seemed to be quite happy, and said to them, “It is my choice, and you will see in the end, who has acted the wisest.”

                                                      Cherokee Rose

                                                      Cherokee Rose

                                                        We lost everything after the treaty was signed. The white men wanted the Indian’s removed, and so we were Removed. We lost our homes, our sacred lands, our way of life. We were thrust out by greed, and our hearts broke on the long, long journey west. We only had the few precious belongings we could carry, and many of us were not even given time to fetch that much from our homes before we were forced into camps and then marched west.

                                                        Rabbit Plays Tug of War

                                                        Rabbit Plays Tug-of-War

                                                          Now Rabbit had a favorite place on the river where he always went to drink water. It was on a bend in the river, and two Snakes lived there, one on the upper side of the bend and one on the lower. Rabbit soon learned that neither of the Snakes knew that the other Snake lived there.

                                                          Rainbow Crow

                                                          Rainbow Crow

                                                            It was so cold. Snow fell constantly, and ice formed over all the waters. The animals had never seen snow before. At first, it was a novelty, something to play in. But the cold increased tenfold, and they began to worry. The little animals were being buried in the snow drifts and the larger animals could hardly walk because the snow was so deep. Soon, all would perish if something were not done.

                                                            The Heron and the Hummingbird

                                                            Heron and the Hummingbird

                                                              Heron and Hummingbird were very good friends, even though one was tall and gangly and awkward and one was small and sleek and fast. They both loved to eat fish. The Hummingbird preferred small fish like minnows and Heron liked the large ones.