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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.

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

                    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.

                      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.”

                            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…

                              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.

                                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.

                                        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.

                                          Pele’s Revenge

                                            Ohi’a and Lehua loved each other from the moment they first saw each other at a village dance. Ohi’a was a tall strong man with a handsome face and lithe form. He was something of a trickster and was first in all the sports played by all the young men. Lehua was gentle and sweet and as fragile as a flower. Her beauty was the talk of the island, and her father was quite protective of his only child.

                                            How the Rainbow Was Made

                                              One day when the earth was new, Nanabozho looked out the window of his house beside the wide waterfall and realized that all of the flowers in his meadow were exactly the same off-white color. How boring! He decided to make a change, so he gathered up his paints and his paintbrushes and went out to the meadow.

                                              Guardian of Yosemite

                                                For many nights and many days, the guardian spirit of Tisayac watched over the beautiful valley of Yosemite. Often, the gentle spirit would drift invisibly among the good folk of the valley, and it was during one of these visits that she noticed a tall, proud man named Tutokanula. He was a strong leader who greatly enhanced the lot of his people, and Tisayac came more often to the valley so that she could watch him.

                                                Spirit Lodge

                                                  The great chief Quaquahela lived in peace with his people on the banks of the River Styx where it entered the lake waters. Their lives were busy and full. The warriors hunted and fished, the women cooked and cared for the old and the young, and all lived in peace with the natural world around them.

                                                  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 Maid of the Mist

                                                      She lost her husband and her hope at a young age, and the beautiful girl could not find her way through the sorrow upon sorrow that was her lot in life. So she stepped one day into her canoe, singing a death song softly to herself, and paddle out into the current. Soon the canoe was caught by the rough waves and hurtled toward the falls. But as it pitched over and she fell, Heno, the god of thunder who lived in the falls, caught the maiden gently in his arms and carried her to his home beneath the thundering veil of water.

                                                      The Skeleton

                                                      The Skeleton

                                                        The boy had been out looking for work all day with no luck. When night fell, he was far from home. He decided to spend the night in an empty, rundown house. The minute he laid down he fell into a sound sleep. The boy was awakened quite suddenly by a thump on the roof. With a pounding heart, he sat up and lit a candle. A voice called out, “I’m falling down!”

                                                        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.

                                                          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.

                                                            The King of Sharks

                                                              One day, the King of Sharks saw a beautiful girl swimming near the shore. He immediately fell in love with the girl. Transforming himself into a handsome man, he dressed himself in the feathered cape of a chief and followed her to her village…