Mythology and Legends
Native Americans for Kids
Most Native American tribes have a long tradition of telling stories about their history and beliefs. These stories and legends weren't written down, but were passed down orally from generation to generation. A lot of their stories had to do with nature and how certain things came to be. Most tribes had a story about how the earth and people were created called creation myths.
Below are some of the stories, legends, and mythology of the Native Americans. The specific tribe where the story originated is in parentheses.
Creation Myth (Powhatan)
There were five main gods in the world. The leader of the gods was the Great Hare. The other four gods were the winds from each corner of the earth.
One day the Great Hare created people. He made a number of people and animals. He wasn't sure what to do with them so he put them into a large bag. He wanted to make a place for them to live, so he made the forests, rivers, and lakes. He created deer to live in the forests.
The other four gods, however, weren't happy with what the Great Hare had made. They went into the forests and killed the deer. When the Great Hare found the dead deer, he was saddened. He tossed the skins of the deer throughout the forest and many more deer sprang to life. He then let the people out of the bag and spread them around the forest to live together with the deer.
Why Fire Belongs to Man (Alabama)
When the earth was young, Fire was owned by Bear. Bear carried fire with him wherever he went. When it was cold, Fire kept Bear and his family warm. When it was dark, Fire lit the way.
One day, Bear and his family arrived at a forest. Bear put Fire down at the edge of the forest while he and his family went to explore. Soon Bear found that this forest had the best acorns he had ever tasted. Bear and his family moved deeper into the forest to find more acorns. They ate and ate and didn't stop.
At the same time, Fire was running out of wood. Fire cried out to Bear "Come back and feed me!", but Bear was too far into the woods.
Just then Man came along. He asked Fire if he could help. Fire told him to bring him wood and sticks. Man placed sticks on Fire and soon Fire was blazing again, happy to have plenty of wood to burn.
Man enjoyed Fire's light and warmth. They were happy together. When Bear finally returned, Fire drove him away and now Fire belongs only to Man.
The Thunder Beings (Cherokee)
Far in the sky to the west lived the god of thunder, Great Thunder, and his sons, the Thunder Boys. They caused lighting and thunder to rain down on the earth, but they also brought rain for the crops and the rainbow. The medicine men of the tribes prayed that the Thunders would bring soft rains for their crops and not harm the people of the tribe with their lightning.
How People Got Different Languages (Blackfoot)
One day a great flood moved through the land of the Blackfoot covering everything. All the people gathered at the top of the tallest mountain. The Great Spirit, or "Old Man", appeared on the mountain and turned the water into different colors. He had each group of people drink a different color of water. They all began to speak different languages. The Blackfoot drank the black water and spoke the Blackfoot language.
Interesting Facts about Native American Myths and Legends
- The Cree told stories of tiny bald people called Mannegishi who played tricks on people.
- The Seneca told stories of a man sized spider named Dijien who was impossible to kill because it kept its heart buried underground.
- The Cherokee told how all animals were asked by the Great Spirit to stay awake for seven nights, but only the owl and panther managed to stay awake. For this reason the owl and panther could see in the dark.
- Choctaw mythology told how maize was a gift from the birds and that solar eclipses were caused by black squirrels.
- The Inuit had several mythological figures including Aningan the Moon god, Nanook the god of polar bears, and Pinga the goddess of the hunt.
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