Legends, Lore & Symbols

Native American legends and oral stories record tribal histories. Here we have collected legends from over 300 tribes, along with native American tribal prophecies and the meanings of native American symbols in lore and art. Most tribes have legends for their creation and origin stories about where and how they arrived on the surface of planet Earth.
Every aspect of life, death, and existence has its own story to explain why things are the way they are.  Often, different Native American tribes had very similar beliefs, but most tribes have their own unique variations in the details of these legends. Most native American societies have some sort of trickster figure, who embodies both mischeviousness and foolish acts that teach a valuable lesson, along with acts of bravery and wisdom. In many tribes, the trickster figure is either a coyote or a raven.
Most Native American mythology has some roots in fact.
 

August 13, 2017

Yokut Creation Story

A Great Flood had occurred upon Earth long, long ago. While Earth was still covered with water, there were no living creatures upon the land.

Then out of the sky one day glided an enormous Eagle with a black Crow riding upon its back, searching for a place to light.

Yokut Legends
June 29, 2016

Commonly among the Anishinaabeg, Midewiwin is ascribed to Nanabozho as its founder. However, among the Abenakis, Midewiwin is ascribed to Mateguas, who upon his death and needing to comfort his brother who is still alive, bestowed the Midewiwin to his grieving brother Gluskab. Here is the creation story.

Creation Legends
April 20, 2016

Long, long ago, before our fathers or grand-fathers were born, before the white people knew anything about the western half of North America, the Indians who told these stories lived on the Western plains.

To the west of their home rose high mountains, black with pine-trees on their lower slopes and capped with snow, but their tents were pitched on the rolling prairie. For a little while in spring this prairie was green and dotted with flowers, but for most of the year it stretched away brown and bare, north, east, and south, farther than one could see.

Blackfoot / Blackfeet Legends
March 7, 2016

Yakama Indian William Charley told this story to McWhorter about the Tah-tah kle’ -ah (Owl-Woman-Monster) in 1918. Among the Okanogans she is called Sne-nah, “Owl Women”. 

“Before the tribes lived peaceably in this country, before the last creation, there were certain people who ate Indians whenever they could get them. They preferred and hunted children, as better eating.

Salish Legends
March 7, 2016

A race of tall Indians, called “wild” or “stick” Indians, was said to wander through the forests. In general conversation they were referred to as tsiatko although another term, steta’l, from ta’l, spear, could also be applied to them.

Salish Legends

Wild Man

3 Views
March 7, 2016

People were drying fish up the Nehalem River. They heard a noise, the brush was crackling loudly, they knew that no wind nor common animal could be making that kind of noise. They hurried into their canoes and crossed over to the other side of the river. They forgot their little dog.

Salish Legends
March 7, 2016

Giants were formerly common in Coeur d’Alene country. They had a very strong odor, like the odor of burning horn. Their faces were black–some say they were painted black, and the giants were taller than the highest tipis. When they saw a single tipi or lodge in a place, they would crawl up to it, rise, and look down the smoke hole. If several lodges were together, the giants were not so bold.

Salish Legends
January 26, 2016

In the heart of the woods there lay a cool, green pond. The shores of the pond were set with ranks of tall bulrushes that waved crisply in the wind, and in the shallow bays there were fleets of broad water lily leaves. Among the rushes and reeds and in the quiet water there dwelt a large tribe of Frogs.

Unidentified Legends
January 26, 2016

As soon as Big Long Man got back from the mountains he went to his garden to admire his corn and melons. He had planted a big crop for the coming winter. When he saw that half of the corn stalks had been shucked and the ears stolen, and that the biggest melons were gone off of the melon vines, he was very angry.

Unidentified Legends
January 26, 2016

The Raccoon had been asleep all day in the snug hollow of a tree. The dusk was coming on when he awoke, stretched himself once or twice, and jumping down from the top of the tall, dead stump in which he made his home, set out to look for his supper.

Unidentified Legends
December 29, 2015

In the beginning, the different people all spoke different languages, so they were always fighting because they could not understand each other. There was no fire, so they were also very cold and could not speak clearly.

Then one day Lizard climbed to the top of a big hill to lay on top of a rock to sun himself. As he lay there, he looked into the valley below. It was then that he found the fire. He saw the flames coming from the smoke hole in the top of a large assembly house. Lizard told Coyote that he saw fire below. Coyote doubted him. Lizard said, “Come up here on top of the rock,  and you will see sparks coming from the assembly house.”

Miwok Legends
November 23, 2015

Five brothers and their sister lived alone on a mountain; the brothers had killed a great many people in the country around. The sister gathered the wood and cooked the game they killed. When it was time for her maturity dance, she asked: “How can I dance when there is nobody to sing for me?”

Apache Legends
October 15, 2015

Arch Rock is a natural rock bridge above the eastern shoreline of Mackinac Island in northern Michigan. From certain angles, the arch, which is about 150 feet above the lake, appears to be suspended in the air. This mythical explanation of its origin was recorded in 1850.

Ottawa Legends
October 3, 2015

More than 175 years ago, gold was discovered in the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia and as thousands of new settlers invaded the area, it spawned tensions with the American Indian tribes.

As a result, President Andrew Jackson established the Indian Removal Policy in 1830, which forced theCherokee Nation to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and migrate to Indian Territory (now present day Oklahoma.) This is the legend of why the wild Cherokee Rose can be found all along the Trail of Tears from North Carolilna to Oklahoma.

Cherokee Legends
October 3, 2015

The Absarakas, or Crow nation, have the reputation of being good friends to the whites, and it is also said they have never warred with them. Iron Bull, a renowned chief of the Crows, relates the following legend.

Crow Indian Legends
September 25, 2015

An old man was living with his son, his daughter and her husband, who was a great hunter. The two brothers-in-law hunted every day one winter, but could not find any tracks.

There was a great deal of snow, and the young husband made himself snowshoes. He passed through an unfrozen spring. When he came home, his wife saw blood on his snowshoes.

Arapaho Legends

Sharpened Leg

3 Views
September 25, 2015

Two young men were living together. One day one of them heard his comrade chopping outside the lodge.

He saw that the other man was sharpening his leg to a point, after having chopped off his feet. He was frightened and fled, running for a night and a day.

Cheyenne Legends

Two Companions

3 Views
September 25, 2015

A man living far south dreamt of a man in the north and wished to become his comrade. He went in search of him, and they set out traveling together. The Southerner killed a bear and ate its tongue. He said to his companion, “Run away now, something queer has happened.” He changed himself into a bear and pursued his friend, who fled in terror.

Gros Ventre Legends
September 25, 2015

Two boys were living together as comrades. They said to their parents, “We will go to look for people.” The father of one of them raised objections, but the other consented, and they went away. On the third night of their journey one of them said, “Let us sleep in separate shelters.”

Arapaho Legends
September 25, 2015

A man wanted some eagle-feathers. He got to an eagle nest, found four young birds there, and plucked off their wings. The old eagle attacked him, but was killed in the struggle. The chief of the eagles, Big-Eagle, then pursued the man and, catching hold of his head, flew with him to a mountain-top, where he left him astride a crag. The man was nearly starved. After ten days the eagle returned, gave the man two feathers from each wing, and took him down to a buffalo-trail. “You will meet an old buffalo-chief. He will be wild, but don’t run away. Put one of the feathers in his head, and he won’t hurt you.”

Arikara Legends
September 16, 2015

According to the Ojibwe oral history, seven great miigis (radiant/iridescent) beings appeared to the peoples in the Waabanakiing (Land of the Dawn, i.e., Eastern Land) to teach them the mide way of life. One of the seven great miigis beings was too spiritually powerful and killed the peoples in the Waabanakiing when they were in its presence. The six great miigis beings remained to teach, while the one returned into the ocean.

Origin Legends
July 18, 2015

How Gluskabe Stole Tobacco

Long ago,Gluskabe and his Grandmother Woodchuck, lived alone in a small lodge near the water. One day his Grandmother said to him, “My Grandchild, it is sad that we have no tobacco.” “What is tobacco, Grandmother?” Gluskabe asked.

Maliseet Legends
June 1, 2015

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.

Ojibwe / Chippewa Legends
March 23, 2015

Bluejay was a trickster who enjoyed playing clever tricks on everyone, especially his sister Ioi.  As she was the eldest sister, Bluejay was supposes to obey her. But he deliberately misinterpreted what she said, excusing himself by saying, “Ioi always tells lies.”

Ioi decided that it was high time for Bluejay to quit his playful life of trickery and settle down with a wife.  She told him that he must select a wife from the people of the land of the dead, who were called the “Supernatural People”.  Ioi recommended that Bluejay choose an old woma for a wife and suggested the recently deceased wife of a chief.

Chinook Legends
February 12, 2015

Near the beginning of time, five Seminole Indian men wanted to visit the sky to see the Great Spirit.They travelled to the East, walking for about a month. Finally, they arrived at land’s end. They tossed their baggage over the end and they, too, disappeared beyond earth’s edge.

Seminole Legends
February 12, 2015

The Makah Indians, who live on the farthest point of the northwest corner of Washington State, used to tell stories not about one Changer, but about the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things. So did their close relatives, who lived on Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Creation Legends
February 12, 2015

The Makah Indians, who live on the farthest point of the northwest corner of Washington State, used to tell stories not about one Changer, but about the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things. So did their close relatives, who lived on Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Makah Legends
February 12, 2015

Spider Rock stands with awesome dignity and beauty over 800 feet high in Arizona’s colourful Canyon de Chelly National Park (pronounced da Shay). Geologists of the National Park Service say that “the formation began 230 million years ago.

Navajo Legends
February 12, 2015

Animals, elements, the solar system, and natural phenomena are revered by the Apaches. That which is beyond their understanding is always ascribed to the supernatural. Here is their creation story.

Creation Legends
February 12, 2015

Animals, elements, the solar system, and natural phenomena are revered by the Apaches. That which is beyond their understanding is always ascribed to the supernatural. Here is their creation story.

Apache Legends
February 12, 2015

I have heard it told on the Cheyenne Reservation in Montana and the Seminole camps in the Florida Everglades, I have heard it from the Eskimos north of the Arctic Circle and the Indians south of the equator. The legend of the flood is the most universal of all legends. It is told in Asia, Africa, and Europe, in North America and the South Pacific. This is one of fifteen native American legends that tell about the great flood.

Cheyenne Legends
February 12, 2015

This story has been passed down from generation to generation since time immemorial and it explains how Mik’Maq people came into existence in North America. The story tells about the relationship between the Great Spirit Creator and Human Beings and the Environment.

Creation Legends
February 12, 2015

This story has been passed down from generation to generation since time immemorial and it explains how Mik’Maq people came into existence in North America. The story tells about the relationship between the Great Spirit Creator and Human Beings and the Environment.

Mi'kmaq Legends
February 12, 2015

A long time ago, even before the time of the flood, the Cheakamus River provided food for the Squamish people. Each year, at the end of summer, when the salmon came home to spawn, the people would cast their cedar root nets into the water and get enough fish for the winter to come.

Squamish Legends
February 12, 2015

In the Old Times, there once lived a boy called Sigo, whose father had died when he was a baby. Sigo was too young to hunt and provide food for the wigwam, so his mother was obliged to take another husband, a jealous spiteful man who soon came to dislike his small stepson, for he thought the mother cared more for the child than for himself. He thought of a plan to be rid of the boy.

Algonquin Legends
February 12, 2015

Long ago a mighty race of Indians lived near the sunrise, and they called themselves Wabanaki—Children of Light. Glooskap was their master. He was kind to his people and did many great deeds for them.

Abenaki Legends
February 12, 2015

Long ago, when man was newly come into the world, there were days when he was the happiest creature of all. Those were the days when spring brushed across the willow tails, or when his children ripened with the blueberries in the sun of summer, or when the goldenrod bloomed in the autumn haze.

Unidentified Legends
February 12, 2015

As soon as Big Long Man got back from the mountains he went to his garden to admire his corn and melons. He had planted a big crop for the coming winter. When he saw that half of the corn stalks had been shucked and the ears stolen, and that the biggest melons were gone off of the melon vines, he was very angry.

Unidentified Legends
February 12, 2015

The Raccoon had been asleep all day in the snug hollow of a tree. The dusk was coming on when he awoke, stretched himself once or twice, and jumping down from the top of the tall, dead stump in which he made his home, set out to look for his supper.

Unidentified Legends
February 12, 2015

Mashtinna, the Rabbit, was a handsome young man, and, moreover, of a kind disposition. One day, when he was hunting, he heard a child crying bitterly, and made all haste in the direction of the sound.

Unidentified Legends
February 12, 2015

When the buffalo first came to be upon the land, they were not friendly to the people. When the hunters tried to coax them over the cliffs for the good of the villages, they were reluctant to offer themselves up. They did not relish being turned into blankets and dried flesh for winter rations.

Blackfoot / Blackfeet Legends
February 12, 2015

When the Field-Mouse was out gathering wild beans for the winter, his neighbor, the Buffalo, came down to graze in the meadow. This the little Mouse did not like, for he knew that the other would mow down all the long grass with his prickly tongue, and there would be no place in which to hide. He made up his mind to offer battle like a man.

Unidentified Legends
February 3, 2015

Long ago when animals could talk, a bear was walking along. Now it has always been said that bears think very highly of themselves. Since they are big and strong, they are certain that they are the most important of the animals. As this bear went along turning over big logs with his paws to look for food to eat, he felt very sure of himself. “There is nothing I cannot do,” said this bear.

Seneca Legends
January 8, 2015

The Pima Indians of Arizona say that the father of all men and animals was the butterfly, Cherwit Make (earth-maker), who fluttered down from the clouds to the Blue Cliffs at the junction of the Verde and Salt Rivers, and from his own sweat made men. As the people multiplied they grew selfish and quarrelsome, so that Cherwit Make was disgusted with his handiwork and resolved to drown them all.

Pima,Papago, O'odham Legends
January 8, 2015

The Pima Indians of Arizona say that the father of all men and animals was the butterfly, Cherwit Make (earth-maker), who fluttered down from the clouds to the Blue Cliffs at the junction of the Verde and Salt Rivers, and from his own sweat made men. As the people multiplied they grew selfish and quarrelsome, so that Cherwit Make was disgusted with his handiwork and resolved to drown them all.

Creation Legends
November 14, 2014

Long ago, the people followed the Missouri River northward to a place where they could step over the water. Then they turned, and were going across the land. Then they met the Padouca [Comanche].

Ponca Legends