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Native North American Mythology

compliments of Inquiry Unlimited

[a constantly changing URL database with content relevant to elementary school curricula]

Creation *

of world, humans, and animal life

Northeast woodlands *
Southeast *
Central Woodlands *
Southwest *
California *
North Pacific Ocean *
Eskimo *
Trickster-culture heroes *

Glooskap *
Rabbit *
Manabozho *
Iktomi * and Old Man
Coyote *
Raven *

Human culture

gifts to the people *
Natural order *

. . stars, seasonal cycles seasons

Earth Topography *

origin of canyons, rivers, lakes, mountains
Animal characteristics *

quills, bobbed-tail, cleverness

Origin of trees and plants *

and tree and plant characteristics

Native American Resources

Central * and South American mythology

Mayan culture *

Creation of the world, human and animal life

* are related stories that express the beliefs or explanations of a religious system. They might include the beginning of the world (creation myths), the reasons for natural phenomena (why or pourquoi tales in nature myths), interactions between the gods and humans (hero myths), and the origin of civilization. Additional myths include the classical myths of Greece and Rome and Norse mythology.

Cosmology (Creation Stories)

[creation of the universe - sun, moon, stars, constellations, eclipses]

Overall resources - Cosmology (Creation Stories)
  • Stith Thompson's * Folk Tales of the North American Indians by mythological motif
  • Inquiry Unlimited's Native American * legends and myths
  • Taylor, C. J. Bones in the Basket: Native Stories of the Origin of People. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra Books, 1994. (32 ps.) (Zuni, Mandan, Cree, Osage, Mohawk, Modoc)
  • Mayo, Gretchen. Star Tales: North American Indian Stories About the Stars.
  • Monroe, Jean. They Dance in the Sky.
  • Goble, Paul. The Lost Children. [BLACKFOOT]
  • Goble, Paul. Star Boy. [BLACKFOOT]
  • Goble, Paul. Her Seven Brothers [CHEYENNE]
  • Shetterly, Susan Hand. Raven's Light:A Myth from the People of the Northwest Coast. [Northwest native peoples]
  • Origin of the Pleiades * [ONONDAGO]

Northeast Woodlands - Cosmology (Creation Stories)

  • Glooscap * (Micmac)
  • Norman, Howard. How Glooskap Outwits the Ice Giants and Other Tales of the Maritime Indians. [Maritime]
  • "The Legend of Muskrat and Terrapin" * [Maryland]

    • Bierhorst, John. Woman Who Came From the Sky: The Iroquois Story of Creation
  • CHEROKEE * writings
    • Bruchac, Joseph. The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale. NY: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995. [CHEROKEE] (Milky Way created when villagers ward of the thieves after the corn is stolen from village)
    • Myths * of the CHEROKEE [cosmogonic myths, quadruped myths, bird myths, wonder stories, historical traditions, miscellaneous myths and legends] (local legends *)
      • Cosmogonic myths - How the World Was Made *; Origin of Strawberries *; How They Brought Back the Tobacco *
  • CHEROKEE creation story - "In the Beginning" *
  • CHEROKEE creation story - "First Fire" *
  • ONEIDA (Haudenosaunee) creation story - Sky Woman's * twins, Good Spirit and Evil Spirit [image * by Earnest Smith, Seneca, of Iroquois creation myth]
  • The Woman Who Fell From the Sky * (SENECA)

Southeast - Cosmology (Creation Stories)

Central Woodlands - Cosmology (Creation Stories)

The Southwest - Cosmology (Creation Stories)

  • APACHE creation story *
  • COMANCHE creation story *
  • HOPI * Creation stories - origin * myth
  • "How the Hopi Indians Reached Their World" * - HOPI creation story
  • NAVAJO creation story - The Dine * Origin Myths
  • Awonawilona - The Beginning of Newness * (ZUNI)

California - Cosmology (Creation Stories)

  • CALIFORNIA * religions
    • South Central * California creation myths [COSTANOAN, MIWOK, YOKUTS]
      • MIWOK * - Index of myths
      • YOKUT (California) creation story *

  • Bierhorst, John. The People with Five Fingers: A Native California Creation Tale. NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2000. (30 ps.) [CALIFORNIA] (how Coyote and other animals created the world and the people)

North Pacific Ocean - Cosmology (Creation Stories)

Eskimo - Cosmology (Creation Stories)

  • ESKIMO * [Inuit] - Sedna *
    • Sedna of the North *
    • Sedna, the witch under the sea *
    • Sedna * explanations from the ancestors
    • San Souci, Robert D. Song of Sedna [ESKIMO]

Other areas - Cosmology (Creation Stories)

    • AZTEC * Creation Story (See: 972.12)
    • McDermott, Gerald. Musicians of the Sun. [MEXICO - AZTEC] (Deity Tezcatlipoca, Lord of the Night, brings color to the Earth by freeing musicians Red, Yellow, Blue and Green)

Natural Order

[winds, rains, clouds, mists, thunder and lightning, earthquakes, seasons, night and day]
  • Determination of the Seasons * (TAHLTAN)
  • Marriage of the North and the South * (CHEROKEE)
  • Determination of Night and Day * (IROQUOIS)
  • Oughton, Jerrie. How the Stars Fell into the Sky [NAVAJO]
  • Cleaver, Elizabeth. How Summer Came to Canada. [CANADA]
  • Cohlene, Terri. Dancing Drum. [CHEROKEE]
  • Hodges, Margaret. The Fire Bringer [PAIUTE]
  • de Paola, Tomie. The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush. [PLAINS]
  • Van Laan, Nancy. Rainbow Crow [Native American]
  • Whitethorne, Baje. Sunpainters: Eclipse of the Navajo Sun. Flagstaff, Arizona: Northland, 1994. [NAVAHJO] (explanation of the solar eclipse)

Native American Trickster-Culture Heroes

Northeast Trickster-Culture Heroes

  • Norman, Howard. How Glooskap Outwits the Ice Giants and Other Tales of the Maritime Indians. [MARITIME]

Southeast Trickster-Culture Heroes
  • Ross, Gayle. How Rabbit Tricked Otter and Other Cherokee Trickster Stories.

Central Woodlands Trickster-Culture Heroes

Plains Trickster-Culture Heroes
  • Old Man (BLACKFOOT and CROW)
  • Sit Konski (ASSINIBOIN)
  • IKTOMI [SIOUAN cultures]
    • Goble, Paul. Iktomi and the Buffalo Skull. [Plains Indians]
    • Goble, Paul. Iktomi and the Buzzard [Plains Indians]
    • Baker, Olaf. Where the Buffaloes Begin [Plains]
    • Cohen, Caron Lee. Mud Pony.

Southwest and California Trickster-Culture Heroes
  • Bengay, Shonto. Ma'ii and Cousin Horned Toad: A Traditional Navajo Story.
  • Nihansan (ARAPAHO)
  • COYOTE [California, southwestern United States, plateau, plains]
    • Stevens, Janet. Coyote Steals the Blanket: An Ute Tale. [UTE]
    • McDermott, Gerald. Coyote: A Trickster From the Southwest.
  • Cohlene, Terri. Turquoise Boy. [NAVAJO]
  • Taylor, C. J. The Ghost and the Lone Warrior: An Arapaho Legend. [ARAPAHO]

North Pacific Coast and Eskimo Trickster-Culture Heroes

Journeys to the Other World

Animal Wives and Husbands

  • The Piqued Buffalo-Wife * (BLACKFOOT)
  • Bear-Woman and Deer-Woman * [LASSIK - ATHAPASCAN]
  • Splinter-Foot-Girl * (ARAPAHO)
  • The Eagle and Whale Husbands * (GREENLAND ESKIMO)

Human Culture - Gifts to the People

[Environment, fire, game, plants and crops, weapons, stories and language]

[Human Origins; Ordering of Human Life; Traditions; Differentiation of Peoples]

Earth Topography

(lakes, rivers, islands, hills, mountains, rock formations)

  • Goble, Paul. Iktomi and the Boulder. [Grand Canyon]
  • Dwyer, Mindy. Coyote in Love. Seattle, WA: Alaska Northwest Books, 1997. [OREGON] (creation of Crater Lake, Oregon)
  • San Souci, Robert D. Two Bear Cubs: A Miwok Legend from California. (Miwok Indians, California) [origin of El Capitan Rock]

World calamities: global catastrophe [punishments and rewards]

(floods, end of the world)

Origin of animal life and animal characteristics

(animals, mammals, birds, insects, fish)

Origin of trees and plants and plant characteristics

[flowers, tress, moss, corn, berries, tobacco]

  • de Paola, Tomie. Legend of Bluebonnet. [COMANCHE]
  • Rucki, Ani. Turkey's Gift to the People. [NAVAJO]

Educator is the recipient of the Miss Rumphius Award *

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Copyright © 2002 Marjorie Duby. All Rights Reserved.
Last modified: September 19, 2005.

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Disclaimer: Inquiry Unlimited
* attempts to provide appropriate, informative educational links. We check and update links frequently. We cannot be responsible for the content, use of, or quality of materials on any website other than our own. To the best of our knowledge, graphics on this site are public domain. If you find otherwise, please notify us and we will remove them immediately.

For a broadened view of folklore, refer to The Folktale by Stith Thompson for tale types and motifs.

For your reading enjoyment, peruse "Folk Tales of the North American Indians" by Stith Thompson. It includes tales categorized by culture group and motif.