Native American Myths and Legends

Native American Myths and Legends : The Mythology of North America from Apache to Inuit

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Native American culture is founded on stories told orally and handed down through the generations, outlining myths that reveal the origin of a tribe, legends that chronicle heroes who fought the gods, stories that tell of malevolent trickster spirits, and canny morality tales for the ages.

In Native American Myths & Legends you can read about characters such as Old Man, Rabbit Boy, Blue Jay (the trickster bird), the Double-Faced Ghost, the Splinter-Foot Girl and Mondawmin, the Corn Spirit. You will also discover the meaning of the Potlatch Feast, the legend of the Great Turtle and the myth of the Bear Foster-Son.

The book is divided into seven chapters, covering creation myths; people, family and culture; the natural world; ghosts and spirits; gods, demons and heroes; love, morality and death; and warfare.

Illustrated with 180 photographs and artworks, Native American Myths & Legends is an exciting and informative exploration of the beliefs and culture of North America's first inhabitants.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 211 x 274 x 25mm | 1,112g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 180 photos, artworks and maps; 180 Illustrations, unspecified
  • 1782746285
  • 9781782746287
  • 3,512,510

Table of contents

This chapter explores traditional Native American explanations for the origins of all that they saw on earth and in the heavens, from the stars that hung in the night skies through to the plants and animals that grew and crawled around them. The stories involve not just the material elements such as fire, air and water, but also great mythical creatures, Sky Spirits, primordial seeds, and battles for supremacy over the forming universe.

Included in this chapter:
Lenape Creation Story (Leni Lenape)
Napioa (Blackfoot)
The Lakota Creation Myth (Lakota)
Hah-nu-nah, the Turtle Earth Bearer (Iroquois)
The Water Beetle from the Sky Realm (Cherokee)
Creating the Earth (Cherokee)
Coyote and Cougar (Pomo)
The Dine Bahane' Creation Myth (Navajo)
The Fourth and Fifth Worlds (Hopi)
Pushing up the Sky (Snohomish)
The Huruing Wuhti and the Birth of the Hopi (Hopi)
The Great Sun (Sioux)

Most Native American peoples have rich and evocative oral histories relating to their tribal origins, and how their traditions became embedded into their cultures. This chapter explores a range of such stories, which include tribal foundation legends, epic myths of migration and settlement, prophecies fulfilled, and wise leaders.

Included in this chapter:
Tabaldak the Creator (Abenaki and Algonquian)
Migration Story of the Anishinaabeg
Seven Fires Prophecy (Anishinaabe)
Baaxpee and the Divine Spirit in Humans (Crow)
The Good and Evil Twins (Iroquois/Yuma)
Jicarilla Creation (Apache)
Story of Corn and Medicine (Cherokee)
Esaugetuh Emissee, Master of Breath (Creek)
Bear Clan and the Migration Myth (Ho-Chunk)
Stone Boy (Sioux/Ojibway)
Iosheka and the First Man and Woman (Ho-Chunk)
The First People and Creation of Humankind (Miwok)
Poko, the Old Man (Ute)
Rabbit Boy (White River Sioux)
The Four Men and the Healing Ceremony (Apache)
Birth of the White Man (Pima)
Sweet Medicine (Cheynenne)

The natural world was the spiritual and physical stage on which the Native Americans enacted their lives. This chapter brings to life the rich mythologies associated with the plants, plains, mountains, forests and particularly animals, which often formed a link between humans and the spirit world.

Included in this chapter:
Old Man Coyote (Various)
De-oh-ha-ko, the Spirits of Corn, Beans and Squash (Iroquois)
Great Thunder and his Sons (Cherokee)
Ishkitini, the Horned Owl and Night killer (Chochtaw)
The Animal People (Okanogan)
The Two Great Birds - Heloha (thunder) and Melatha (lightning) (Chochtaw)
Nanuk, the Great Polar Bear (Inuit)
Chochenyo (Coyote and grandson Kaknu) (Ohlone)
First Mother and the Raising of Corn (Penobscot)
Long Arrow and the Elk Dog (Blackfoot)
Sacred Weed (Blackfoot)
The Rabbit who Killed the Sun (Western Rocky Mountains)
Coyote and Eagle (Zuni)
The Sun and the Little Men (Cherokee)
Coyote in the Stars (Wasco)
The Origins of Mosquitoes (Tinglit)

Ghosts and spirits moved fluidly amongst the people, livestock, homes and environs of the Native American people. As this chapter demonstrates, the forms and personalities of these spirits were varied, from malevolent tricksters through to hauntingly beautiful visions of long-lost wives and lovers.

Included in this chapter:
Azeban, the Trickster Spirit (Abenaki)
Jo-ga-oh, the 'Little People' (Iroquois)
Shadow Beings (Chochtaw)
The Double-Faced Ghost (Cheyenne)
The Race of Giants (Ho-Chunk)
Gijesa, Spirits of the Night Sky (Seneca)
The Skeleton House (Hopi)
Anirniit and Tuurngait (Inuit)
The Hopi Snake Dance (Tewa)
Agloolik, Spirit beneath the Ice (Inuit)
The Ghostly Lovers (Sioux)
Big-Eater and the Ghost Witch (Pequod)
The Four Ghosts and the Fearless Man (Sioux)
The Kachinas (Pueblo)
The Spirit Wife (Zuni)

Native American mythology is replete with figures of great power, from mighty gods of thunder through to dark underworld creatures, from huge man-eating monsters to mischievous 'Little People'. This chapter brings to life not only the variety of these gods and beings, but also the human heroes who encountered and confronted them.

Included in this chapter:
Pamola, God of Thunder and Protector of the Mountain (Penobscot)
Mishipeshu, the Underwater Panther (Algonquian)
Unhcegila, the Serpent Creature (Lakota)
Atius Tirawa, the Creator and Teacher God (Pawnee)
The Flying Head (Iroquois)
Tsul 'Kalu, the Sloping Giant (Cherokee)
The Little People (Various)
Dijien, the Man-sized Spider (Seneca)
The Raven (Haida/Inuit)
The Thunderbird (Various)
Sasquatch (Various)
Matlose, Hob-goblin of the Nootkas (Nuu-chah-nulth) The Monsters and Monster Slayers (Navajo)
Man-Eagle and Son of Light (Hopi)

While many Native American myths deal with epic stories of creation, origins and spiritual wars, there are countless others that deal with the daily experience of being human, with all its joys and pains. In this chapter we encounter love, lust, jealously, hunting, family bonds, longing and death, many of the stories offering profound and moving reflections on the human condition.

Included in this chapter:
The Happy Hunting Ground (Lakota/Plains)
Sosondowah, the Great Hunter (Iroquois)
The Fall of the Tuscarora (Iroquois)
Ta'xet and Tia the Death Gods (Haida)
Amotken in Heaven (Salishan)
Coast Miwok and the Afterlife (Miwok)
Chochenyo (Land of the Dead) (Ohlone)
Glooscap and the Baby (Alconquian)
Arrow Boy (Cheyenne)
The Men and Women (Blood-Piegan)
The Stolen Wife (Tewa)
The Bereaved Husband (Tewa)
The Man who Married the Moon (Pueblo)
The Mole and the Girl's Heart (Cherokee)
The Girls and the Star Men (Ojibway)
The Boy, the Sun and the Doormouse (Winnebago)

War was a frequent visitor to the Native America tribes, bringing violence and death but also the full expression of a martial culture. Producing brave and ferocious warriors was an essential part of Native American identity, as expressed in the collection of myths in this chapter, which speak of the brutality and heroism of conflict, both within tribes and against the encroaching colonists and settlers.

Legend of Red Coulee (Blackfoot)
Qamaits, Warrior Goddess (Nuxalk)
Winalagalis, War God (Various British Columbia)
The Vision of Crow Dog (Sioux)
The Battle at Courthouse Rock (Sioux)
Myths of Counting Coup (Various)
The Pawnee Boy and the Cheyenne blanket (Pawnee)
The Warrior Woman (Oneida)
Battle of the Rosebud (Cheyenne)

Myths and legends by tribe
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About Chris McNab

Chris McNab has written more than 100 titles, primarily focused on historical and military topics. His titles include Native American Warriors, The Illustrated History of the Vietnam War, History of World War II, Weapons, and Hitler's Masterplan. He also works as an educational publishing consultant, advising international agencies on how to develop their textbooks and other educational resources.
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