Indigenous Peoples Stories


The terms legend and folktale are sometimes used interchangeably with myth. Technically, however, these are not the same. How should we distinguish them? Donna Rosenberg, in her book Folklore, Myth, and Legends: A World Perspective, offers some useful guidelines:
A myth is a sacred story from the past. It may explain the origin of the universe and of life, or it may express its culture’s moral values in human terms. Myths concern the powers who control the human world and the relationship between those powers and human beings. Although myths are religious in their origin and function, they may also be the earliest form of history, science, or philosophy…

A folktale is a story that, in its plot, is pure fiction and that has no particular location in either time or space. However, despite its elements of fantasy, a folktale is actually a symbolic way of presenting the different means by which human beings cope with the world in which they live. Folktales concern people — either royalty or common folk — or animals who speak and act like people…

A legend is a story from the past about a subject that was, or is believed to have been, historical. Legends concern people, places, and events. Usually, the subject is a saint, a king, a hero, a famous person, or a war. A legend is always associated with a particular place and a particular time in history.

Buffalo Boy

Granted soul, where do I go
I see a world in need of help
Little red buffalo, won’t you come with me?

Here I am, newborn child
It’s cuz of you I’m buffalo boy
Little red buffalo, hey what do you feel?

Listen to the trees, here’s what they say
The land’s becoming dangerous
Newborn child, here’s what we must do

Teach the old ways, share the knowledge
For all are part of the universe
Newborn child, that’s what we must do

Granted soul
Oh, oh, oh

We are the ancestors, returning to you
We are all from the past
Little red buffalo, we were born together

Granted soul, now here we go
Reminding all our relatives


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Fables of the Mayas
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It must be remembered that the animals which appear in Indian stories are not the same as those which exist now. When the world began, animals were much bigger, stronger and cleverer than their present counterparts but, because of man’s cruelty and agression, these left the earth and took the rainbow path to Galunlati, the Sky Land, where they still remain. The animals which came after them – those we know today – are weak imitations of those first creatures.

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Wampum beads, made from several kinds of shell, were highly prized by the Indians who lived along the Atlantic coast. Where beads were laboriously cut from the conch shell and quallog clam, while the thick hinge of the clam provided Pink and purple beads.

Wampum beads were used in various ways. They were strung together to form necklaces and bracelets, or used simply to decorate clothing, weapons and utensils. They also served as a form of money to ransom captives, to pay compensation for crimes and injuries and to reward shamans for their services. Most important of all, they were made into belts and used instead of signatures to confirm area ties and agreements between tribes.

The color of the wampum was also important. White was the emblem of peace and good faith. Purple symbolized death, sorrow and mourning. White beads coloured red were sent as a declaration of war or as an invitation to join a war-party. Combinations of these colours were used to convey messages or to record ceremonies and agreements.

Starlore of Native America

North American Indians tell many stories about the stars – individual stars and groups of stars. Often in these stories, the stars are referred to as “the People of the Sky World.”

When the first white people came to the Northwest, Indians of several nations told them about a great bridge of rocks and earth that once spanned the lower Columbia River. When the bridge fell, they said, the rocks made numerous rapids and little waterfalls in the Columbia, near the present city of Hood River. Now the rocks and rapids are covered by the waters above Bonneville Dam.

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This web site includes information on several different
topics related to Native American spirituality,
including some comments on Native American Origins.

Indigenous Stories

Our stories were us, what we knew, where we came from and where we were going. They were told to remind of us of our responsibility, to instruct, and to entertain. There were stories of the Creation, our travels, our laws. There were legends of hard-fought battles, funny anecdotes – some from the smokehouse, some from the trickster – and there were scary stories to remind us of danger, spiritual and otherwise.

Long ago, when time could not be counted, the storyteller made dreams a way of life for those who searched for it. For the young, stories were yet to happen. For the middle, they were what was happening. For the old, what could have been, or wishes unrealized. Yet, for the storyteller all that is said is: true, alive, unquestioned, and the reason for life itself….

It must be remembered that the animals which appear in Indian stories are not the same as those which exist now. When the world began, animals were much bigger, stronger and cleverer than their present counterparts but, because of man’s cruelty and agression, these left the earth and took the rainbow path to Galunlati, the Sky Land, where they still remain. The animals which came after them – those we know today – are weak imitations of those first creatures.

North American Indians tell many stories about the stars – individual stars and groups of stars. Often in these stories, the stars are referred to as “the People of the Sky World.”

The ancients all had greater powers and cunning than either animals or people. Besides the ancients, real people lived on the earth at that time. Old One made the people out of the last balls of mud he took from the earth. They were so ignorant that they were the most helpless of all the creatures Old One had made. Way back in the distant past, the ancestors of humans were living down below in a world under the earth. They weren’t humans yet, they lived in darkness, behaving like bugs.

“These stories are the libraries of our peoples.
In each story, there is recorded some event of interest or importance…
A people enrich their minds who keep their history on the leaves of memory.
Stories were our life and they still are. “

Grandmother Spider Steals the Fire

(Creation story of the
Choctaw People of Tennessee and Mississippi)

The Choctaw People say that when the People first came-up out of the ground, People were encased in cocoons, their eyes closed, their limbs folded tightly to their bodies. And this was true of all People, the Bird People, the Animal People, the Insect People, and the Human People. The Great Spirit took pity on them and sent down someone to unfold their limbs, dry them off, and open their eyes. But the opened eyes saw nothing, because the world was dark, no sun, no moon, not even any stars. All the People moved around by touch, and if they found something that didn’t eat them first, they ate it raw, for they had no fire to cook it.

All the People met in a great Pow-wow, with the Animal and Bird People taking the lead, and the Human People hanging back. The Animal and Bird People decided that dark was not good, but cold and miserable. A solution must be found!!! Someone spoke from the dark, “I have heard that the people in the East have fire”. This caused a stir of wonder, “What could fire be”!!! There was a general discussion, and it was decided that if, as-rumor-had-it, fire was warm and gave light, they should have it too. Another voice said, “But the people of the East are too greedy to share with us”. So it was decided that the Bird and Animal People should steal what they needed, the fire!!!

But, who should have the honor!!! Grandmother Spider volunteered, “I can do it!!! Let me try”!!! But at the same time, Opossum began to speak. “I, Opossum, am a great Chief of the animals. I will go to the East and since I am a great hunter, I will take the fire and hide it in the bushy hair on my tail”. It was well know that Opossum had the furriest tail of all the animals, so he was selected.

When Opossum came to the East… he soon found the beautiful-red-fire jealously guarded by the people of the East. But Opossum got closer and closer until he picked up a small piece of burning wood, and stuck it in the hair of his tail, which promptly began to smoke, then flame. The people of the East said, “Look, that Opossum has stolen our fire”!!! They took it and put it back where it came from and drove Opossum away. Poor Opossum!!! Every bit of hair had burned from his tail, and to this day, Opossums have no hair at all on their tails.

Once again, the Pow-wow had to find a volunteer Chief. Grandmother Spider again said, “Let me go!!! I can do it”!!! But this time a bird was elected, Buzzard. Buzzard was very proud. “I can succeed where Opossum has failed. I will fly to the East on my great wings, then hide the stolen fire in the beautiful long feathers on my head”. The birds and animals still did not understand the nature of fire. So Buzzard flew to the East on his powerful wings, swooped past those defending the fire, picked up a small piece of burning ember, and hid it in his head feathers. Buzzard’s head began to smoke and flame even faster!!! The people of the East said, “Look!!! Buzzard has stolen the fire”!!! And they took it and put it back where it came from. Poor Buzzard!!! His head was now bare of feathers, red and blistered looking. And to this day, buzzards have naked heads that are bright-red and blistered.

The Pow-wow now sent Crow to look the situation over, for Crow was very clever. Crow at-that-time was pure white, and had the sweetest singing voice of all the birds. But he took so long standing over the fire, trying to find the perfect piece to steal that his white feathers were smoked black. And he breathed so much smoke that when he tried to sing, out came a harsh, Caw!!! Caw!!!

The Council said, “Opossum has failed. Buzzard and Crow have failed. Who shall we send”!!!

Tiny Grandmother Spider shouted with all her might, “LET ME TRY IT PLEASE”!!! Though the council members thought Grandmother Spider had little chance of success, it was agreed that she should have her turn. Grandmother Spider looked-then like she looks-now, she had a small torso suspended by two sets of legs that turned the other way. She walked on all of her wonderful legs toward a stream where she had found clay. With those legs, she made a tiny clay container and a lid that fit perfectly with a tiny notch for air in the corner of the lid. Then she put the container on her back, spun-a-web all the way to the East, and walked tip-toe until she came to the fire. She was so small, the people from the East took no notice. She took a tiny piece of fire, put it in the container, and covered it with the lid. Then she walked back on tip-toe along the web until she came to the People. Since they couldn’t see any fire, they said, “Grandmother Spider has failed”!!!

“Oh No”, she said, “I have the fire”!!! She lifted the pot from her back, and the lid from the pot, and the fire flamed up into its friend, the air. All the Birds and Animal People began to decide who would get this wonderful warmth. Bear said, “I’ll take it”!!! but then he burned his paws on it and decided fire was not for animals… for look what happened to Opossum!!!

The Birds wanted no part of it, as Buzzard and Crow were still nursing their wounds. The insects thought it was pretty, but they too, stayed far away from the fire.

Then a small voice said, “We will take it, if Grandmother Spider will help”. The timid humans, whom none of the animals or birds thought much of, were volunteering!!!

So Grandmother Spider taught the Human People how to feed the fire with sticks and wood to keep it from dying, how to keep the fire safe in a circle-of-stone so it couldn’t escape and hurt them or their homes. While she was at it, she taught the humans about pottery made of clay and fire, and about weaving and spinning, at which Grandmother Spider was an expert.

The Choctaw remembered!!!

They made a beautiful design to decorate their homes, a picture of Grandmother Spider, two sets of legs up, two down, with a fire-symbol on her back.

This is so their children never forget to honor

Grandmother Spider: Fire-bringer!!!

Walk in Peace

Contributed by: Three Feathers

Timucua Legend


When Creator, Yayjaba’ created the world, he created first the Spirit of Water and the Spirit of Wind. Then Yajaba’ created the large pond and in the middle of the pond he placed the land. Into the waters of the pond he placed the swimmers – those that breathed above the water and those that breathed under the waters. Then Yayjaba’ saw that the land was beginning to slide down into the water, so he created the swimmers that would live on the bottom of the waters – there they would always live, feed on the bottom and helping to hold the land steady, to keep it from sliding further into the waters.

Then Yayjaba’ opened the Great Cave and brought out all of the two-legged, four-legged, winged, crawlers, and the oriri’ (insects). Each moved out onto the land and found a place for their home. Wind and Water roamed over the land, wind bringing cool breeze in the heat of the day, and Water bringing refreshing rain to the face of the land. But as they roamed, Yayjaba’ saw that move land was being lost into the water – the swimmers living on the bottom were holding as tight as they could, but they could not stop the land from falling into the waters. It was then that Yayjaba’ created the one-legged ones. He said to them “you are my silent ones, you have been given no voice with which to speak, and you have been given but one leg, so that you can stand but can not move. But you are to do wondrous things – you will be the protectors of the land. Where I place you, you are to grab the land and hold it still. When Wind wanders the land, you must hold the land steady so that his breath does not blow the land into the waters, and when Water wanders the land, you must hold the land steady so that his rain does not push the land into the waters. All of you, from the mightiest oak to the smallest flower, to the single blade of grass, you are to hold tight to the land”.

“For doing this, the one-legged ones are to be given special gifts – you will amaze all others with your ability to live anywhere, you will find homes in the crevices of rocks, on the face of mountains, in burning sands, fertile land, arid land, you will live in fresh water, and water having salt, some will be given stinging needles, and some will provide food for many – many others will seek your shade, and others will find homes in your arms. Some of you will live but for a single cycle, but will have many children, thus you will continue for ever, and some of you will see more cycles than any other – you will become the true ‘ancient ones’ of this land. You will also be the beginning of the cycle and the continuation of the cycles. When you fall to the land that you so faithfully held, you will become a part of the land, and your children will take hold where you once stood, and they will draw strength from you, thus you will continue for eve”.

“All that have come out of The Cave, and onto the land must show you great respect – they will know that you are the protectors of the land. When they lose that respect, and cast you down before your time, then the breath of Wind will blow the land, and dust will fill the air, and those lacking respect will suffer greatly – Water will roam the land, and to those lacking respect, he will give too much rain, and the land willbe washed away, and the waters will carry away those that lack respect – to others that lack respect, he will withhold his rain giving them none until they dry up and are blown away by the breath of Wind. To any that brings you to destruction, they bring themselves to destruction. You are my silent ones, you have been given no voice with which to speak, and you have been given but one leg, so you can stand but can not move – but you are my protectors of the land”.

This is why we can take no one-legged one without first asking for permission, we must explain our need – we must approach with respect and ask forgiveness with respect. To cast down a one-legged one before its time and without respect will bring about our own destruction.

Walk in Harmony
Contributed by: Adonaset

One thought on “Indigenous Peoples Stories

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    -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact
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