Category Archives: Native American Folk Tales

Native American Short Tales {3} ~ The Warlike Seven

As they were talking excitedly, waving their fists in violent gestures, a wind came and blew the Ashes away. “Ho!” cried the others, “he could not fight, this one!”

The six went on running to make war more quickly. They descended a deep valley, the Fire going foremost until they came to a river. The Fire said “Hsss—tchu!” and was gone. “Ho!” hooted the others, “he could not fight, this one!”

Therefore the five went on the more quickly to make war. They came to a great wood. While they were going through it, the Bladder was heard to sneer and to say, “He! you should rise above these, brothers.” With these words he went upward among the tree-tops; and the thorn apple pricked him. He fell through the branches and was nothing! “You see this!” said the four, “this one could not fight.”

Still the remaining warriors would not turn back. The four went boldly on to make war. The Grasshopper with his cousin, the Dragon Fly, went foremost. They reached a marshy place, and the mire was very deep. As they waded through the mud, the Grasshopper’s legs stuck, and he pulled them off! He crawled upon a log and wept, “You see me, brothers, I cannot go!”

The Dragon Fly went on, weeping for his cousin. He would not be comforted, for he loved his cousin dearly. The more he grieved, the louder he cried, till his body shook with great violence. He blew his red swollen nose with a loud noise so that his head came off his slender neck, and he was fallen upon the grass.

“You see how it is,” said the Fish, lashing his tail impatiently, “these people were not warriors!”

“Come!” he said, “let us go on to make war.”

Thus the Fish and the Turtle came to a large camp ground.

“Ho!” exclaimed the people of this round village of teepees, “Who are these little ones? What do they seek?”

Neither of the warriors carried weapons with them, and their unimposing stature misled the curious people.

The Fish was spokesman. With a peculiar omission of syllables, he said: “Shu… hi pi!”

“Wan! what? what?” clamored eager voices of men and women.

Again the Fish said: “Shu… hi pi!” Everywhere stood young and old with a palm to an ear. Still no one guessed what the Fish had mumbled!

From the bewildered crowd witty old Iktomi came forward. “He, listen!” he shouted, rubbing his mischievous palms together, for where there was any trouble brewing, he was always in the midst of it.

“This little strange man says, ‘Zuya unhipi! We come to make war!’”

“Uun!” resented the people, suddenly stricken glum. “Let us kill the silly pair! They can do nothing! They do not know the meaning of the phrase. Let us build a fire and boil them both!”

“If you put us on to boil,” said the Fish, “there will be trouble.”

“Ho ho!” laughed the village folk. “We shall see.”

And so they made a fire.

“I have never been so angered!” said the Fish. The Turtle in a whispered reply said: “We shall die!”

When a pair of strong hands lifted the Fish over the sputtering water, he put his mouth downward. “Whssh!” he said. He blew the water all over the people, so that many were burned and could not see. Screaming with pain, they ran away.

“Oh, what shall we do with these dreadful ones?” they said.

Others exclaimed: “Let us carry them to the lake of muddy water and drown them!”

Instantly they ran with them. They threw the Fish and the Turtle into the lake. Toward the center of the large lake the Turtle dived. There he peeped up out of the water and, waving a hand at the crowd, sang out, “This is where I live!”

The Fish swam hither and thither with such frolicsome darts that his back fin made the water fly. “E han!” whooped the Fish, “this is where I live!”

“Oh, what have we done!” said the frightened people, “this will be our undoing.”

Then a wise chief said: “Iya, the Eater, shall come and swallow the lake!”

So one went running. He brought Iya, the Eater; and Iya drank all day at the lake till his belly was like the earth. Then the Fish and the Turtle dived into the mud; and Iya said: “They are not in me.” Hearing this the people cried greatly.

Iktomi wading in the lake had been swallowed like a gnat in the water. Within the great Iya he was looking skyward. So deep was the water in the Eater’s stomach that the surface of the swallowed lake almost touched the sky.

“I will go that way,” said Iktomi, looking at the concave within arm’s reach.

He struck his knife upward in the Eater’s stomach, and the water falling out drowned those people of the village.

Now when the great water fell into its own bed, the Fish and the Turtle came to the shore. They went home painted victors and loud-voiced singers.

Native American Folk Tales {3} ~ The Origins Of The Clans {Hopi}

A long time ago, when the Hopi Tribe was emerging from the First World, their people started to hunt for the land of the rising sun. Moving in related groups, they thought it fun to play a name game.

When the first band came upon a dead bear, immediately they thought it a sign for them to become the Bear Clan. Another Hopi band came upon the same skeleton but saw little gopher holes surrounding the carcass. They agreed among themselves to become the Gopher Clan.

In the same way, other Hopis found a nest of spiders and they named themselves the Spider Clan. Far ahead the Bear Clan travelled with Chief Bahana leading. Always, the Bear Clan seemed to move faster in many ways.

Spider Clan trailed all the clans because they had so many children. One day they came upon a friendly spider sitting near her large web. The Spider Clan encircled her as she spoke to their Chief, “I am Spider Woman, possessed of Supernatural Power. Since you are named for my people, I will help you in any way I can.”

Thank you, Spider Woman,” replied the Chief. “We are travelling to find the land of the rising sun. Other clans of our Hopi Tribe are much farther ahead of us. We wish we could travel faster, but we have much to pack on our backs as we have so many children.”

“Perhaps I can make something to ease your travel,” said Spider Woman.

“What do you have in mind?” asked the Chief.

“First, I need something of yourself,” said Spider Woman. “You must go into my secret room where you will find a large water jug. You must wash yourself all over and save the dust and skin that rolls off and fetch it to me.”

Because of many travel days, the Chief was so hot and dusty that he made a sizeable ball of dirt, which he gave to Spider Woman. With this she began her magic creation. She spread a white, fleecy cloth in front of her, placing the ball in the Centre. Then she rolled it up carefully into a white ball.

Spider Woman sang her ceremonial creation song four times, while the Spider Clan sat in a circle and waited expectantly. Now and then, she touched the fleecy ball with her magic web and looked to see if any signs of life were evident within the ball. Again, Spider Woman sang another magic song four times and behold!–the fleecy, white ball moved back and forth and rolled about. To everyone’s surprise, through the fleecy cover emerged a tiny gray animal stretching forth four tiny legs.

Spider Woman called it a burro. At the sight of it, the Spider Clan knew that it needed to grow much stronger before it could be of any help to them. Spider Woman kept the young animal warm and gave it some of her magic food. She spent much time massaging its tiny legs with her magic salve to make them grow faster.

After only four days, the burro was ready to travel with the Spider Clan. They packed the sides of the burrow with their excess supplies and started on their way to the land of the rising sun.

Later, Spider Woman decided to create a man who should know more about caring for the burro than the Hopis. This she did and sent the man to catch up with the Spider Clan, to teach them how better to care for the burro.

But that man was selfish. Instead of helping the people, he ran away one dark night, taking the burro with him. Even though saddened over the loss of their helpful burro, Spider Clan continued their trek to the land of the rising sun, shouldering their heavy packs as before.

Of course, the Bear Clan arrived at their destination first. They set about establishing their village. Gradually the other Hopi Clans joined them, making their villages nearby. There the Hopi Tribe grew and prospered.

But the Spider Clan, which arrived last in the land of the rising sun, became the largest and most prosperous of all the Hopi Clans, because they had so many children during the following years.

Native American Folk Tales {2} ~ How Fairies Came Into The World {Algonquin}

“In the country of the Wabanaki, ten sisters once lived in their father’s lodge. Each was more beautiful than any other maiden in the land, and the youngest was the most beautiful of all.

Many handsome braves laid their gifts before the lodge door. So nine of the sisters married and went to live with their mothers-in-law. But the youngest refused all suitors, and stayed in her father’s lodge.

One day an old man named Osseo came to woo the youngest. His eyes were bright and his thoughts keen, and he sang softly before her door. And as the maiden was willing, the marriage-feast was held.

The nine sisters came with their handsome husbands, and they laughed and jeered at the bride, because her husband was so old. But she only said: “Wait and see! Soon you shall know who has chosen most wisely.”

After the marriage-feast was over, Osseo led his bride toward his lodge in the distant forest. The nine sisters and their husbands went with them along the path. Presently they passed a hollow log. Then Osseo gave a loud call, and leaving the side of his bride, dashed into the log.

Immediately he came out at the other end, no longer old and wrinkled, but younger and handsomer than the husbands of the nine sisters. He then led the party forward with a step as light as the Reindeer’s.

Soon they reached a splendid lodge, and entered it. A delicious feast was spread in wooden dishes, and the sisters and their husbands sat down.

“The food you see before you is magic food,” said Osseo; “eat it and receive a gift from the Evening Star, whose lodge this is.”

And as they all ate, sweet music like the voices of birds fell from the Sky. The lodge began to rise in the air. Higher it rose through the trees, and as it did so, it changed into a wonderful cage. Its poles became glittering silver wires, and its covering was of the shining wings of blue, green, and yellow insects.

And as the silver cage passed above the tree-tops, the wooden dishes became scarlet shells, and the nine sisters and their husbands were transformed into birds. Some became Bluebirds, others Red-Breasted Robins, still others Golden Orioles, and birds with scarlet wings. Immediately they all began to hop about the cage showing their bright feathers and singing songs sweeter than those sung in the woodland.

As for Osseo’s bride, she grew more lovely than ever, so that she shone like a star. Her garments were of shimmering green, and in her hair was a silver feather.

Higher rose the cage, until it reached the home of the Evening Star.

“Welcome, my son,” said he to Osseo. “Bring in your lovely bride, but hang the cage of coloured birds at the door. Because the nine sisters laughed at the bride, they must stay outside.

Be careful that you never open the cage, nor let the ray of light from the little Star dwelling near us, fall upon you. For the ray of light is the little Star’s bow and arrow, and if it touches you, your wife and the birds will become enchanted.”

So Osseo hung up the cage of coloured birds at the door of the lodge; and he and his wife lived there in happiness. In time a son was born to them, who was brighter than the starlight. And when he grew older, Osseo made for him a little bow and arrows.

One day to please the child who wished to shoot something, Osseo opened the door of the silver cage, and let the coloured birds go free, and they flew singing toward the Earth. The little boy shot an arrow after them, and immediately a ray of light struck Osseo. Then the little boy began to float downward through the Sky. Soon he passed the soft white clouds, and fell gently upon a green island in the middle of a wide blue lake. The coloured birds came swiftly flying to him, with songs of joy.

As for the silver cage, it descended after, its glittering insect wings fluttering from its sides. And in it were Osseo and his wife. As the cage touched the green island, it became a shining lodge, and Osseo and his wife, the little boy, and all the coloured birds, were changed into bright and joyous Fairies.

And ever since that day, on Summer starlit nights, the little Fairies join hands, and dance around. Their shining lodge may still be seen when the Moon’s beams light the green island. And by night the Indian fisher-boys, on the blue lake, hear the sweet voices of the Fairy dancers.”

~This story of How Fairies came into the World is featured in the book entitled the Red Indian Fairy Book by Frances Jenkins Olcott published in Boston, New York by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1917.~

Native American Folk Tales {1} ~ Pele’s Revenge

Hawaii has its own rich culture and history full of myths and legends, mostly surrounding the origins of the islands and the great volcanoes that created them. One that really stands apart and deals with love is the story of Ohi’a, a bold young man, and a beautiful maiden named Lehua. The two young lovers fell for each other at first sight at a bonfire, and were soon married. However, one day Pele, a goddess, came down from the volcano and saw Ohi’a. When he rejected her advances and returned to his wife Lehua, Pele was furious. She turned him into an ugly, twisted tree for spurning her. Lehua begged her to turn her into a tree as well, for she could never be without her love. The other gods above saw her weeping, and turned her into a beautiful red flower that bloomed on the twisted tree. To this day if you pick a red Lahua flower on an Ohi’a tree, the gods will send Lahua’s tears on the island in mighty rainstorms.