American Indian Myths and Legends

American Indian Myths and Legends

by Richard Erdoes, Alfonso Ortiz

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Overview

More than 160 tales from eighty tribal groups gives us a rich and lively panorama of the Native American mythic heritage. From across the continent comes tales of creation and love; heroes and war; animals, tricksters, and the end of the world. In addition to mining the best folkloric sources of the nineteenth century, the editors have also included a broad selection of contemporary Native American voices.
 
With black-and-white illustrations throughout
Selected and edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz
Part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804151757
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/04/2013
Series: The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 455,264
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

RICHARD ERDOES (1912–2008) was an artist, photographer, Native American rights activist, and author or editor of more than twenty books, including Lakota Woman and Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions.

ALFONSO ORTIZ (1939–1997) was a Native American scholar, anthropologist, activist and author. His works include The Tewa World: Space, Time, Being and Becoming in a Pueblo Society and The Pueblo. 

Read an Excerpt

CORN MOTHER
 
[Penobscot]
 
What the buffalo represented to the nomadic tribe of the Plains, corn was to the planting people of the East and the Southwest—the all-nourishing sacred food, the subject of innumerable legends and the central theme of many rituals. Derived from a wild grass called teosintl, corn was planted in Mexico’s Tehuacan Valley as early as 8,000 years ago. The oldest corn found north of the border was discovered in New Mexico’s Bat Cave. It is about 5,500 years old. The Hopi’s say: “Moing’iima makes corn. Everything grows on his body. He is short, about the height of a boy. He has a female partner. Every summer he becomes heavy, his body is full of vegetables: watermelon, corn, squash. They grow in his body. When the Hopi plant, they invariably ask him to make the crop flourish; then their things come up, whether vegetables or fruit. When he shaves his body, the seeds come out, and afterward his body is thin. He used to live on this earth and go with the Hopi. When things grow ripe, he becomes thin and is unhappy. He stays in the West.” Corn had equal significance for tribes in the East, as we see in this tale from a New England tribe.
 
***
 
When Kloskurbeh, the All-maker, lived on earth, there were no people yet. But one day when the sun was high, a youth appeared and called him “Uncle, brother of my mother.” This young man was born from the foam of the waves, foam quickened by the wind and warmed by the sun. It was the motion of the wind, the moistness of water, and the sun’s warmth which gave him life—warmth above all, because warmth is life. And the young man lived with Kloskurbeh and became his chief helper.
 
Now, after these two powerful being had created all manner of things, there came to them, as the sun was shining at high noon, a beautiful girl. She was born of the wonderful earth plant, and of the dew, and of warmth. Because a drop of dew full on a leaf and was warmed by the sun, and the warming sun is life, this girl came into being—from the green living plant, from moisture, and from warmth.
 
“I am love, said the maiden. “I am a strength giver, I am the nourisher, I am the provider of men and animals. They all love me.”
 
Then Kloskurbeh thanked the Great Mystery Above for having sent them the maiden. The youth, the Great Nephew, married her, and the girl conceived and thus became the First Mother. And Kloskurbeh, the Great Uncle, who teaches humans all they need to know, taught their children how to live. Then he went away to dwell in the north, from which he will return sometime when he is needed.
 
Now the people increased and became numerous. They lived by hunting, and the more people there were, the less game they found. They were hunting it out, and as the animals decreased, starvation came upon the people. And the First Mother pitied them.
 
The little children came to First Mother and said: “We are hungry. Feed us.” But she had nothing to give them, and she wept. She told them: “Be patient. I will make some food. Then your little bellies will be full.” But she kept weeping.
 
Her husband asked: “How can I make you smile? How can I make you happy?”
 
“There is only one thing that will stop my tears.”
 
“What is it?” asked her husband.
 
“It is this: you must kill me.”
 
“I could never do that.”
 
“You must, or I will go on weeping and grieving forever.”
 
Then the husband traveled far, to the end of the earth, to the north he went, to ask the Great Instructor, his uncle Kloskurbeh, what he should do.
 
“You must do what she wants. You must kill her,” said Kloskurbeh. Then the young man went back to his home, and it was his turn to weep. But First Mother said: “Tomorrow at high noon you must do it. After you have killed me, let two of our sons take hold of my hair and drag my body over that empty patch of earth. Let them drag my back and forth, back and forth, over every part of that patch, until all of my flesh has been torn from my body. Afterward, take my bones, gather them up, and bury them in the middle of this clearing. Then leave that place.”
 
She smiled and said, “Wait seven moons and then come back, and you will find my flesh there, flesh given out of love, and it will nourish and strengthen you forever and ever.”
 
So it was done. The husband slew the wife and her sons, praying, dragged her body to and fro as she had commanded, until her flesh covered all the earth. Then they took up her cones and buried them in the middle of it. Weeping loudly, they went away.
 
When the husband and his children and his children’s children came back to that place after seven moons had passed, they found the earth covered will tall, green, tasseled plants. The plants’ fruit—corn—was First Mother’s flesh, given so that the people might live and flourish/ And the partook of First Mother’s flesh and found it sweet beyond words. Following her instructions, they did not eat all, but put many kernels back into the earth. In this way her flesh and spirit renewed themselves every seven months, generation after generation.
 
And at the spot where they had burned First Mother’s ones, there grew another plant, broad-leafed and fragrant. It was First Mother’s breath, and they heard her spirit talking: “Burn this up and smoke it. It is sacred. It will clear your minds, help your prayers, and gladden your hearts.”
 
And First Mother’s husband called the first plant Skarmunal, corn, and the second plant utarmur-wayeh, tobacco.
 
“Remember,” he told the people,” and take good care of First Mother’s flesh, because it is her goodness become substance. Take good care of her breath, because it is her love turned into smoke. Remember her and think of her whenever you eat, whenever you smoke this sacred plant, because she has given her life so that you might live. Yet she is not dead, she lives: in undying love she renews herself again and again.”
 
Retold from three nineteenth-century sources, including Joseph Nicolar.

Table of Contents

Introduction  xi
  
• PART ONE •  
RABBIT BOY KICKED THAT BLOOD CLOT AROUND:   
Tales of Human Creation  1
Rabbit Boy (White River Sioux) 5
Blood Clot (Southern Ute) 8
Corn Mother (Penobscot) 11
Creation of the Animal People (Okanogan) 14
Stone Boy (Brule Sioux) 15
The Powerful Boy (Seneca) 20
Glooscap and the Baby (Algonquian) 25
The Old Woman of the Spring (Cheyenne) 26
Arrow Boy (Cheyenne) 29
The Great Medicine Dance (Cheyenne) 33
The Origin of Curing Ceremonies (White Mountain Apaches) 37
Creation of First Man and First Woman (Navajo) 39
How Men and Women Got Together (Blood-Piegan) 41
The Well-Baked Man (Pima) 46
The White Buffalo Woman (Brule Sioux) 47
The Orphan Boy and the Elk Dog (Blackfoot) 53
Salt Woman Is Refused Food (Cochiti) 61
The Sacred Weed (Blackfoot) 62
How Grandfather Peyote Came to the Indian People (Brule Sioux) 65
The Vision Quest (Brule Sioux) 69
  
• PART TWO •  
THE PLACE OF EMERGENCE:  
Tales of World Creation  73
The Good Twin and the Evil Twin (Yuma) 77
The Jicarilla Genesis (Jicarilla Apache) 83
When Grizzlies Walked Upright (Modoc) 85
Old Man Coyote Makes the World (Crow) 88
How the Sioux Came to Be (Brule Sioux) 93
Pushing Up the Sky (Snohomish) 95
Emerging into the Upper World (Acoma) 97
Earth Making (Chebokee) 105
The Earth Dragon (Northern California Coast) 107
People Brought in a Basket (Modoc) 109
Great Medicine Makes a Beautiful Country (Cheyenne) 111
The White Dawn of the Hopi (Hopi) 115
Creation of the Yakima World (Yakima) 117
Children of the Sun (Osage) 119
The Voice, the Flood, and the Turtle (Caddo) 120
A Tale of Elder Brother (Pima) 122
  
• PART THREE •  
THE EYE OF THE GREAT SPIRIT:  
Tales of the Sun, Moon, and Stars  125
Sun Creation (Brule Sioux) 129
Walks-all-Over-the-Sky (Tsimshian) 136
Three-Legged Rabbit Fights the Sun (Western Rockies) 139
Coyote Steals the Sun and Moon (Zuni) 140
Keeping Warmth in a Bag (Slavey) 143
The Hopi Boy and the Sun (Hopi) 145
A Gust of Wind (Ojibway) 150
Daughter of the Sun (Cherokee) 152
Grandmother Spider Steals the Sun (Cherokee) 154
The Story of the Creation (Diegueños) 156
The Foolish Girls (Ojibway) 158
Moon Rapes His Sister Sun (Inuit) 161
Sun Teaches Veeho a Lesson (Cheyenne) 162
Little Brother Snares the Sun (Winnebago) 164
The Scabby One Lights the Sky (Toltec) 166
Playing a Trick on the Moon (Snoqualmie) 168
The Theft of Light (Tsimshian) 169
Coyote Places the Stars (Wasco) 171
Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden (Tewa) 173
  
• PART FOUR •  
ORDEALS OF THE HERO:  
Monsters and Monster Slayers  177
Glooscap Fights the Water Monster (Passamaquoddy, Micmac, and Maliskeet) 181
Little-Man-with-Hair-All-Over (Metis) 185
How Mosquitoes Came to Be (Tlingit) 192
Hiawatha the Unifier (Iroquois) 193
The Life and Death of Sweet Medicine (Northern Cheyenne) 199
The Quillwork Girl and her Seven Star Brothers (Cheyenne) 205
Rolling Head (Wintu) 209
Son of Light Kills the Monster (Hopi) 211
The Coming of Thunder (Miwok) 216
Wakinyan Tanka, the Great Thunderbird (Brule Sioux) 218
Coyote Kills the Giant (Flathead) 223
A Legend of Devil’s Tower (Sioux) 225
The Flying Head (Iroquois) 227
The First Ship (Chinook) 229
Chase of the Severed Head (Cheyenne) 230
Uncegila’s Seventh Spot (Brule Sioux) 237
  
• PART FIVE •  
COUNTING COUP:  
War and the Warrior Code  243
Little Mouse Counting Coup (Brule Sioux) 247
Two Bullets and Two Arrows (Brule Sioux) 248
A Cheyenne Blanket (Pawnee) 251
The Warrior Maiden (Oneida) 252
The Siege of Courthouse Rock (White River Sioux) 254
Chief Roman Nose Loses his Medicine (White River Sioux) 256
Brave Woman Counts Coup (White River Sioux) 258
Spotted Eagle and Black Crow (White River Sioux) 260
Where the Girl Saved her Brother (Cheyenne) 264
Tatanka Iyotake’s Dancing Horse (Brule Sioux) 267
  
• PART SIX •  
THE SOUND OF FLUTES:  
Tales of Love and Lust  271
The Legend of the Flute (Brule Sioux) 275
Teaching the Mudheads How to Copulate (Zuni) 279
The Fight for a Wife (Aleut) 281
Teeth in the Wrong Places (Ponca-Otoe) 283
The Stolen Wife (Tewa) 285
Tolowim Woman and Butterfly Man (Maidu) 290
Apache Chief Punishes his Wife (Tiwa) 291
The Husband’s Promise (Tewa) 295
The Man Who Married the Moon (Isleta Pueblo) 298
Why Mole Lives Underground (Cherokee) 305
A Legend of Multnomah Falls (Multnomah) 306
The Industrious Daughter Who Would not Marry (Cochiti) 308
The Woman Who Married a Merman (Coos) 312
Coyote’s Strawberry (Crow) 314
The Faithful Wife and the Woman Warrior (Tiwa) 315
Coyote and the Mallard Ducks (Nez Percé) 318
The Greedy Father (Kabok) 320
Kulshan and his Two Wives (Lumni) 321
Men and Women Try Living Apart (Sia) 324
A Contest for Wives (Cochiti) 326
The Serpent of the Sea (Zuni) 327
  
• PART SEVEN •  
COYOTE LAUGHS AND CRIES:  
Trickster Tales  333
Coyote, Iktome, and the Rock (White River Sioux) 337
What’s This? My Balls for your Dinner (White River Sioux) 339
Coyote and Wasichu (Brule Sioux 342
How Beaver Stole Fire from the Pines (Nez Percé) 343
The Raven (Athapascan) 344
The Bluebird and the Coyote (Pima) 346
Adventures of Great Rabbit (Algonquian) 347
Turkey Makes the Corn and Coyote Plants It (White Mountain Apache) 352
Coyote Takes Water from the Frog People (Kalapuya) 355
How the People Got Arrowheads (Shasta) 356
Iktome and the Ignorant Girl (Brule Sioux) 358
Coyote Fights a Lump of Pitch (White Mountain Apache) 359
Always-Living-at-the-Coast (Kwakiutl) 362
Glooscap Grants Three Wishes (Algonquian) 365
Coyote’s Rabbit Chase (Tewa) 368
Coyote Gets Rich off the White Man (White Mountain Apache) 369
Iktome Sleeps with his Wife by Mistake (Brule Sioux) 372
How to Scare a Bear (Tewa) 375
Coyote Steals Sun’s Tobacco (White Mountain Apache) 377
Doing a Trick with Eyeballs (Northern Cheyenne) 379
Iktome Has a Bad Dream (Brule Sioux) 381
How Coyote Got his Cunning (Karok) 382
Coyote and the Two Frog Women (Alsea) 384
Coyote Dances with a Star (Cheyenne) 385
  
• PART EIGHT •  
FOUR LEGS, TWO LEGS, AND NO LEGS:  
Stories of Animals and Other People  387
The Great Race (Cheyenne) 390
Origin of the Gnawing Beaver (Haida) 392
How the Crow Came to Be Black (Brule Sioux) 395
The Girl Who Married Rattlesnake (Pomo) 397
Why the Owl Has Big Eyes (Iroquois) 398
The Owl Husband (Passamaquoddy) 399
The Dogs Hold an Election (Brule Sioux) 403
The Snake Brothers (Brule Sioux) 404
Butterflies (Papago) 407
The Revenge of Blue Corn Ear Maiden (Hopi) 409
The Meeting of the Wild Animals (Tsimshian) 413
A Fish Story (Tewa) 415
The Neglectful Mother (Cochiti) 417
The Bear and his Indian Wife (Haida) 419
Wakiash and the First Totem Pole (Kwakiutl) 423
  
• PART NINE •  
SOMETHING WHISTLING IN THE NIGHT:  
Ghosts and the Spirit World  427
Two Ghostly Lovers (Brule Sioux) 432
The Man Who Was Afraid of Nothing (Brule Sioux) 435
The Land of the Dead (Serrano) 438
The Double-Faced Ghost (Cheyenne) 439
A Journey to the Skeleton House (Hopi) 442
The Skeleton Who Fell Down Piece by Piece (Isleta Pueblo) 446
The Spirit Wife (Zuni) 447
The Transformed Grandmother (Pima-Papago) 451
Big Eater’s Wife (Pequod) 453
The Origin of the Hopi Snake Dance (Tewa) 455
Blue Jay Visits Ghost Town (Chinook) 457
The Ghost Wife (Brule Sioux) 462
  
• PART TEN •  
ONLY THE ROCKS AND MOUNTAINS LAST FOREVER:  
Visions of the End  465
Woman Chooses Death (Blackfoot) 469
Coyote and the Origin of Death (Caddo) 470
The Flood (Haida) 472
The Seer Who Would not See (Pima) 473
The Elk Spirit of Lost Lake (Wasco) 475
The Death of Head Chief and Young Mule (Northern Cheyenne) 477
The Ghost Dance at Wounded Knee (Brule Sioux) 481
The Gnawing (Cheyenne) 484
The End of the World (White River Sioux) 485
Montezuma and the Great Flood (Papago) 487
The Buffalo Go (Kiowa) 490
The Coming of Wasichu (Brule Sioux) 491
Remaking the World (Brule Sioux) 496
  
Appendix  500
  
Bibliography  522
  
Index of Tales  526
  
  
  

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“We have nothing more universal than our folk myths, and in this book Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz have brought together what is probably the most comprehensive and diverse collection of American Indian Legends ever compiled. It is a worthy and welcomed addition to the literature of our native peoples”
—Dee Brown
 
“This fine, valuable new gathering of Turtle Island tales is truly alive, mysterious, and wonderful - overflowing, that is, with wonder, mystery and life.”
—Peter Matthiessen

Customer Reviews

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American Indian Myths and Legends 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I LOVE THIS BOOK LIKE CRAZY. :) I'VE READ IT, LIKE A MILLION TIMES ALREADY. I LOVE ALL THE STORIES IN IT. SOME OF THEM WERE SO FUNNY, THAT THEY MADE ME CRY. :) I PLAN TO READ MOST OF THE STORIES IN THIS BOOK TO MY FUTURE CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN, AND GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN SOMEDAY. BUT WARNING TO ALL : THE STORY ENTITLED "COYOTE'S STRAWBERRY" IS PROBABLY NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN AND THERE MAY BE A COUPLE MORE IN THERE THAT ARE MORE ADULT-CONTENT-ORIENTED, BUT I CAN'T REMEMBER THE EXACT ONES RIGHT NOW. IF YOU LIKE READING BEDTIME STORIES TO YOUR CHILDREN, AND/OR LIKE STORIES OR ANYTHING THAT'S AMERICAN-INDIAN ORIENTED, PERIOD, THEN I KNOW YOU'LL LOVE AND ENJOY THIS BOOK JUST AS MUCH AS I DO. A GREAT TRAVEL BOOK AS WELL. I NEVER LEAVE ANYWHERE WITHOUT IT. :) I HOPE THERE'S A SEQUEL BOOK OR A FOLLOW UP TO THIS BOOK.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This a really good book to sit and read I got so into this book that i lost time... hope you injoy this book like i do
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is divided into sections such as love stories, stories of creation, stories of spirits and ghosts of the dead, coyote stories and many more. The tribe from which the legend originated is also stated along with who told it and when. I absolutely enjoyed this book and have read it over and over again. This truly tops all the other Native American Myth and Legend books!!!!!!
DugsBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great bedtime stories
edundatscheck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book details many of the traditional native american folktales with some more obsure stories. All will delight.
ffox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great anthology that contains numerous myths. Most are then followed by a short description of how the myth is portrayed/different in other cultures (different characters, techniques, locales, etc). The text is clearly meant to be a resource and is not necessarily a children's book
johnemersonsfoot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's not easy to find an accurate compilation of this type. There's a legion of white guys lined up to sell "ancient native earth wisdom", with the actual people who have tales to tell lost in the noise. From what I've been led to believe, this one's among the best out there.
gazzy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you love American Indians then this is a must, o.k. if you like myths.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago