Native American Mythology Impact

Much of Native American culture is based around stories handed down from generation to generation, but few Native American myths are in written form. Traditionally, Native Americans retold stories through orally, and certain aspects of these stories were naturally changed along the way.

Today, not all Native American stories are only told through oral tradition. In the early 1900s, when written diaries became popular, Native American tribal elders began to transcribe stories onto paper. Before then, the lines of truth and reality were blurred, but the essence of the stories generally remained unchanged.

Because many of the stories revolve around realistic figures, most are considered to be true recounts of someone ‘s experience.

Different Native American Regions

Native American culture relies on the basic belief that there is a greater force than humans controlling the world. This force affects everything and is able to communicate through dreams, visions and animals.

Despite different versions of common Native American myths, most tales revolve around:

  • animals
  • customs and habits
  • tribe members.

The United States is home to many Native American tribes, and each has stories related to their tribe. For example, one tale from the Chinook tribe delves into the origins of tribes in the Northwest. In this tale, a greedy beaver and a cunning wolf fight a long battle over the beaver ‘s domain. Eventually, the wolf triumphs, and chops the beaver into small pieces. The wolf then scatters the beaver pieces throughout the Northwest, where they become separate tribes.

Native American Mythology Examples

Numerous traditional Native American myths have been passed on through generations and are still told today. Many of these stories have been recorded online or in print. Some examples of these stories are:

  • A Crow ‘s Feathers: This Lenni Lenape tribal tale tells of an extremely cold winter. A crow is chosen to get a message to the creator so that warmth is restored to the lands. On the crow’s trip back to earth, a flaming stick catches the crow ‘s colorful feathers on fire, leaving him charred and blackened. As a reward for his work, the creator gives him shimmering black feathers that display many colors when viewed in the sun.
  • High Cost of Selfishness: A young woman continues to starve her mother-in-law and husband while she eats fish caught in the river using magic. When her husband learns of her deceit, he chases her into the woods. There he watches as she is transformed into a lonely owl as punishment for her selfishness. Some tribes say that when you hear an owl hoot, you are hearing that young woman crying.
  • Why Tribes Select a Chief: The Kaska FirstNation story of a mammoth explains the reason why Native American tribes select a chief. In the story, a woman and her baby are terrorized by a mammoth while out hunting. When the mammoth kills her husband, she flees to a nearby tribe. An outcast member of the tribe is able to slay the beast. The boy is named chief as a reward. Since that day, tribes with a chief are said to be safe from attacks.

The Impact of Native American Mythology in Our Modern World

The Native Americans saw the Earth as a home they had to worship and protect, and everything on the Earth as sacred. To them, nature itself is considered alive and has a spirit. Rather than ruling over nature, Native Americans have traditionally sought to become one with the natural world.

This relationship between man and land has often been considered superstitious or insignificant in our modern world, until the past few decades when it ‘s become clear that our lack of respect for the Earth has produced pollution, global warming and general destruction.

Companies like Green Spirit Environment, Inc. and Native American Environmental Associates were founded on the belief of the importance of the connection between Mother Earth and man. These companies are owned and operated by Native Americans and are devoted to reducing the carbon footprint we leave on the Earth.

Native American culture offers rich, rewarding tales of the power of the land and how our actions can lead to penalties we may not expect.