Native American Legends and Folklore

There are many myths and legends that surround the lives of Native Americans. Their lives is intertwined with stories about animals, land, nature and the universe that has been passed down from generation to generation through story telling. The chiefs of each tribe are tasked to carry on the verbal tradition of safe guarding these tales. Some of the tales tell stories of creation, sacred animals and many more.

I would like to share one of these stories to you.

Cayote and Raven’s Creation Story

Once there lived two great immortals, Raven and Cayote. Raven and Cayote decided to create the world. Because Raven can soar in the skies, she created everything in there. She made the moon, the stars, the clouds, the rain, the lightning and thunder. On the other hand, Cayote can run very fast so he created everything on this earth. He created the land, the sea, the plants and the fields.  Once they have both completed creating the world, they decided to create the animal people. These creatures filled the land and the seas and the skies. They were tasked to care for the world that Raven and Cayote created. After they have created the living creatures, they convened about the question of Life and Death. Raven wanted everything to live forever and not die because she and Cayote were immortals. On the other hand Cayote disagreed. He said that he will not allow creatures to live forever because if they do, they might surpass his wisdom. Raven really did not want what Cayote said, but in the end agreed with her friend. So they set the animal people to die at some point.

Then something tragic happened. Cayote’s son died. He asked Raven to let him live forever and change the rule. But Raven refused. She said that they have already made an agreement. So in Cayote’s grief and despair he run away to a barren land that they have not created anything on during the creation. There he fashioned ugly monsters to kill Raven. But Raven was cunning and she could see these monsters from afar way before they could attack her. Raven would just fly away and they could never reach her.

So Cayote changed his plan. He created another monster that would look innocent yet would be able to kill Raven. He created Man. He told Man to go to a cave where Raven was. He gave him his tooth to use as a dagger. Since he was an immortal he thought that his tooth could kill Raven. Man set out to the cave. He saw Raven there. She was cleaning a beautiful silver ball. Man asked her what the ball is and she replied that she just picked it up from a river. She then saw the dagger in his hand. Raven gave the man a choice. She told him that if he does not harm her, she will give him the gift of freewill. That he can now decide what his life would become and just kill because he has the command to kill or because he is blood thirsty. She told him that he will also hold dominion over all the Animal People whether big or small.

The man decided to spare the life of Raven. Suddenly, Cayote appeared in the fire. He tried to kill Raven. Raven tossed the silver ball in the air and asked Man to take it. The man took it. However he did not know what to do with the silver ball. He decided to throw it into the sky. It grew bigger and bigger, brighter and brighter until it warmed the whole earth. It became the Sun. The Animal People rejoiced for their new found energy. They created a sculpture which they called woman. The sculpture came to life and became the mate of the man. The Animal People said that the woman would love and care for the man as long as he does the same.

Raven and Cayote continued their battle in the cave for the rest of eternity. They fought on and on; always in balance with one another. At times, Cayote would have the upper hand that would bring about more evil into the world. On the other times, Raven would be the one to be winning so there would be goodness in the universe. And so they fought on and on.

Man, Woman and the Animal People lived in the world. Man governed them as the authority given to him by Raven.

There are many wonderful folklore surrounding the Native American traditions. Cayote is one of the most popular Characters in them. Beaver is also another famous character. Here are a few links of these wonderful stories.

You may also see some of the stories here:

These stories are more than just legends. They are part of the culture and lives of Native Americans. Their love and respect for nature is shown on many of these stories. The legends are not just meant as bedtime stories for children but a vehicle of teaching morals to everyone in each tribe.

Many Native American lore have religious significance that lead to their ultimate Animistic beliefs. They try to preserve land and the Animal People (animals) because it is part of how they are raised. They continue to live a life connected to the land and the world. Many others may think that these stories have no basis and are just imaginary tales. But we need to understand that the roots of our Native American brothers and sisters have been planted thousands of years ago and they continue to take care and cherish their roots.

Legends are not just stories, they are traditions.





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