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Folklore and Stories from Native American Culture

When people think about Native American culture, they sometimes assume it is a unified belief system, but this is far from true. Native American beliefs are rooted in the natural world and reflect the geography of the place where they live. With tribes and nations spread across North America, there is a lot of diversity in geography and thought. Such diversity can be clearly observed in the narratives handed down through the generations by Native Americans. Stories transmitted by oral tradition encompass many aspects of the culture, natural and supernatural—creation myths, hero tales, cautionary warnings, and family histories, to name a few. This minibibliography brings together the traditional stories, legends, and myths passed on by Native Americans to their descendants.

All titles in this minibibliography can be requested from your local cooperating library. The digital talking book titles can be downloaded through the NLS BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website. Contact your local cooperating library to register for BARD. Registered users can also download titles on iOS and Android devices using the BARD Mobile app. To find your local cooperating library, go to Find Your Library or call toll-free 888-NLS-READ (888-657-7323).

Contents

Adult

Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman's Sourcebook

by Paula Gunn Allen
Allen retells and explains twenty-one spiritual stories culled from the oral histories of various Native American tribes. These selections, which include creation legends, illustrate the tribes’ matriarchal values. Also discussed are the steps a woman passes through to become a medicine woman—the ways of the daughter, householder, mother, gatherer, ritualist, teacher, and wise woman. 1991.
Download DB34434

The White Deer and Other Stories Told by the Lenape

by John Bierhorst
Native American tales of the Lenape people, who were indigenous to New Jersey and its bordering states. The legends tell of magic dogs, lost children, and heroes. The title story depicts a white deer that can give game to hunters or can protect game by killing the hunters. For junior and senior high readers. 1995.
Download BR10825

Native American Stories

by Joseph Bruchac
Native Americans view human relationships with nature in terms of family, with the Earth as mother. This collection of tales and myths from various Native American groups focuses on this relationship. Chapter titles include "Creation," "Earth," "Wind Weather," and "Plants and Animals." For junior and senior high and older readers. 1991.
Download BR08773
Download DB34361

American Indian Myths and Legends

by Richard Erdoes
A wide-ranging anthology of one hundred sixty tales from one hundred tribes, including accounts of the creation, of heroes and monsters, of war and the warrior code, of love and passion, and of trickery and humor. 1984.
Download DB22217

Raven Tales

by Peter Goodchild
A selection of myths portraying the raven as a mythological figure accompanies a study of tales from a number of cultures. The chapters feature folktales of Native Americans living along the Pacific Northwest coast, and trace some variant tales as far as Asia. The raven commonly plays the role of culture hero, creator, transformer, or trickster in these oral tales. Violence. 1991.
Download BR09147
Download DB35645

The Way to Rainy Mountain

by N. Scott Momaday
Retells the Kiowa myths that the author learned from his grandmother; speculates on the actual history they may symbolize; and describes, with infectious nostalgia, the life he knew as a child. 1969.
Download DB14482

Navaho Folk Tales

by Franc Johnson Newcomb
These seventeen related Navaho tales were first collected by the author for her children, but the stories appeal to adults as well. The tales explain how "The People," as the Navaho refer to themselves, ascended to the Fifth World—the present—bringing with them some knowledge, magic, or skill to make this a better world. These are stories of creation and of Navaho respect for all forms of life. 1990.
Download DB33343

Mitakuye Oyasin

by A. C. Ross
Mitakuye Oyasin is an American Indian Roots story. It compares the myths and legends of the American Indian with the world's major philosophies and religions. Unrated. 1989.
Download DB19691

Children’s books

For preschool to grade 2

Buffalo Woman

by Paul Goble
A Great Plains Indian legend about a young hunter who marries a female buffalo in the form of a maiden. When his people reject his wife, the brave must undergo several tests to join the buffalo nation. 1984.
Download DB24661

How Thunder and Lightning Came To Be: A Choctaw Legend

by Beatrice Orcutt Harrell
Based on legends the author heard from her Choctaw mother and grandfather. The Great Sun Father lets two silly birds, Heloha and her fast-moving mate, Melatha, plan a way to warn people on Earth about coming storms. They discover that when Heloha's eggs roll around their cloud home, a loud rumbling is heard. And when Melatha rushes to catch the eggs, he streaks across the sky. 1995.
Download DB40960

How Turtle's Back Was Cracked: A Traditional Cherokee Tale

by Gayle Ross
Back in the days when all animals and people spoke the same language, Turtle and Possum were best friends because neither of them liked to go anywhere in a big hurry and both loved persimmons. One day while sharing their favorite fruit, something happens that changes Turtle forever. 1995.
Download DB41522

For kindergarten to grade 3

How Raven Brought Light to People

by Ann Dixon
A long time ago, the earth was new, and the people had no light. A great chief hid the sun, the moon, and the stars in three wooden boxes. Raven grew tired of the darkness and angry that the chief kept the light from Earth's people. This is a tale of how Raven tricks the chief out of the boxes, and gains black feathers in the process. Adapted from an Alaskan Tlingit Indian legend. For grades K-3 and older readers. 1992.
Download DB38202

Iktomi and the Boulder: A Plains Indian Story

by Paul Goble
Do you know why bats have flattened faces? Or why there are rocks scattered all over the Great Plains? It is because of Iktomi, a Plains Indian trickster who once tried to defeat a huge boulder with the help of some bats. 1988.
Download DB30039

The Great Race of the Birds and Animals

by Paul Goble
A retelling of the Cheyenne and Sioux myth about a contest called by the Creator to determine whether man or the buffalo should have supremacy and become the guardians of creation. 1985.
Download DB24365

The Lost Children

by Paul Goble
In this retelling of a Blackfoot Indian legend, six orphaned brothers are neglected by the people, teased by the children, and loved only by the camp dogs. They decide to leave for the Above World, where Sun Man grows angry upon hearing of their neglect and punishes the people. Today the orphans shine in the sky as the Pleiades stars, or "the Lost Children." For grades K-3 and older readers. 1993.
Download DB39165

How Chipmunk Got Tiny Feet: Native American Animal Origin Stories

by Gerald Hausman
Seven stories that explain how the coyote, bat, lizard, hawk, horse, possum, and chipmunk came to be the animals we know today. Includes "How Coyote Got Yellow Eyes," "How Bat Learned to Fly," "How Lizard Got Flat," and "How Possum Lost His Tail." For grades K-3. 1995.
Download DB43880

We Are Water Protectors

by Carole Lindstrom
When a black snake threatens to destroy the earth and poison her people's water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth's most sacred resource. Commercial audiobook. Caldecott Medal. 2020.
Download DB103823

Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest

by Gerald McDermott
Along the Pacific Northwest coast, Raven is the central character in the myths and legends of Native Americans. In this tale, Raven, feeling sad for the men and women living in the dark and cold, devises a clever plan to steal the sun from the Sky Chief to bring light and warmth to the people. For grades K-3 and older readers. 1993.
Download DB38685

The Story of Jumping Mouse

by John Steptoe
A young mouse sets off to follow his dream—to find the "far-off land" on the other side of the desert. He gives away his eyesight and sense of smell to two helpless creatures, but is well-rewarded at his journey's end. Caldecott Honor Book. 1984.
Download DB23246

Coyote Steals the Blanket: An Ute Tale

by Janet Stevens
Coyote, a hard one to take advice, ignores the warning of Hummingbird and swipes a beautiful blanket draped over a huge rock, thus angering the spirit of the desert. The rock takes off in hot pursuit of Coyote in this humorous Ute trickster tale. 1993.
Download DB38478

For grades 2 to 4

Crow Chief: A Plains Indian Story

by Paul Goble
In this Native American tale, Crow Chief always warns the buffalo when the hunters are approaching. That is, until Falling Star, the savior, comes to the camp and teaches Crow Chief that all must share and live together. For grades 2-4 and older readers. 1992.
Download DB38567

The Stolen Appaloosa and Other Indian Stories

by Paul M. Levitt
A collection of five folktales from the Indians of the Pacific Northwest. Includes "The Story of Hot and Cold" and "Why the Indians Changed Their Home." For grades 2-4 and older readers. 1988.
Download DB30269

For grades 3 to 6

The Girl Who Helped Thunder and Other Native American Folktales

by James Bruchac
Two dozen traditional tales from across North America recount the adventures of mighty chiefs, brave hunters, and clever animals. In the cautionary title piece, a proud young woman marries a stranger against her parents' advice and discovers too late that he is not what he seems. 2008.
Download DB68851

Gluskabe and the Four Wishes

by Joseph Bruchac
An Abenaki Indian tale of three foolish men and one wise man, each of whom seeks a wish from Gluskabe, helper of the Great Spirit. Their wishes are fulfilled in unexpected ways, thus conveying a moral lesson to the reader. For grades 3-6 and older readers. 1995.
Download DB43269

Iroquois Stories: Heroes and Heroines, Monsters and Magic

by Joseph Bruchac
Collection of thirty-two traditional Iroquois tales often told around the longhouse fire in wintertime. Includes stories about the Creation, how the bear lost his tail, how the buzzard got his feathers, the turtle's race with a beaver and then a bear, the vampire skeleton, and the hunting of the great bear. Some violence. 1984.
Download DB41284

Spider Spins a Story: Fourteen Legends from Native America

by Catherine Byers
Presents folk tales from various native peoples including the Kiowa, Zuni, Cherokee, Hopi, Navajo, and Muskogee, all featuring the spider character. In "Iktomi and Buzzard: A Lakota Legend," the arrogant spider figure learns the importance of kindness and humility. For grades 3-6 and older readers. 1997.
Download DB57328

Back in the Beforetime: And Other Indian tales from Texas and the Southern Plains

by Jane Louise Curry
Twenty-two Indian tales from "back in the beforetime," when the world was new and the animal people lived, and man had not yet been created. Included are "How Old Man Above Created the World," "How Coyote Stole the Sun," and "The War between Beasts and Birds." For grades 3-6 and older readers. 1987.
Download DB29166

The Boy Who Found the Light: Eskimo folktales

by Dale DeArmond
A collection of three Eskimo folktales. In the title story, "The Boy Who Found the Light," an orphaned boy cast out from his darkened village captures the sun and the moon for his people. Other tales are "The Doll" and "The Raven and the Marmot." For grades 3-6 and older readers. 1990.
Download DB35352

Love Flute

by Paul Goble
In this Native American legend, a young man is too shy to woo the woman he loves. He's brave in battle and a leader in the buffalo hunt, but he's afraid to speak to her, though he longs to stand with her draped in his blanket and confess his love. Sad and lonely, he wanders into the forest, where two Elk Men bring him a flute that the birds and animals have made. It is a flute that will speak to the heart of the woman he loves. For grades 3-6 and older readers. 1992.
Download DB36819

Echoes of the Elders

by Lelooska
Five folktales from the oral tradition of the Kwakiutl, a Native American tribe on the northwest coast of North America. The stories tell about natural creatures like owls, loons, ravens, seagulls, fish, and mosquitoes, and also about mythical creatures like Timber Giant, the devourer of children. 1997.
Download DB45968

Spirit of the Cedar People

by Lelooska
Five folktales from the Kwakiutl, Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest coast. Recounts a mythical time when the world was full of magic and some animals and humans could transform themselves into other species. Companion to Echoes of the Elders (Download DB45968). 1997.
Download DB47945

The Children of the Morning Light: Wampanoag Tales

by Medicine Story
Members of the Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts are also known as Children of the Morning Light. The author, a tribal elder, tells his tribe's creation stories, which feature Maushop, grandson of the moon. Maushop made the land, plants, animals, and people. His jealous twin brother made poisonous plants and animals. Maushop became the helper and teacher of the people. 1994.
Download DB41130

Trickster and the Fainting Birds

by Howard A. Norman
A collection of seven Algonquian tales about the mischief-maker trickster. In the title piece, the trickster is rejected in marriage, so he transforms the young woman's suitor into a kingfisher, hoping she will change her mind. 1999.
Download DB49900

How Glooskap Outwits the Ice Giants and Other Tales of the Maritime Indians

by Howard A. Norman
Glooskap, in the Indian languages of maritime Canada and Maine, means "man from nothing." He is believed to be the first person to have lived on earth. These six tales feature Glooskap's travels and adventures from Nova Scotia to New England. For grades 3-6 and older readers. 1989.
Download DB34172

For grades 4 to 7

Ladder to the Sky: How the Gift of Healing Came to the Ojibway Nation; A Legend Retold

by Barbara Juster Esbensen
Long ago in the Ojibway lands, there was no sickness or death. A magic vine connected the kingdom of the Great Spirit with earth. At the end of life, one was carried by a spirit up the vine. When an old woman distraught over the loss of her grandson climbs the forbidden vine, sickness and death come to earth, but so does knowledge of using plants for healing. For grades 4-7 and older readers. 1989.
Download DB36513

The Songs My Paddle Sings

by James Riordan
Twenty brief legends—creation myths, pourquoi tales, cautionary stories, and hero tales—collected from a variety of North American nations. The Squamish legend "The Deep Waters" tells of building a giant canoe to save the children when the world was slowly being flooded. For grades 4-7 and older readers. 1995.
Download DB49576

Coyote, the Trickster: Legends of the North American Indians

by Gail Robinson
Short, witty tales about supernatural creatures who can be kindly gods and comic fools, gift-bringers and troublemakers. 1976.
Download DB12913

For grades 5 to 8

The Naked Bear: Folktales of the Iroquois

by John Bierhorst
A collection of sixteen traditional tales told by the Iroquois Indians, who inhabited what in now New York State. Includes stories of boy heroes, trickster turtles, flesh-eating creatures, and stone giants. For grades 5-8 and older readers. 1987.
Download DB29434

The Girl Who Married the Moon: Tales from Native North America

by Joseph Bruchac
This sequel to Flying with the Eagle, Racing the Great Bear (Download BR10345) focuses on the time a young girl becomes a woman. In Native American cultures, this day is celebrated with song, dance, ritual, and story. Two storytellers have collected tales about women of four Indian nations from four different regions of North America. 1994.
Download BR10192

Flying with the Eagle, Racing the Great Bear: Stories from Native North America

by Joseph Bruchac
In this companion volume to Girl Who Married the Moon (Download BR10192), Bruchac focuses on the transition from boyhood to manhood. The collection of sixteen stories recounts the customs of tribes such as the Iroquois, Wampanoag, Cherokee, Apache, Pueblo, Lakota, and Cheyenne. 1994.
Download BR10345

Native American Animal Stories

by Joseph Bruchac
A collection of twenty-four animal stories from various native North American cultures. The foreword and introduction are valuable for understanding the messages of the stories. A glossary of key words and descriptions of tribal nations represented in the anthology are also included. 1992.
Download BR09415

The Talking Stone: An Anthology of Native American Tales and Legends

by Dorothy De Wit
A glimpse into the rich folklore of American Indians, these stories deal with tribal history and heroes, the much-loved trickster figures, and the origins of various animals and celestial bodies. A few, such as 'Little Burnt Face,' an Algonquin cousin of Cinderella’s tale, show the influence of early settlers. For grades 5-8 and older readers. 1979.
Download DB21804

For grades 6 to 9

Red Hunters and the Animal People

by Charles Alexander Eastman
First published in 1904, this classic collection of twelve folktales from the Dakota people reflects Native American attitudes towards hunting and animals. Included are "Wechah the Provider," "The Sky Warrior," and "Hootay of the Little Rosebud." For grades 6-9 and older readers. 1904.
Download DB37176

Earthmaker's Tales: North American Indian Stories about Earth Happenings

by Gretchen Mayo
Seventeen tales from Native American folklore that seek to explain the origins of natural phenomena such as floods, volcanoes, storms, snow, winds, and fog. For grades 6-9 and older readers. 1989.
Download DB33687

Walking the Choctaw Road

by Tim Tingle
Twelve traditional stories reflecting the history and beliefs of the Choctaw nation, spanning almost two centuries of tribal life. "Saltypie" is Tingle's own story of his family's close bond with his blind grandmother. For grades 6-9 and older readers. 2003.
Download DB59053

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