The term Eskimo was used to describe a member of the artic nomadic race, which appears to be the Algonquin Indian. The term means “raw-meat eater,” which was adopted by the early French explorers, being first recorded in 1611, and then by the English. Today most Eskimos regard the name pejorative and prefer to be called Inuit, meaning simply “man.” A.G.H.


Burland, Cottie. North American Indian Mythology. “Library of the World’s Myths and Legends.” {Revised by Marion Wood) New York. Peter Bedrick Books. 1965. p. 16

Wakan Tanka

Wakan Tanka is the Sioux name for the Great Spirit or Great Mystery.It’s prounciation is “wack-in tink-ah”. It’s meaning is also known as “the divine” and “the sacred”.  Wakan Tanka is thought of the creator of the world or universe; believed to be the All-Providing One. This Spirit is paid reverence as providing for the needs of everyone. This reverence is displayed when the people honor the four directions, the Sun, Mother Earth, and their fellow man because these are Wakan Tanka’s creation; when honoring them, people honor the spirit of Wakan Tanka which resides within each of them. The American Native does not attempt to describe this Great Power that Created All because “it is a Mystery,” they advise, “leave it alone; no one describe such a vast mystery.”



The symbol of the great spirit is the following:


Since it is traditional for the American Indian people not to argue over religious concepts, considering such arguments foolish, they invite everyone, especially the rainbow people, to join them, each in their own way and expression, in the reverence of Wakan Tanka.



The lakota prayer:

“teach me how to trust my heart, my mind, my intuition, my inner knowing, the senses of my body, the blessings of my spirit. Teach me to trust these things so that I may enter my sacred space and love beyond my fear, and thus walk in balance with the passing of each glorious sun”


Read more articles about african mythology.


McGaa, Ed, “Eagle Man.” Mother Earth Spirituality. New York. HarperCollins. 1990 pp. 44-46


The Underworld


Through Shamanistic communication according to some traditions the dead live in an underworld, which is not too happy, resembling this word, but darker. There is much hunger because descendants failed to give offering from their good hunting. The life of the Inuits was like that, and they expected it to continue in similar manner after death.

In Native American creation myths the underworld is occasionally associated with the womb, a place in Mother Earth where humans, plants, and animals are conceived and gradually mature from a seed-like state in darkness until they are ready to be born. Such myths are especially important within agricultural tribes such as the Hopi (see Spider), although other tribes of the Apache and Navajo have similar myths, who have ceremonies celebrating curing being significant of new beginnings. A.G.H.


Burland, Cottie. North American Indian Mythology. “Library of the World’s Myths and Legends.” {Revised by Marion Wood) New York. Peter Bedrick Books. 1965. p. 20
Leeming, David, Jake Page. The Mythology of Native North America. Norman. University of Oklahoma Press. 1998. p. 89



Tungrangayak, in Alaska, is a spirit or divinity know as the wisest of the wise; as is depicted with his body covered by circles or eyes with which he can see everything: “my whole body is nothing but eyes…I look in every direction.” A.G.H.


Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, p. 446



Tulungusaq, in one Inuit (Eskimo) creation myth, is the creature who came alive in the dead, silvery sky. He met the Swallow who came prior to him that showed him the deep abyss with hardening clay at the bottom. Afterwards he disguised himself as a crow with artificial feathers, wings, and beak, a disguise that he could easily remove. All vegetation sprang from bits of clay which the crow as he few had previously dropped in the soil. Out of the same material he fashioned animals and men. This is why he has been called Father Crow. The first four men emerged fast, either through spontaneous generation or by some absence of a governing will, even surprising the crow by the lightening speed by which they emerged from their husks. Hurriedly he created four wives for them and other people to populate the earth. Soon the earth overflowed with inhabitants causing the crow to increase the land by cutting up a monster and throwing pieces of him into the sea which changed into islands that netted to the coast.

(Relative is the fact that the crow cycle was characteristic of the Palaeo[old]-Arctic Siberians and part of the North-American Native mythology of the north-east coast; and was only known to Alaskans, not to the Inuits of that territory, therefore, in the latter case it is of foreign origin.) A.G.H.


Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, p. 441



The character of the trickster is prominent in Native American mythology even though it has a far reaching history in that it is considered to be a general god archetype. Joseph Campbell called the trickster “the chief mythological character of the Paleolithic world.” Carl Jung referred to the trickster as the expression of a “preconscious” state. Antisocial and dangerous behavior of the trickster is often worked out in shamanistic rituals where they sever good tribal or communal purposes. Among the Pueblo people of Arizona, for example, the tricksters evolved ritualistically into clowns, Koshare, Koyemshi, and Newekwe, who display open sexuality and gluttony but are confined in ritual ceremony and made less dangerous.

Some suggest that both the trickster and shaman may be related to the mythic and ritual forms associated with the Animal Master, the powerful animal such as the bear, buffalo, dear, and even salmon, cast in the role of the protector and enabler of the hunter. The role of the shaman-Animal-Master-trickster has a prolonged history as indicated in the ancient cave drawings like the renowned The Sorcerer painting in the Trois Freres Cave in France, c.a. 14,000 BCE. In this particular depiction one has an apparent human form, dressed in an animal costume, displaying typical phallic aspect of the trickster. Also mythical representations of the trickster are known throughout northern Europe such as Hermes in Greece, and Reynard the Fox in European folklore. Another pertinent example is Kokopelli, the hunchbacked flute player who begs for food and sometimes displays ithyphallical tendencies.

The trickster’s unbridled desires for food, sex, as well as his social inhibitions frequently made him a useful assistant to the world creator, and at times is the creator himself. Most tribes practicing shamanism have tricksters who are cultural heroes; those depending hunting, their tricksters usually take form of Animal Masters appearing in their prehuman forms though sometimes mistaken as humans. Since many tricksters assume their forms from Animal Masters it is obvious that various tribes associated with different animals (see Totem) would share similar mythologies. These myths can have both a religious and entertainment significance: the antisocial traits of the trickster can but use to teach children morality and in storytelling be entertaining to grownups as well. Sometimes the trickster receives the blunt of his own antics. Popular tricksters among the North American tribes are Manabozho, the RavenCoyoteHare, and SpiderA.G.H.


Kokopelli. <>.
Leeming, David, Jake Page. The Mythology of Native North America. Norman. University of Oklahoma Press. 1998. pp. 46-48
Reyard the Fox. <>.
The Sorcerer. <>.
Trois-Freres. <>.



The totem of an Eskimo or Indian tribal group symbolized, or related the group to, their ancestors. This does not mean the persons within the group thought they descended from the emblematic animal featured on the totem, but they were related to a hero or heroes associated by legend with the animal. Totems were similar to the European feudal system. The population of a village might vary from two hundred, or less, to a thousand people, the totem was a way of social organization, similar to the clans of Scotland.

People placed the totem emblem upon their clothing, houses, and so on. The carving of the totem on a pole, the totem pole, became an important social custom. It designated the people as there were the Bear people, the Killer Whale people, the Cannibal Spirit people, the Salmon people, the Beaver people, and so on. When strangers came from another village visiting they could readily find members of a particular totemic group by looking for their own totem. Within that group they could expect to find protection, food, and shelter. They were treated as kin and supported against other tribal groups who were at war with them or strangers trying to raid them. This was important in that it kept alive ancient traditions and myths and fostered new ones. A.G.H.


Burland, Cottie. North American Indian Mythology. Middlesex, England. Hamlyn Publishing Group. 1968. p. 24



Torngarsoak, in Labrador, appears as a huge white bear who lives in caves governs wild game. A.G.H.


Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, p. 446



Tornarsuk, or Tornatik, is a giant creature, half-man and half-seal, in Greenland who reveals to angekkoks the causes of maladies. He comes from the sea. To the people he is more like the Christian God than Sila in that he grants their wishes. A.G.H.


Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, p. 446



Legends relating to various plants vary from tribe to tribe. One cause of such variance is tribal location. Mythology concerning the origin of tobacco is an example of this. To tribes in the south-east portions of the United States where tobacco was a native crop it had a sexual association because of its power to give a peaceful sensation. But in the plains and other regions where tobacco was not native it was revered as a marvelous star plant.

In one legend about the origin of tobacco a young man and woman traveled together, fell in love, and left the path for the happiness of intercourse. Being so pleased, they agreed to marry. Later, while hunting the man returned to the place where they first united a pretty flower with scented leaves. He returned with it, telling the people of his discovery. They told him, “When it is dried, we will smoke it, and name it ‘Where We Came Together.'” Since the tribal elders declared that because the man and woman were so completely at peace and happy when tobacco was made it has been smoked at every council promoting peace and friendship between tribes.

Within the Penobscot version, First Mother, Corn Mother, after the people returned, after seven moons had come and gone, to find the earth covered with green plants with silken tassels, and fruit-their mother’s flesh-was sweet and tender. The also found in the clearing, where they had buried her bones, another plant, a fragrant one that was their mother’s breath. Her spirit told them that these were sacred leaves, and they should burn them to clear their minds and lift their hearts, and make their prayer effective.

They remember their mother when they smoke, and in this way she lives, her love constantly renewing itself from generation to generation.

According to the White Mountain Apache legend, Coyote Steals Sun’s Tobacco, Slim Coyote, a trickster, visits his cousin Sun on day when Sun was not home. Coyote tells Sun’s wife he came to talk to his cousin and will wait for him to return. While waiting Coyote asks if he can have some of Sun’s tobacco to smoke, since he came to talk and smoke, saying his cousin would not mind. Sun’s wife says he can. Coyote fills his own little buckskin bag from Sun’s bag, quickly hiding his own bag. He then rolls a cigarette and says he has decided not to wait.

When Sun returns home he immediately asks who’s been there when seeing his depleted tobacco bag. His wife tells him what occurred. Sun get very angry and is determine to get that fellow. He saddles his horse Black Wild Horse and takes off after Coyote. Now the horse could fly, making a sound of lightening when it did. A falling light rain covered Coyote’s tracks, but Sun still could follow him by the ashes from the thief’s cigarette. As it continued raining the tobacco that Coyote had with him began to sprout and grow putting out leaves, and then flowers. When it dried, the wind scattered its seeds everywhere. When Sun saw this, he stopped chasing Coyote and went back home.

But Coyote’s troubles, due to his behavior, were not over yet. When getting back to the Apache camp where he was living Coyote would not share his tobacco. The people kept asking him for tobacco to smoke and Coyote kept refusing to give them any. Finally an Apache council was held and it was decided to pretend to give Coyote a wife in order to get his tobacco.

When they told Coyote they were going to give him a wife, at first he thought they were joking, but they convinced him of their sincerity by building him a new wickiup and putting a bed in it. This caused Coyote to feel so good that he gave them all of his tobacco. So come time, a young boy dressed as a girl entered the wickiup and sat down beside Coyote; he had been told not to let Coyote touch him till dawn. Slim Coyote became very excited; he could not stand up but just crawled around on the ground. As time passed he became more and more impatient to go to bed with his bride. Finally the boy did lay down beside him, but not too closed.

Coyote kept trying to touch him. The boy kept saying “Don’t” and pushing Coyote’s hand away. This continued all night. Then just before dawn Coyote made a grab and caught hold of the boy’s penis. He immediately jumped away screaming for the boy to get away from him: “You’re not a girl, but a boy.” He ran out screaming to the people, “You lied to me, you didn’t give me a wife at all. Give me my tobacco back!” But no matter how loud he ranted and yelled the people would not give the tobacco back. This is how people first got tobacco. A.G.H.


Burland, Cottie. North American Indian Mythology. Middlesex, England. Hamlyn Publishing Group. 1968. pp. 110-111
Erdoes, Richard, Alfonso Oritz. Eds. American Indian Myths and Legends. New York. Pantheon Books. 1984. pp. 377-379
Leeming, David, Jake Page. The Mythology of Native North America. Norman. University of Oklahoma Press. 1998. p. 65