Tag Archives: Indigenous People

Origins of the Osage People

Tags: Myth, Origin Story, Osage Tribe, Indigenous Peoples, Northwest Arkansas


In the Ozarks, there’s an indigenous tribe of people known as the Osage. When they came to Earth, nothing existed except mud. And then, a great elk came and rolled around in the mud, blessing the indigenous people with grass.

Informant Info

Race/Ethnicity: Indian

Age: 22

Occupation: College Student

Residence: Northwest Arkansas, USA

Date of Performance: March 2024

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

Relationship: Friend


AH, the informant, was born and raised in Northwest Arkansas (NWA). NWA exists in a region known as the Ozarks.


The Ozarks is home to many indigenous groups, each with their own origin stories. Upon some more research on the origins of the Osage people, I found that the story was more complex than the informant had explained. According to the Arkansas Archaeological Survey[1], they were initially “spirit beings” and came from the sky. In their humility, they called themselves the “Little Ones” and came down to Earth to become people. When they arrived, they found the Earth submerged in water and asked their messenger, the Radiant Star, for help. The Radiant Star sent them a sacred person known as the Great Elk. The Great Elk rolled in the water and lowered it. He then blessed the Osage people with more gifts of grass and landforms.

While the informant AH’s recounting of the origin story of the Osage people contained different details about what medium the Great Elk rolled in, the one similarity was that there existed a Great Elk. In indigenous cultures, a lot of traditions and customs surrounded their spiritual connection with animal figures. The elk, for instance, is often personified as protectors in indigenous cultures. In the origin story of the Osages, this was exemplified through the Osage’s reverence for the sacred Great Elk and the blessings that he brought.

[1] “Creation of the Work (Osage).” Osage Creation Story, Arkansas Archeological Survey, 3 Feb. 2017, archeology.uark.edu/indiansofarkansas/index.html?pageName=Creation+of+the+World+%28Osage%29.

The Myth of Turtle Island

Nationality: American
Primary Language: English
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Performance Date: 03/31/2024


“Long ago, like before the continents looked like they do now, the old world began to flood. A bunch of animals, including a muskrat, turtle, and a man named Nanapush all ended up on a raft together. Nanapush tried to get them to swim under water to get soil so they could build a new world, but no one could reach the bottom until the muskrat did. Nanapush took the soil from the muskrat’s paws, and placed it on the back of the turtle. The soil grew wider and wider, and the animals from the raft brought plants and things to Nanapush. He would breathe life into them, and the soil on the back of the turtle eventually grew into Turtle Island, or what we know as North America today. Everything is connected and living, like the land and all animals and humans.”


The informant heard an Indigenous origin story from the Lenape tripe from her family friends when she was in her early teens. The story of Turtle Island is one that is shared by numerous Indigenous groups, however has distinct features dependent on the tribe. In addition to explaining the existence of the land we live on, the story is also retold as a way to remind people of the interconnectedness of people, and the duty people hold to the land and environment. While the Informant does not necessarily believe in the story as it conflicts with her religion, she thinks that it holds truth as it pertains to the responsibility humans hold to the environment, especially as it comes to environmental degradation.


I always think Indigenous stories about the world are interesting, because I think they are often so different from the stories told within Abrahemic religions that are more widely circulated. Ultimately, duty to the land and an understanding of relationally is common within Indigenous cultures, and given that it is an origin story, I don’t think it can be proven true or false, it simply is. As a creation story woven into the belief systems of certain Indigenous tribes, it is clear that it would heavily circulate as a core part of Indigenous beliefs. Not only would Turtle Island inform other Indigenous beliefs and traditions, but it serves to explain how this world came to be. It is also interesting as it holds similarities to the Christian/Jewish/Muslim story of Noah’s Ark and the idea of a “holy flood.” It is hard to say whether or not one story informed the other, but I think that the idea of Turtle Island ought to be a powerful reminder of the sanctity of land.

Danza Del Venado

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican 
  • Residence: Los Angeles
  • Primary language: Spanish


A.E chose to inform me of an ancient dance from la Mayos, he has known the dance for as long as he can remember in the region of Sonora. It’s the dance that represents the native indigenous Mayos de Navojoa, Sonora. He learned to dance “El Danza Del Venado,” in primary school(elementary). Indigenous Mayos came and taught him, he recalls them speaking their dialect. He competed with other schools and won medals for the dance. A.E heavily emphasized the importance of the dance costume. The costume consists of: a bandana on the head of the person, and above that a real, dried head of a deer. there was another bandana covering the mouth, and a “ropon de manta” covering the body. A belt made of leather that had multiple “pezunas de venado” which in English means the little hooves of the deer. From the big toe, to the ankles up to the calves, there are “tenabaris” that make noise. It is important to note that they dance barefoot. In the dance, they hold “Bullis” that come from a tree and have seeds inside that make noise. This dance is often performed in festivals, one of them being Sabado de Gloria and el Dia de San Juan. The dance is performed by only one person representing “El Venado” and is accompanied by four people playing drums and other instruments while singing the song “El Vendo Baila” in the Mayo dialect. 


After interviewing A.E, I conducted some research to find out more about the origins of this cultural dance. El danza del venado originated in Sonora, Mexico and contains pre-hispanic origins. The Yaqui people started this ritualistic dance, however; since the Mayo people were close neighbors to the Yaqui, they also adopted this dance into their culture. For context, the Mayo Indian people were located in southern Sonora, and northern Sinaloa. The Yaqui Indians were located in southern Sonora as well. This deer dance is performed as a way of honoring the deer that is being hunted for the purpose of feeding the folk group. It is a way of paying tribute to the sacrifice being made, which is the deer. This dance form is a deeply cultural and historical form of ritual and festival entertainment. While in modern times it is used predominantly as a source of entertainment, historically El Danza del Venado was used as a form of respecting nature, especially after taking something(such as hunting a deer).