Tag Archives: Native American myths

Mvskoke Thunderbird

Context: Informant is a member of the Mvskoke tribe. Although informant does not live within an indigenous community, and is about half native, they connect with their native culture through their mother’s heritage and traditions.

Informant: “The Thunderbird was something that I just always knew while I was growing up? Like how you don’t necessarily remember your parents teaching you like colors or your name you just grew up and it was integrated into your life. Different tribes and nations have their own interpretations of the Thunderbird, but it’s pretty universally a symbol of protection, often against bad spirits. It’s also important to note that not every “Native” symbol, story, etc. applies to every Indigenous person and community, but the Thunderbird is one that a lot of us from various Native cultures were taught about/have connections to. The Thunderbird is essentially an absolutely giant bird most closely resembling an eagle. You’ll see it on jewelry or pendants, etc. as a symbol of strength or protection as well! My tribe doesn’t have a lot of specific ties to the Thunderbird beyond viewing it as a symbol of protection, but there are others that have deep history and beliefs around it, including things like where it lives, different forms it can take on, what it means to see it in visions or dreams, etc. but since my tribe is a little more distantly connected to it it’s not my place to try and give super specifics!”

Background Information: Informant has a lot of respect for their native culture, and was happy to teach me about it.

Thoughts: The Thunderbird is interesting since it appears in multiple Indigenous tribe cultures. It’s interesting to see how this folklore will liken some tribes to one another, while creating distinctions among others. As the informant states, it is very important to remember that each tribe is very distinct and to not view the individual tribes as an overall ‘indigenous population.’ However, with this in mind, it is interesting to see the shared lore of different tribes. Even informant, who did not grow up within an indigenous community, knew the Thunderbird the same way all children know colors. The Thunderbird seems to be a thing of power, respect, dignity, and a unifying front for a diverse population of native Northern Americans

Menil the Moon Maiden

Main Piece:

I: It’s a very complex story, but in it, Menil is a beautiful woman who… like brings the Arts and lots of teachings and lessons to people, and how to live, how to be, in like the beginning of the world. And people love Menil, and then there’s also this figure, that is sort of… like– he’s like a demi-god almost? Like a very powerful not-human being who created the world but he’s not the Creator– if that makes sense– but like who created a people at least– and his name is Mukat, and Mukat… essentially like, he’s really enamored with Menil, and then he pretty much rapes her, kind of, in the night. And then when she discovers what happened– I think she was sleeping– she disappears, and the people are so upset, and they’re like, “That’s awful, what happened to her?” And then when they find out, they kill Mukat because that’s like an unforgivable sin. In these stories, what’s so complex is like nothing is evil and nothing is good, like, right and wrong don’t exist in like the Western way that we think of them now. Like, Mukat does terrible things, but he’s not an evil being. He exists to teach almost as Menil exists to teach. And so, the people kill Mukat, and then they look into the lake where Menil used to teach them how to bathe and things, and they see her reflection and then she becomes the moon and she she won’t ever come back now, she’s the moon forever, and she’s no longer a woman.


My informant is a good friend from high school. She is a part of the Cahuilla and Chippewa Indigenous Nations and explains this traditional creation myth of Menil the Moon Maiden. She explains that her father knew this story, but she did not learn the long-form of it until she found documentation of an oral telling of the legend. She tells me that this telling was one of the more traditional forms of the story, but expresses how the accuracy is hard to determine because it was told in English. She tells me that she believes it may have been told in specific contexts at one point, but because there are so few surviving Cahuilla stories, they are told whenever they can be. This story has personal significance for her because the disappearance of Menil is reminiscent of the relevant issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, a cause that my informant has been actively doing work to raise awareness and action for.


This is a transcript of a conversation between my friend and I over the phone. I have talked to her a few times about my folklore class and explained the collection to her. She was happy to help and talk about some of her traditions.


I love this folk myth because I appreciate how the concepts of complete “right and wrong” and absolute “good or evil” are not ideas that exist in Cahuilla culture, as they are conversely prevalent in many Western stories. This aspect of the myth is an important element to consider, as it can point to how members of this culture view and understand life. My friend tells me that this myth is not told to emphasize any lessons, and thus, listeners may not even understand any of the teachings until years later. This is how it is supposed to be told, she explains, so people may form the significance of the story themselves. While this story is a creation myth, the forms of narratives may be different from person to person depending on what levels of belief they hold to the story. Thus, as my friend explained, because this story is now often told just to keep the tradition alive, to some, it may be a legend or a tale.

Inuit Creation Myth

“So in the beginning there were giants. On one winter evening, a mother giant and a father giant had a baby girl and named her Sedna. Throughout the first winter and then as she grew up, she got bigger and bigger, eventually growing larger than her mother and father. She grew so big that she couldnt find any more food to eat. Her parents managed to wrap her in a large blanket and pushed her to their canoe. In the dark of the night, they paddled out to see and when they were out of sight of land, they dumped her out of the canoe and left her to drown in the cold water. As they paddled away, Sednas huge hands wrapped up and grabbed the canoe, shaking it vigorously. Her parents sliced at her fingers with their knives, but when each chopped off part of her body fell into the ocean, it changed into an animal, with one becoming a whale, seal, walrus, and salmon. Sedna then swam to the bottom of the ocean and stayed there, living in a hut that fish built there. Whenever people are hungry, they can ask Sedna to send more food.”

The informant told me this myth when I told him about my folklore collection project upon getting back to my apartment for class one evening. My friend told me that he had learned this myth about Sedna creating all the animals in the world from his grandfather. His grandfather was a fisherman and the son of an Inuit mother and British father. When my friend visited him when he was younger, his grandfather would always love to tell him and his brother about his Inuit heritage. The informant’s grandfather had originally lived in Gillam, Manitoba before moving to Calgary in search of better opportunity, so many of the stories he told often reflected how his grandfather probably missed his old way of life. My friend recalls his grandfather sitting on his rocking chair with a glass of beer in his hand as he recited his stories for hours, always laughing at some of the ridiculous questions the informant and his brother would ask at the end of each story. My friend says he liked hearing these Inuit stories because they made him feel more connected to his ancestors while also highlighting the diversity Canada’s peoples.

Though I had heard a few Native American legends told in class over the course of the semester, I had never such a complete story. As someone who lacks exposure to most things outside of the European tradition, hearing a creation story such as this seems almost confusing and improbable, as I’ve been taught to think of creation in terms of science and evolution or via the Bible’s rendition. I was unaware that stories like this existed, and its cool to hear other people’s explanations for how the world has come to be. For another version of this myth, see Sedna: Goddess of the Sea, a book by Joel Rudinger.

Rudinger, Joel. Sedna Goddess of the Sea. New York: Cambric Press, 2006. Print.