Native North American Mythologies


Is there a single Native North American mythology?

As there are many Native American peoples, there are just as many mythologies. Mythologies always reflect particular cultures. Yet, perhaps because of some common origins in Central Asia, the frequent contact of various tribes in the Americas, and because Native Americans, as do all of us, share a common humanity with common concerns, leading to common or archetypal motifs and patterns in their mythologies, it is possible to speak somewhat generally about Native American mythology. To at least some extent, Native American mythology is firmly based in nature, in the world around us rather than in the dominance of a sky god. Native American mythology, then, tends to be animistic. As in African mythology, the world around us is considered to be spiritually alive. It is true, however, that there is a nearly universal acceptance of a larger, if somewhat distant, spiritual unifying factor, a “Great Spirit” that non-Indians tend to equate with God. In many cases the Great Spirit is a creator, sometimes helped or undermined by a trickster. Many Indian cultures are matrilineal. That is, the family line descends from the mother. Among matrilineal Native Americans especially, principal female deities, such as Great Mother figure are important and central in creation myths. Creation myths are the most important myths in Native America, as in most cultures.


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