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Native American Stories about People Adopted by Animals

No strong distinction is drawn between humans and other animals in most Native American mythology. Animals frequently transform into people and vice versa. Many times the physical form of a character is not even remarked upon, so that some Native American people end up envisioning Rabbit as a literal rabbit, some as a boy or man, others as a being that shapeshifts back and forth, and still others as a rabbit-man with a rabbit's head but human clothes and tools. Because of this ambiguity, stories of humans adopted by animals are particularly unremarkable in Native American legend and folklore.

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The theme of a human child raised by an animal mother is common all over the world (Ancient Rome, China, Africa, etc.,) but in those cultures the human characters are usually surprised and awed by the occurrence. In Native American legends, the idea of bears or wolves adopting a lost child is not normally presented as anything more out of the ordinary than a different tribe of humans doing the same thing. However, humans adopted by animals in Native American legends do often acquire special knowledge, power, songs or dances from their adopted families.

Animal Adoption Stories From Different Tribes

*Legend of the Bear Family:
    Penobscot Indian legend about a boy adopted by bears, whose descendants became the Bear Clan.
*Mooin, the Bear's Child:
    Micmac legend of a boy adopted by a bear after his stepfather abandoned him. (Note that in this story,
    the boy's biological mother returns the favor by raising the bear's daughter.)
*An Indian Boy That Almost Turned Into A Bear:
    Passamaquoddy Indian story about a bear that adopted a lost boy.
The Woman and her Bear:
    Inuit legend about a childless woman who adopted a polar bear cub.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends
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The Orphan and the Polar Bear:
    Beautiful children's book by an Inuit author about a polar bear who adopts a mistreated child.
The Polar Bear Son:
    Charming picture book based on an Inuit legend about a polar bear's loyalty to his adopted mother.
Efraín of the Sonoran Desert:
    A heartwarming children's story about a Seri family befriended by a zebra-tailed lizard.
Adopted by the Eagles:
    Illustrated children's book based on Sioux Indian legends about a betrayed hunter taken in by eagles.
Native American Animal Stories:
    An excellent collection of American Indian legends about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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