Native Languages of the Americas: Cheyenne Legends and Traditional Stories
This is our collection of links to Cheyenne folktales and traditional stories that can be read online.
We have indexed our American Indian legends section
by tribe to make them easier to locate; however, variants on the same
legend are often told by American Indians from different tribes, especially if those tribes are kinfolk or neighbors to
each other. In particular, though these legends come from the Cheyenne tribe, the traditional stories of
related tribes like the
Arapaho and Gros Ventre are very similar.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Cheyenne legend for this page or think one of the ones on here
should be removed, please contact us and let us know.
Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Cheyenne mythology.
(also spelled Maheo'o and other ways.) This is the Cheyenne name for the Creator (God.) Literally his name means "Great One," and
he is often referred to as Great Medicine or the Great Spirit. Maheo is a divine spirit without human form or attributes and is rarely
personified in Cheyenne folklore. In some myths, Maheo is referred to as Heammawihio (or Heamaveeho,) which means "Spider Above."
This may be an appellation borrowed from their Arapaho kinfolk, who referred to the Creator this way to differentiate him from the earthly
Spider figure (see below.) Maheo is by far the more common name. It is pronounced similar to mah-hey-yoh in Cheyenne.
Wihio (also spelled Veeho, Veho, and other ways.)
Wihio is the spider trickster of the Cheyenne tribe. His name is pronounced veh-hoh or wih-hoh, depending on dialect.
Though he is associated with spiders and his name means "spider," he has the form of a man in every Cheyenne tale we know of.
In some stories, Wihio plays the role of the clever and benevolent trickster/transformer hero, similar to Nanabozho of the Anishinabe tribes;
but in most stories, he is merely a silly and foolish character who behaves as inappropriately as possible by Cheyenne social standards.
In any case, the literal meaning of the character's Cheyenne name is "Spider." It is given as "White-Man" in
some older translations, but this is a misleading translation-- the Cheyennes named white people after the trickster character, not vice versa!
The Cheyenne spirit of thunder. Some Cheyenne people describe Nonoma as a Thunderbird; others consider him a wind spirit like the Winter Wind,
who is his spiritual opposite.
Mehne or Axxea:
These are water monsters who live in springs and menace travelers. Some Cheyenne people believe that these are two
names for the same monster, others that Axxea was the individual name of one particular Mehne monster, and still
others that they are two different species of water monster. Mehne is always described as a horned serpent, while
Axxea is sometimes described as a horned serpent, sometimes as a four-legged creature like a bull or
water panther, and other times
compared to a caterpillar or worm. Nonoma is the
sworn enemy of both, and while both are dangerous to humans, they may be calmed by respectful offerings.
Enemy Dwarves (Vo'estanehesono):
A race of dangerous little people, about knee-high to a man, who lived in the Rocky Mountains and warred with the Cheyenne.
Sometimes they were said to eat humans; other times, they were merely described as warlike and violent.
Their Cheyenne name literally means "little people" and is pronounced similar to voh-stah-neh-heh-so-no.
A malevolent monster resembling a man with a second face on the back of his head; a person who makes eye contact with this second
face will be murdered by the monster, who tries many ploys to try to get victims to look at him.
A large, hairy humanoid creature, somewhat like the Sasquatch or Bigfoot of the Northwestern tribes, only with birdlike feet.
Sweet Medicine (also Arrow Boy or Metzehouf):
Legendary prophet and medicine man of the Cheyenne tribe. He predicted the arrival of white men, among other things.
Tales of the Cheyennes:
Collection of Cheyenne legends and folktales.
Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Cheyenne and other Algonquian tribes.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
Compilation of more than a hundred stories about Veeho and other Native American tricksters.
(Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.)