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Native American Stories About Child Abuse
Child abuse was a concern of Native Americans as it is in every culture. In Native American folktales,
the most common stories of child abuse actually have to do with neglect, in which a father who is a poor
provider for his children ends up deserted by his family, or an extended family or community is punished
for failing to take good care of orphaned children. In more dramatic stories, wicked step-parents or jealous
co-wives sometimes abandon or try to kill their spouse's children, similar to European folktales
such as "Cinderella" or "Hansel and Gretel." Native American legends generally do not stress value judgments
as much as European folktales, but abusing children is one topic where the opinions of the storytellers are
universally obvious, with child abusers always being portrayed as the villains.
Interestingly, even shouting at a child is treated as somewhat abusive in Native American folklore--
many North American stories share a common theme of disobedient or otherwise misbehaving children
whose parents yell at them turning into animals or leaving the world forever.
This may be an allegorical warning that child abuse can turn fatal or
mistreated children may run away from home; or, it has also been suggested that shouting at a child may
have been violating a taboo and/or attracting dangerous spirits in certain tribes. Many Native American
cultures still tend to use quiet, non-physical, and community-based discipline methods with children today,
though of course cultural details like these differ from tribe to tribe.
Legends About Child Abuse
Mooin, the Bear's Child:
Mi'kmaq story about a stepfather slain by Glooskap for trying to kill his stepson.
The Invisible One The Rough-Faced Girl Oochigeas and the Invisible Boy Mi'kmaq Cinderella Interpretation:
Wabanaki adaptations of the French Cinderella story, in which the ill-treated sister must find the courage to leave
her neglectful and/or abusive home.
The Deserted Children:
Gros Ventre legend about two abandoned children who gained magical powers and took revenge on their cruel relatives.
Evening-Star and Orphan-Star:
Caddo legend about a mistreated orphan boy becoming a star.
Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends
The Rough-Face Girl:
Beautiful picture book based on the Oochigeas story, in which an abused girl finds a new life for herself.
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