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Native Languages of the Americas:
Gros Ventre Legends, Myths, and Stories

This is our collection of links to Atsina/Gros Ventre 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 Gros Ventre tribe, the traditional stories of related tribes like the Arapaho and Cheyenne are very similar.

Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Gros Ventre legend for this page or think one of the ones on here should be removed, please let us know.

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Important Gros Ventre Mythological Figures

Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Gros Ventre mythology.

Nihaat (also spelled Nihant, Nixant, and other ways:) Nihaat is the spider trickster of the Gros Ventre tribe. His name is pronounced nih-hawt or nih-hawt-ah. Nihaat is an interesting figure-- in some tales he plays the typical trickster/transformer role common to Algonquian tribes, making more or less benign mischief and shaping the world for the Gros Ventres as he goes. But in other tales, Nihaat is depicted as a more violent, anti-social trickster type similar to Siouan spider spirits like Iktomi. In any case, the literal meaning of the character's Gros Ventre name is "Spider." It is given as "White Man" in many older translations, but this is a misleading translation-- the Gros Ventres named white people after the trickster character, not vice versa! It doesn't literally mean "white."

Ihityebi-Nihaat (also spelled Ixtcibenihehat, Chebbeniathan, and other ways:) This means "Spider Above" or "Spider of Heaven" in the Gros Ventre language, and is the Gros Ventre name for the Creator (God,) as distinguished from the earthly Nihaat (see above.) Sometimes the name is translated in English as "Man Above," since the literal form of a spider is not ascribed to Ihityebi-Nihaat. Some people believe that Nihaat and Ihityebi-Nihaat were originally the same mythological entity, and split into two figures after trickster legends were borrowed from the Crow and Sioux.

Thunderbird (Bha'a in the Gros Ventre language.) A huge bird of prey, common to the mythology of most Plains Indian tribes,who is responsible for creating thunderstorms. The Gros Ventre considered Thunder-bird a particular benefactor of their tribe, who brought the sacred pipe to the people.

Horned Serpents (Bha'anbi:'itha, Bi'itha or Bi'ithan): Giant underwater snake monsters, who lurk in lakes and rivers and eat unwary travelers. Although they are dangerous and fearsome creatures, they were also respected by the Gros Ventres, and were sometimes said to help those who honored them properly.

Bashnobe (also spelled Basnobe or the Big Sand.) This is not a person but a place. It is the Gros Ventre afterworld.

Little People: Although benign races of small magical creatures exist in many Native American tribes, the Little People of Gros Ventre stories are dangerous man-eaters feared by the people. They are said to be about three feet tall, dark-skinned, and left-handed. Some Gros Ventre people used to leave offerings of animal lungs for the Little People to keep them from becoming hungry and preying on humans.

By-The-Door and Found-In-Grass: These mythical twins whose mother was killed by a monster are common to the folklore of many Midwestern and Eastern tribes. They are generally portrayed as heroic monster-slayers in Gros Ventre stories.

Charred Body, Unknown One, First Creator, and Only Man -- these are not really Gros Ventre legends at all, but Mandan and Hidatsa ones. Sometimes, especially on the Internet, they are mislabeled as Gros Ventre myths, because the Hidatsas were also called "Gros Ventres" by the early French settlers.

Gros Ventre Indian Folklore

The Creation of the World:
    The Gros Ventre creation myth.
*The Deserted Children:
    Gros Ventre legend about a pair of mythical children.
*Crow Necklace And His Medicine Ceremony:
    The story of a Gros Ventre warrior.
*The False Bride-Groom:
    Gros Ventre story of how a low-ranking Loon tricked two women into marrying him.
*Atsina Myths and Tales:
    Early 20th-century collection of Gros Ventre legends.

Recommended Books on Gros Ventre Mythology
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

Shared Symbols, Contested Meanings:
    Interesting book about Gros Ventre culture, history, and religious traditions.
Indian Legends from the Northern Rockies:
    Anthology of folklore from the Gros Ventre and other Northern Plains tribes.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
    Compilation of more than a hundred stories about Nixant and other Native American tricksters.
    (Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.)

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Additional Resources

 Gros Ventre religious traditions
 Books of Indian folklore
 Religions of Native Americans
 Gros Ventre tribe
 Gros Ventre language
 Montana Indian reservations
 Native American Plains
 Algonquian people
 Learning Indian language

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