Native Languages of the Americas: Gros Ventre Legends and Traditional 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 contact us and let us know.
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
Nihaat is the spider trickster of the Gros Ventre tribe. It 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.
Thunder-bird (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.
Although benign races of small magical creatures exist in many Native American tribes, the Little People
of the Gros Ventres 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 legends.
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.