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Native Languages of the Americas:
Haudenosaunee/Iroquois Legends, Myths, and Stories

This is our collection of links to Iroquois folktales and traditional stories that can be read online. We have indexed our Native American myths 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. On this page, we have included myths and legends from the Seneca Tribe, Oneida Tribe, Onondaga Tribe, Cayuga Tribe, and Mohawk Tribe, five allied tribes of the northeast woodlands who speak similar languages and share many cultural similarities, including much of their folklore.

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

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Important Iroquois Mythological Figures

There is no one consistent body of Iroquois mythology, for several reasons. First, the Iroquois were a far-ranging people, with communities established in such distant locations as Ohio, upstate New York, and North Carolina. Without a written language, or even a single shared spoken language, Iroquois folklore in such far-flung areas sometimes diverged a lot. Second, after Europeans arrived, the Iroquois people were decimated by disease and warfare, and the traditions of the survivors began to blend together in random ways, obscuring previously consistent tribal differences. And third, the adoption of Christianity began to confound Iroquois traditions, as both Christian Indians and traditionalists began retelling old stories to fit their needs.

For these reasons, there is a large amount of variation in the identity and traits of the characters from traditional Iroquois stories. We have included a basic overview here, but please click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Iroquois mythology.

Sky Woman: The mother goddess of the Iroquois tribes, said to have fallen through a hole in the sky.

The Twin Gods: Sky Woman's grandsons (or in some versions, her sons,) often credited with the creation of humans. One of the twins (variously named Sapling, Good Spirit, Good Mind, Right-Handed, etc.) was the benefactor of the Iroquois and created many things to help the people; his twin (variously named Flint, Bad Spirit, Bad Mind, Left-Handed, etc.) was his counterpart, creating many obstacles for humankind.

Thunders: Powerful storm spirits who live in the sky and cause thunder and lightning. Their leader is the thunder god Hino.

The Great Spirit: This is one of the most confused elements of Iroquois mythology, strongly influenced by Christian missionaries and the traditions of the neighboring Algonquian tribes. In some Iroquois traditions the high god is referred to as Hawenniyo (or Raweno), and may be an aspect of the thunder god Hino. In other Iroquois traditions, the high god is called Sky-Holder (or Taronhiawagon) and is sometimes conflated with the culture hero Sapling or Good Spirit, other times with the original husband of Sky Woman. In other Iroquois traditions, there is no high god at all, though the Huron name Orenda is sometimes used to refer to an abstract Great Spirit.

Onatah: Spirit of the Corn, a fertility goddess and one of the Three Sisters of Iroquois agriculture.

Jogah: Little people of Iroquoian folklore. They are dwarf-like nature spirits about 2 feet tall.

Stone Coat: Mythological giants of the Iroquois tribes, with skin as hard as stone.

Flying Head: Monster in the form of a giant disembodied head, usually created during a particularly violent murder.

Naked Bear: A giant, hairless bear monster. Some people associate them with mammoths.

Oniare: A dragon-like horned serpent of the Great Lakes, feared for its habit of capsizing canoes and eating people.

The Great Peacemaker and Hiawatha: The legendary founders of the Iroquois Confederacy and architects of the Great Law.

Godasiyo: Legendary female chief of the Iroquois peoples.

Dry Fingers: Disembodied mummified arm of Iroquois ghost stories.

Iroquois/Haudenodaunee Legends

*Iroquois Myths and Legends:
    Four online collections of Iroquois mythology.
*Iroquois Creation Stories * Haudenosaunee Creation Story * Sky Woman * Iroquois Creation Myth * The Creation:
    The Iroquois Creation Story * Skywoman and the Creation: * Iroquois Creation Myth: * Iroquoian Cosmology:
    Iroquois legends about the creation of the world and the origin of the Haudenosaunee tribes..
*The Birth of Good and Evil:
    Iroquois myth about Sky Woman's twin grandchildren.
*Iroquois Oral Traditions:
    Twenty-four traditional Iroquois stories.
*Hiawatha Tarenyawagon * Hiawatha the Unifier * De-Ka-Nah-Wi-Da and Hiawatha:
    Haudenosaunee stories about the legendary heroes Hiawatha and Dekanawida.
*Tree of Peace:
    Haudenosaunee myth about the pine tree and the formation of the Iroquois League.
*Origin of the Pleiades:
    Iroquois myth about children who became stars.
*Brothers Who Followed The Sun:
    Iroquois Indian legend about three mythical brothers.
*The Great Father Mosquito:
    Iroquois legend about the origin of mosquitos.
*Why The Owl Has Big Eyes:
    Iroquois story about owl being punished for his disobedience.
The Hungry Fox and the Boastful Suitor:
    Iroquois legend about Fox making a fool out of a boastful man.
*The Flying Head * Dagwanoenyent * The Flying Head Story:
    Iroquois legends about the Flying Head monster.
*The Human Race Is Saved:
    Legend of a hero who saved the Iroquois people from a plague.
*How Fire Came to the Six Nations:
    Iroquois myth about the origin of fire.
*Sayadio in the Land of the Dead:
    Iroquois myth about a man who went to the afterlife to find his sister.
*The Warrior Maiden:
    The Haudenosaunee legend of Aliquipiso, an Oneida girl who sacrificed herself to save her tribe.
*Four Iroquois Hunters:
    A funny folktale about four Iroquois men having a boasting competition.
*The Gifts of the Little People:
    Iroquois stories about the little people (Jo-Ge-Oh).
*The Hunting of The Great Bear * The Monster Bear:
    Iroquois Indian legends about the origin of a constellation.
*Skunny-Wundy and the Stone Giant:
    Iroquois legends about the hero Skunny-Wundy.
*Origin of the Iroquois Nations:
    Haudenosaunee story about the creation of the Six Nations.
*Spring Defeats Winter:
    Iroquois tale about the passing of the seasons.
*Niagara Falls * The Sacrifice at Niagara Falls:
    Iroquois legends about the great waterfall Niagara.
*The Powerful Boy:
    Iroquois myth about a boy hero who slays monsters.
*Godasiyo the Woman Chief:
    Legends about a female Iroquois chief.
*Seek Your Father * Sky Woman and Aientsik:
    Iroquois legends about Sky Woman and her family.
Chipmunk and Bear * How Chipmunks Got Their Stripes * Chipmunk and Bear:
    Iroquois legends about Chipmunk being punished for his impertinence.
*Rabbit Dance:
    Iroquois Indian legend about the origin of the Rabbit Dance.
*How The Eagle First Came To The People:
    Mohawk legend about a boy who turned into an eagle.
*Why the Turtle Has a Broken Shell * How the Turtle Flew South for the Winter:
    Iroquois legends about how Turtle broke his shell.
*Bear's Race With Turtle * Turtle's Race With Bear:
    Iroquois stories about Turtle teaching Bear a lesson.
*The Story of Corn:
    Mohawk legend about the origin of corn.
*The Corn Spirit:
    Iroquois story about learning proper respect for the corn.
*Thunder Boy:
    Seneca stories about the life of the hero Híno'Hoháwank.
*The Origin of Stories:
    Seneca legend about where storytelling came from.
*Fox and Rabbit:
    Seneca legend about how Rabbit escaped from Fox.

Recommended Books on Iroquois Mythology
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Skywoman: Legends of the Iroquois:
    Wonderful illustrated collection of Iroquois Indian legends, by Oneida and Mohawk authors.
Legends of the Iroquois:
    Another good book of Iroquois stories, told by a Mohawk elder.
Legends, Traditions and Laws of the Iroquois or Six Nations:
    Iroquois mythology and oral history told by a 19th-century Tuscarora chief.
The Oneida Creation Story:
    Detailed account of the Oneida myth of creation, in both Oneida and English.
Oneida Iroquois Folklore, Myth, And History:
    Book of Iroquois legends and oral history from the Oneida tribe.
Iroquois Indian Myths And Legends:
    Traditional stories from the Iroquois tribes.
Owl Eyes:
    Picture book based on a light-hearted Iroquois legend about why owls are nocturnal.
Turtle's Race With Beaver:
    Another children's book illustrating an Iroquois myth about Beaver.

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Additional Resources

 Iroquois mythology
 Native American legend books
 American Indian religions
 Iroquois Confederacy
 Iroquoian languages
 New York Native American Indians
 The Northeastern Woodlands
 List of Native American tribes

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