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Native American Stories About Aggression

Aggressiveness is a trait that is portrayed with mixed feelings in traditional Native American folklore. Most Native American tribes were warrior cultures, placing high value on the courage and resourcefulness of individuals. On the other hand, they also were clan-based societies, in which harmony and cooperation were necessary to survival. So aggressive behavior was sometimes portrayed negatively and other times positively in Native American legends.

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In particular, Native American heroes were often quite aggressive in many tribal traditions, proactively chasing down and confronting monsters, aggressively competing against rivals, or picking fights with enemy soldiers. But in other legends from the same cultures, characters are frowned on or harshly punished for starting unnecessary fights or refusing to back down, particularly trickster characters, whose untempered aggression usually upsets the social order. And certain types of aggressiveness are almost always treated negatively in Native North American folklore, such as shouting or cursing, dominating family and allies, ruthlessly seeking power, or men acting aggressively towards women.

Legends About Aggression

The Badger and the Bear:
    Lakota legend about a greedy and aggressive bear punished for turning on a badger who had shared food with him in his time of need.
*The Seagull and the Whiskey Jacks:
    Chapleau Cree story about seagulls becoming disliked for their aggressive behavior.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends
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Soft Child:
    Children's book illustrating a Southwest Indian legend about Rattlesnake learning to defend himself against aggressive neighbors.

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