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Native American Buffalo Mythology

Buffalo (also known as bison) play an important role in Native American folklore, particularly the folklore of Plains Indian tribes. Buffalo were one of the most important food sources for Plains tribes, but they were hard to hunt in the days before guns and horses, so there were many rituals, dances, and prayers in Plains Indian tribes related to the difficult and dangerous but life-sustaining art of buffalo hunting. In many Plains Indian myths, buffalo gave themselves up willingly as a food source for humans, and therefore have a special position of honor and respect.

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In other myths, buffalo spirits bring sacred knowledge about medicine or peace pipes to humankind. Southern Plains legends often involve Coyote or another hero releasing buffalo on the earth to help feed the people. There are also many cautionary tales in which buffalo hunts are unsuccessful or result in hunters' deaths because people have failed to respect the buffalo properly. Buffalo are seen as spiritually powerful in many tribes, especially in the Great Plains reghion; their horns and hides were often used for regalia and religious artifacts, and they are viewed as symbols of honor and generosity. In other tribal regions, buffalo are not considered as sacred as they are in Plains and Plateau tribes, but they still play positive roles in most Native American folklore, frequently associated with strength, endurance, and protection.

Buffalo are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Buffalo Clans include the Caddo, the Osage, and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.

Native American Buffalo Gods and Spirits

Mosairu Kachina (Hopi)
White Buffalo Calf Woman (Sioux)

Native American Legends About Buffalo

How the Buffalo Were Released on Earth * Kitsai Buffalo Myth:
    Native American legends from the Southern Plains about how Coyote brought buffalo to the people.
How The Crow Came To Be Black * A Buffalo Legend:
    Plains Indian legends about Crow's alliance with the buffalo.
*Race Among the Animals * How The Buffalo Hunt Began:
    Cheyenne legend telling how humans became hunters of the buffalo.
*Why the Buffalo Has a Hump:
    Chippewa Indian story about Buffalo being punished for his recklessness.
*How Medicine Man Resurrected Buffalo:
    Arapaho legend about a medicine man who uses a magic buffalo to save his people from starvation.
*Splinter Foot Girl:
    Arapaho Indian legend telling how buffalo became game animals.
*The Foundling Who Was Befriended By Wolves:
    Cree legend about an orphan boy who taught the people how to drive buffalo into traps.
*Origins of the Buffalo Dance:
    Myth about a Blackfoot heroine who convinced the buffalo to be food for the Indians.
*The Piqued Buffalo Wife:
    The Blackfoot legend of the half-buffalo hero Calfboy.
*Buffalo and Eagle Wing:
    Blackfoot Indian legend about a broken promise to the buffaloes.
*The Sacred Buffalo Stone * The Buffalo Rock:
    Blackfoot legends about iniskim, the magical buffalo stone.
* The Power Of Buffalo And Bear:
    Caddo legends about the origin and powers of bear and buffalo medicine.
*Yellowstone Valley and the Great Flood:
    Native American myth about a white buffalo bull who saved the people from a flood.
*The Quillwork Girl and her Seven Brothers:
    Cheyenne myth about a giant buffalo monster trying to carry away a young woman.
*The Buffalo Wife * Buffalo Woman:
    Caddo legend about a man who won a buffalo wife.
*Coyote Becomes A Buffalo:
    Caddo legend about Coyote misusing Buffalo medicine.
*How The Buffalo Ceased To Eat Human Beings:
    Caddo legend about the old days when buffalo were the predators.
*The Girl Who Had Power To Call The Buffalo:
    Caddo legend about a star girl who had buffalo power.

Recommended Books of Buffalo Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Buffalo Woman:
    Picture book based on a classic Plains Indian legend about the relationship between people and buffalo.
Buffalo Lore and Legend:
    Children's book presenting three illustrated Native American stories about buffalo.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
    Book by a Karuk elder about the meanings of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on buffalo.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about buffalo and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.



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