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Native American Buzzard Mythology

Buzzards are viewed negatively in most Native American tribes. In some tribes, they are seen as unclean and associated with death. In others, seeing buzzards flying is considered an omen of danger or strife. In Native American legends, Buzzard is most often portrayed as an aggressive troublemaker who lies, cheats, hoards resources that should belong to everyone, or uses his large size to bully other birds.

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Despite the negative roles they play in folklore, buzzards are still respected clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Buzzard Clans include the Menominee tribe (whose Turkey Buzzard Clan is named Apaeskasiw) and the Miami tribe. Some eastern tribes, like the Seminole and Lenape, have also had a Buzzard Dance among their tribal dance traditions.

Native American Legends About Buzzards

Trickster and the Buzzard:
    Menominee legend about how Buzzard got his strange appearance.
Indian Buzzard Legend:
    Kickapoo tale about Buzzard playing a trick on the culture hero Wisaka.
*How the Turkey Buzzard Became As He Is:
    Lenape legend about the time Buzzard saved the world.
Bird Myths of the Cherokees:
    Cherokee Indian legends about the hummingbird, crane, and buzzard.
*The Girl Who Climbed to the Sky:
    Arapaho legend about Buzzard helping a woman abducted by sky spirits return to her home on the earth.
*The Bird Tribes:
    Cherokee legend about the creation and symbolism of the buzzard and other birds.

Recommended Books of Buzzard Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

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 buzzards.
Birds of Algonquin Legend:
    Interesting collection of Native American legends about turkey buzzards and other birds in Algonquian tribes.
Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend, and Superstition:
    A good book on the role of birds in world mythology, including North and South America.
The Buzzard and the Flute:
    Colorful children's book based on Huichol Indian myths about the buzzard's role in the land of the dead. This book is in Spanish.



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