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Native American Deer Mythology

Deer are associated with fertility in many Native American cultures. In some Mexican tribes, the first parents of the human race were originally deer. Deer are sacred animals to many tribes of Mexico and the southwestern United States; they often play a role in creation mythology, are believed to sacrifice themselves to feed the people, or are considered caretakers of the earth. Deer songs and deer dances are common throughout this region, with the deer frequently serving as a symbol of the people. In the Huichol tribe of central Mexico, deer are especially sacred and are associated with peyote and traditional spirituality.

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Deer play a lesser role in the mythology of tribes from other parts of the US and Canada, sometimes figuring as a messenger or a fertility spirit. In the Tlingit tribe of the Northwest Coast, deer symbolize peace and are associated with ambassadors.

Deer are also common clan animals in many Native American cultures. Tribes with Deer Clans include the Creek (whose Deer Clan is named Itchualgi or Ecovlke,) the Cherokee (whose Deer Clan name is Anikawi,) the Chippewa (whose Deer Clan and its totem are called Waawaashkeshi,) the Menominee (whose White Tailed Deer Clan is named Apaehsos), the Chickasaw, the Huron and Iroquois tribes, the Osage, the Shawnee, the Navajo, the Zuni (whose Deer Clan name is Kalokta-kwe,) and other Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.

Native American Deer Gods and Spirits

Awi Usdi (Cherokee)
Deer Woman (various tribes)
Sowi-ingwu (Hopi)
Tamatz Kayaumari (Huichol)

Native American Legends About Deer

How The Deer Got His Horns:
    Cherokee Indian legend about Deer winning antlers from the trickster Rabbit.
The Race of the Antelope and Deer:
    Yokut Indian myth telling why the deer lives in the brush.
*A Mohegan Deer Tale:
    Algonquian legend about a jealous man who nearly turns his girlfriend into a deer.
*The Meesink Story:
    Lenape legend about the supernatural protector of the deer.
*Deer Story:
    Blackfoot Indian legend about the difference between deer and antelopes.
*Deer Woman and the Living Myth * Deer Lady * The Deer Woman:
    Native American legends about the deadly spirit Deer Woman.
*The Poor Hunter and the Alligator Power:
    Caddo legend about an alligator who repaid a hunter with deer-hunting medicine.
*Coyote, the Deer, and the Wind:
    Caddo legend about Coyote rashly losing his deer-hunting medicine.

Recommended Books of Deer Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Tales of Bear and Deer:
    Collection of Native American children's stories.
How the Baby Deer Got Spots:
    Sioux Indian story about why fawns are spotted.
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 deers.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about deer and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.



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