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Native American Dog Mythology

Dogs usually play the role of loyal helpers and friends of men in Native American folklore, just as they do in most other world mythology. Many Native American folktales have to do with the proper treatment of dogs-- people who are kind and generous to their dogs are often rewarded, while people who abuse, disrespect, or even annoy dogs are harshly punished.

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Presumably these legends reflect the high esteem that many tribes held dogs in-- dogs were the only domesticated animals in most of North America and played crucial roles as pack animals, hunting companions, and camp guards. (They were also raised for food in some tribes, which is not necessarily incompatible with the theme of respect-- some other animals that were regularly eaten by Native Americans, such as buffalo and bears, were highly respected and had taboos governing their treatment.) Occasionally dogs are represented in Native American folktales with negative traits such as being gullible, easily distracted, or even a tattletale, but in general, most Native Americans consider dogs a symbol of friendship and loyalty.

Dogs are also occasionally used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Dog Clans include the Menominee tribe and the Ottawa tribe. The dog was also the symbol of several warrior societies of the Great Plains, such as the Crazy Dog Society of the Crow tribe (Bishkawaalaaxe, in the Crow language,) or the highly respected Dog Soldiers of the Cheyenne (Hotametaneo'o or Hotamitanio in Cheyenne, also known as the Dog-Men or Dog Warriors.) To Cheyennes, the dog represents fierce guardianship and self-sacrifice.

Native American Dog Gods and Spirits

Mahakh (Aleut)
Poko Kachina (Hopi)

Native American Legends About Dogs

*How Dogs Came To The Indians:
    Ojibway legend about the origin of dogs.
*Why Wolves and Dogs Fear Each Other * A Dog Tale:
    Lenape and Menominee legends about Dog defecting from the Wolf people to the humans.
A Little Boy Who Brought Good Luck:
    Passamaquoddy Indian story about a magical dog that rewarded a pair of kind foster parents.
Glooscap and Winpe * Gluskabe and the Monster Moose:
    The Wabanaki culture hero Glooskap was usually said to have either one or two faithful dogs.
    Here are some Wabanaki Indian stories about Glooskap and his dogs.
Iyash and the Dog:
    Severn Ojibwe legend about a hero tricking a cannibal's dog.
*The Legend of Nanabozho and the Dogs * Why Dogs Sniff Each Other:
    Funny Algonquian folktales about the tails of dogs.
*They That Chase After The Bear (A Star Story) * Chasing the Bear:
    Fox Indian legend about three hunters and their dog that became stars.
*The Hunting of the Great Bear:
    A similar Iroquois legend about four hunters, a dog, and a bear who turned into stars.
*The Stubborn Girl:
    Lenape legend about a young girl punished for pestering a dog.
*Lenape Dog Story:
    Lenape Indian legend about a magical dog.
*The Foolish Dogs:
    Narragansett story of how dogs lost their voices.
*The Deserted Children:
    Gros Ventre legend about a dog who rescued two abandoned children.
*How the Indians Obtained Dogs:
    Cree story about a friendly wolf pack that became the first dogs.
*The Girl Who Married A Dog:
    Cheyenne legend about a woman who became the mother of the Pleiades.
*Legend of the Crazy Dog Society:
    Blackfoot myth about magical Little People who teach powerful war medicine to a brave boy.
*The Search for Fire * Flint-Man, Fire, and Loon-Woman:
    Pit River legends about how Dog stole fire from Fire-Woman.
*Why Dogs Have Long Tongues:
    Caddo legend about how dogs were punished for tattling.

Recommended Books of Dog Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Dog People:
    Excellent collection of Native American stories about dogs, by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
God Had A Dog: Folklore of the Dog:
    Thorough collection of dog folklore from all over the world, including Native North America.
Dogs of Myth: Tales from Around the World:
    Children's book illustrating thirteen dog folktales including Inuit and Native American tales.
The Dog Who Walked with God:
    Picture book based on Kato Indian legends about the faithful dog companion of their Creator God.
How Spirit Dog Made The Milky Way * The Story of the Milky Way:
    Picture books based on a Cherokee Indian legend about a dog that spilled the stars.



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