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Native American Elk Mythology

Elk are associated with love in many tribes, and Native American legends often credit elk with the creation of the first flute, an instrument used by men to woo women in many Native American cultures.

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In some Pacific Northwest tribes, elk are also considered to be particular protectors of women, and in some legends elk lead women who had been captured by enemy warriors back to their homes. In Plains Indian tribes, elk were associated with masculinity, endurance, and bravery, and elks' eyeteeth were highly valued both as objects of adornment and as the symbol of a man's hunting prowess. In some Plains tribes, men saved the eyeteeth from their first elk kill to make into engagement jewelry for their sweetheart. In others, the number of elk teeth sewn onto a woman's dress showed off the wealth and skill of her husband or father. Elk are associated with coneflowers in some Great Basin tribes, such as the Ute, who refer to coneflowers as "elk root."

Elk are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Elk Clans include the Menominee tribe (whose Elk Clan is named Amaskos), the Ottawa, and the Osage. The Elk Horn Society (also known as the Elk Warriors) was one of the major warrior societies of the Blackfoot tribe and is still an important organization today.

Native American Elk Gods and Spirits

Moosmoos (Pacific Northwest)

Native American Legends About Elk

The Rabbit and the Elk:
    Sioux Indian story about Elk playing a trick on Rabbit.

Recommended Books of Elk Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Love Flute:
    Picture book illustrating the Native American story of how the elks brought the first courting flute to the Sioux.
The Story of Blue Elk:
    Children's book based on a Pueblo Indian legend about a special connection between an elk and a mute boy.
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 elk.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of tales about American Indian elk and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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