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Native American Gopher Mythology

Gophers are considered to be messengers of the underworld by many western tribes, and are sometimes seen as a symbol of death. In some Shoshone and Paiute traditions, gophers were considered medicine animals who could cause or cure sickness in people, and birth defects were said to be the result of pregnant women eating vegetables a gopher had touched. In Northern California tribes, a gopher digging near a family's home is thought to be an omen of illness or death; in the Karuk tribe, it was considered bad luck to kill or eat gophers. In Klamath and Modoc mythology, Gopher was the younger brother of the Creator and played a role in the tribal creation myth. Gophers sometimes appear as healers or wise advisors in Native folklore.

Gophers are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Gopher Clans include the Hopi tribe (whose Gopher Clan was named Mui-wungwa) and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.

Native American Gopher Gods and Spirits

Gopher Old Woman (Apache)

Native American Legends About Gophers

How the Gopher Raced with the Runners of K'iákime:
    Zuni Indian legend about a wise gopher punishing a haughty tribe by defeating them in a running race.
*Old Man and the Gophers:
    Blackfoot legend about the culture hero tricking gullible gophers into becoming his meal.

Recommended Books of Gopher 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 gophers.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.



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