American Indian language learning * American Indian culture * Indian nations

Native American Stories About Love

Traditional Native American legends about love are sometimes a little curious to a modern American audience, because unlike classical mythology and European folktales, the Native American love stories rarely directly mention love. In fact, it is usually only in trickster tales and other funny stories that Native American characters announce "I love you" to each other. In most Native American oral traditions, it isn't typical for a storyteller to have serious characters talk or think aloud about how they are feeling-- a character's emotions are usually shown through actions, not by monologues. So just as Native American storytellers are more likely to describe a character crying than feeling sad or saying "I am sad," characters are also more likely to show their love through actions-- either positive actions such as sacrificing for the other person, going to great lengths to be together, or forgiving each other after a transgression, or sometimes negative actions such as jealous attacks or obsessive behavior. In classic American Indian love stories, the word "love" may never even be mentioned, but both the man and the woman will be observed to take at least one direct action to choose the other.

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Of course, modern Native American storytellers telling stories in English will sometimes choose to converse with the audience more than they might have in their native languages, so you sometimes will indeed hear Native American authors describing their heroes and heroines falling in love. But if you're reading older texts and you wonder why they seem so unromantic to your ears... try listening for the things the characters do for each other, not what they have to say about it!

Native American Love Stories

*The Boy Who Became Strong:
    This is one of our favorite Native love stories, a Dene legend about a betrayed hero who must trust again to be healed.
*The Loyal Sweetheart:
    A Passamaquoddy love story about a woman who remains faithful to her lover during adversity.
*The Changing of Mikcheech:
    Micmac story about a lazy bachelor who falls in love and becomes a better man by becoming a turtle!
    (His wife follows him and becomes a turtle as well, in this version.)
*Oochigeas and the Invisible Boy * The Rough-Faced Girl * The Invisible One:
    Micmac, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy versions of the French Cinderella legend.
In the Native American variant, the heroine wins the hero's love through bravery and honesty.
*White Owl's Escape From The Witches:
    A Penobscot hero escapes from a nightwitch with the help of her daughter, who has fallen in love with him.
*In Love with the Dandelion * Shawondasee and the Golden Girl:
    Ojibway folktales about South Wind falling in love with Dandelion.
*Waupee and the Star Maiden * White Hawk * The Star Maidens and the Corona Borealis * Algon and the Sky Girl:
    Shawnee and Algonquin legends about a man and a star who fall in love and turn into hawks so they can always be together.
*The Spirit Bride * The Worm Pipe:
    Native American legends about grieving men who follow their wives to the afterworld.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends
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The Flute Player:
    Beautiful picture book illustrating a touching Apache legend about eternal love.
The Mouse Couple:
    A sweet children's book illustrating a Hopi legend about a mouse girl's search for a husband.
Love Flute * The Story of Blue Elk:
    Picture books based on Native American legends about elks bringing love flutes to the people.
Buffalo Woman:
    Children's book based on a Plains Indian love story between a man and a buffalo woman.
The Frog Princess:
    Picture book of a Tlingit folktale about a girl and frog who fell in love with each other.
The Legend of Katama:
    Picture book based on a Wampanoag legend about a girl who turned into a dolphin to be with the man she loved.
Adopted by the Eagles * Spotted Eagle and Black Crow:
    Two illustrated children's books based on Sioux legends about a love triangle.
The Legend of the Hummingbird:
    Picture book illustrating a Puerto Rican Indian legend about two star-crossed lovers.

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