Native American Indian cultures
Northwest American Indian art
Native American Rattlesnake Mythology
Rattlesnakes tend to be viewed negatively in Native American cultures, frequently associated
with violence and revenge. In some tribes rattlesnakes were
viewed as both powerful and dangerous, and were associated with witchcraft.
In other tribes they enforce taboos, and children are warned not to
break rules or customs because rattlesnakes may bite them. In legends, rattlesnakes sometimes
appear as divine punishment to wreak vengeance on sinful people or their families, or as
agents of an angry witch. In the mythology of some southwestern tribes, Rattlesnake was the
first creature to bring death into the world by means of its poison, although usually the snake
was described as either defending itself from attacks or avenging itself for past abuse.
Rattlesnakes are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Rattlesnake
Clans include the Chippewa (whose Rattlesnake Clan and its totem are called Zhiishiigwe or
Midewewe,) the Zuni (whose Rattlesnake Clan name is Chitola-kwe,) and other Pueblo tribes of
Native American Rattlesnake Gods and Spirits
Native American Legends About Rattlesnakes
How Glooskap Changed Saucy Indians into Rattlesnakes:
Passamaquoddy legend about rude men being turned into rattlesnakes.
How the Rattlesnake Learned to Bite:
Pima Rattlesnake story about the origin of death.
The Snake Husband:
Peoria legend about a careless woman who was led astray by a rattlesnake.
Recommended Books of Rattlesnake Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links
Children's book illustrating a Southwest Indian legend about how the rattlesnake got its fangs.
Charming picture book about an Indian rattlesnake learning a lesson, told by a Chickasaw storyteller.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
Book by a Karuk elder about the meaning of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on snakes.
Book by a Western folklorist about rattlesnake legends and stories, including some Native American tales.
Native American Animal Stories:
Great collection of American Indian tales about rattlesnakes and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
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