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Native American Stories About Selfishness

Selfishness is a common theme of folktales worldwide, and it is especially prevalent in Native American stories. Most Native American tribes were communal in nature, and individuals who did not help others or contribute to the common good were greatly disparaged. Even among more materialistic tribes like the cultures of the Northwest Coast, where wealth was considered an admirable goal, generosity was a highly prized value and any character who was stingy with his property was destined for humiliation in Northwest Coast folktales.

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Legends About Selfishness

Gluskonba and the Four Wishes:
    Abenaki story about a selfless hunter and his three selfish friends.
The Water Famine * How Gluskabe Stole Tobacco * Grasshopper and the Origin of Tobacco:
    Legends about Algonquian culture heroes punishing selfish animals and teaching that nature's gifts belong to all people.
*Manabozho and the Theft of Fire:
    Native American legends about tricksters stealing fire from beings that tried to selfishly hoard it.
*Rabbit Calls a Truce:
    Penobscot story about a gang of weasels and mice defeated by their own greed and selfishness.
The Travails of Mrs. Bear:
    Legends from several tribes about villains being caught cheating blind people out of their share of food.
The Badger and the Bear:
    Lakota legend about a selfish bear punished for turning on a badger who had shared food with him in his time of need.
*The Legend of Spirit Rock:
    Menominee legend about a man who was punished for selfishness by turning into a rock.
*Kamaisani, the stingy one:
    South American Indian legend about a woman whose family ostracized her for being selfish.
The Mountain Goat:
    Lenape legend about a selfish mountain goat learning the importance of helping others.
*The Greedy Maiden:
    Lenape legend about a girl punished for her selfishness.
*The First Winter:
    Nipmuc myth about the Great Spirit creating winter to punish selfish people.
*The Seagull and the Whiskey Jacks:
    Chapleau Cree story about seagulls becoming disliked for their selfishness.
*The Ghost Stallion:
    Cree legend about a selfish and abusive man punished by a magical horse.
*The Sacred Weed * A Tobacco Legend:
    Blackfoot legends about medicine men who selfishly refused to share the gift of tobacco.
*Blue Jay And Lizard And The Grizzly-Bears:
    California Indian legend about the destruction of a family of selfish grizzly bears.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends

When Bear Stole the Chinook:
    Picture book illustrating a Blackfoot legend about a bear who stole the warm spring wind to keep for himself.
Heetunka's Harvest:
    Children's storybook based on a Dakota legend of a selfish woman punished for stealing from the bean mice.
Nanabosho, Soaring Eagle, and the Great Sturgeon:
    A nice retelling of a Chippewa Indian legend about two selfish fishermen learning lessons.

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