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Native American Sunflower Mythology

Sunflowers were one of the important crops grown in Native American gardens. Some people call sunflowers the "fourth sister," in reference to the Three Sisters corn, bean, and squash, but this is a recent appellation as far as we know, and we're not aware of any legends or oral traditions referring to sunflowers this way. Sunflower seeds were an important food crop and source of oil for cooking and cosmetics, and different sunflower varieties were cultivated to produce purple and yellow dyes. Sunflower oil was also believed to treat skin ailments, and sunflowers had a variety of medicine uses in different tribes. Some Native people also saw sunflowers as a symbol of courage, so that warriors would carry sunflower cakes to battle with them or a hunter would sprinkle sunflower powder on his clothing to keep his spirit up.

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Native American Legends About Sunflowers

Coyote's Salmon:
    Salish story about the first salmon, explaining why salmon are always laid on sunflowers.

Recommended Books of Sunflower Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Song of the Seven Herbs:
    Collection of legends about the Indian sunflower and other North American herbs and flowers.
Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden:
    Interesting book about Native American farming traditions narrated by a Hidatsa woman.
Native Plant Stories:
    Excellent collection of Native American stories about plant spirits, by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
Native American Food Plants:
    Comprehensive book on the names and traditional uses of food plants throughout Native North America.

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