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Native American Legends: Napi (Old-Man)

Name: Napi
Also spelled: Naapi, Na'pi, Nape, Napa, Napiw, Napiwa, Napioa, Na-pe, Na'pe
Tribal affiliation: Blackfoot
Pronunciation: nah-pee
Also known as: Old Man, Old-Man
Type: Culture heroes, transformers, tricksters, creator gods
Related figures in other tribes: Old Man Coyote (Crow), Nanabosho (Ojibway), Gluskap (Wabanaki)

Napi (commonly known as Old Man) is the culture hero of the Blackfoot tribe. Napi is frequently portrayed as a trickster, a troublemaker, and a foolish being, but he is also a well-intentioned demigod responsible for shaping the world the Blackfeet live in, and would frequently help the people or teach them important knowledge. Napi is assisted in these tasks by his wife, Old Woman (Kipitaki or Kipitaakii in Blackfoot). In some Blackfoot Indian legends both Old Man and Old Woman are associated with coyotes (some Blackfoot storytellers even call them "Old Man Coyote" and "Old Lady Coyote," as the Crow Indians do.) In other Blackfoot legends Napi and Kipitaki have no particular connection with coyotes and are instead described as the first man and woman made by the Creator, who in turn made the rest of humankind.

Napi shares some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Cree Wisakejak, Wabanaki Glooscap, and Anishinabe Nanabozho, and many of the same stories are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing.

Napi Stories

Old Man and the Beginning:
    Blackfeet legend about Old Man creating the first people, plants and animals, and landmarks.
*How The Old Man Made People:
    A different version of the Blackfoot creation myth, with Nape and Coyote creating people together.
Why Blackfeet Never Kill Mice:
    Blackfoot legend about how Napi chose humans to be rulers over all the animals.
*Old Man and Old Woman * Woman Chooses Death * The Origin of Death:
    Blackfoot legends about Naapi and his wife arguing over the nature of life and death.
The Mistakes of Old-Man:
    Blackfoot myth about how Napi made bighorn sheep and antelopes.
*The Theft from Sun * The Fire-Leggings:
    Blackfoot stories about Napi trying to steal the Sun's pants.
Why the Birch Tree Wears Slashes in its Bark:
    Blackfoot legend about the Old-Man's fight with a birch tree.
*Old Man and the Roasted Squirrels: * Old Man and the Ducks:
    Blackfoot legends about Napi tricking gullible squirrels and birds into becoming his meal.
*Old Man and the Women:
    In this atypical Blackfoot legend, Napi is turned into a pine tree by Chief Woman.
*Chipmunk's Back Is Striped:
    Blackfoot legend about Napi turning Sickness into the first chipmunk.
*Why Kingfisher Wears A War Bonnet:
    Blackfoot story about Napi giving Kingfisher his head feathers.
*Why Curlew Has A Crooked Bill:
    Blackfoot story about Napi's bad temper.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends
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Storm Maker's Tipi:
    Picture book based on a Blackfoot legend about how Napi taught the people to make tipis.
Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians:
    Good collection of traditional Blackfoot legends and folktales including several Old Man stories.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
    Compilation of more than a hundred Napi and other trickster stories from many different tribes.
    Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.

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Additional Resources

 Blackfoot gods
 Blackfeet symbols
 Tribes in Montana
 Great Plains map
 Algic dictionary

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