Legendary Native American Figures: Nihancan (Niatha)
Name: Nihancan Tribal affiliation:Arapaho Alternate spellings: Nih'ancan, Ni'hancan, Nihansan, Nihanca, Nihaca, Nihatha, Niatha, Nia'tha, Nih'oo3oo Pronunciation: nih-haw-thaw or nih-haw-saw Also known as: White-Man, Crazy Man, Trickster, Fool Type:Culture hero,
Transformer, trickster Related figures in other tribes:Nihata (Gros Ventre), Veeho (Cheyenne),
Nihancan is the spider trickster of the Arapaho tribe. In modern Arapaho the pronunciation of this name is
nih-aw-thaw, but speakers of some Arapaho dialects in the past may have pronounced the "th" sound as an "s" instead,
a common substitution in Plains languages. Nihancan is an interesting figure-- in some tales he plays the
typical trickster/transformer role common to Algonquian tribes, making more or less benign mischief and
shaping the world for the Arapahos as he goes. But in other tales, Nihancan is depicted as a more violent,
anti-social trickster type similar to Siouan spider spirits like Iktomi.
The literal meaning of the character's Arapaho name is "Spider." It is given as "White Man" in many older translations,
but this is a misleading translation-- the Arapahos named white people after Nihancan, not vice versa!
He is also sometimes referred to as Crazy Man, Trickster, or Fool.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
Compilation of more than a hundred Nihansan and other trickster stories from many different tribes.
Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.