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Native American Sea Turtle Mythology

Sea turtles play positive roles in the folklore of many Native American tribes. In the creation myths of some East Coast tribes (such as the Iroquois and Lenape), the Great Spirit created their homeland by placing earth on the back of a giant sea turtle. This is why some contemporary Native Americans refer to North America by the name "Turtle Island."

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In the mythology of other tribes, such as the Seri, the sea turtle plays the important role of Earthdiver, being the only animal to succeed at diving to the ocean floor to bring up mud for the Creator or culture hero to create the earth with. Sea turtles are an important part of the diet of many coastal tribes, and as with other large prey animals like salmon and buffalo, there are a number of special rituals in these tribes intended to honor and pacify the sea turtle spirits for allowing themselves to be hunted to feed the people.

Sea Turtle is used as a clan crest in some Northwest Coast tribes, such as the Tlingit, and can sometimes be found carved on totem poles.

Native American Sea Turtle Gods and Spirits

Turtle Mother (Miskito)

Native American Legends About Sea Turtles

*Indian Turtle Island Legend * The Turtle and the Flood: Abenaki Creation Story * Turtle Island * Lenape Creation * Iroquois Creation Myth:
    Woodland Indian stories about the earth being placed on the back of a sea turtle.
*The Voice, the Flood and the Turtle:
    Caddo myth about Sea Turtle saving the world from four deadly giants.

Recommended Books of Sea Turtle Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Singing the Turtles to Sea:
    Interesting book of Comcaac (Seri) Indian beliefs about sea turtles and other reptiles.
A World of Turtles:
    Collection of turtle folklore from all over the world, including ten different Native American tribes.
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 turtles.




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