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Native Languages of the Americas:
Tsalagi/Cherokee Legends, Myths, and Stories

This is our collection of links to Cherokee folktales and traditional stories that can be read online. We have indexed our Native American legends section by tribe to make them easier to locate; however, variants on the same legend are often told by American Indians from different tribes. In particular, though these legends come from the Cherokee tribe, the traditional stories of related tribes like the Iroquois and neighboring tribes like the Creeks are very similar.

Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Cherokee legend for this page or think one of the ones on here should be removed, please let us know.

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Important Cherokee Mythological Figures

Unetlanvhi (Creator): This is the Cherokee word for God. Sometimes Cherokee people today also refer to the Creator as the "Great Spirit," a phrase which was borrowed from other tribes of Oklahoma. Unetlanvhi is considered to be a divine spirit with no human form or attributes and is not normally personified in Cherokee myths. The name is pronounced similar to oo-net-la-nuh-hee. Sometimes another name such as Galvladi'ehi ("Heavenly One") or Ouga ("Ruler," also spelled Ugv or Ugu) is used instead.

Jistu: Rabbit, the trickster figure in the folklore of the Cherokee and other Southeastern tribes. His Cherokee name is pronounced similar to jeese-doo.

Uktena: A dragon-like horned serpent of Cherokee legend. The first Uktena was said to be transformed from a human man in a failed assassination attempt on the sun. Most other Cherokee tales about Uktena have to do with Cherokee heroes slaying one. They are malevolent and deadly monsters. Their name is pronounced ook-tay-nah.

Thunderers (Aniyvdaqualosgi or Ani-Yuntikwalaski): Storm spirits who live in the sky and command thunder and lightning. In Cherokee legends the Thunderers are human in form, unlike many tribes where thunder spirits appear as birds. Cherokee Thunderers are powerful and dangerous, but generally benign and friendly to humans.

Tlanuwa: Giant mythological birds of prey with impenetrable metal feathers, common to the mythology of many Southeastern tribes. Their Cherokee name is pronounced tlah-noo-wah.

Yunwi Tsunsdi' (Little People): A race of small humanoid nature spirits, sometimes referred to in English as "dwarves" or "fairies." They are usually invisible but sometimes reveal themselves as miniature child-sized people. Yunwi Tsunsdi are benevolent creatures who frequently help humans in Cherokee stories, but they have magical powers and are said to harshly punish people who are disrespectful or aggressive towards them. Their name is pronounced similar to yun-wee joon-stee (or yun-wee joon-stee-gah,) which literally means "little people." The singular form is Yvwi Usdi (pronounced yun-wee oon-stee.)

Nunnehi (Travelers): Another supernatural spirit race which is friendly towards humans, particularly towards the Cherokee tribe. Nunnehi are very strong and sometimes intercede in battle on the Cherokees' behalf. Like Little People, Nunnehi are usually invisible but sometimes show themselves to humans they like (appearing as regal looking human warriors.) Their name is pronounced similar to nun-nay-hee.

Stoneclads: Formidable rock giants of Cherokee mythology.

Cherokee Indian Folklore

*Cherokee Myths:
    Online collection of Cherokee myths and legends.
*Cherokee Stories:
    Video of a Cherokee storyteller relating a legend about Rattlesnake.
*Earth Making * Cherokee Story of the Creation:
    Cherokee myth about the creation of the world.
*The Deluge:
    Cherokee Indian story about the Great Flood.
*Kanati and Selu * The Origin of Game and of Corn * Kanati the Hunter:
    Cherokee Indian legends about Corn Woman and her family.
*Grandmother Spider Steals The Sun * Spider and the Sun:
    Cherokee version of a typical Southeastern myth about the origin of light.
*The Giant Inchworm:
    Cherokee legend about how the inchworm was defeated, in Cherokee and English.
*Uktena * The Snake Boy * The Tlanuhwa and The Uhktena:
    Cherokee legends about the Uktena serpent.
*The First Strawberries * The Origin of Strawberries:
    Cherokee folktale about the reconciliation of a quarreling couple.
*Origin of the Pleiades:
    Cherokee Indian legend about boys who became stars.
*Origin of Disease and Medicine * The Origin of Medicine:
    Cherokee Indian legends about how herbs came to the people.
*Hummingbird Brings Back Tobacco * How They Brought Back The Tobacco:
    Cherokee legends about the origin of tobacco.
*The Sacred Pipe of the Tsalagi:
    Cherokee legend about the origin of the pipe.
*Why Mole Lives Underground:
    Cherokee story about Mole's brief career as a matchmaker.
*The Legend of the First Woman:
    Cherokee myth of how women were created.
    Cherokee stories about the Little People.
*Sun and her Daughter * Daughter of the Sun:
    Cherokee myths about the daughter of the Sun.
*Legend of the Cedar Tree:
    Cherokee Indian legend about the origin of day and night.
*Why Rabbit Has A Short Tail:
    Cherokee legend about Fox playing a trick on Rabbit.
*Why the Possum's Tail is Bare * Why The Opossum's Tail Is Bare:
    Cherokee legends about Rabbit playing a trick on Possum.
How The Deer Got His Horns:
    Cherokee legend about Deer winning antlers from the trickster Rabbit.
*How the Milky Way Came to Be:
    Cherokee Indian myth about the origin of the Milky Way.
*Cherokee Bear Legend:
    Cherokee folklore about a clan that turned into bears.
*The Thunder Nation and the Eagle:
    Cherokee legend about Thunder and Eagle giving out powers to the animals.
*How the Cherokee Learned the Rattlesnake Prayer Song:
    Cherokee legend about a woman who paid the price for killing a rattlesnake.
*How The Rabbit Stole The Otter's Coat:
    Cherokee story about Rabbit masquerading as Otter.
*The Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting:
    Cherokee tale about Rabbit unsuccessfully imitating Otter.
*What the Stars Are Like * The Moon And The Thunders:
    Cherokee Indian myths about the celestial objects.
*How the Red Bird Got His Color:
    Cherokee legend about the cardinal, in Cherokee and English.
*Legend of the Cherokee Rose:
    19th-century legend about the origin of the Cherokee Rose.

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Recommended Books on Cherokee Mythology
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*Yonder Mountain:
    Children's book by a Cherokee author, based on a traditional myth about a mountaintop rite of passage.
Selu and Kana'ti: Cherokee Corn Mother and Lucky Hunter:
    Children's book depicting the Cherokee myth about the origin of corn.
*Aunt Mary, Tell me A Story:
    Collection of Cherokee legends and tales.
The Opossum's Tale:
    Children's book illustrating a Cherokee legend about how the possum got his tail.
Seeking The Corn-Mother's Wisdom:
    Book of Cherokee stories and spirituality revolving around Selu the Corn Mother.
Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting * How Rabbit Lost His Tail * Rabbit and the Wolves * Rabbit and the Well:
    A series of Cherokee Indian stories about the trickster Rabbit getting into and out of trouble.
Rabbit Plants the Forest:
    Picture book illustrating a Cherokee legend about Rabbit helping Saloli the squirrel plant trees.
How Turtle's Back Was Cracked:
    Picture book based on a Cherokee legend about Turtle paying the price for his bragging.
The First Fire:
    Anthology of stories from the Kickapoo, Cherokee, Kiowa, and Tigua tribes.
Southeastern Native American Legends:
    Book comparing traditional Cherokee stories to those from other Southeast tribes.
The Deetkatoo:
    Great collection of traditional tales about little people from the Cherokee and other tribes.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
    Compilation of more than a hundred stories about Rabbit and other Native American tricksters.
    (Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.)

Additional Resources

 Seven Cherokee ceremonies
 Cherokee Indian tribe
 Native American traditions
 Cherokee language
 Indian tribes of Georgia
 Southeastern Indians
 Cherokee culture
 Cherokee names
 Iroquoian language family

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