There are many sources and traditions within Native American storytelling and mythologies. These tales are a selection of those told by the tribes and peoples of the Great Plains, but by no means does this book cover all aspects even within just this sub-group. It's been one of the absolute delights of the summer discovering just how deep and rich are the veins of folk and tribal lore across the Americas.
There is a deep sense of nature, of the seasons, weather, plants, animals, earth, water, fire, sky and the heavenly bodies, together with common elements such as all-embracing, universal and omniscient Great Spirit.
A characteristic of many of the myths is the close relationship between human beings and creatures of the natural world, often featuring shape-shifting between forms.
Although most Native American myths are profound and serious, some use light-hearted humour, often in the form of the hapless trickster, Iktomi, to entertain, as they subtly convey important spiritual and moral messages.
Stories from the Great Plains often feature buffalo, the animals so important in the lives of these peoples. Another common theme is the making of a journey, often to a supernatural place across the landscape or to the sky world.
The Great Plains are generally described as the expansive area of North America between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, embodying many cultures whose various rites and ceremonies emerged from a common background.
Many tribes, but not all, were semi-nomadic and depended more on buffalo hunting than on agriculture for their living. Folktales have been a part of the social and cultural life of Native American regardless of whether they were sedentary agriculturists or nomadic hunters. As they gathered around a fire at night, Native Americans could be transported to another world through the talent of a good storyteller. The effect was derived not only from the novelty of the tale itself but also from the imaginative skill of the narrator, who often added gestures and songs and occasionally adapted a particular tale to suit a certain culture.
As I said at the beginning of this short preface, it's been a delight to get to know these tales just a little, and I still have a long way to walk amongst the stories of so many more tribes and peoples across North America.
Okaraxta - Tales From The Great Plains
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