Arikara Legends

Neshanu Natchitak is the Arikara name for the Great Spirit or God. It lterally means the Chief Above, and He is often just called Nishanu (“Chief” or “Lord“), which is still used as the Arikara word for God today.

Characters Found in Arikara Legends:

Charred Body, Unknown One, First Creator, and Only ManThese are not really Gros Ventre legends at all, but Mandan and Hidatsa ones. Sometimes, especially on the Internet, they are mislabeled as Gros Ventre myths, because the Hidatsas were also called “Gros Ventres” by the early French settlers, and in the reservation era these three tribes were combined to form the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Bertold Reservation.

Chirich – Coyote, the trickster figure of Arikara Indian myths. He is clever but reckless, and is forever getting himself and the people around him into trouble, particularly through socially inappropriate behavior like greediness, boastfulness, lying, and chasing women.

Like modern cartoon characters, Coyote frequently dies during the course of his adventures and returns randomly to life– it is impossible to truly get rid of that trickster for good. Coyote stories are often humorous in nature, but they can also be cautionary tales about the consequences of bad behavior and the dangers of interacting with irresponsible people.

Drinks Brains and Long Teeth – These magical twins whose mother was killed by a monster are common to the myths of many Midwestern and Plains tribes.

Mother Corn – Her Arikara name (Atna or Atina) literally means just Mother. The corn was added to her name by anthropologists because she was the goddess or spirit of the corn. According to Arikara mythology, Neshanu created the Mother from an ear of corn and she became the protector of the Arikaras, leading them to their homeland and teaching them to farm.

Scalped Man (Tshunuxu) – A warrior who returned to life after being killed and scalped in battle and now roams the world as a fearsome spirit being.

Stuwi – A woman of loose morals who features in many jokes and stories told among Arikara men. Stuwi stories usually feature adult humor.

Whirlwind-Woman – A powerful storm spirit of Arikara mythology.

Arikara Legends:


Article Index:

Burr Woman

Long ago, there lived a very handsome youth. All the girls were eager to marry him, but he did not care for women. There was a good-looking girl who was living with her grandmother. She proposed to the youth, but he refused to marry her. The girl returned and complained to her grandmother.

The Buffalo Wife

A man wanted some eagle-feathers. He got to an eagle nest, found four young birds there, and plucked off their wings. The old eagle attacked him, but was killed in the struggle. The chief of the eagles, Big-Eagle, then pursued the man and, catching hold of his head, flew with him to a mountain-top, where he left him astride a crag. The man was nearly starved. After ten days the eagle returned, gave the man two feathers from each wing, and took him down to a buffalo-trail. “You will meet an old buffalo-chief. He will be wild, but don’t run away. Put one of the feathers in his head, and he won’t hurt you.”