Wolves have always been held in high regard in Native American culture. There is much more respect and admiration directed towards the wolf by the Indians than any other culture on Earth. They see a side of themselves in these animals and feel a sense of connection that is similar to the way that they live their lives. Wolves have appeared in many of their legends and stories that have been passed down through the generations. They took many aspects of the way wolves live in how the tribe should work together.

To the Native Americans wolves were the perfect example of a creature in nature. They live together and had to cooperate to survive just like the Indians do. They learned the right way to hunt from watching the wolves bring down different animals. Just watching the wolves move through the woods taught them how to move quickly and silently. They were admired for their patience and persistence during the hunt because they never gave up until the whole pack was fed.

The way wolves interacting in a pack was an example for the Native Americans to live by. They take care of their old and young no matter the condition that they are in. Wolves will bring back food for the very old and sick that can’t travel and the young are provided food because they are not old enough and experienced enough to hunt. The family group was very important for most Indians and there were many similarities between themselves and the wolves.

On a deeper level the wolf was like the Indian because they were both caretakers of the land. A wolf pack will only kill enough to feed themselves. They won’t hunt unless there is a need to and the Indians were much the same way in the way that they lived. Wolves and Indians are seen by other cultures as the wilderness embodied. A legend says that everyone has two wolves inside of them, both good and evil. The one that lives is the one that is fed.

Wolves were also seen by the Native Americans as spiritual animals. The Cheyenne would rub their arrows with the pelt of a wolf before each hunt because they thought it would provide good luck. The Eskimos would kill a wolf for food or for its pelt not as another animal, but as an equal in life. They also say that the caribou feeds the wolf, but the wolf keeps the caribou strong. A legend says that a man met a coyote who told him to smoke from his pipe. After this encounter the coyote took the man back to meet the other coyotes and wolves who taught him the way to heal people with medicine. The man took this knowledge back to the village and this became the story of the shaman and why they wear the wolf skin in ceremonies. They also believed that the howl could mean many different things depending on the tribe. Some thought that they were calling scavengers to feed on the remains of a kill, or it was the cries of the spirits.

Wolves have many different positions in the legends and stories of the Native Americans. One way that they are viewed is the easily tricked animal. They usually are tricked by the rabbit in most legends. One legend tells of a rabbit getting caught by a pack and tricks them by going into a song and dance and getting the wolves preoccupied with the dancing while it escapes. Another tells of how the wolf and coyote tried to stop a selfish rabbit from drinking at a watering hole by building a wolf out of tar. The rabbit couldn’t get an answer from the wolf, kicked it, and got stuck. The wolf and coyote argued over how to kill the rabbit and it escaped.

They can also be seen as judgmental figures dealing with bad people. One story tells of a boy waiting for his brother to return from hunting and the brother’s wife wants to run away with him. The boy refuses so the wife traps him in a hole until a wolf comes along and digs him out. The boy grows up living with the wolves until he is captured by his brother one day. The only way for him to return to the tribe is to tie the wife up with buffalo gut and leave her in the woods. The wolves tear her apart and she is never heard from again. Another tells of a tribe moving away suddenly, leaving their women behind. Wolves come and protect them until the tribe comes back and kills some of the wolves. They retaliate and kill some of the people. From that point on there has been a healthy respect between both sides.

Other stories explain things about the world around them. Dogs once lived in the mountains and wolves near the fire. One winter the dogs forced the wolves out and the wolves’ population grew. They started killing some people and there was retaliation on both sides. Now dogs live with people as protectors from the wolves who hold the mountains. Another tells of a boy and his grandmother being trapped on a ledge by some wolves. They start throwing hot rocks down on the wolves that catch them in their mouths burning them and permanently darkening their mouths. Finally there was a story of a man who nursed two wolf pups back to health that he had found on the beach. They grow up and go out to sea to kill and bring back whales for the man. The Great Above Person didn’t like the spoiling whale meat so he sent out fog to stop the wolves from returning to shore. They became the orcas or “sea wolves.”

After centuries of decline, the wolf is making a comeback thanks in part to protective groups and some Indian groups. The Nez Perce have been a driving force in bringing back the wolf to the Yellowstone National Park. The wolf was one of the most important predators of the region and now thanks to one of their historical advocates are on the rise again. The respect that the Indians had for the wolf has manifested itself by helping to bring back these majestic animals from extinction.

Annotated Webliography


1."Cherokee Legend - Two Wolves." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TwoWolves-Cherokee.html>.
A Cherokee legend says that everyone has two wolves inside them, one good and one evil. Whichever one they feed will prevail. The good one is full of harmony and the other is full of hatred.
2."Cry of Wolves - The Wolf in Native American Folklore." Cry of Wolves Splash Introduction. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.cryofwolves.com/wolves4.html>.
The wolf was a sign for the tribes on the amount of animals around. If there were wolf tracks around there are animals for hunting in the area. They also learned how to move silently and stealthily through the woods from watching the wolves.
3.McCann, Debra. "The Wolf and the Indian." Web log post. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://users.ap.net/~chenae/natwolf.html>.
The wolf was respected for its patience and perseverance on the hunt. They were like a tribe providing food for the very sick and the very old. Wolves had many qualities that Indian hunters could aspire too. They can track and take down animals as a team.
4.McCann, Debra. "Wolves." Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://users.ap.net/~chenae/wolfhome.html>.
Native Americans and wolves have lived in harmony for decades. They are seen as wilderness itself along with Indians. It is a mystical animal in Native American legends.
5."Native American Indian Legends - Legend Of Wolf Boy - Kiowa." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/LegendOfWolfBoy-Kiowa.html>.
A Kiowa legend says that a boy was imprisoned by his sister in law for refuse to marry her, but wolves saved him. The boy grew up living with the wolves and was one day captured by his brother the woman's husband. The only way for him to return was to tie up the woman with buffalo gut and handed to the wolves. They did this and she was torn apart.
6."Native American Indian Legends - The Five Wolves - Sanpoils." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TheFiveWolves-Sanpoils.html>.
A boy tricks a deer into crossing the river with him on its back, but the boy slits its throat. Wolves come, but the grandmother tricks them with rotten wood and skins. They are standing on a ledge and try to trick the wolves again with hot rocks and suet. The wolves catch the hot rocks in their mouths which is why wolves have dark spots in their mouths.
7."Native American Indian Legends - The Rabbit and the Tar Wolf - Cherokee." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TheRabbitAndTheTarWolf-Cherokee.html>.
During a drought all of the animals dig a well except the rabbit. Still the rabbit steals water and the wolf and coyote make a tar wolf and place it next to the well. The rabbit kicks it and gets stuck and while the two predators argue over what to do the rabbit escapes.
8."Native American Indian Legends - The Rabbit Escapes from the Wolves - Cherokee." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TheRabbitEscapesFromTheWolves-Cherokee.html>.
A rabbit is caught by a pack of wolves and convinces them to watch his dance. He has them stomp at certain points and he jumps to one side. The get so preoccupied that the rabbit escapes.
9."Native American Indian Legends - The Wolf and the Dog - Cherokee." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TheWolfAndTheDog-Cherokee.html>.
Long ago wolves lived near the fire and dogs up in the mountains. When the winter came the dog got cold and forced the wolf up into the mountain where the numbers exploded. The people got made and killed some wolves. The wolves retaliated and killed some people. Since then people have been afraid of and respectful of wolves.
10."Native American Indian Legends - The Wolf-Man - Blackfoot." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/The-Wolf-Man-Blackfoot.html>.
Very similar to the boy and the wolves story. A man is trapped by his two wives and a wolf along with other animals rescue him. The wolf is seen as a judgment dealing animal in these stories.
11."Native American Indian Legends - Wolf and the Sea - Haida." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/WolfandtheSea-Haida.html>.
A man found two wolf pups and raised them. They were able to swim out to sea and kill whales every day, but the Great Above Person didn't like seeing the spoiled meat from the whales and sent a fog. The wolves couldn't make it back to shore and became sea wolves or orcas.
12."Native American Indian Legends - Wolves And Coyotes - Aka The First Healer - Unknown." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/Wolves-And-Coyotes-aka-The-First-Healer-Unknown.html>.
A man meets a coyote who asks him to smoke from his pipe. The man does and is invited to meet the other coyotes and wolves. He learns things from them and returns to his village as the medicine man.
13."Native American Wolf - The Teacher." Support Artisans Crafting Indian Gifts, Native American Art and Crafts. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.support-native-american-art.com/native-american-wolf.html>.
Taught the people how to hunt, forage for food, and care for their families. Was this way till the settlers arrived. The number of wolves in their native lands is back on the rise.
14.O'Neil, Pat. "Plains Indian and the Wolf: The Pawnee." Wolf Song of Alaska: Wolf, Wolves, Canis Lupus, Wolf News, Current Events, Education,Science, Information, Facts, Adoptions, Memberships and Gift Shop. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.wolfsongalaska.org/plains_indian.html>.
The Cheyenne would rub their arrows with a wolf pelt in hopes of a good hunt. The shaman would wear a pelt to gain its powers. The howl was seen as a call to scavengers or the cries of spirits.
15."The Role of Timber Wolves in Native American Culture." The Original ~ Indians.org. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.indians.org/articles/timber-wolves.html>.
Wolves are respected by the Indians because like themselves, they took care of the land not taking more than is needed. It was only because of the settlers that wolves were placed into a bad light for preying on children and livestock.
16."Why Restore Wolves in North America? - Defenders of Wildlife." Defenders of Wildlife - Protection of Endangered Species, Imperiled Species, Habitats. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.defenders.org/programs_and_policy/wildlife_conservation/imperiled_species/wolves/wolf_facts/why_restore_wolves.php>.
The Arikara legend of creation says that a wolfman made the Great Plains. The Cheyenne say that wolves taught them to hunt. The Nez Perce have been a driving force for reintroduction of the wolf into their native habitats.
17."Wiping Out Wolves - A History." Wolf Web. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.wolfweb.com/history.html>.
Wolves were respected by the tribes because of their dedication to the groups and their hunting ability. The Eskimos would kill a wolf for fur or meat. It was not seen as killing an animal, but as an equal in life.
18."Wolf - Protector of Women (Shoshone Legend)." Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.aaanativearts.com/article453.html>.
A tribe had to leave suddenly and they left their women behind. They saved an injured wolf who in return got its pack to help them out. The tribe returned and killed the wolves. After hearing the story they said that they would respect the wolf as a protector.
19."Wolves in Yellowstone: A Short History | Wolves | Issues." Yellowstone Insider: Your Complete Guide to America's First National Park. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.yellowstoneinsider.com/issues/wolves/wolves-in-yellowstone-a-short-history.php>.
Yellowstone was home to Indian tribes and wolves 200 years ago. With the loss of the apex predator Yellowstone deteriorated. They were respected for hunting and for taking the same prey as humans.
20.Woolert, Edwin. "Wolf Song of Alaska: Wolves and Native American Culture." Wolf Song of Alaska: Wolf, Wolves, Canis Lupus, Wolf News, Current Events, Education,Science, Information, Facts, Adoptions, Memberships and Gift Shop. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.wolfsongalaska.org/wolves_in_american_culture.html>.
Legends are told in Native American stories that if a person wears a wolf pelt they will transform into a wolf. Wolves are seen as more positive than Europeans. There is an Eskimo saying that "The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf that makes the caribou strong."