Native American Stories

Native American Stories

Native Americans have wonderful stories about the night skies and constellations. The Yakima Tribe, from what is today central Washington state, saw Cassiopeia as a stretched, drying elk skin. Cherokees saw two bright stars in today’s Canis Major — the great dog — as two dogs guarding the path to the land of souls. That path indicated by the Cherokee? The Milky Way. And, according to the East Coast Mesquakie Tribe and the Great Lakes Iroquois Tribe, the bowl stars of the Big Dipper in the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Bear) form a bear, with the stars of the Big Dipper’s handles as hunters. (1)

Cassiopeia is shown with lines connecting the stars.
Cassiopeia, named after Queen Cassiopeia from Greek mythology, is seen in the northern sky. [ “Cassiopeia starfield” by Sadalsuud is licensed under CC BY 4.0 ]
Canis Major as depicted in Urania's Mirror is shown as a dog over a star map.
Canis Major as depicted in Urania’s Mirror , a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825. [ “Sidney Hall – Urania’s Mirror, etc.” by Adam Cuerden is in the Public Domain ]