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Indian Folklore Spring

Page history last edited by wikiuser0110 13 years ago


Indian Folklore



“ The White Woman of the Genesee”

Lydia Villafane


                In 1743 Mary Jemison was born on a ship heading to America from Ireland.  They arrived in Philadelphia and her family settled in what we know today as Gettysburg, PA. Mary was around 15 years old when her family was attacked by Shawnee warriors and abducted. The raiding party headed to Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh). In order to outrun the military they killed and scalped Mary’s family but she was spared. Mary was sold to a Seneca party and was put on a canoe headed for Ohio.

                The Seneca people believed if one of their own were killed or taken prisoner during a battle then a scalp from the enemy or a prisoner was given to the next of kin. This person would then decide if the prisoner is adopted warrior into the clan in order to replace the warrior that was lost, or they would torture the prisoner in the most horrid way possible which could last up to several days before the prisoner actually died, thus avenging their loss. Mary was lucky she was adopted and named Dehgewanus, or “ Two Falling Voices”.

                Mary went on to learn the ways of the Seneca people. She marries Sheninjee, a member of the Delaware Indians and has two children with one dying shortly after birth. Mary moves from Ohio to New York and during the trip her husband falls ill and dies. His family at Beards Town near Cuylerville, New York took her in. Four years later Mary marries Hiokatoo, a Seneca Indian and has six more children. She remembers this time as peaceful.

                The revolutionary war brought an end to this peace. In 1779 George Washington sent an army to destroy the Senecas. Every field and home was burned. All animals were killed and fruit trees were uprooted and destroyed. All that was left was the bare soil and the cold weather. Mary took her children further north to the Gardeau flats near the banks of the Genesee. In 1793 a peace treaty was passed and many white prisoners were freed. Mary was given a chance to return home. Mary was afraid her children would not be accepted by her own kind. Mary chose to stay and her brother helped her get land to live on with her family. Mary was allowed to live undisturbed on the banks of the Genesee.

                In 1797 a treaty was held in New York between the Seneca and the white settlers. Mary attends the Council at Big Tree where most of the land was turned over to sell to settlers and the Senecca people were left with 12 reservations. Mary was given the deed to the Gardeau Reservation and was given permission by the chiefs to lease her land to white people to work on shares. In the years to come Mary met many people who tried to cheat her out of her land. Everyone respected Mary and she became known as the “Old White Woman of the Genesee”.

                In 1817 an act was passed that made Mary a U.S citizen and that stipulation allowed her to sell her land with the consent of the Seneca chiefs. In 1823 she sold most of it for $300 dollars a year indefinitely, to be paid to her heirs. Mary kept 2 square miles of land near the river to live on. IN 1831 she sold it and moved to Buffalo Creek Reservation where she died in 1833.

                In 1877 William Letchworth bought the land along the Genesee River. He heard all kinds of stories about Mary “The Old White Woman of the Genesee” and wanted to keep them alive. He arranged to have Mary’s remains brought back to the Genesee land. A bronze statue of her marks her grave. When Letchworth died he left his land to the state of New York. This land is now known as Letchworth Park.

                In 1823, James Seaver interviewed Mary and had his story published in 1824. Mary’s story told about how a captive really lived among the Indian’s. Mary was able to give insight to the Seneca’s way of life and her stories are as intriguing today as they were one hundred and eighty years ago.



“Mary Jemison.” 123HelpMe.com. 04 May 2011. http://www.123HelpMe.com/viewasp?id=160341.

James, Seaver E.  A Narrative of the Life of Mary Jemison.

Frazier, Jeffrey R. Pennsylvania Fireside Tales. Volume 1. Pg. 56. PA: Jostens Commercial publications, 1996.








The Sky Woman

By Kristen Brandt




"In the beginning there was no world, no land, no creatures of the kind that are around us now and there were no men.”

-Line from Iroquois creation story (Iroquois Creation Myth)


     Native Americans have always been known for their countless folklores, legends, and myths. A popular topic that was covered among the various stories they shared was of how the world first came to be. Narratives such as these provide a small glance into the belief systems that were practiced before the Europeans took over North America. Countless tribes each had and still have their own individualized tales regarding the subject, and the Iroquois Indians were no exception to this.

     As one of Pennsylvania’s first inhabitants, the Iroquois Indians did not keep track of their history in the form of written records until they encountered European settlers (“Stories from PA History”). During the “pre-Columbian” era in which it was merely Indian clans present on North American soil, it was common for history to be passed down through word-of-mouth. Prior to European invasions, the Iroquois tribe of Indians and miscellaneous others claimed themselves to be of the “first people” who colonized on Pennsylvania turf. The confederation of Iroquoian tribes consisted of five different sub-nations that controlled and adventured across this territory. The group was comprised of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, and Onondaga (“Iroquois”). Although documentation from this time period is basically absent, archaeological evidence offers proof of the ever-changing world prior to immigrant civilization. The lengthy past which the Indians shared with the land they inhabited on gave a significant reason for them to be as attached to their terrain as they were.

     As one of the Iroquois’ most popular stories, their theory on how they came to live in their homelands was an example of a part of their history which they spread down through generations by means of oral communication. This perspective of creation was based off of the ideas among the Iroquois peoples who lived in the Allegheny and northern Susquehanna valleys.

    They believed that in the beginning, there was nothing but the ocean and a vast abyss of air. Far above this empty world, there was the Sky-World where god-like people lived. In this world, there was a man who had a pregnant wife with constant outrageous cravings. There was a sacred tree in the middle of the Sky-World which had grown there forever and was of great importance to the universe. The woman wanted some bark off the tree and told this to her husband who did not find it to be a good idea. However, she insisted and he gave in to her demands. He dug a hole around the roots of the great tree, but he managed to break a hole through the thin floor of the Sky-World. Underneath their world, the empty space which was present intrigued the woman. Because her husband refused to get any of the roots for her, she attempted to do this herself. When she set out to do this, though, she fell through the hole. She grabbed at its edges but only managed to get bits of roots in her hands. The birds saw the woman plummeting and created a raft in the sky to break her fall. A turtle came for the birds to place her on his shell and he floated with the woman safely placed on his back.  The woman thought she was going to die but the sea creatures tried to help her. A muskrat went to find soil on the bottom of the ocean floor for the woman to plant her roots in. She put the dirt on the turtle’s back and walked circles around it and the earth began to grow. When it was big enough, she planted the roots which grew on the earth. Once she gave birth, the woman and her daughter kept walking around the earth so that it would continue to grow. They lived simply in the plants as the creators of the world (“Iroquois Creation Myth”).



Works Cited

"Iroquois Creation Myth, 1816." History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6375/>.

"Iroquois." ~Mountain City Elementary School - Mountain City, Tennessee~. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://www.mce.k12tn.net/indians/reports1/iroquois.htm>.

"Stories from PA History." ExplorePAHistory.com. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. http://explorepahistory.com/story.php?storyId=26>.


Remaking the world

By: Jordan Spitler

            It seems that the Native Americans have had a story for all scenarios, and all creatures.  Just as it is to be said that god created this world and then destroyed it making it over again, the native Americans have a similar story, just with a little more of a twist to it.

            The Native Americans “creator” was not very happy with the way the world was acting and portraying themselves so he sought to fix that by recreating the earth.  He took along three pipes and 4 dry buffalo chips placing 3 under the pipes and one to be used as a fire starter.  He said I am going to sign three songs and stomp my feet, after the first song it will rain, after the second song it will pore, after the third song it will flood all the bodies of water, and when I have completed all my songs I will stomp the earth cracking it in half flooding the entire earth, leaving only him his crow and the few selected animals he kept in his pipe bag. 

            After all human activity was erased and the rain had finally stopped, he now has to remove the water shed animals from his pipe bag and send them to the earth for them to grab dirt.   He first begins to sign removing a loon from the bag saying you must go retrieve mud.  The loon comes back but no mud, he says It was to flooded and deep.  The creator then signs a song removing an otter but yet again the otter has trouble only being able to reach the surface and not retrieve mud.  Then he began signing a third song removing a beaver yet again it failed to bring back mud.  So he song his fourth and final song hoping he will be able to retrieve mud.  He pulls out a turtle, the turtle plunges towards the earth, he is submerged for awhile and the other animals have began to believe he had drowned and died.  But at last the turtle showed itself and bringing with him mud. 

            Now that the creator had mud he began creating a land mass for him and his animals.  He then began mold children and adults along with animals for the land.  After all was created he then began to explain he had already destroyed the world twice due to ugliness and if need be he will do it a 3rd time.


Work Cited

     Crow Dog, Leonard. "Remaking the world."netfirms1.1 (2000): 1. Web. 26 april 2011. <http://pyramidmesa.netfirms.com/brulesioux4.html>

Schlosser, S.E. "Pennsylvania Folklore."to Z index(1997): 1. Web. 27 April 2011. <http://www.americanfolklore.net/folktales/pa1.html>

 Baron, Robert, and Nicholas R. Spitzer, eds.Public Folklore.Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992


J-mee Smith


American Indian Ghosts

Chippewa Indians


Are there ghost? I think everyone’s opinion on this is different. A Chippewa Indian who was married and was also a hunter, as a hunter he could kill as much food as they need to survive or needed. As he was he lived a peaceful life with his wife. The Chippewa Indian would leave his wife to go hunt for the food they needed to live, well this one night when he left go hunting he did not return as he usually would. His wife knew this was not normal of him to not be home when he usually does. After a while she heard a noise on the front porch, she just assumed it was finally her husband coming home. When she got to the porch she then saw it was not her husband, it was two unusual women wearing unusual clothing. These women were very pale and hollow eyed and had very sheer garments on to hide their face. So not knowing any better the wife invited the two women into their home. Soon after that the wife heard a voice from the other side of the room, the voice was telling her that “there are two corpse clothed with garments”. She turned to look but nothing was there, so she just thought it was the wind. Her husband then made it back home which made her feel a lot better knowing that he was ok, and it calmed her fears. While walking in the house he dropped a deer that he had killed for food for himself and his wife. He never noticed the two unusually women in his home, but after dropping the deer the two women went over to it and started to eat it, the wife was seeing all of this. It seemed to her that they were being very greedy when it came to eating. The wife was very surprised that they were eating so much.  As she watched them eat she was begging to think that they have not eaten anything in a very long while. These two very unusual women seemed to stay with this Indian and his wife, she never heard them say anything she could just always see them. Every time the husband would come back from hunting they would always want to eat everything he had killed. It became hard for the wife because she could not explain to the husband where their entire meal was going.  So are there ghost and do Indians believe in them?                                                                                                           

                The Red Swan (Myths and Tales of the American Indians) Edited by: John Bierhorst/ 1976.



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