Native American Pantheon

In ancient times North America was inhabited by a vast number of Indian tribes. In the limited space available it would be difficult to describe them all, much less discuss the differences between the deities worshipped by each tribe. The mythologies of North America are as varied and numerous as the different Indian nations that inhabited the land. From the Iroquois who inhabited the lush woodlands of what is now the Northeast United States to the Apache who lived in the deserts of northern Mexico, the people of each tribe had their own peculiar interpretation of the supernatural world and their place in it. Any attempt to incorporate all of the deities worshipped by these various tribes as part of a single pantheon is destined to be full of unexplained gaps and conflicting detail.

No matter where they made their homes the Indians of North America lived close to nature — probably closer than any other civilization (or more accurately group of civilizations) in any other part of the world during any period in history. Many tribes lived in temporary or portable housing such as wigwams or teepees, and spent their lives following the game herds upon which their existence depended. Other tribes lived in more permanent hogans and adobe houses, feeding themselves through crude farming and by gathering nature’s bounty. No matter how they provided for their needs, the Indians lived at nature’s mercy. The game herds might roam away and hunting would become difficult, or locusts might come and destroy an entire crop of maize. It should not be surprising that in trying to understand the mysterious forces that meant feast or famine for them, the Indians concluded that nature was full of unseen spirits that sometimes chose to aid and sometimes to ravage their lives.

The Indian world was inhabited not only by men but by an unseen magical force which abides in every aspect of nature — stones, plants, animals, even themselves. Often, this magical force took the form of spirits which were associated with certain animals or plants. Therefore, most Indian deities are associated with some form of nature, such as an animal, a manlike being or even a natural force such as a season or an aspect of weather. In many tribes, children were named in honour of a particular spirit, in the belief or hope that the spirit would return the honour by becoming the child’s supernatural guardian. The Indian view of the supernatural was not confined to their own world. Most tribes believed in an Upper World, where the greatest spirits abided — including those that had preceded the creation of the physical world. There was also a Lower World, where (in many cases) the essence of the dead spent eternity. In some cases, it was believed that the Upper World contained the images which descended to the physical world to become men, and in other instances, the Indians believed that the first men crawled out of deep caves leading to the Lower World. Whether they believed men had come from above, below, or had simply existed for all time, many Indians believed in a powerful deity called anything from the Great Spirit to Father the Sky, the Master of Life, the Great Mystery, or Wakonda. The Great Spirit is foremost among the spirits, and is associated with great power and beneficence.

The Great Spirit is believed to reside in the Upper World, which is normally unreachable by mortal men. Therefore, birds and other winged creatures are often used as intermediaries to this realm. Similarly, snakes and crawling things are often used as messengers to the Lower World, which is likewise unreachable except through death. The Indians share no commonly-held belief regarding the creation of the world, and many tribes simply view the world as having always existed. However, among the tribes that do have creation myths, the world is largely assumed to have been drawn from beneath the water by some powerful spirit — though this spirit is not always thought to be the Great Spirit. Deities from the Indian pantheon are most commonly found in the Upper World and Lower World. 


Some Native American Gods;

Aakuluujjusi - The great creator mother among the Inuit people.

Ahsonnutli - (Navajo) Chief god.

Angpetu Wi - (Dakota) The sun god.

Asgaya Gigagei - (Cherokee) God of thunder.

Asintmah - The first woman according to the Athabascans, who was responsible for the birth of animal life on earth.

Atahensic - (Iroquois) The sky goddess who fell to the earth at the beginning of creation.

Awonawilona - (Pueblo/Zuni) Chief deity.

Bikeh Hozho - (Navajo) The personification of speech, who appears in the Navajo creation myth in human-like form.

Breath of Wind - (Iroquois) The daughter of Atahensic, and the mother of Ioskeha and Tawiscara.

Ca-the-ña - (Mohave) Goddess of love (the "Mohave Venus"). She presides over fertility in humans and animals.

Chakwaina Okya - (Zuni) Goddess of childbirth.

Coyote or Old Man - Also called Inktomi by some tribes. The "trickster" who assists in one aspect or other of some American Indian creation myths.

Dagwanoenyent - (Seneca) Personification of a whirlwind.

Deohako - (Seneca) Collective name of the three daughters of the Earth Mother. They are the guardians and spirits of corn, beans, and squash.

Djigonasee - A heroine of the Ontario Hurons, Djigonasee was the mother of the peacebringer Degganiwada, founder of the Iroquois League (Six Nations): Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora. Like many mothers of heroes, Djigonasee was a virgin when her son was born. A herald from beyond this world announced the birth.

Dzalarhons - (Haida) The volcano goddess of the Haida tribe.

Ee-loolth - (Duwamish) A mountain goddess.

Eithinoha - (Iroquois) The earth; her name means "our mother".

Esceheman - (Arapaho) Grandmother earth goddess.

Eschetewuarha - (Chamacoco) She is the Great Spirit's wife and the mother of the rain.

Estsanatlehi - (Navaho) The sky goddess, wife of the sun. The twin sister of Yolkai Estsan, wife of the moon. The "woman who recreates herself". The most respected Navajo deity. She is the mother of the twins Monster Slayer and Born for Water, who rid the earth of monsters. The first humans are said to have been created from skin rubbed from her body.

Evaki - The goddess of night and day. She had a pot with a lid; when she closed the lid the sun was left outside (night), when she took the lid off the pot, the sun could be seen (day).

Ewauna - (Coquille) Creator goddess.

Gaoh - (Iroquois) Master of the winds.

Gawaunduk - (Ojibwa) She was a young woman given in marriage to a respected elder of the tribe, who was more than three times her age. She went obediently, if unhappily, feeling her life would be less satisfying than if she had found a love-mate her own age. As the years passed and she had many children by the old man, her heart softened towards him. When he grew sick at age 85, Gawaunduk cared for him tenderly and nursed him back to health. He recovered and lived another 15 years. Then, at 100 years old, he died quietly in his sleep. She grieved so at his grave that she died of that grief and they were buried together. Mists that rise from spruce forests are said to be her tears as she mourns for him.

Geezhigo-Quae - (Ojibwa) She was the sky mother, a manitou (great spirit) who dwelt in the heavens and watched over her people from there. She was the creator of humanity; she created the earth by descending into the primal soup to find land under the waves and fashioning it into the hills and valleys and the mountain ranges of the earth.

Gendenwitha - (Iroquois) The morning star (means "she who brings the day"). Her story tells of the time when the great hunter Sosondowah was stalking a supernatural elk. The hunt brought him to the heavens, where the goddess Dawn trapped him as her doorkeeper. But he did not remain faithful to his duties; down on earth he saw Gendenwitha (a mortal woman) and daily left his duties to court her. While Dawn was busy coloring the sky, the hunter was singing to his beloved: in spring as a bluebird; in summer, as a blackbird; in autumn, as a hawk. And it was as a hawk that he tried to carry Gendenwitha to heaven with him. But the jealous Dawn turned the woman into a star and set Gendenwitha just above Dawn's door, where she shines today as the morning star.

Genetaska - (Iroquois) She was a human woman so wise that squabbles among her people were brought to her for settlement. Genetaska was always impartial and fair, but one day she fell in love with a defendant and then married him. This ruined her reputation for impartiality and her "office" of mediator was abolished.

Gitche - Manitou The Great Spirit, the All-Father.

Glispa - (Navajo) She learned the healing chant (Hozoni) and its rituals from her lover, a leader of the snake people of the lower world. Back on earth, she tried to teach the song of beauty to her brother, but he was not as fast a learner as she and had trouble remembering the elaborately beautiful song. By the use of magic she finally taught him; when she returned to the lower world, the Navajo were left with the gift of healing.

Gluskap - (Algonquin) The creator force. Also Glooscap.

Godasiyo - (Tuscarora) It is said that at the beginning of time, all the people spoke the same language. The heroine Godasiyo was a chief in the biggest village. One day, Godasiyo's favorite dog gave birth to seven puppies, the last-born of which was the cutest puppy you have ever seen. This magical puppy was so cute that Godasiyo's people grew envious. They began to argue violently for possession of the dog. Godasiyo invented canoes and ordered those of her people who were still friendly into them. She wanted them to travel to a new place, where they could establish a new village and live in peace with the adorable puppy. But even as they pepared to embark arguments began about which canoe the chief and her puppy should ride in. Godasiyo then invented an outrigger, so she could ride between the canoes. But even this was not good enough. The migrating people reached a place where the river divided and began to argue furiously about which way to go. During the argument, the chief and her dog were accidentally thrown into the water and drowned. But almost immediately they were reborn, she as a huge sturgeon, the puppy as a little whitefish. When the people tried to comment on this miracle, they found they could no longer understand each other. Because of the conflict over possession of a puppy, the many human languages were born.

Gunnodoyak - (Iroquois) A young hunter (mortal) who was adopted by Hino and brought up to heaven.

Gyhldeptis - (Tlingit/Haida) The Tlingit and Haida tribes of Alaska considered her a kindly forest goddess.

Hahgwehdiyu - (Iroquois) God of goodness.

Hamedicu - (Huron) The High God.

Hanghepi Wi - (Dakota) Moon god.

Hastsehogan - (Navajo) God of racing.

Hastseoltoi - (Navajo) Goddess of hunting. Wife of the war god.

Hastsezini - (Navajo) God of fire.

Heng - (Huron) The spirit of thunder.

Hino (Hinu, Heno) - (Iroquois) The sky god and the spirit of thunder. He killed the water serpent who lived in the Great Lakes.

Hisakitaimisi - (Creek) "Controller of Life".

Hotoru - (Pawnee) Wind god.

Iatiku and Nautsiti - (Acoma) The sisters who created man.

Iemaparu - (Pueblo) Corn Mother.

Igaehinvdo - (Cherokee) The sun goddess. Sister of Elihino (the earth) and Sehu (corn goddess).

Ikas - (Algonquin) Mother Earth.

Ioskeha - (Iroquois) Creator of the first man and woman.

Isakakate - (Crow) The Supreme Being.

Ite - (Oglala) Wife to Tate (the wind) and mother of the Wani (four sons who control the four seasons).

Katsinas - (Acoma) The younger children of Iatiku who had the power to bring rain and food.

Kanati - (Cherokee) The male First Ancestor.

Ketchimanetowa - (Fox) The Great Spirit.

Ketq Skwaye - (Huron) The creator; Grandmother Toad.

Kokomikeis - (Blackfoot) The moon goddess; mother of the Morning Star

Kokopeli - (Hopi) According to legend, Kokopeli (the flute player and traveling prankster) was the symbol of happiness, joy, and fertility. He would visit villages playing his flute, carrying seeds in his backpack (the "hump" he is pictured as having). Everyone would sing and dance through the night. Then, while the people slept, Kokopeli would roam the corn fields, playing his flute. The next morning the people would awake to find the corn almost full grown and Kokopeli gone, and many of the young women of the village pregnant. One legend has it that he is responsible for the end of winter and the coming of spring. When, the story goes, Kokopelli comes playing his flute, the sun comes out, the snow melts, the green grass grows, the birds begin to sing, and all the animals gather around to hear his songs.

Kokopell'Mana - (Hopi) Erotic companion of Kokopeli. She challenged the young men of the villages they visited to a foot race. When she overtook them (most of the time), she wrestled them to the ground and simulated intercourse with them.

Kokyan - (Hopi) Creator goddess; she created humans, plants, and animals.

L'etsa'aplelana - (Bella Coola) Goddess who initiates the shamans.

La'idamlulum Ku'le - (Maidu) First woman.

Le-tkakawash - (Klamath) Bird goddess.

Lennaxidaq - (Kwakiutl) Goddess of wealth and luck.

Loha - (Klamath) Beneficent goddess portrayed as a beautiful woman.

Loo-wit - (Klikitat) A fire goddess; personification of Mt. St. Helens.

Maja - (Sioux) Earth mother.

Malsum - (Algonquin) Brother of Gluskap, but a destructive force.

Mam - (Mopan) The rain god.

Mani'to - (Lenape) The Great Spirit. According to present Unami usage: Gicelemu 'kaong, usually translated "great spirit", but meaning literally, "creator".

Manu - The first man in some American Indian myths.

Masauwu - (Hopi) God of war, death, and the night.

Master of Winds - (Iroquois) God of the winds, husband of Atahensic, and father of Ioskeha and Tawiscara.

Menahka - (Mandan) Sun god.

Minnehaha - (Blackfoot) Saviour of her people from starvation. The story: The hunters of the tribe would drive a buffalo herd over a cliff; the women would cut up and collect the meat from the dead animals. This particular time the buffalo herds would turn away before going over the edge. This continued until the people were in dire straits and on the verge of starvation. One morning Minnehaha was at the bottom of the cliff when she noticed a large herd above. In desperation she yelled out that she would marry one of them if they jumped off the cliff. Some of them jumped, others followed and soon the whole herd was over the cliff. When the rest of the tribe came to the cliff they found plenty of meat, but no Minnehaha. Her footprints showed that she had left with an old buffalo.

Nanabojo - (Chippewa) The Trickster god. Also called Winabojo.

Nanabush - (Algonquin) Also known as Manabozho, Wisaaka and Glooscap. He is the central figure in myth and legend. His grandmother is Nokomis, the earth.

Nanih Waiya - (Choctaw) The place where the people emerged to this world; later used as a name for the creator.

Napi - (Blackfoot) Chief deity.

Nesaru - (Arikara) "The Power Above".

Nishanu - The great sky god of the Arikara tribe (Plains Indians).

Ockabewis - (Chippewa) Messenger of the gods and teacher of mankind.

Oklatabashih - (Choctaw) The survivor of the Great Flood.

Onatha - (Iroquois) The spirit of wheat; she is Eithinoha's daughter.

Oshadagea - (Iroquois) An eagle who attends Hino and lives with him in the sky, along with Keneu, another eagle attendant.

Pah - (Pawnee) Moon goddess who marries the sun. They are the creators of the first people.

Paiowa - (Yana) She and her daughter created the first Paiute people.

Pautiwa - (Hopi) Sun god.

Qakma - (Bella Coola) The first woman.

Quootis-hooi - (Chinook) The creator goddess who created people by eating thunderbird eggs.

Ragno - (Hopi) She is associated with the creation of life.

Rukko - (Mandan) The creator goddess. She makes human bodies and her male counterpart adds the souls.

Selu - (Cherokee) The female First Ancestor.

Shakuru - (Pawnee) Sun god.

Shilup Chito Osh - (Choctaw) The Great Spirit.

Sio Humis - (Hopi) Rain god.

Tarhuhyiawahku - (Iroquois) The giant who holds up the heavens.

Tawa - (Pueblo) The sun kachina.

Tawiscara - (Iroquois) The evil twin brother of Ioskeha.

Tieholtsodi - (Navajo) A water monster.

Tirawa atius - (Pawnee) The supreme god.

Tobadzistsini - (Navajo) God of war.

To'nenile - (Navajo) The rain god.

Tsentsa - (Huron) The good Creator-Twin.

Tsichtinako - The female spirit of the Acoma Indian creation myth.

Tsohanoai - (Navajo) God of the sun.

Tunkan Ingan - (Dakota) Sex god.

Uchtsiti - The Acoma Indian creator of the world; Father of the Gods.

Ukat - (Yana) Goddess of good luck.

Unk - (Lakota) Goddess ancestor of all evil beings. She also created fish.

Wah-Kah-Nee - (Chinook) The Chinook people were once struck with a terrible endless winter. They were completely ice-bound with no relief in sight, and so the people began to fear for their survival for they would soon have no food. A council was called, and the elders recalled that endless winter resulted from the killing of a bird. Each person was asked if he or she had been guilty of such a crime. Everyone denied it. But the children pointed to a little girl who, crying, confessed that she had struck a bird with a stone, and it had died. The Chinook dressed the girl in the finest garments and exposed her on a block of ice as an offering to the winter spirits. Almost immediately a thaw ensued and summer came with a rush. Now the people could gather food again. Nearly a year later, when the winter returned, the Chinook saw a block of ice containing the girl's body and fetched it to shore. Miraculously, the girl revived and afterward lived among them as a sacred being, able to walk unprotected, even barefoot, through the winter and to communicate with its spirits.

Wakan-Tanka - (Sioux) A collective union of the gods.

White Buffalo Woman - (Oglala) This sacred woman brought secret knowledge to the Oglala. It was said that she first appeared to two young men as a white-clad lady whose clothing was lavishly embroidered with porcupine quills in exquisite patterns. One of the young men was overtaken by lust, but the second recognized that she was no earthly woman. The first, although warned, could not contain himself; he rushed open-armed toward the woman. She smiled, and a soft white cloud descended to cover their embrace. When it passed, the woman stood alone with the young man's skeleton at her feet. Smiling, she told the second man that the dead man had been awarded just what he sought. She instructed the man to return to his village and set his people to building a huge sacred tent. Then she entered the village, and the people were enraptured by her presence. Walking seven times around the central fire, she spoke to them, giving them a bag containing a sacred pipe and teaching them the ceremonies that went with these objects. She reminded them of the mysteries of their mother, the earth. Urging them always to honor her, she disappeared in the shape of a white buffalo.

Windigo - (Whitiko,Weendigo, Witigo, Wehtiko) (Ojibwa, Chippewa, Algonquin) A race of giant cannibals who feed upon other human beings in the winter when food is scarce.

Winonah - (Ojibwa) She was the daughter of the great goddess Nokomis. Winonah was a virgin mother who was raped four times by the same manitou or spirit. It happened that she was in the forest picking berries one day, and overtaken with a need to urinate, she forgot the warning that women should never face west while making water. When the manitou saw her vagina, he took form and had intercourse with her immediately. Through this spirit-union, she not only acquired magical powers of fertility and longevity, but also gave birth to four heroic sons.

Wisagatcak - (Cree) The Trickster god.

Yebaad - (Navajo) The female leader of the gods.

Yeba Ka - (Navajo) The male leader of the gods.

Yeitso - (Navajo) The child of the sun. A giant in Navajo legend.

Yolkai Estsan - (Navajo) The sister of the turquoise-sky goddess Estsanatlehi, she was a Navaho moon goddess. Called "white shell woman" because she was made from abalone, Yolkai Estsan ruled the dawn and the ocean; she was also creator of fire and maize.



Pantheons Index