Little People Legends

The Little People – Native American Myth or Real?

The Little People – Native American Myth or Real?

When I was small on my Grandparent’s homestead in Arapahoe, my Grandma told me to behave or the Little People would take me home with them. That idea terrified my sisters and I into obedience – at least for a little while. As I grew older, we were told to respect the Little People and they would leave us be. Somewhere in that teaching, we were also told to leave them gifts. This lesson stuck when we encountered evidence of Little People far from our Grandma’s Wyoming home. We were living in Alaska and I was 10 at the time and my sisters 8 and 6. We had just moved to an apartment complex in Delta Junction and were exploring our new home. Behind one of the buildings, we found an impossibly small garden with full grown miniature vegetables. Full heads of cabbage the size of our thumbs, peas that we could barely see, teeny carrots, radishes popping their tops out of the ground and much more. We were fascinated and even found the faint outline of a trail leading to this neat and orderly garden. The rows were all perfectly straight and lined up, the space between each row just big enough to accommodate the tiny vegetables. We ran home and got our miniature Tupperware set and poured milk into one of the small orange cups even though it was still huge compared to the garden. We carefully placed the cup near the garden and eagerly tasted the vegetables, bring careful to only take a few samples. They were all ripe and ready to eat despite their size. I remember the sweetness of the carrot I picked and the impossibly small peas when we cracked open a pod. The next day, we hurried back and were excited to see that the Little Person had accepted our gift and had left the cup where it was but had drank all the milk. We could also see that they had begun harvesting the garden since several of the pumpkins were gone. When we weren’t harassed by the Little People, we figured that they approved of the milk which we guessed was a treat they could not otherwise get. (I don’t think their are Little Cows…) After several days, we finally decided to show our Mom the garden. When she saw it, she was obviously surprised and then told us to be careful. She tried to reason it away and said the ground was too hard and must have stunted their growth. That argument didn’t fly because, we argued, the rows were too close together. Mom just shook her head and then told us we shouldn’t play over there anymore. We...

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The Dwarf & The Spider

The Dwarf & The Spider

I found this story on indigenous.net. It features the Spider – Nih’oo3oo and a dwarf – cesiiteihii. The Spider, the trickster to my Arapaho people, taunted a dwarf to shoot at him with the giant arrow the dwarf was making from a cottonwood tree. The dwarf took him up on the dare and shocked Spider by lifting the entire tree in one hand and effortlessly shooting it. Needless to say, Spider lost the bet.When referring to the Little People, we say heecesiiteihii so I am going to have to go ask an Elder what difference hee (pronounced haa) makes to the name. Are they the same people or different? My guess is that they are the same race of people! And that hee makes the word plural rather than singular. The story calls Spider Nihancan but I have been taught Nih’oo3o (the 3 is a soft th) but other than that, it is similar to the stories I have heard of this trickster. The Little People were our enemies back in the old days so I am not surprised to see a story where a dwarf uses a large tree as an arrow. Even today we are told to respect them and keep out of their way so they will leave us be. Occasionally, they are even helpful and I have heard stories where they have helped lost hunters. We may live in a different age now but I will always remain cautious of the Little People! Nihancan and the Dwarf’s Arrow Nihancan the spider was out traveling in search of some mischief he could do to please himself. Along a creek he found a patch of sweet berries, and while he was eating them he heard the sound of someone cutting wood. The sound seemed to come from a grove of cotton woods across the creek. “I must go over there,” Nihancan said to himself “I have heard that dwarves who make wonderful arrows live in that place. It is time that I played a trick on them.” He crossed a stream, and among the cotton woods he found a dwarf making an arrow out of an immense tree that had been cut down.”Well, little brother,” said Nihancan, “what are you making?” “You have eyes to see,” replied the dwarf, who continued shapingthe tree into an arrow as long as ten men and as thick as a man’s body. “I have heard about your ability to shoot very large arrows,”Nihancan said. “But surely you do not expect me to believe that so small a person as you can lift so large a tree. Let me see you shoot it. I will stand over there against that hillside and you can shoot...

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Stick Indians of the Nez Perce

Stick Indians of the Nez Perce

The Dwarves of Native American traditions were called by various names throughout Indian Country. My own tribe, the Arapaho, called them the Little People (Heecesiiteihii) while their neighbors in the Northwest, the Nez Perce, called this race of people the “Stick Indians”, the Its’te-ya-ha. In 1954, Lucy Armstrong, a Nez Perce, shared her stories of the Stick People that her father and an Elder passed down to her. The story in its entirety is in Ella Clark’s book, Indian Legends from the Northern Rockies, on pages 50-51. According to Armstrong, the Stick Indians wore deerskins wrapped around their bodies and lived in the deep woods. In this, it is similar to stories of the Arapaho who say the Little People live today deep in the remote Wind River Mountains. She said that the Stick Indians could make themselves invisible by rubbing themselves with a certain type of grass though, at other times, they would remain visible. They would hoot like owls and howl like coyote so that it was difficult to tell the Stick Indians apart from the wild animals. As in many cultures, including the Catholic Irish with their leprechauns, the Nez Perce would occasionally put out food for the Stick Indians. According to Armstrong, people would hear whistling in their home and know that it was these Stick Indians. They would then put out bits of salmon for the intruders and, invariably, in the morning the food would be gone. This reminds me of my own experience of offering milk to the Little People and the milk was gone in the morning without the cup being spilt or knocked over. Reminiscent of the Arapaho story of the dwarf who used the cottonwood for an arrow, the Nez Perce also claimed that the Stick Indian was extremely strong. Armstrong said that an old white man reported that a Stick Indian stole his sheep and their calves. He had told her father that he had caught the little man with a calf under each arm and that he was too strong for the sheepherder to do anything about the thievery. Armstrong’s reports of modern day sightings correlate with that of my tribe as well. Usually the sightings are when tribal members are out in remote Wind River Mountains in hunting camp. Phillip, a young Arapaho man, told me just the other day that he had seen several of the Little People silhouetted on a rock above his head while hunting in the Wind Rivers. They got out of the area quickly and didn’t stick around to study the other hunters. In Armstrong’s father’s case, he was a boy at hunting camp with his aunt and uncle when a storm...

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