The Importance of Wolves in Native American Cultures
Wolves have held a special place in almost all Native American tribes. They were admired for their strength and powers of endurance, and taught the tribes many skills.
They taught the tribes about sharing, cooperating, looking after the young and having pride. They showed the native people how to move in the forests — carefully and quietly.
By living courageously and faithfully, we experience the wonder of being alive, where everything is possible …”The Wolves Followed A Path Of Harmony, And They Did Not Like Anything To Upset Their Way.” “Wolf Was Chosen By The Great One To Teach The Human People How To Live In Harmony In Their Families. Wolf Was To Teach A Truth, As Each Animal… Would Do Also For The Humans To Survive.
Did you know? The Navajo word for wolf, “mai-coh,” also means witch, and a person could transform if he or she donned a wolf skin. So the Europeans were not the only ones with werewolf legends. However, the American tribes have an overwhelming tendency to look upon the wolf in a much more favorable light. The Navajo themselves have healing ceremonies which call upon Powers to restore peace and harmony to the ill, and the wolf is one such Power.
“The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong.” -Keewatin saying
Native American tribes recognized the wolf for its extreme devotion to its family, and many drew parallels between wolf pack members and the members of the tribe. Also, the wolf’s superior and cooperative hunting skills made it the envy of many tribes. Finally, the wolf was known to defend its home against outsiders, a task with which each tribe had to contend as well.
Perhaps the tribe with the closest of all associations with the wolf is the Pawnee, in the lands now known as Nebraska and Kansas. The Pawnee felt such a close kinship that their hand-signal for wolf is the same as the hand-signal for Pawnee. They were known as the Wolf People even by neighboring tribes. The cyclical appearance and disappearance of Sirius, the Wolf Star, indicated the wolf coming and going from the spirit world, running down the trail of the Wolf Road, otherwise known as the Milky Way. The Blackfoot tribe also called our galaxy the Wolf Trail, or the Route to Heaven. The Pawnee, like the Hidatsa and Oto tribes, used wolf bundles, pouches of skins from wolves in which to keep and protect treasured implements used for ceremonies and magic.