Native American Ghost Stories

By Ruth Hopkins

Once upon a time, Natives gathered around a campfire to share stories. While these tales were used to educate, instill values, and preserve culture and history, they also provided us with a means of creative expression and intellectual dialogue, and they were entertaining too. In its purest form, ancient Native storytellers were some of mankind’s earliest improv performers, and a little embellishment was par for the course. We had a story for everything, from how constellations and landmarks formed, to wanagi (spirit) tales.

Every Native has a ghost story to tell. I use the term ghost loosely, as we are a spiritual people with strong belief systems. Our ghost stories may involve spirits that mainstream culture refers to as ghosts, but they may also include personal accounts of encounters with bigfoot, deer woman, or spirit beings like skinwalkers, little people, Iktomi (the Trickster), or even something no one has ever heard of before.

Do these things exist? I have no proof in the western scientific sense, although I do know quite a few honest people who’ve had supernatural experiences they cannot explain, or who believe they’ve interacted with ancestral spirits through prayer and ceremony. My dad always said that he thought Indigenous peoples were more sensitive to supernatural phenomenon….

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