Toward a native American theology of animals: creek and Cherokee perspectives.
Article Type:
Creeks (Native American people) (Religious aspects)
Cherokees (Religious aspects)
Human-animal relationships (Religious aspects)
Aftandilian, Dave
Pub Date:
Name: Cross Currents Publisher: Association for Religion and Intellectual Life Audience: Professional Format: Newsletter Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Association for Religion and Intellectual Life ISSN: 0011-1953
Date: June, 2011 Source Volume: 61 Source Issue: 2
Event Code: 290 Public affairs
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

Accession Number:
Full Text:

In this article, I will explore what a Native American theology of animals might look like, and how it might inform work on animal theology in other faith traditions. After a brief review of previous work on this topic, I discuss the roles of animals in Native American creation stories and cosmologies; the recognition of animals as people; the spiritual powers of animals; and the proper practical and spiritual roles of humans in relation to other animals. (1)

Such an exploration, of course, assumes that one can speak of "theology" among people who do not necessarily believe in a supreme deity in the Christian sense. Following the practice of Clara Sue Kidwell, Homer Noley, and George Tinker, who are themselves all Native American, and who published a book on Native American theology recently (Kidwell et al. 2001), I argue that one can indeed speak of Native American theology, so long as two important caveats are kept in mind.

First, Native American spiritual beliefs vary by tribe and by individual, so that one cannot develop a single overarching "Native American theology," of animals or anything else. For that reason, I have chosen to focus this essay on the spiritual beliefs and practices regarding animals of two Southeastern tribes, the Muskogee Creek and the Cherokee (although I will also mention more generally held Native American beliefs from time to time). Both the Creek and the Cherokee once shared traditional lands in northern Georgia, and after they were forcibly removed from those lands and their other traditional territories throughout the Southeast by the U.S. government in the 1830s and 1840s, they were allotted neighboring reservations in northeastern Oklahoma (Swanton 1952/1969, 104-116, 299-300). Both tribes historically practiced a similar mix of farming, hunting, gathering, and fishing in terms of their subsistence (Hudson 1976, 258ff), and also have long shared many stories and spiritual beliefs regarding animals. To highlight the fact that Creek and Cherokee peoples and their cultures are alive and well today, I have drawn on contemporary sources for this article whenever possible.

Second, Native American spiritual beliefs have traditionally been shared orally, through sacred stories which non-natives have often called "myths." Therefore, rather than focusing on biblical texts, as many theological studies do, I will instead focus on sacred stories. (Because Native American people regard their stories of the sacred time before time as true, rather than fictional as is implied by the term "myth," I prefer to refer to these as "sacred stories"; see also Gill 1989, 157-158.)

Before we begin, I want to highlight some of the most important foundations upon which Creek, Cherokee, and other Native American theologies of animals are built. First and foremost, native theologies of animals are based on observation and experience with real animals (for Creek, see Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 6, 12; for Cherokee, see Duncan 1998, 203-205; see also Kawagley 2006, 16-17). On the one hand, this focus on close observation of real animals stems from a deep curiosity about and concern for the animal peoples with whom we share the world. But on the other hand, traditionally, native peoples have also watched animals closely and tried to understand them because they were deeply dependent upon the animals for both physical sustenance and spiritual knowledge and power.

Overview of previous work related to Native American animal theology

Because theology has traditionally been done in Christian and sometimes Jewish contexts, there has been relatively little work on theology among Native Americans. A key exception is the book A Native American Theology, which was written by three Native American scholars (Kidwell et al. 2001). However, despite the crucial importance of animals in the spiritual beliefs of Native American peoples throughout the Americas (whether they have practiced primarily hunting and fishing or farming), past and present, Kidwell et al. do not address the topic of animal theology among Native Americans in this work, nor do they include a chapter on animal-related spiritual beliefs. Indeed, I am not aware of any other substantive treatments of Native American animal theology.

Of course, many scholars have previously studied animal-related spiritual beliefs among various Native American people. Even though they do not discuss animal theology directly, these works are clearly relevant and would be good starting places for scholars who wish to construct animal theologies for other Native American peoples (beyond the Creek and Cherokee). While a full review of these studies is beyond the scope of this brief article, I will mention a few representative examples, starting with more general studies and moving to more specific. At the most general level, J. Donald Hughes offers a brief historical summary of Native American beliefs about animals (Hughes 1996, 23-48). Harrod (2000) provides a wide-ranging historical overview of what he calls "Native American sacred ecology and animal kinship" beliefs and practices among tribes of the Northern Plains. In Giving Voice to Bear, David Rockwell reviews stories and rituals involving bears among a wide variety of Native American peoples (Rockwell 2003). LaVerne Harrell Clark discusses the role of the horse in Navajo and Apache cultures, and John C. Ewers does the same for the horse among the Blackfeet (Clark 2001, Ewers 1955/1979). Several studies consider teachings about animals among Yupiit peoples of Alaska (Fienup-Riordan 1990; Kawagley 2006; Martin 1999), while Nelson (1983) focuses on those of the Koyukon of interior Alaska. But the people whose religious beliefs regarding animals have been most extensively studied are perhaps the Cree peoples of Canada (Berkes 2008; Brightman 1993; Speck 1935/1977; Tanner 1979). Several scholars have discussed the roles of animals in the ethical and religious beliefs of Ojibwe peoples of the Great Lakes (Callicott and Nelson 2004; Johnston 2003). Finally, and closest to home for this article, Fradkin (1990) has surveyed the "folk zoology" of the pre-Removal Cherokee (1700-1838), including their spiritual beliefs and ritual practices involving animals.

Outside the Native American context, interest in animal theology has been steadily growing in recent years. Prominent scholars working in this area include Hobgood-Oster (2008), Linzey (1995, 2009), McDaniel (1989), and Webb (1998). Several edited collections also provide useful starting points (Deane-Drummond and Clough 2009; Linzey and Yamamoto 1998; Waldau and Patton 2006).

A Creek earth diver creation story

Because of the central importance of sacred stories as the traditional way to share Native American spiritual beliefs regarding animals, I want to begin this exploration of Native American animal theology by retelling a brief Earth Diver creation story. The anthropologist Frank Speck was first told this story in the early twentieth century by an unnamed resident of Taskigi town in the Creek nation, Oklahoma (Speck 1907, 145-146). This story highlights several of the key themes in Creek and Cherokee theologies of animals that I will be discussing.

In the beginning, the world overflowed with water. There was no earth, no beast of the earth, and no human beings. The animals held a great council to decide whether it would be better to have all water, or some land. Some said, "Let us have land, so that we can get food," because otherwise they would starve to death. But others said, "let us have all water," because they wanted it that way. So they appointed the Eagle as chief. He was told to decide one way or the other, and he decided to have some land. Then they looked around for someone to send out to get land. The first one to volunteer was Dove, who thought he could do it. Accordingly they sent him, giving him four days to perform his task. But when Dove returned on the fourth day, he said that he could find no land. So they decided to try another plan, and asked Crawfish for his help. He went down through the water into the ground beneath, and he too was gone four days. On the fourth morning, he arose and appeared on the surface of the waters. In his claws he held some dirt; he had at last secured some land. Then they took the earth from his claws and made a ball of it. When this was completed they handed the ball to the chief, Eagle, who took it and went away for a while. When he returned, Eagle told them there was land, an island. So all the animals went in the direction he pointed out and saw that there was land there as Eagle had said. However, the land was very small. Nevertheless, they lived there until the waters receded from the earth. Then all the lands joined into one.

Animals play crucial roles in creation and cosmology

As that Creek story demonstrates, animals play crucial roles as creators in Native American sacred stories. Cherokees also tell a similar story about an Earth Diver animal--in their case a water beetle or turtle--who brings back a little earth from the mud at the bottom of the flooded world, which other animals use to form the lands; the soft lands were then shaped into the many mountains and valleys of Cherokee country by the beating of the Great Buzzard's wings (Duncan 1998, 40-43; Mooney 1900/1995, 239-240). And contemporary Creek author Jean Chaudhuri, whose maiden name was Ella Jean Hill, explains that for the Creeks, it was giant serpents or snakes who created the mountains, rivers, and valleys in their nation, rather than a Great Buzzard (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 9-10, 130).

Stories like these teach several important lessons regarding the position of animals relative to humans. First, animals are more powerful than humans. They lived in the world before we did, and therefore have more practical and spiritual knowledge than humans do. This is amply demonstrated by the fact that it is animals working together who create the lands--a feat that humans could not achieve. In other words, while some interpretations of the Genesis 1 creation story describe humans as more important than any other animal because we were created last, Creek, Cherokee, and other Native American creation stories suggest the opposite--that humans are weaker than any other animal because we appeared last on the cosmological scene (for Creek, see Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 118; cf. Johnston 2003, ix and Powers 1986, 153-154). From the principle that animals are more powerful than humans closely follows a second: that humans ought to treat other animals with humility and respect, rather than in an exploitive or domineering fashion (for Creek, see Lewis and Jordan 2002, 118; cf. Brown and Cousins 2001, 92; Kidwell et al. 2001, 33-34; and Nelson 1983, 240-241).

These and other Creek and Cherokee stories show that animals not only play an important role in creation, but also epitomize the different cosmological realms of existence, and some of them even have the ability to cross between those realms. In the Earth Diver stories, we see that two realms existed before This World of Earth that humans share with the four-footed animals was created-the Upper World, epitomized by the winged peoples we know as birds, and the Under World, epitomized by serpents, fish, and other water animals (Duncan 1998, 93-94; Hudson 1976, 128). It is the complementary actions of the Upper World and Under World animals--the Eagle and the Crawfish, in the Creek Earth Diver story I just told you--that create This World of Earth. Once humans come on the scene, we are given the role of mediating between the powers of the Upper and Under Worlds, of maintaining a complementary balance between them so that their ongoing creative powers can be realized (Conley 2005, 9; Hudson 1976, 128). (2)

Some animals are perceived as especially spiritually powerful because of their ability to cross between the cosmological realms. For example, among both contemporary and historically known Cherokees, stories describe the water spider as the only being who was able to walk across the waters, which symbolize the Under World, to an island where the Thunders had placed the Upper World power of fire in a hollow log; spider then brought fire back to the animal peoples (Duncan 1998, 53-55; Mooney 1900/1995, 240-242). If we picture the way that a spider's web can capture the sparkling sun in early morning dew-drops suspended from the web (Hall 1979, 262-263), we can easily understand how real spiders might have inspired stories like this one about spiders as liminal beings capable of securing power from the Upper World and bringing it back to This World (Aftandilian 2007, 361-362). Both the Creek and the Cherokee have also viewed the strongest birds, such as the eagle, as especially spiritually powerful because they can carry prayers from This World to the Creator and other Powers of the Upper World (Heart and Larkin 1996, 184; Krech 2009, 134).

Animals are people: sentient, feeling, ensouled agents and relatives

Creeks, Cherokees, and other native peoples also see animals as very much like humans, with the ability to talk, think, create social organizations to regulate their affairs, even perform religious rituals and ceremonies (Fradkin 1990, 292). Other animals also have souls or spirits, which are often considerably more powerful than those of humans. Therefore, drawing on teachings from Ojibwe peoples of the upper Great Lakes, Irving Hallowell has referred to animals in Native American conceptions as "other than human persons," with all the sentience and agency that description implies (see Hallowell 1960 and Harvey 2006, 17-20; cf. Kawagley 2006, 21; Kidwell et al. 2001, 35, 47, 85-86).

For example, in the Creek Earth Diver story presented earlier, the animals met in council, just as human people do, to talk with each other about whether and how to find land. They also appointed the Eagle to be their chief, to make decisions on their behalf

Cherokee stories even describe other animals as religious. In one story, panthers are described as performing a Green Corn ceremony (Mooney 1900/1995, 324), perhaps the most important annual world renewal ceremony known to any of the Southeastern tribes. And in a contemporary story told by Mary Chiltoskey, when the First Man Kanati killed too many animals, the animals prayed to the Creator and asked him to do something to help them (Awiakta 1993, 24). Many traditional Cherokee also believe that animals have their own concept of an afterlife, and that animal souls, like those of the Cherokee, travel to the Darkening Land (Usunhi-yi) after death (Hill 1997, 17; Mooney 1900/1995, 261).

Creeks and Cherokees, then, focus not on what divides them from animals, as non-natives often do, but on what we share in common. Specifically, as contemporary Creek author Jean Chaudhuri explains it, all beings, human and nonhuman alike, are part of the same continuum of energy that is at the heart of the universe (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 2, 21; cf. Kawagley 2006, 31). It is this shared energy that enabled humans and other animals to communicate in the same language at the beginning of creation (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 18, 56-57). Contemporary Creek medicine man Bear Heart has described animals and humans as being part of the same Sacred Hoop, the circle of life (Heart and Larkin 1996, 190). Cherokees share similar beliefs; contemporary Cherokee storyteller Freeman Owle, for example, speaks of all living beings, including humans, as interconnected through the cycles of nature (Duncan 1998, 200). Recognizing these commonalities that humans and animals share allows Native Americans to enter into meaningful, two-way relationships with other animals.

Furthermore, story after story in Creek and Cherokee traditions say not just that animals are people like humans, but that other animals actually once were humans. This establishes a deeply felt kinship relationship between humans and other animals, which makes each side willing to sacrifice on behalf of the other. For example, in a contemporary Creek story, two twins went out fishing. One twin ate a fish that had jumped out of a tree trunk, and then turned into a fish himself Just before he transformed completely, he promised his brother that he would still try to provide food for his family (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 125-126). (3) And in a contemporary and historically known Cherokee story told by Freeman Owle, medicine men turned four humans into various serpent creatures, including a rattlesnake; this is why traditional Cherokee treat rattlesnakes with respect, and try not to kill them, because they see the rattlesnakes as relatives (Duncan 1998, 86, 208-212; Mooney 1900/1995, 252-254).

Animals are spiritually powerful

Another important tenet of Creek and Cherokee animal theology is that animals are spiritually powerful--more powerful than humans. We have already seen, for example, that the eagle in the Creek creation story was able to create a large amount of land from just a little bit of mud brought back by the crawfish.

The spiritual power of animals is another reason why people should treat animals with respect. If we do, animals may take pity on us, and share some of their power. If, on the other hand, we do not treat them with respect, they may take revenge against us. For instance, both contemporary and historical Creek and Cherokee tales report that animals sent diseases to punish humans because we were not respecting them and killing too many of them (Heart and Larkin 1996, 21; Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 32; Duncan 1998, 11-12; Mooney 1900/1995, 250-252; Speck 1907, 148-149). For example, the Cherokee say that the deer sent rheumatism, and fish sent a disease that causes painful indigestion (Fradkin 1990, 325; Mooney 1900/1995, 250-252). If people overhunted animals, failed to show the proper respect through prayers, or mistreated the animal's corpse, the animals would immediately retaliate by striking the transgressor or someone in their family with disease (Heart and Larkin 1996, 22-23; Fradkin 1990, 294; Hill 1997, 18). This shows that in Native American beliefs, animals have the spiritual power to punish offenses against them. (4)

On the other hand, animals can also give power and knowledge to those who treat them well. Both the Creek and the Cherokee tell stories that describe how a boy killed a monstrous snake that was fighting with a thunderbird or with Thunder himself; in a Creek version of the tale, the thunderbird gave the boy power to succeed in hunting and war as a reward for his help (Swanton 1929/1995, 7-8; for Cherokee versions, see Kilpatrick and Kilpatrick 1964/1995, 51-56). In the contemporary Cherokee story of "Spearfinger" told by Kathi Smith Littlejohn, a boy freed a little bird that was stuck in a honeysuckle vine; in gratitude for his help, the bird told the boy the secret of how to kill the near-invincible cannibal monster Spearfinger (Duncan 1998, 64-65). And a historically known Cherokee story says that a dog with the power to foretell the future warned his human companion about the coming of the flood that would drown the world, thereby saving the man and his family (Mooney 1900/ 1995, 261).

Natural laws for how humans should treat animals

The importance of animals as creators and markers of the cosmological realms, the conception of animals as people to whom we are related, and the belief in the spiritual power of animals all lead to a series of what contemporary Native Americans, including Creek author Jean Chaudhuri, have called "natural laws" regarding how humans ought to treat animals (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 95ff; Kawagley 2006, 63). These natural laws include showing respect to animals, and restraint in hunting them; the need for reciprocity, or giving back in return for what the animals give us; and renewing the world ritually on behalf of all beings. Consequences for ignoring or disobeying these laws range from lack of success in hunting a particular animal to loss of spiritual power to illness or even death for the transgressor or someone in their family (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 105-106; Mooney 1900/1995, 264; cf. Nelson 1983, 178, 220). Because of the dependence of native peoples on animals for food and spiritual power, these consequences are taken very seriously.

The first of these natural laws is that we should treat animals with respect and behave humbly toward them (generally, see Kidwell et al. 2001, 33-34). Contemporary Creek medicine man Bear Heart explains that his people believe they should have the same respect for animals (and all the rest of nature) as they do for their elder human relatives (Heart and Larkin 1996, 19).

To demonstrate their respect, both the Creeks and the Cherokee traditionally performed a number of dances during both religious and social occasions to honor various animals, from eagles to blackbirds and frogs to raccoons (Howard and Lena 1984, 157-180; Krech 2009, 153; Speck et al. 1951/1983; Swanton 1928/2000, 523-534). Among the early twentieth-century Creeks, for instance, dances were performed for fish, buffalo, ducks, and other food animals to thank them for the gifts of their lives to sustain those of humans (Speck 1907, 135; Speck 1911, 164-171).

Although many of these animal dances have been performed less frequently in recent years, as people have become less dependent on animals (Howard and Lena 1984, 180), others nevertheless remain important. For example, during the annual Green Corn ceremony, Creeks still perform Feather Dances to honor the winged tribes, and to thank them for providing food, protecting humans from harm, and watching over the plants that we depend on for food and medicines (Howard and Lena 1984, 138144; Lewis and Jordan 2002, 108; Speck 1907, 141).

Another way that both Creeks and Cherokees show respect to animals is by thanking those who give their lives to the hunters and by apologizing for the need to kill them so that humans might live (Heart and Larkin 1996, 22-23; Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 112; Fradkin 1990, 294; Mooney 1900/1995, 261, 264). Perhaps even more importantly, they show respect by showing restraint in hunting. For example, contemporary Creek medicine man David Lewis, Jr. explains that his people do not kill animals unless they are needed. This is a form of reciprocity, which Lewis expresses as the idea that "we take care of them, and they take care of us" (Lewis and Jordan 2002, 92; see also Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 57). Contemporary Cherokee storyteller Edna Chekelelee agrees, saying that when you hunt a deer, you should only kill one, and you should not waste any of the meat (Duncan 1998, 129-130); doing so would show disrespect for the gift of life that the deer has given you. (5)

Of all the natural laws, reciprocity is both the most important and the most difficult to express succinctly. Showing respect to animals and thanking them for the gifts of their lives are both forms of reciprocity. So, too, are the world renewal ceremonies I will describe in a moment, which Creeks and Cherokee perform on behalf of all living beings. Reciprocity, then, has both spiritual and practical components. It involves both religious work, including prayers and rituals, and active physical regeneration of the land and animals (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 100-101). As contemporary Creek author Jean Chaudhuri puts it, we might think of reciprocity as a form of conservation of energy; in Creek thought, energy is the basis of the universe, and so when a hunter takes energy out of the world by killing an animal for food, she or he must also return energy to the world, giving something back (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 100). Among Native American people generally, as Clara Sue Kidwell et al. explain in A Native American Theology, whenever native people take something from creation, "we always give something back in return to remind us that what we have taken was taken at a cost to our relatives in the world around us" (Kidwell et al. 2001, 33; cf. Kawagley 2006, 9).

One particularly powerful form of reciprocity is for native people to perform world renewal ceremonies that involve sacrifice on behalf of the whole world (Kidwell et al. 2001, 42-43). For the peoples of the Plains, Sun Dances are a form of world renewal ceremony (Harrod 2000, 110-117). For Creeks, Cherokees, and other peoples of the Southeast, the Green Corn Ceremony is the most widely performed world renewal ceremony (Howard and Lena 1984, 123-156; Hudson 1976, 365-375; Swanton 1928/2000, 546-614; Witthoft 1949). In Native American thought, each being has its own role to play in creation; world renewal ceremonies like these were given to humans so that we might do our share in maintaining the balance and harmony of the world (Kidwell et al. 2001, 64; cf. Kawagley 2006, 9, 21). More specifically, from a contemporary Creek perspective, humans have sacred trust responsibilities to take care of the rest of nature. This is why when Creeks pray they pray for all their relations, seen and unseen, known and unknown, including their plant and animal relatives, and why they perform ceremonies like the Green Corn Dance to balance the Upper and Under Worlds and the four elements of creation--fire, wind, water, and earth (Heart and Larkin 1996, 165; Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 5, 19-20, 56, 106, 109).


In this article, I have discussed what a Native American theology of animals might look like from Creek and Cherokee perspectives. We have seen the importance of animals as creators and markers of the cosmological realms of existence; how other animals are viewed as not just people like humans, but relatives; that animals are spiritually powerful; and that humans ought to treat other animals with respect, enter into reciprocal relationships with them, and renew the world on their behalf

All of these theological teachings regarding animals among Creek, Cherokee, and other native peoples are grounded in close observation and experience of real animals, and in a sense of dependence upon those animals for both physical and spiritual sustenance. When native peoples stop encountering animals in their daily lives, and stop depending on them for subsistence and spiritual power, the animals become correspondingly less important in their theologies. There is surely a lesson here for those who would seek to recover animal theologies in other faith traditions as well.

We have also seen the crucial importance of orally told stories in transmitting religious beliefs regarding animals in Creek, Cherokee, and other native cultures. If we lose these stories about the other animals, which Clara Sue Kidwell and others have referred to as providing the theoretical basis for ceremonies related to animals (Kidwell et al. 2001, 42; cf. Bowers 1950/2004, 108-109; Bowers 1963/1992, 294), we will lose the religious beliefs about animals that are embedded in the stories. Conversely, as I have argued elsewhere (Aftandilian 2010, n.d.), if non-natives want to better understand our own spiritual beliefs regarding animals, we would be well advised to carefully examine and perhaps revise the stories we tell about them, both sacred and secular, as Hobgood-Oster (2007, 2008) and others have been doing.

Finally, I want to highlight the radical yet tempered equality with which Creeks, Cherokees, and other Native Americans have traditionally viewed other animals. In their introduction to the edited volume Creaturely Theology, Celia Deane-Drummond and David Clough call for us to engage in theology "conscious of [our] own creatureliness." Doing so will, they say, help us to "recognize those other creatures as, at the most fundamental level, like us." This, in turn, will enable us to begin our theological work by focusing on "our connection to, relationship with and solidarity alongside others of God's creatures, rather than [on our] differentiation from them" (Deane-Drummond and Clough 2009, 1-2). When Creeks and Cherokees seek to understand humanity's place in the world, they do so not from a position of superiority, but from a point of view that understands humans as just one of many species, all linked in a common fate through the cycles of nature. Yet they also see our species as unique, with a specific charge to care for the other beings through our ceremonies and other actions in the world. Creeks and Cherokees have seen humans, then, as both similar to and different from other animals, yet not separate from them. If we wish to construct theologies in other faith traditions that will inspire us to care for other animals, I suggest that we would do well to start with this Native American view of radical yet tempered equality between humans and other animals.

Works cited

Aftandilian, Dave, 2007, "Animals, Agriculture, and Religion among Native Americans in Precontact Illinois: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Perception and Representation," Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago.

Aftandilian, Dave, 2010, "Animals Are People, Too: Ethical Lessons about Animals from Native American Sacred Stories," Interdisciplinary Humanities 27(1), pp. 79-98.

Aftandilian, Dave, n.d., "What Other Americans Can and Cannot Learn from Native American Environmental Ethics," forthcoming 2011 in Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology.

Awiakta, Marilou, 1993, Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom, Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing.

Berkes, Fikret, 2008, Sacred Ecology, 2nd ed. New York and London: Routledge.

Bowers, Alfred W., 1950/2004, Mandan Social and Ceremonial Organization, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.

Bowers, Alfred W., 1963/1992, Hidatsa Social and Ceremonial Organization, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.

Brightman, Robert, 1993, Grateful Prey: Rock Cree Human-Animal Relationships, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Brown, Joseph Epes, and Emily Cousins, 2001, Teaching Spirits: Understanding Native American Religious Traditions, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Callicott, J. Baird, and Michael P. Nelson, 2004, American Indian Environmental Ethics: An Ojibwa Case Study, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Chaudhuri, Jean, and Joyotpaul Chaudhuri, 2001, A Sacred Path: The Way of the Muscogee Creeks, Los Angeles: UCLA American Indian Studies Center.

Churchill, Mary C., 2000, "Purity and Pollution: Unearthing an Oppositional Paradigm in the Study of Cherokee Religious Traditions," in Lee Irwin, ed., Native American Spirituality: A Critical Reader, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, pp. 205-35.

Clark, LaVerne Howell, 2001, They Sang for Horses: The Impact of the Horse on Navajo & Apache Folklore, rev. ed. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.

Conley, Robert J., 2005, Cherokee Medicine Man: The Life and Work of a Modern-Day Healer, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Deane-Drummond, Celia, and David Clough, 2009, "Introduction," in Celia Deane-Drummond, and David Clough, eds., Creaturely Theology: On God, Humans, and Other Animals, London: SCM Press, pp. 1-18.

Duncan, Barbara R., ed., 1998, Living Stories of the Cherokee, Chapel Hill and London, University of North Carolina Press.

Ewers, John C., 1955/1979, The Horse in Blackfoot Indian Culture, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Fienup-Riordan, Ann, 1990, "Original Ecologists? The Relationship between Yup'ik Eskimos and Animals," in Eskimo Essays: Yup'ik Lives and How We See Them, New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press, pp. 167-91.

Fradkin, Arlene, 1990, Cherokee Folk Zoology: The Animal World of a Native American People, 1700-1838, New York and London: Garland.

Gill, Sam D., 1989, "Mythic Themes," in Lawrence E. Sullivan, ed., Native American Religions: North America, New York: Macmillan, pp. 157-66.

Hall, Robert L., 1979, "In Search of the Ideology of the Adena-Hopewell Climax," in David S. Brose, and N'omi Greber, eds., Hopewell Archaeology: The Chillicothe Conference, Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, pp. 258-65.

Hallowell, A. Irving, 1960, "Ojibwa Ontology, Behavior, and World View," in Stanley Diamond, ed., Culture in History: Essays in Honor of Paul Radin, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 19-52.

Harrod, Howard L., 2000, The Animals Came Dancing: Native American Sacred Ecology and Animal Kinship, Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Harvey, Graham, 2006, Animism: Respecting the Living World, New York: Columbia University Press.

Heart, Bear with Molly Larkin, 1996, The Wind Is My Mother: The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman, New York: Clarkson Potter.

Hill, Sarah H., 1997, Weaving New Worlds: Southeastern Cherokee Women and Their Basketry, Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press.

Hobgood-Oster, Laura, 2007, "Holy Dogs and Asses: Stories Told through Animal Saints," in Dave Aftandilian, Marion W. Copeland, and David Scofield Wilson, eds., What Are the Animals to Us? Approaches from Science, Religion, Folklore, Literature, and Art, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, pp. 189-203.

Hobgood-Oster, Laura, 2008, Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Howard, James H., and Willie Lena, 1984, Oklahoma Seminoles: Medicines, Magic, and Religion, Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press.

Hudson, Charles, 1976, The Southeastern Indians, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Hughes, J. Donald, 1996, North American Indian Ecology, 2nd ed. El Paso: Texas Western Press.

Johnston, Basil, 2003, Honour Earth Mother, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Kawagley, Angayuqaq Oscar, 2006, A Yupiaq Worldview: A Pathway to Ecology and Spirit, 2nd ed. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Kidwell, Clara Sue, Homer Noley, and George E. Tinker, 2001, A Native American Theology, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Kilpatrick, Jack F., and Anna G. Kilpatrick, 1964/1995, Friends of Thunder: Folktales of the Oklahoma Cherokees, Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press.

Krech III, Shepard, 2009, Spirits of the Air: Birds and American Indians in the South, Athens and London: University of Georgia Press.

Lewis Jr., David, and Ann T. Jordan, 2002, Creek Indian Medicine Ways: The Enduring Power of Mvskoke Religion, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Linzey, Andrew, 1995, Animal Theology, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Linzey, Andrew, 2009, Creatures of the Same God: Explorations in Animal Theology, New York: Lantern Books.

Linzey, Andrew, and Dorothy Yamamoto, eds., 1998, Animals on the Agenda: Questions about Animals for Theology and Ethics, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Martin, Calvin Luther, 1999, The Way of the Human Being, New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press.

McDaniel, Jay B., 1989, Of God and Pelicans: A Theology of Reverence for Life, Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press.

Mooney, James, 1900/1995, Myths of the Cherokee, New York: Dover Publications.

Nelson, Richard K., 1983, Make Prayers to the Raven: A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Powers, William K., 1986, Sacred Language: The Nature of Supernatural Discourse in Lakota, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Rockwell, David, 2003, Giving Voice to Bear: North American Indian Myths, Rituals, and Images of the Bear, rev. ed. Lanham, MD: Roberts Rinehart.

Speck, Frank G., 1907, "The Creek Indians of Taskigi Town," Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association 2(2), pp. 99-164.

Speck, Frank G., 1911, "Ceremonial Songs of the Creek and Yuchi Indians," University of Pennsylvania Museum Anthropological Publications 1(2), pp. 155-245.

Speck, Frank G., 1935/1977, Naskapi: The Savage Hunters of the Labrador Peninsula, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Speck, Frank G., Leonard Broom, and Will West Long, 1951/1983, Cherokee Dance and Drama, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Swanton, John R., 1928/2000, Creek Religion and Medicine, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.

Swanton, John R., 1929/1995, Myths and Tales of the Southeastern Indians, Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press.

Swanton, John R., 1952/1969, The Indian Tribes of North America, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Tanner, Adrian, 1979, Bringing Home Animals: Religious Ideology and Mode of Production of the Mistassini Cree Hunters, St. John's: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Waldau, Paul, and Kimberley Patton, eds., 2006, A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics, New York: Columbia University Press.

Webb, Stephen H., 1998, On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals, New York: Oxford University Press.

Witthoft, John, 1949, Green Corn Ceremonialism in the Eastern Woodlands, Occasional Contributions from the Museum of Anthropology of the University of Michigan No. 13, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


(1.) By "animals" I mean to include all of the animal peoples with whom humans share the earth, including the four-legged, winged, and scaled peoples.

(2.) In his well-known synthesis on The Southeastern Indians, Hudson (1976, 128) describes the Upper and Under World powers as opposed to one another in Cherokee beliefs. Churchill (2000, 224-225) explains that we can come closer to Cherokee understandings of these realms if we instead describe them as complementary.

(3.) Numerous other Creek stories exist in which one of two men eats a suspect fish or egg or other tabooed food, and then turns into a tie-snake or water-snake (see Swanton 1929/ 1995, 30-34).

(4.) Creeks say that each kind of animal also has the power to provide a cure for the specific disease it sent against humans (Speck 1907, 122, 148-149). Contemporary Creek medicine man Heart and Larkin (1996, 21) explains that the animals provided these cures only after humans met in council with them, explained our need to eat them, promised to kill them quickly, and pledged to give our own bodies after we die as fertilizer for the plants the animals need to survive. The Cherokee, on the other hand, describe plant spirits as the ones who provided cures for the diseases the animals had sent (Mooney 1900/1995, 252).

(5.) Traditionally, if a Creek hunter disobeyed this natural law against the killing of too much game, the clan whose animal progenitor was overhunted would punish the offense, levying fines or demanding other restitution from the perpetrator (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri 2001, 91, 107).
Gale Copyright:
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.