Native American Trickster Stories: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Trickster Tales
  • 0:43 Tricksters & Their Names
  • 1:15 Trickster Tale #1
  • 2:35 Trickster Tale #2
  • 3:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

If you've ever been tricked before, or you like to do the tricking, you'll enjoy Native American trickster tales. In this lesson, learn more about what a trickster tale is and the roles its characters play.

Trickster Tales

Have you ever heard of Aesop's fable, The Tortoise and the Hare? In this tale, or fictional story, a slow but wise tortoise and an over-confident hare enter a race. Hare knows he can beat Tortoise so he stops to rest. Hare falls asleep before finishing the race. Tortoise doesn't stop and wins the race.

In this tale, you learned a lesson or moral: hard work and determination pay off.

Native American trickster tales are similar to Aesop's fables. You know you're reading a Native American trickster story when you learn a lesson and notice references to animals.

Tricksters & Their Names

Tricksters are supernatural beings that usually have an animal name and take on the form of a spirit animal. Tricksters act funny and break the rules. Sometimes they even turn out to be helpful.

This chart summarizes some of the characteristics of tricksters.

Characteristics of Tricksters
Trickster characteristics

Each Native American tribe uses an animal name to refer to the tricksters. For example, a coyote is called 'Isily' in the Caddo tribe and 'Chirich' in the Arikara tribe.

The chart includes a list of the commonly used trickster names.

Trickster Names and Descriptions
Trickster names

Trickster Tale #1

Let's look at an example of a trickster tale.

The Great Spirit Names the Animal People: How Coyote Came by his Powers

  • The author of this tale is Mourning Dove.
  • The main characters are the Great Spirit, Spirit Chief, Coyote, Fox, and Coyote's wife (Mole)
  • The setting, or where the tale takes place, is Spirit Chief's lodge and Coyote's tepee

Here's a summary of the plot:

The Great Spirit wanted to name all the people and allow the Animal World to take charge. The first ones to get to the Spirit Chief's lodge would get the name of their choice. Coyote acted like a know-it-all, and others disliked him for his actions. He said he was going to get up the earliest to be first and pick the best name. Maybe 'Grizzly Bear' because he rules over everyone. Coyote's brother, Fox, said he might have to keep his name because no one wants the name 'Coyote.'

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