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Native American Beliefs in the 'Little People' or Fairies

Updated on January 11, 2017
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Kitty has been independently researching and studying the fae for over 15 years. She enjoys sharing what she's learned with her readers.

What (or who) is in that tree?
What (or who) is in that tree? | Source

Belief in Fairies Spans Cultures

When we hear stories and older legends about fairies or the "wee folk," many of us usually get the picture of green pastures in Ireland or maybe the highlands of Scotland. How many people actually think of fairies being residents of the Americas? Did you know that many (if not most) of the Native American tribes, in both the United States and Canada, had their own beliefs in fairies? They called them "little people."

I was surprised to learn that Native Americans also believed in fairies, and, then again, not so surprised. It seems that almost every culture has their own version of fairies or "little people." With the Native Americans being so in tune with nature, why would their beliefs be any different from the ancient Celts and other Europeans?

Faeries in North America can be found in the highest boughs of the oldest trees.
Faeries in North America can be found in the highest boughs of the oldest trees. | Source

The Little Person Mummy

There is a mystery surrounding a "little mummy" that was discovered back in the 1930s in the San Pedro Mountains. Because the little mummy was discovered in a cave, it was speculated that there was a tiny race of humans that lived in caves within the mountains. This little mummy was sitting upright and had a flattened skull. It also had very tan skin and sat about 7" tall. So, if it stood up it would have been a little over a foot tall!

Could this little mummy have been proof of the "little people" so greatly believed in by the Native Americans? Unfortunately, the little mummy has disappeared since its discovery, so no further testing has been done on it since the 1950s. Most scientists who have studied the photographs claim that it is simply the mummy of an anencephalic fetus. But the question was posed as to why the little mummy would have a full set of adult teeth?

If someone was to turn this little mummy into science, would we find that there was such a thing as the "little people?" Could they have been related to the many legends of the wee folk and faeries from the European continent across the Atlantic Ocean?

Beliefs of 'Little People' in the Americas

Canada

If you watch the documentary The Fairy Faith, a Native American tribe in Canada called the Eskasoni has many legends of the "little people." There is one particular hill in Nova Scotia where the Eskasoni claim the little people have lived for centuries. Many of the townsfolk warn their children against going to this mountain, for fear that the little people will take them away. Remarkable stories of the Eskasoni people coming into contact or encountering these "little people" can be seen in the film.

The United States

  • The Shoshone tribe in the United States have their own name for the legendary little people: the Nimerigar. The Nimerigar were a race of little people who lived in the Rocky Mountains, specifically in the Pedro Mountains, and were also thought to live near the Wind River. The Shoshone believed that these little people were actually quite protective of their homes and would use bows and arrows as weapons. Of course, they were poisoned arrows. The little mummy found in the San Pedro Mountains is actually theorized to have been one of the Nimerigar who the Shoshone tribe so strongly believed in for many years.

Menehune
Menehune | Source
  • All the way on an island range in the Pacific, in our beautiful state of Hawaii, the Native Hawaiians also believed in a fairy race or "little people" that they referred to as the Menehune. Again, their beliefs are very similar to the Shoshone's Nimerigar and the Eskasoni's little people. The Menehune of Hawaii were thought to live in untouched forests and mountains on the Hawaiian islands. Legend has it that they were the main residents of the Hawaiian islands before Polynesian people came to reside there. They were also thought to have built the Menehune fishpond in Niumalu and the Kikiaola ditch near Waimea.
  • Now, the Choctaw Natives also believed in the little people and called them the Kwanokasha. The natives were generally quite afraid of these little people. There was a legend that told of the Kwanokasha carrying away little boys to their caves in order to test their spirit. Three wisemen would wait at the cave for the Kwanokasha and the little Choctaw boy, and they would present the boy with three things: a knife, a bag of poisonous herbs, and a bag of healing herbs. If the boy chooses the knife, he would be destined to be a killer. If he chooses the bag of poisonous herbs, he would only provide bad medicine to his people. But, if he chooses the bag of good healing herbs, he would be a very powerful medicine man to his people. Just like the Hawaiians and the Shoshone, the Choctaw also believed that the little people lived in caves. The Kwanokasha were thought to be between one to two feet tall.
  • There were three kinds of little people to the Cherokee tribe: the Laurels, the Rocks, and the Dogwoods. The Rock People were the malicious ones, stealing children and wreaking havoc because they feel that their space has been invaded. The Laurel People are friendly, but also mischievous, and like to play common tricks on us (the bigger people). They say that the Laurel people will tangle your fishing line with a stick and make you think it is a huge fish, until you reel it in and see only a tiny stick. They want to make you laugh and keep you young-at-heart, just as they are. And, as for the Dogwood people, it is said that they are good-hearted and enjoy taking care of us when they can. Some even relate the Dogwood people to the Scottish "brownies."
  • The Crow believed in little people that they called the Nirumbee. They were thought to have lived in the Pryor Mountains and may have given visions to Plenty Coups (an early twentieth century Crow chief). According to some Crow Natives, due to a vision that the little people gave the Crow chief Plenty Coups, the little people are accredited with keeping the Crow people safe and together. It is said by some members of the Crow that, even to this day, if they pass through the Pryor Gap, they will leave offerings to the little people in remembrance of their aid to the Crow nation.

There are many more legends of the little people told by dozens of Native American tribes. Many of them are very intriguing and include stories of how the little people came to the Natives' aid in times of great need. Most of the time, the little people were feared, as they were unpredictable and mysterious to the Native Americans. In most of the legends (if not all), these little people looked similar and acted in similar ways.

In my opinion, how can we discredit all of these cultures and legends, and merely brush off the idea of these "little people's" existence? Maybe the fairies of Ireland and various places in Europe were simply a type of little people that the Native Americans believed in. Maybe, they weren't fairies at all, but actual people who were quite small and knowledgeable in the areas of magic and healing.

Whomever these little people actually are will probably never be known, but one thing is for sure: there are too many legends and beliefs in these little people to ignore the possibility of their existence.

A Fairy Melting Pot

It is my belief and understanding that there were fairies in North America before the white man came, and those are the little people that the Natives speak of in their legends.

But, I also believe that when the white man came over from Europe and other places, he brought with him some of the house/home and garden fairies from his native land. Some of these fairies that were brought over to North America from elsewhere could have included the Scottish Brownie, the Pixies, the Gnomes, and many more.

This has created a melting pot of fairies in North America, very similarly to the way people have evolved on this continent. We have a melting pot of cultures, and so we, therefore, have a melting pot in the faerie realm as well.

Real Fairy Photos?

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Modern Real Fairy Encounters in North America

So what about in today's age? Have the little people of Native American beliefs disappeared? Many people, both native and new to this continent, have had encounters with these "little people" or what many call faeries or fairies. I am one of those people.

Even in my suburban home in the Tampa Bay area in Florida, I have had three experiences with the "little people" or faeries. And, I believe in them, to say the least. I don't truly consider my real fairy encounters as significant as others' when I compare them.

  1. My favorite fairy encounter story is one about a woman and her children. While the children were picnicking in the forest one day, the mother began hearing sounds of a very strange magnitude. It sounded unlike any music she had ever heard in her entire life, and she thought it was utterly strange, especially because she hadn't seen anyone in the area, and no one lived in that area of the woods. The music got louder and closer and the mother asked her children if they heard it too. They said they did. The mother didn't want to stick around to see what was making the strange, enchanting music, so she gathered her children and left. The little girl, who is now a grown woman, admits that there was something even stranger than the sound of the music that day. As their car was driving away from the site of the experience, she looked back (even though her mother told her not to) and she saw a circle of little people, all dancing together and looking quite merry! She didn't tell anyone for years for fear that no one would believe her or that it would be bad luck to tell others about her fairy encounter.
  2. Another story is one told to me by a woman on HubPages about her when she was a little girl. The little girl and her sister awoke one morning to see a tiny group of faeries dancing above the wall of their toy shelf. They were tiny, with wings, and seemed to be quite friendly and happy. To this day, the woman swears that fairies indeed exist.

Are the fairies with wings related to the little people of Native American legends, or are they two entirely separate beings? Do the little people of Native American legends actually have some sort of ties with human beings or are they otherworldly beings? We might never find the answers to these questions. But, if you ask me...that is good. Why ruin a good thing? If we were to find a living little person or a living fairy, society and the world would simply experiment and exploit it until the magic was gone.

So, for now, the idea of fairies and little people will remain alive in my imagination and in my reality, too. I don't need science to prove or disprove their existence.

© 2012 Nicole Canfield

Comments

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  • John Quint profile image

    John Quint 4 months ago

    I didn't receive the message.

  • kittythedreamer profile image
    Author

    Nicole Canfield 4 months ago from the Ether

    John - I messaged you on FaceBook...looks like you're a former nurse...I am an RN so we have that in common too! Very cool! Can't wait to read your book.

  • John Quint profile image

    John Quint 4 months ago

    Nicole, look me up on Facebook and PM me. I'll send you my address. I use this same photo.

  • kittythedreamer profile image
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    Nicole Canfield 4 months ago from the Ether

    John - Yes, I'd love to purchase a copy. Is it in paperback format? How can I pay you?

  • John Quint profile image

    John Quint 4 months ago

    My book is called "Once Upon A Time...In Arkansas". I've sold it for $7.00, including postage. It's listed on Amazon, but now says unavailable. It was written in 2000 and I'm in the process of updating it. Here is the current Table of Contents: Contents

    Acknowledgements..............................................................................................6

    Introduction.........................................................................................................7

    I The Trail Begins...............................................................................................9

    II Native American Legends

    Tales from the Eastern Cherokee..………................................................12

    the Nunne’hi.............................…….................................................13

    the Yunwi Tsundsdi...........................................................................15

    Other Spirits......................................................................................17

    Cherokee Tales from Northeastern Oklahoma……………...................19

    Other Native American Legends...............…….....................................23

    III Fairy Lore

    Fairy Lore 101...................................................................................27

    Fairy Lore of Arkansas......................................................................29

    IV Tales from the Distant Past

    King Crowley................................……............................................32

    The Little Man of the Rock................................................................34

    A Pygmie Graveyard in Tennessee....................................................38

    V Tales from Baxter County

    Little Settlers......................................................................................39

    Good Neighbors..................................................................................40

    A Little Man in Mountain Home.........................................................41

    VI Tales from Stone County

    Pixies at Dance and Play.....................................................................42

    Spirit Lights, a Witch, and a Little Man...............................................44

    Little People on the Move....................................................................49

    VII Tales from Other Parts of Arkansas

    The Imp’s Warning...........................................…................................51

    Chupacabra in Arkansas.......................................................................51

    A Band of Fairies on the Border...........................................................53

    The Story of Wildman Little Sam........................................................55

    VIII Journeys into Fairyland

    Another World Right Next Door..........................................................64

    Lesson for a Chosen One......................................................................65

    IX Legendary Tales

    The Fairies of Diamond Cave...................................................................67

    The Bakka.........…....................................................................................68

    X The Gem of the Ozarks.............................................................................70

    XI Conclusions Pending................................................................................73

    Index to Chapters..........................................................................................75

  • kittythedreamer profile image
    Author

    Nicole Canfield 5 months ago from the Ether

    John Quint - What is the book called?

  • John Quint profile image

    John Quint 5 months ago

    I wrote a small book about the Little People in Arkansas and neighboring regions. There are quite a few stories about Cherokee Little People, especially after they moved to Oklahoma.

  • Jan Michael Ong profile image

    Jan Michael Ong 15 months ago from Metro Manila, Philippines

    Very fascinating article. I personally think that the "fairies" and "little" people could be aliens life forms or inter-dimensional beings. The little person mummy looks very much like a small alien.

  • Agilitybeauty profile image

    Agility Beauty 2 years ago from U.S.A

    fantastic stories i didn't read about them before.

  • jponiato profile image

    jponiato 2 years ago from Mid-Michigan

    Fascinating stuff, voted up.

  • kittythedreamer profile image
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    Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from the Ether

    Shanda - I meant to write you back awhile ago...thank you so much for contributing such amazing information to this piece. Gotta love the legends of the little people...and isn't it amazing how many different cultures have their own versions?

  • kittythedreamer profile image
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    Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from the Ether

    Thanks, AP. :)

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 3 years ago from North Carolina

    General statement not directed at anyone or anything in particular: 99% close-minded a 100% rude.

  • kittythedreamer profile image
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    Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from the Ether

    Why don't you do a little research on your own before you slander.

  • profile image

    99% of humanity 3 years ago

    This is biggest load of crap I've ever read in my life.

  • profile image

    shanda 4 years ago

    Actually eskasoni is a reservation where one of the miqmac tribes live, its one of the biggest reservations in eastern canada, I'm also miqmac from Indian brook nova Scotia, and I have lots of family from eskasoni. My dads family is cree from the western part of Canada and his family also believes in little peopls, he told me stories upon stories of "little people", they aren't harmful...just mischievous. My dad use to tell me when I would lose something or misplace something and find it in a place where I distinctly remember not putting the item, it was "little people" playing tricks. The miqmacs named them (forgive me I don't know how to spell in miqmac so this is the way it sounds) ub-ba-lag-ga-moo-j. There is also a song that was made to call them out and (in, miqmac) described them as mischievous and "little tricksters". They're good, but the sight of them in ur house or around your yard, doesn't mean anything good, in fact in my house we don't speak of them for the fear they will infiltrate our house. They are well respected and enjoy their existence be left alone, so I'm really shocked someone has a page on this, most non native people have a hard time trying to figure the spiritual part of us. If u ever look more deeply into native culture, u will be amazed as the fairy tails that are real :) my personal favorite are shape shifters

  • vox vocis profile image

    Jasmine 4 years ago

    I've never encountered fairies, but I do like to paint, read and write about them and let them live in my imagination. The beliefs of Native Americans regarding fairies are a novelty to me - I'm glad to have learned something new :) Interesting hub!

  • profile image

    hs42 5 years ago

    There's also a folklore tradition of something similar near the Susquehanna River in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Suquehannocks who lived in the area, and the Pennsylvania Dutch who came later, believed in the existence of something called the Albatwitch (the weird name comes from a corruption of the Pennsylvania Dutch words for "apple snitch," since it was believed to have stolen apples from picnickers and thrown them at them in the nineteenth century). What's strange about this one is that it's a bit of a crossover between "little people" legends, standing between 4 and 5 feet tall, and bigfoot legends. They are believed to have disappeared or died out about 100 years ago, but every once in a while a sighting pops up – I think there was one reported in 2005.

    There are some vague accounts of them here: http://www.bigfootencounters.com/sbs/albatwitches.... and here: http://phillyist.com/2008/07/09/philadelphia_weird...

    I used to live about a half mile from Chickies Rock, the focal point of many of the stories and sightings, and I hiked on and around the base of it many times. I never noticed anything directly out of the ordinary, but there were two occasions where, hiking around the base on the Susquehanna River side, I suddenly felt very uneasy and impelled to turn around and get the heck out of where I was as quickly as possible. I obeyed the impulse both times.

    I don't pretend to know whether or not that was indicative of anything related to the legends surrounding the area, though.

  • kittythedreamer profile image
    Author

    Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

    AP - Yes, I have it posted in my hub in the link below (it's the third picture in the hub...it's even noted as the "5th and final real fairy photo") Enjoy!

    https://exemplore.com/cryptids/The-Cottingley-Fair...

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

    Meant the ones on your hub Kitty but how cool the Cottingley similarity. Is there anywhere on the net you know of to see that one. We know your an attractor so the cemetary experience could well be what you believe it is. Definitely will let you know of any news with the Cherokee stories.

  • kittythedreamer profile image
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    Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

    AP - Are you asking about the objects in the pics above? If so then yes, I actually just saw one recently in an older cemetery last week. It flew right up to the side of my head in my peripheral vision and the wings actually sent a little gust of wind against my hair. I looked over and it was gone of course...out of sight. It could have very well been a dragonfly, but it seemed to be trying to communicate with me and it moved MUCH quicker than a dragonfly moves and seemed larger too. As for the Cottingley Fairies, the fifth photo shows fairies that are translucent and they do resemble those that I've seen as well. Let me know if you find a Cherokee tribe member who says they know the stories of the little people.

    Paradise - Me too! :) Thanks for reading, dear.

  • Paradise7 profile image

    Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

    Very cool hub. I had no idea, either. I wish that mummy was still around so I could go see it for myself. Just see it, not touch it or own it.

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

    Something else I wanted to ask you Kitty, were any of those objects in the pics similar to anything you've seen? Also, the Cherokee stories were most interesting with their proximity to here. Will have to remember and ask a tribal member sometime and see what they say about any present beliefs or stories.

  • kittythedreamer profile image
    Author

    Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

    AP - I thought you would enjoy this one. :) And as for the Cottingley Fairies (Yes, that was in the UK), I actually read and heard that they photographed the fake pictures after seeing fairies in their Uncle's garden in England. The fifth photo that they made was sworn by the younger girl to be real...she swore it was a real photo of real fairies until the day she died and her family actually still believes that she was telling the truth. :) You know no fairy stories (real or imagined) can get past me!

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

    Ah what a great hub here Kitty. There's certainly a basis in reality to all the First Nation little peoples stories. You've done some fine research combining all these. I'm "one of those people" too Kitty. Personally think the little mummy is a smoking gun right in front of us. The mother and children story is amazing as well. Btw, did you know that the well known Cottingley, U.K.? fairies from 1917 where the two girls hoaxed pics apparently were inspired by a real fairy they saw and photographed first.

  • kittythedreamer profile image
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    Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

    raakachi - Very good points. Thanks for reading.

    grace - I'll have to check that out. That sounds like a very interesting read, one that I might enjoy a LOT. I really like that idea, too.

    Jeff - No, thank you!

    Lord de Cross - I hope they're never proven as true, otherwise they might totally disappear.

    angela - I really hope the little mummy turns up someday. I believe someone still has it, but they don't want to turn it into science. At least then we could have some proof that they existed at one point. At the same time as I've said before, maybe it's for the best that science doesn't prove their existence...then we might exploit them and ruin the magick.

    flashmakeit - I'm so happy I made a believer out of you! :)

  • flashmakeit profile image

    flashmakeit 5 years ago from usa

    Excellent find and hub!! Now I believe that there where little fairies on earth. Voted Up!!!

  • angela_michelle profile image

    Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

    I found the part about the fairy mummy very interesting. Especially since the head was proportionally the size of an adults not a child's which would be larger proportionally. I wonder what happened to it, and what it truly mummified. Interesting!

  • Lord De Cross profile image

    Joseph De Cross 5 years ago

    Intriguing and passionate! These Fairies will have to be explain ed one day... with solid proofs... just like those UFO's

  • Jeff Berndt profile image

    Jeff Berndt 5 years ago from Southeast Michigan

    Thanks for an interesting read, Kitty. Voted up and interesting.

  • graceomalley profile image

    graceomalley 5 years ago

    Very interesting! I recently read "The Secret Commonwealth" by Robert kirk, 18th century Scottish minister. He was most concerned that "seers" who could see and interact with the fairies not be confused with those who were involved with Black magic. Unlike many of his time, he did not believe fairies were associated with the devil. He thought they were simply another group, though more magical, that shared the earth with human beings, and individually could be either good or bad.

  • raakachi profile image

    raakachi 5 years ago from Madurai / Tamilnadu / India

    Very interesting read! I also heard about such type of beliefs of Fairies all around the world. Science and occult science are both different subjects like same poles of the magnets, not attracted by each other, only reppels each other. Thanks for sharing with. voted interesting.

  • kittythedreamer profile image
    Author

    Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

    Thanks, Lilleyth! I thought they were amazing too. There's so much more from the native americans as well!

  • Lilleyth profile image

    Suzanne Sheffield 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

    Fantastic stories! I had no idea. Voted awesome.