The varied climates, landscapes, and wildlife of North America influenced the myths American Indians told.
Indians in the Eastern part of North America lived in dense forests scattered with lakes and rivers. Many of their myths speak of forest demons, spirits, and monsters.
The Eastern Indians also believed the idea of an upper and lower world ruled by a divine being.
On the flat, grassy plains of middle America, Indians became expert buffalo hunters and lived nomadic lives after the arrival of horses, brought by Spanish explorers in the 1500s.
Their traveling lifestyle influenced their beliefs. The Plains Indians’ mythology emphasized the importance of personal quests to enhance their relationships with spirits.
In the Northwest, Indians lived in a relatively mild climate with access to rich supplies of food, especially salmon.
These Indians developed lavish ceremonies with elaborate decorations, most famously found in massive totem poles. Each clan had a mythical animal founder.
Indians in the Southwest tended to live together in villages in a dry, hot climate.
They mostly farmed for their food, and their myths often use imagery of earth as a fertile mother.