Wolf Society of Arkansas

Manataka American Indian Council









Origins of the Wolf Clan Myths

Wolf Tricks the Trickster

The Wolf Crest 

The Wolf Medicine



Wolf Clan Origin Myths

Retold by Richard L. Dieterle 

The Wolf Clan (Cktck Hik'ik'radjera) belongs the Lower, or "Earth," Moiety, and is the friendship clan of the Bear Clan. When a Bear clansman is born, the Wolf people give them a name from their own clan. Of all the clans, it is only they who can marry within their own clan. They are termed, after the Bear Clan, "minor soldiers," and when tribal expeditions cross a body of water, the Wolf Clan may be called upon to still the winds. [1] Radin could not discover what their clan function was otherwise; however, among other tribes scouts were called "wolves," which suggests that they may have had that function in some contexts. David Lee Smith (Thunderbird Clan) says, however, that "the Wolf Clan performed social welfare roles, administering public health and safety." [2]

Water is the sacred possession of this clan (as it is of the Water Spirit Clan), and it is considered impolite for visitors in a Wolf Clan lodge to look into any container of water. Nor is anyone allowed to sit on a log in a Wolf Clan lodge. Even if a man accidentally killed a Wolf clansman, were he to enter a clan lodge and sit upon a log, he would be pardoned. It is also an offense against manners to point out that a member of the clan looks like a wolf. [3]

The following are names given to people of the Wolf Clan:

Cgewaksiga, Ckewakska

Hunting Dog (F, D)


White Dog (L)


Black Wolf (F, L)





She Wolf (F)



Black She Wolf (F)



White She Wolf (F)



Sitting on a Bare Hill (F)



Visiting a Hill (F)



White Faced Woman (F, D)



Four Eyes (D, L)



Sharp Teeth (F)



Having Good Hair (F, D)



Blue [Green] Fur (F, D)



She who Sit Howling



Shaking to Clear Itself (as a dog coming out of water) (F)



Four Walking (F, D)



Throws up the Earth (F, D)



He who Sits on the Red Banks (F)



Coming from the Water (F, D)



He who Brings Them Back from the Water (F, D)



Water Comes (L)



Blue [Green] Forehead


P'e-osgaga (P'osgga)

White Forehead (F, D)



Big Sand



Wolf (archaic)


Sintcega, Stcega

Bushy Tail (F, D)


Tcarawiga, -wga

He who Holds a Deer in His Mouth (F, D)


Tcasrawga, -wga

He who Carries Deer Feet in His Mouth (F, D, L)



Pitched into Lodge (refers to the recoil of a barking dog into a lodge door) (F)



Chief Blue Back (F, D)


Tconketcwga, -tcwga

Foremost Blue Back (F, D)



Sits as a Leader



Fox (F) [clan uncertain]



Walking on Snow (F)



He from whom Nothing is Hidden (F, D)



She who Waylays and Kills (F)



He who Carries Something in His Mouth (F, D)



Comes Back with Something in His Mouth (F, D)



She who Chases Them Off (F, D)



He who Lies in Wait for Them (F, D)



He who Dwells in a Hill



He who Travels to the Hill

Some Wolf Clan names were given to members of the Bear Clan as an expression of the close friendship of these two clans. [4]

It is said that in music the Wolf Clan alone had certain sticks which they played in time with the drums. These are the clan songs:

This body of mine that I am walking,
This body of mine that I am walking;
This body of mine that I am walking,
On the earth I am speaking.

This body of mine that I am walking,
This body of mine that I am walking;
This body of mine that I am walking,
In the waters I am speaking.

The Wolf Feast is held in the spring and the main course is boiled rice. There the origin myth is told and other clans are allowed to hear it. [5]

Here are the surviving versions of the Wolf Clan origins that have come down to us:

Version 1. When Ma'una created this world he made four wolves: Blue Wolf, Black Wolf, White Wolf, and Gray Wolf. The names of Blue Wolf and Black Wolf refer to the day and night skies respectively. They were the ancestors of the present Wolf Clan. Originally, all four of these wolves lived on the surface of the earth, but later all except Gray Wolf went to live below ground, and now can only be seen on rare occasions. The offspring of the four wolves lived as animals, ignorant of both clothing and fire, but gradually they evolved into human beings. It is traditional in the Wolf Clan to name the first four sons after the first four wolves created by Earthmaker. [6]

Version 2. There were four wolves who had a lodge in the middle of the ocean. Each had fur of a different color, so they were called White Wolf, Blue Hair (Htcoga), Gray Wolf, and Black Wolf. Each was married, and one of them had ten children, and the youngest of these and his wife crossed over to the land. When they arrived, they saw a footprint of a bear, and they said, "Our friend has passed by." It is because they met there that the Wolf and Bear Clans love one another. They observed how the humans lived, and when they returned to their home in the middle of the ocean, they asked if they might not go and live with the humans. This they were granted, and they started out a second time, swimming to the shore, and as they left they generated two waves in front of them. As they swam to the shore, they came singing. Because of the nature of these wolves, whenever the tribe comes to a stream and the wind is blowing hard, they call upon a Wolf clansmen to still the wind. Water is sacred to the Wolf clansmen. [7]

Version 3. The first wolf brother arose from the very bottom of the sea, and as they came to the surface, they swam to the shore singing. There they found the footprints of bears, and they said, "Our friends have passed by." This is why the Wolf Clan and the Bear Clan are friends. They set out for the meeting place where a black hawk was gathering together the clans of the Hotcgara. When they had come together, the black hawk said, "It is complete." But the howl of a wolf was heard in the distance, and someone remarked, "We had forgotten him." So they went out and brought him in.

Version 4. In the beginning there were four male and four female wolves. They arose from the middle of the sea and swam to the shore: this is why water is the sacred possession of the Wolf Clan. After they arrived on shore, they became human and built themselves a lodge, but they had no fire. One day, unexpectedly, Thunderbirds alighted on the oak tree opposite the lodge of the Wolves. Facing the Wolf lodge, the Thunderbirds built then own home. They would not enter the lodge of the wolf people out of fear. Only after much coaxing did the Thunderbirds finally pay them a visit, yet they would not stay the four days that the Wolves had requested. Instead, the Thunderbirds spent the time in their own lodge where they built a fire. After four days the Thunders went back home.

Version 5 (of the Thunderbird Clan). After the first four Thunderbirds had established their lodge, something strange was seen lurking outside the camp. The Thunderbirds agreed that they would simply leave it alone. Gradually it moved n

nearer to the camp and began to feed on deer bones. The Thunders took it into their lodge and made it the Dog or Wolf Clan. They took one of the dogs and gave him a message to take to Earthmaker, and dispatched it by killing him. The Thunderbird people were originally as powerful as the Thunderbirds of the heavens, and this is why their clan is first among those on earth. The Dog Clan, however, is the least of them. [10]

Commentary. In world mythology wolves are considered to be shape-changers. This aligns them with water, wind, and the moon. The shape-changing motif explains the strange association of the wolf (clansman) with water, as canines otherwise show no affinity for water.

Comparative Material. The Tlingit believe that dogs were once a race of human beings who were changed by their trickster figure, Raven, into animals because they ran too fast.  




[1] Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 190, 192.  

[2] David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 9.  

[3] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 190. 

[4] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 192-193. All names, unless otherwise indicated, come from the Reverend James Owen Dorsey's vocabulary list.

(D)  Dorsey's Winnebago Vocabulary List. 

(F) Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D. C.: 1876-1877) vol. 1, #1: p. 4, coll. 3-4.

(L) Nancy Oestreich Lurie, "A Check List of Treaty Signers by Clan Affiliation," Journal of the Wisconsin Indians Research Institute, 2, #1 (June, 1966): 50-73.

[5}    Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 192.

[6] J. Owen Dorsey, "The Social Organization of the Siouan Tribes," Journal of American Folk-Lore, 4 (1896): 2.140.

[7] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 191-192.

[8] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 192.

[9] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 190-191.

[10] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 166.

[11] Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 107. Tlingit trickster tales are collected in J. R. Swanton, Tlingit Myths and Texts, Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington, D. C.: Bureau of American Ethnology, 1909) Bulletin 39, 416-419.


  Wolf Tricks The Trickster       

Shoshoni Legend

Wouldn't it be great if everybody could live forever? There would be no disease, no accidents. Life would just be sunny days and fun all the time.  Native American mythology has lots of stories about a time when there was no death in the world.  One community, the Shoshoni people, believe that this happy time was all because of one animal: the Wolf.

The Shoshoni people saw the Wolf as a creator God and they respected him greatly. Long ago, Wolf, and many other animals, walked and talked like man.  Coyote could talk, too, but the Shoshoni people kept far away from him because he was a Trickster, somebody who is always up to no good and out to double-cross you.

Coyote resented Wolf because he was respected by the Shoshoni.  Being a devious Trickster, Coyote decided it was time to teach Wolf a lesson. He would make the Shoshoni people dislike Wolf, and he had the perfect plan.  Or so he thought.

One day, Wolf and Coyote were discussing the people of the land.  Wolf claimed that if somebody were to die, he could bring them back to life by shooting an arrow under them.  Coyote had heard this boast before and decided to put his plan into action.

Wearing his most innocent smile he told Wolf that if he brought everyone back to life, there would soon be no room left on Earth. Once people die, said Coyote, they should remain dead.  If Wolf takes my advice, thought Coyote, then the Shoshoni people would hate Wolf, once and for all.

Wolf was getting tired of Coyote constantly questioning his wisdom and knew he was up to no good, but he didn't say anything.  He just nodded wisely and decided it was time to teach Coyote a lesson.

A few days after their conversation, Coyote came running to Wolf. Coyote's fur was ruffled and his eyes were wide with panic.

Wolf already knew what was wrong: Coyote's son had been bitten by Rattlesnake and no animal can survive the snake's powerful venom.

Coyote pleaded with Wolf to bring his son back to life by shooting an arrow under him, as he claimed he could do.

Wolf reminded Coyote of his own remark that people should remain dead. He was no longer going to bring people back to life, as Coyote had suggested.

The Shoshoni people say that was the day Death came to the land and that, as a punishment for his mischievous ways, Coyote's son was the first to die.

No one else was ever raised from the dead by Wolf again, and the people came to know sadness when someone dies. Despite Coyote's efforts, however, the Shoshoni didn't hate Wolf.  Instead, they admired his strength, wisdom and power, and they still do today.


The Wolf Crest 

Tsimshian Legend

The tribe's greatest teacher. The forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine. Wolf has a strong sense of family, as well as a strong individualistic urge.  In other words, a person can be part of society yet still embody individual dreams and ideas. The moon, which is feminine, is the power ally for wolf and holds the secrets of knowledge and wisdom. It is the sharing of great truths that the consciousness of humanity will attain new heights.  The gift of wisdom comes when you have walked enough pathways and found enough dead ends to truly
know the forest! To live is to grow. Howl at the moon for the voice is the juice of the soul.

The Wolf crest (Tsimshian) is a result of an ancestor who visited the houses of the wolves where he was taught certain songs and dances.  Upon returning home, he discovered that he had been away for four years, although he thought it had only been four days. He found that he was possessed by the spirits of the Wolves. Of all the animals, Wolves have the strongest supernatural powers.  They are the most proficient hunters of land animals and were greatly respected for their cleverness. Since Wolves might bestow this hunting prowess on people, they were often called upon as spirit helpers.  As Wolves mate for life and live in close family units usually traveling in packs, they are regarded as a family-oriented symbol in West Coast Native culture.

Wolf is the land manifestation of the Killer Whale as they both mate for life, protect their young and do not separate from their families. The Wasgo is a combination Wolf and Killer Whale.

There is an unspoken conversation with death between the wolf and it's prey.

The outcome of the hunt is usually settled in the first moment, the moment of eye contact between the animals.  What transpires between those moments of staring between predator and prey is probably a complex exchange of information regarding the appropriateness of a chase and a kill.  This encounter is the conversation of death.

The conversation falters noticeably when wolves encounter domestic stock, animals that have had the language of death bred out of them.  The domestic horse will almost always panic and run. It will always be killed.  When a wolf encounters a herd of sheep, it kills in anger and frustration, because there is no fight to live. Therefore, the wolf has not accomplished anything. 

There must be that ritual and choice.  There is nobility in such a death. The wolf grows strong eating an animal that knows how to die with it's whole heart.  He wastes away on the flesh of animals that do not know how to live or how to die.

Predator and prey grow stronger together by means of a series of tests, through all the years of their lives; tests that pit them against each other at both psychological and psychological levels; tests that weed both culturally and genetically.





The wolf has been much misunderstood and maligned in history and is not the vicious intruder of western fairy tales.  The wolf is a shy, yet very sociable creature with strong rules of behavior.  Fear of the wolf is perhaps born when its eerie howl raises the hackles on our neck and in our souls.   Maybe we do not fear the wolf at all, but only the wild nature within ourselves.  To American Indians, the wolf is said to be "teacher" medicine. We study wolfs ways of hunting and their social structure.  The wolf is associated with the Dog Star, Sirus and some cultures belief humans came from this distant star.  Wolf populations are threatened in the lower 48 states, but abundant in Alaska and Canada.  Wolf has much to teach us, if only we will listen.