Native American Beliefs in Fairies or the “Little People”
When we hear legends about fairies or the “wee folk,” we get the picture of green pastures in Ireland. Did you know certain Native American tribes had their own beliefs in fairies? They called them the “little people.” It seems almost every culture has their version of fairies, including the Indigenous people of America.
The Little Person Mummy
There is a mystery surrounding a “little mummy” discovered in the 1930’s in the San Pedro Mountains. Because the little mummy was discovered in a cave, people though there was once a tiny race of cave-dwelling humans there. The little mummy was sitting upright and had a flat skull. It had tan skin and sat about 7″ tall, so if it stood up it might have been a foot tall. Could the little mummy have been proof of the “little people” or fairies described by Native Americans? Unfortunately, the little mummy disappeared in the 1950’s, so no further testing has been done. Scientists have studied the photographs and claim it’s the mummy of an anencephalic fetus. But why did the little mummy have a full set of adult teeth?
Beliefs of ‘Little People’ in North America
The Eskasoni tribe in Canada tell stories about the “little people.” There’s a hill in Nova Scotia where the Eskasoni claim the little people have lived for centuries. The townsfolk warn their children against going to the mountain, for fear the little people will take them away. Remarkable stories of the Eskasoni people encountering the “little people” or fairies are detailed in the documentary The Fairy Faith.
Shoshone Beliefs in Fairies
The Shoshone tribe have their own name for the little people: the Nimerigar. The Nimerigar were a race of fairies who lived in the Rocky Mountains, near the Wind River. The Shoshone said the Nimerigar were territorial and used poisonous arrows to protect themselves. The little mummy found in the San Pedro Mountains could have been one of the Nimerigar.
Choctaw Beliefs in Fairies
The Choctaw tribe believed in the little people and called them the Kwanokasha. The Kwanokasha were known to capture young men and take them on a quest. Three wisemen would wait at a cave opening for the Kwanokasha and the Choctaw boy and 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 was destined to be a killer. If he chooses the bag of poisonous herbs, he would provide bad medicine to his people. But, if he chooses the bag of good healing herbs, he would be a powerful medicine man. Just like the Hawaiians and the Shoshone, the Choctaw believed the little people lived in caves.
Listen to our podcast on the Fairy Realm:
The Cherokee believed there were three kinds of little people: the Laurels, the Rocks, and the Dogwoods. The Rock People were malicious and stole children. The Laurel People were friendly, but mischievous, and liked playing tricks on the big people. They say the Laurel people will tangle your fishing line with a stick and make you think it’s a huge fish, until you reel it in and find yourself disappointed. The Laurels stay young at heart and seek to make others the same way. And, as for the Dogwood people, they are good-hearted and enjoy taking care of us. Some say the Dogwood people are similar to the Scottish brownie.
The Crow Tribe’s Fairy Beliefs
The Crow believed in little people called the Nirumbee. The Nirumbee lived in the Pryor Mountains and gave visions to Plenty Coups an early twentieth century Crow chief. According to legend, the fairy-vision given to Plenty Coups kept the Crow people safe and united. The Crow say when they pass Pryor Gap they leave offerings to the little people.
Hawaiians and the Menehune
The Menehune were a race of little people in Hawaiian legend. The Hawaiian people believe the Menehune created ponds, houses, canoes, temples, roads and more. They were creative little beings with a passion for building things. Alekoko fishpond is said to be one of the Menehune’s creations. They’ve also been compared to the Scottish Brownie.
Little People or Fairies?
The little people were feared by most Native Americans because of their unpredictability and territorial nature. It’s funny to note how similar the different tribes’ little people legends are. It makes you wonder, are these little people the same thing as the fairies and elves in Europe? If we have dozens of stories of encounters with the little people and fairies all over the world, there must be some truth to it.
A Fairy Melting Pot
There were fairies in North America before the white man came, they’re the Nimerigar, Nirumbee, Rocks and Laurels, etc. The Native Americans knew the little people existed. When the white man came to the U.S., he brought over home and garden fairies from Ireland, Scotland, England, Norway, France, Italy, etc. including the Scottish Brownie, Pixies, Domovoi, the Gnomes, and more. This has created a melting pot of fairies in North America. We have a melting pot of cultures, and so we, therefore, have a melting pot in the fairy world, as well.
Fairy Encounters in North America
Have the fairies disappeared? Fairy encounters are still happening today, though maybe not as prevalent as in the past. We’ve driven the little people into hiding with our buildings, parking lots, and pollution. Those who are lucky enough to see them typically find them in secluded, wild places in North America: forests, undisturbed rivers, mountains, and the desert. Here are some of our favorite fairy encounter stories in North America:
Strange Fairy Music
A mother and her children decided to have a picnic in the forest. While eating lunch, the family heard strange music playing close-by. It sounded unlike any music they’d ever heard and they found it particularly strange because there were no houses in the woods, nor had they seen any people nearby. The music got louder and began coming closer. The mother didn’t want to stick around to see what was making the music, so she gathered her children and left. The little girl, who is now a woman, didn’t just hear music that day – she saw small people dancing in a circle in the woods. She didn’t tell people for many years for fear they wouldn’t believe her.
Tiny Fairies on the Shelf
A little girl and her sister awoke one morning to see a tiny group of fairies dancing on their toy shelf. They were tiny, winged people and seemed to be friendly and happy. She woke up early every morning to try to see the fairies again, but neither her nor her sister ever saw them again. To this day, the woman swears fairies exist.