Ghost Stories of the Plains Indians

Server Costs Fundraiser 2024

Help our mission to provide free history education to the world! Please donate and contribute to covering our server costs in 2024. With your support, millions of people learn about history entirely for free every month.
$2320 / $18000


Joshua J. Mark
published on 16 June 2024

Ghost stories are among the oldest in recorded history and were as popular with the Plains Indians of North America as in any other ancient culture. The descendants of those nations still tell the same stories of ghostly apparitions in the present day – and their popularity has not diminished with time.

The stories in this collection come from the Cheyenne, Pawnee, and Sioux nations. The Cheyenne Creation Story, Lakota Sioux Creation Story, and the Cheyenne Afterlife are included to give the tales an expanded context. These stories and the many others having nothing to do with ghosts or the afterlife stand as a refutation to the claim that the Native peoples of North America had no literature. They actually had – and still have – a vast body of literary works with more produced by indigenous writers every year.



Questions & Answers

What is the central message of North American Native ghost stories?

The central message of most, if not all, North American Native ghost stories is that ghosts are usually dangerous entities who should be avoided, and even those who seem to be of loved ones should not be trusted without proper caution.

Did the Native Americans believe in ghosts?

The Native Americans, like every other major ancient civilization, believed in an afterlife and the existence of ghosts who could return from it. Ghosts were understood as another aspect of life and, in some nations, provided comfort in that one's lost loved ones might return as ghostly protectors.

What precautions did Native Americans take against hauntings?

The first precaution Native Americans took to ward off hauntings was to not interact with ghosts or, if one had no choice, to treat them respectfully as one would a member of one's own family. Aside from that, they would use charms, amulets, spells, and herbs.

Are all Native American ghost stories the same?

All Native American ghost stories share some similarities but differ significantly from nation to nation. A Navajo ghost story is quite different from a Sioux ghost story. Many Native American ghost stories are presented as historical events.
Subscribe to this author

About the Author

Joshua J. Mark
Joshua J. Mark is World History Encyclopedia's co-founder and Content Director. He was previously a professor at Marist College (NY) where he taught history, philosophy, literature, and writing. He has traveled extensively and lived in Greece and Germany.

Free for the World, Supported by You

World History Encyclopedia is a non-profit organization. For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide.

Become a Member