Image: Little people from Stories Iroquois Tell Their Children by Mabel Powers 1917
Who Are The “Little People”?
The Native peoples of North America told legends of a race of “little people” who lived in the woods near sandy hills and sometimes near rocks located along large bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes. Often described as “hairy-faced dwarfs” in stories, petroglyphs illustrations show them with horns on their head and traveling in a group of 5 to 7 per canoe.
Native legends often talk of the little people playing pranks on people such as singing and then hiding when an inquisitive person searches for the music. It is often said that the little people love children and would take them away from bad or abusive parents or if the child was without parents and left in the woods to fend for themselves.
Other legends say the little people if seen by an adult human would beg them not to say anything of their existence and would reward those who kept their word by helping them and their family out in times of need. From tribe to tribe there are variations of what the little people’s mannerisms were like, and whether they were good or evil may be different. Many of the elders still have a belief in these beings, but younger generations tend not to believe in these stories.
One of the common beliefs is that the little people create distractions to cause mischief. They were believed to be gods by some. One North American Native tribe believed that they lived in nearby caves. The caves were never entered for fear of disturbing the little people.
The physical remains of tiny people have been reported found in various locations in the western United States, particularly Montana and Wyoming. Typically these are described as being found in caves with various details such as descriptions that they were “perfectly formed”, dwarf-size, etc. Archeologist Lawrence L. Loendorf notes that “The burials, of course, are always sent to a local university or to the Smithsonian for analysis, only to have both the specimens and research results disappear.” Loendorf also suggests that the discovery of two mummies of anencephalic infants in the first half of the twentieth century with deformities that caused some people to believe they were adults has “contributed to public belief in the existence of a group of tiny prehistoric people.
A graveyard unearthed in the 1830s in Coshocton County, Ohio was believed to contain skeletons belonging to a pygmy race. In fact, the graves (which were roughly three feet long) were “bone burials” containing disarticulated or bent bones packed together.
Native American little people
- Ircinraq – Yup’ik
- Ishigaq – Inuit
- Jogahoh – Iroquois
- Mannegishi – Cree
- Memegwesi/Memegawensi/Memengweshii/Pa’iins – Anishinaabe
- Nimerigar – Shoshone
- Nirumbee or Awwakkulé – Crow
- Nunnupi – Comanche
- Pukwudgie – Wampanoag
- Yehasuri – Catawba
- Yunwi Tsundi – Cherokee