Native American Legends
The Sun Dance Wheel
An Arapaho Legend
At one time the whole world was covered with water. It was everywhere,
no matter where one looked.
The water did not stop a man carrying Flat Pipe, his companion
and counselor, from walking across the waters for four days and
nights. The man wanted to treat his pipe in the best way, so he
gave much thought to this subject. He thought for six days and finally
decided that in order to provide a good home for Flat Pipe there
should be land and the good company of creatures.
So on the seventh day the man set out to find land among all the
water, calling to the four directions as he went. From the four
directions came many animal helpers, and with their help man found
a land home. He put the Four Old Men in each of the four directions
to control the winds. Now, the land would also provide a place for
a Sun Dance of ceremony and thanksgiving every year.
A garter snake came to the man, and the man said "Oh, you
will be a great comfort to the people and have a great place in
the Sun Dance as the Sacred Wheel to represent the waters that surround
He then looked again to all around him for help and many offered.
Long Stick, a bush with flexible limbs and dark bark, came and said
"I offer myself for the wheel for the good of all." All
approved so Long Stick was made into the ring of the Sacred Wheel,
representing the circle that is the Sun.
The eagle soared by and said "My strength is great enough
to carry me above the earth and water as I fly on the winds of the
four directions. Please take my feathers to represent the Four Old
The man was pleased, and told all that four bunches of eagle feathers
would forever be tied to the wheel to honor the desire of the eagle
and anyone who would ever offer an eagle feather as a gift.
Once the man shaped the Sacred Wheel he painted it in the image
of garter snake and placed the feathers in the position of the Four
Old Men - Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest - who rule
the directions and control the winds and to represent the Thunderbird
who brings the rain. To further enhance the wheel, the man added
groups of stars, painting special images of the Sun, the Moon and
the Milky Way. Blue beads tied on represented the sky.
When finished, the man thanked garter snake for serving his people
in this way with the creation of the wheel that symbolizes all creation.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends