The Origins of the Totems and of Names

By Katharine Berry Judson

Bear Totem

Bear Totem

Now the Twain Beloved and the priest-fathers gathered in council for the naming and selection of man-groups and creature-kinds, and things. So they called the people of the southern space the Children of Summer, and those who loved the sun most became the Sun people. Others who loved the water became the Toad people, or Turtle people, or Frog people. Others loved the seeds of the earth and became the Seed people, or the people of the First-growing grass, or of the Tobacco. Those who loved warmth were the Fire or Badger people. According to their natures, they chose their totems.

And so also did the People of Winter or the People of the North. Some were known as the Bear people, or the Coyote people, or Deer people; others as the Crane people, Turkey people, or Grouse people. So the Badger people dwelt in a warm place, even as the badgers on the sunny side of hills burrow, finding a dwelling amongst the dry roots whence is fire.


Compiled by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated December 2020.

Excerpted from the book Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest, by Katharine Berry Judson, 1916. Katharine Berry Judson first published this book in 1916, which collects the oral traditions of the Zuni, Hopi, Achomawi, Sia, Pima, Paiute, and other tribes of the Southwest. She compiled and edited four collections of native myths and tales. Judson was a professor of history at the University of Washington.

Also See:

Legends, Myths & Tales of Native Americans

Native American People

Totem Animals & Their Meanings

Zuni Legends

The Zuni – A Mysterious People