(Compiled by Dillon Horger from publicly available sources such as published literature and websites)
With all of these natural characteristics, there is little doubt the hummingbird inspired a sense of awe and confounded humankind since the first time Native American ancestors crossed over the Beringian land bridge and glimpsed a Rufous hummingbird flitting like a glinting ember across a summer meadow or hovering, wings ablur, while delicately feeding from ephemeral flowers. The Rufous hummingbird would soon make their arduous 2,700-mile journey from Alaska down to the Mexican states of Guerrero, Jalisco, Sinaloa, and more. Whereas this journey will take mere days or weeks for the hummingbird, it will be many thousands of years before the people known as the Toltecs, Aztecs, and Mayans would arrive and settle in this lush land.
Assorted scientists—ornithologists, aeronautical engineers, physicists, and more—are still actively studying hummingbirds, not only to learn more about their amazing attributes, but also how to possibly contribute these qualities to applied science. And even with modern technology, we are still learning about their physiology, biology, and natural history. Native Americans explained the seemingly “magical” traits through a rich culture of folklore, myths, and spiritual revelations. These legends span the entire length of the Americas, from the Alaskan range of the aforementioned Rufous hummingbird and the Inuit peoples, to the Firecrown hummingbirds and Yamana nation in Tierra del Fuego.
The maps and charts are an attempt to catalogue some of the most prominent stories and allow the reader to discover the similarities, sometimes quite striking and transcending thousands of miles of geographical range. Much can be gleaned from the stories themselves. Aside from giving insight into the imagination and culture that was in many ways far more attuned to the natural world than modern cultures, much of the folklore has an underlying moral lesson that applies today as much as it did thousands of years ago.
These stories tell not only of hummingbirds, but of human nature, humans interacting with nature, and of ageless lessons we can learn from the Native Americans’ ubiquitous Hummingbird Teacher.
We will be actively searching for more Native American hummingbird folklore and adding them to these archives—so please bookmark our page to stay informed and please contact us to share your stories.