Carole G. Vogel

Writer • Researcher • Family History Specialist

Weather Legends: Native American Lore and the Science of Weather

by Carole G. Vogel

weathercvrWeather plays a major role in the lives of everyone. It impacts the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the homes we live in, and our outdoor activities. And so it was for the Native Americans who lived in North America long before European settlement.

Modern science provides us with complex explanations for meteorological events and the tools for forecasting weather. From simple equipment, such as weather vanes and rain gauges, to satellites that track hurricanes from space, and Doppler radar that provides early warning of tornadoes and flash floods, humanity has never been better equipped to prepare for severe weather. We simply turn on the television or check the Internet for the latest weather update.

In ancient times, these tools didn’t exist. Native Americans viewed the events taking place in the sky as a blend of physical and spiritual parts. The sun, wind, and clouds were believed to be living entities with a spirit and personality of their own. Humans and animals interacted with these and other spirit beings who inhabited the earth and sky. The actions of individual humans or entire tribes sometimes had dire consequences on the weather. Punishment for provoking spirits often came in the form of floods, severe storms, or prolonged drought.

Weather Legends retells the native legends of murderous serpents, immense sky warriors, and kindly spirits beings, and how these entities are linked to the amazing dramas that take place in the sky overhead. The book also gives a brief summary of how scientists understand the meteorological forces that dominate the atmosphere and create the weather we experience.

  • The chapter “Thunder. Lightning, and Tornadoes” will be reprinted in SRA/McGraw’s Open Court Reading program, grade 6
  • Weather Legends named a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, 2002
  • “Clouds and Rain,” a legend in Weather Legends was given a Storytelling World Awards Honor Title, 2002
  • Weather Legends took second place in the Mid-Administration Congress of the National League of American Pen Women Letters Contest, 2001