Magical Native American

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Stereotypical face paint? Check. Feather in hair? Check. The ability to manifest a bow and arrow made of pure spirit energy? Check!

A subtrope of Ethnic Magician. Native Americans, (or a race meant to be an Expy of them) that possess powers because of their ethnicity. Often this involves stating that their power comes from innate spirituality or closeness to nature that "civilized" races don't have. Usually involves influence over nature, animals, or other spirit powers. Quite often, the Native in question will be dressed very "traditionally" even in modern settings. If the Native American magic comes from beyond the grave, see Indian Burial Ground.

This is often a form of Positive Discrimination. Works often use this trope to promote a "positive" image of Native Americans rather than accurately portraying their culture or developing them as characters. Like Noble Savage, this trope can have obvious Unfortunate Implications. It furthers stereotypes of Native Americans and gives them a mysterious "otherness" quality.

Also, one of the sources of generic fantasy elves of wood-loving variety, sometimes followed so close it's hard to tell differences other than lifespan and sharp ears (often Noble Savage, but not necessarily so).

If this character is a superhero, see Captain Ethnic. See also Magical Negro and Magical Asian.

No real life examples, please; at least, not until we have evidence that supernatural abilities exist.

Examples of Magical Native American include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Shaman Fight in Shaman King is run by a Native American tribe.
  • Though Geronimo Jr. aka 005 of Cyborg 009 plays more the Gentle Giant / Mighty Glacier role since he's Made of Iron, he also has some degree of empathy related to nature that does not come from Black Ghost's Cyborg Project.
  • Laughing Bull doles out sage wisdom on Cowboy Bebop, making him a...Magical Native Martian? Laughing Bull qualifies on the grounds that his people are from Earth originally. Actually, just about any indigenous people sufficiently Closer to Earth can fit this trope.
  • In Midori no Hibi the Native American medicine man is the only one of the spiritual experts called in for Midori's "illness" to actually have some idea of what's going on.
  • Devo the Cursed In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, who is an assasain that kills people via "cursing" them (He uses his Stand, Ebony Devil, who looks like the deranged love child of Chucky and the Suni Fetish Doll, (which is triggered by wounds directed to Devo) to kill the victims.
  • Sara Nome in Macross Zero. She gets fought over because of her magical power (Which is actually just that Protoculture technology recognizes and reacts to her because of her blood type). The Mayans have a rich belief system, but many of their traditions have been forgotten with westernization (something that had already been started many years prior to the events of the OVA, as opposed to happening immediately). Sara comes to hate the rest of the world when the Unification War between the UN and anti-UN decide to make their village the latest battlefield.

Comic Books

  • Most of the Native American characters in the Marvel Universe have ended up either using magic or going on a Vision Quest at some point. A particularly Egregious example lies in Forge, a dyed-in-the-wool hard-core technology builder, who was studying to be a shaman before his mutant powers manifested (and later ended up using magic against a mystically-charged adversary).
    • Danielle Moonstar of the New Mutants provides a mild subversion. Despite the involvement of a demonic bear in her Parental Abandonment Backstory, her own illusion/nightmare summoning abilities were run of the mill Psychic Powers and she only acquired mystical abilities well after she came to Xavier's... when she was kidnapped to Asgard and became a Valkyrie more-or-less by accident (All because she wanted to help out a winged horse trapped in a bog. Blessed with suck indeed). Her grandfather was actually a shaman who taught her what he could about controlling her illusion powers but, knowing their origin were different from his own abilities, he talked her into going to Xavier's School
    • Amusingly, Thomas Fireheart is a literal Magical Native American, being a shape-shifting were-puma and protector of his tribe. However, he's also got a mercenary streak and is firmly on the darker side of morally gray. He later turns out to be the only person in the whole multiverse who can hurt the Beyonder (besides God), but then a Retcon fixed all that. Also, his unnamed uncle, a typical Native American shaman - and often Straight Man to his nephew.
    • Australian Aborigines in the Marvel U are similarly portrayed. A 'magical bullroarer' and the ability to teleport through Dream Time are the powers of two completely separate characters—Talisman (no relation to Elizabeth Twoyoungmen, above) and Gateway.
    • Gateway was both far more mystical than Talisman (he never spoke) AND subverted the trope by being an airplane pilot in the alternate reality of The Age of Apocalypse.
  • Captain America (comics) becomes one of these in A What If?, and 1608.
  • She-Hulk's Native American boyfriend Wyatt Wyngfoot of course turns out to have a rich magical heritage. Initially just Human Torch's Muggle friend, he had no magic powers. He claimed to be good with dogs but couldn't handle Lockjaw. On the other hand, this trope was brutally averted by Scalphunter and Harpoon, two members of the Marauders, opponents of the X-Men. Neither one did anything magical, one being a technology-builder and the other being able to charge things with explosive energy, and like the rest of the Marauders were Complete Monsters.
  • In The DCU, Silver Deer, an erstwhile Firestorm villain from the Cherokee Nation, used magical shapeshifting abilities. She even "enlisted" a former Firestorm adversary, Black Bison, to help her scheme. She also had luck powers. As Christopher Bird said, "Her powers are turning into spirit animals and super-gambling skills. If her weakness turned out to be liquor, how wrong would that be?" Note that the Black Bison is himself a Native American with an impressive command of magic.
  • Parodied in Jack of Fables with Raven, Jack's guide/sidekick. Raven isn't particularly good at his job (he at first mistakenly attached himself to Jack's double John), loathes Jack, and only helps him reluctantly, because his spirit guide threatens to peck out his eyes if he doesn't.
  • The elves in Elf Quest are arguably modeled on native Americans and are literally magical. The elves are a varied bunch, and none of them are strict Fantasy Counterpart Cultures. The Sun Folk seem vaguely Native American (maybe Central American), and the Go Backs clearly show some Eskimo/Inuit traits. The Wolfriders seem a little more like European myths of forest-dwelling elves, and they're certainly drawn to look European. The Gliders are kind of unclassifiable.
  • Played with in the initial Lucifer miniseries, with the teenaged Rachel Begai. Half-Dineh (Navajo) and the granddaughter of a shaman, she's far from serene or wise. Indeed, she comes across as whiny, hostile and reckless, only accompanying Lucifer on a quest through the Dineh "four worlds" in hopes of getting back her brother whom she'd inadvertently killed. Nevertheless, thanks to her shamanic heritage she does possess a considerable degree of intuition which comes in handy on the quest ( for Lucifer, not for her). Later in the series proper, Rachel, now in her twenties, reappears as a straighter example of the trope, having become her grandfather's apprentice and also matured a good deal.
  • The Freedom Fighters have Black Condor in the John Trujillo version. He's a Native American man who received his powers from an ancient spider-goddess.
  • "Crazy Wolf" from the Chick Tract of the same name, although (no surprise here) he's portrayed negatively.
  • Manitou Raven and his wife Dawn, the Justice League of America's magical advisors when Joe Kelly was writing the book. As if the wholehearted embracing of every single Magical Native American stereotype wasn't enough, Kelly gave them Apache Chief's magic word.
  • Apache leader Wasserstein of Give Me Liberty.
  • Played with in Scalped. Nominally a crime-n-family drama, it also delves into the realm of dreams and spirit animals, and it's not certain if it's just metaphors. Certain characters (Grandma Poor Bear, for instance) have an inherent connection to this vaguely magical background.
  • PS238 has Roaring Cloud, who was a chief of an unknown tribe in America in the previous Age of Superpowers. He was warlike and excessively prideful and fittingly, had mastery over lightning (though he can be creative with this) - enough to challenge a whole "conventional" army of another tribe (who thought his approach is not honourable). He wound up cursed and had to sit at one place as an incorporeal spirit unable to affect the material world or even remember his name until he atones, which is kind of tricky with such limitations. Eventually he was given an opportunity to participate in saving the world - possess a medium and start blasting alien invaders.


  • The Disney Animated Canon is a double dose of this trope, with Pocahontas and Brother Bear. Pocahontas is particularly Egregious because they took a historical figure and gave her cute animal friends and a spirit guide. Pocahontas has fairly blatant magic, too: she becomes able to translate between her native tongue and English instantly upon meeting John Smith, as a gift from her Talking Tree spirit guide. She is also ridiculously friendly toallanimals: for instance, she can track a mother bear to her den and play with her cubs right in front of mama, which isnotbehavior that is recommended to anyonenota super-powered shaman. She also has enough charisma to convert John Smith to her ways within hours of meeting him. In reality it seems to have gone quite the other way. Pocohantas converted to Christianity, changed her name to Rebecca, and married settler John Rolfe. Seems she went White-man in a big way.
  • A humorous example is the "weird naked Indian" from Wayne's World 2. That was a parody of a more straightforward example: the almost naked NA from Jim Morrison's visions in Oliver Stone's The Doors.
  • Mystic Native American high-steel workers in the film version of Wolfen. (The mysticism aspect is not really present in the novel.)
  • Subversion: Black Robe gives an extremely educated and unromanticized view of the differences between Algonquin, Huron, and Christian religious beliefs. The natives neither come off as Closer to Earth or a Cargo Cult, although Mestigoit the Algonquin shaman is unabashedly hilarious.
  • Subverted in the plot of the Mystery Science Theater 3000-mocked film Puma Man. An Aztec gives the hero a magic belt that gives him all the powers of a puma, including flying. Subverted because the actual Native American is a Badass Normal and the "magic" is alien super-technology. Despite having the belt and super-powers, the hero stays only one notch above utter coward, while his Aztec sidekick does all the work of actually defeating the bad guy.
  • Randolph Johnson, the aquarium minder in Free Willy.
  • Old Indian in Natural Born Killers.
  • Taylor in Poltergeist II
  • The two main characters of Dead Man play around with this a bit. The first, Nobody, is a Native American but there really isn't that much mystical about him other than the fact that he's an Indian who hasn't been westernized (despite spending time in England). William Blake on the other hand is a fairly normal white guy until he's shot. He becomes more and more mystical seeming as the bullet works its way closer and closer to his heart, or at least Nobody's view of him does. The trope is played fairly straight in that Nobody believes his companion to be THAT William Blake, somehow returned to the world in an almost messianic capacity (in the original meaning, at least): "you were a poet and a painter, and now you are a killer of white men!" Then he makes it his personal mission to help Blake in his journey to the spirit world--"the place where William Blake is from."
  • Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man. "Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't."
  • When the revenge western Seraphim Falls veers into Magical Realism in the third act, a Native American man played by Wes Studi appears to each of the two main characters by a water hole in the middle of a barren desert. He trades Pierce Brosnan's character some water for the horse that Brosnan had stolen from Liam Neeson, then gives Neeson the horse for free. When Neeson gives him money anyway, he discards the coins. His name is listed as Charon in the credits, and the film suggests that he's a demon who is engineering a final confrontation between the two nemeses.
  • Done in a deleted scene in Swing Vote, which may be why it was deleted... but it actually was a fairly touching scene that added another dimension to a character mostly portrayed in a negative light, as the character meets his spirit animal (an elephant, of course) and has an epiphany.
  • Averted with Kicking Wing from Joe Dirt. Joe assumes he's magical because he's Native American, but Wing says he's just some guy selling fireworks.
  • Parodied in all three of the Crocodile Dundee films, which depicted (relatively) accurate Australian aborigines who have assimilated into "white" culture without losing their own cultural trappings. In the first film Sue asks to take a picture of Mick's aboriginal friend and he says she cannot, which she believes stems from his belief that the camera will steal his soul, but he just points out that she forgot to take the lenscap off. He then checks his rolex watch and hurries on his way. The same character shows up again in the first sequel and intentionally plays the image up in order to intimidate the henchmen of two Columbian thugs. In the third film, when Mick is picking up his son from school he runs into an aboriginal man in full traditional garb.

Aborigine: Got outta that tree alright, eh?
Mick Dundee: Now how could you possibly know about that already?
Aborigine: My people have ways of talking that no white man can understand!
Aborigine (pulls out cellphone): Yeah?

  • "Grandpa" Sam Reaches in Thunderheart fits the trope, but the movie earns points by presenting a brutally unromanticized view of reservation life at the time, with government corruption, violence, alcoholism, and crushing poverty.
    • The film also dodges Political Correctness Gone Mad by having the main character, a federal agent assigned to investigate a murder at Pine Ridge Reservation (and the hero of the piece, mind you) be contemptuous of and sarcastic toward Sioux traditions at first - even though he is of part-Sioux ancestry himself, which is something he usually doesn't discuss. By the end of the film, said federal agent also fits the trope, to an extent.
    • And spoofed by tribal police officer and Deadpan Snarker Walter Crow Horse, who claims that he heard a message on the wind that the protagonist was exceeding the speed limit. Later when the federal agent has a vision, Horse gets rather annoyed because he has never had one!
  • Johnny Sixtoes in Desert Heat. Divines information from lighting fires and talking to the smoke, as well as looking at the moon and listening to the wind.
  • Parodied beautifully with deputy Wounded Bird from Rango, no matter how much Rango would like to think it's being played straight.

Rango: (as Wounded Bird scatters feathers in the wind) I see you're communicating with the spirits.
Wounded Bird: No. I'm molting. It means I'm ready to mate.

  • Walkabout had a young aboriginal boy who fit this perfectly, to the point of a senseless suicide.
  • Predator. Billy senses the presence of the alien long before anyone else does. Justified as he is after all their scout, but Billy's reactions are very different from what you'd expect if an ordinary human enemy was stalking them, indicating that he somehow understands the otherworldly nature of their foe.
  • Averted in Mans Favorite Sport, John Screaming Eagle talks in stereotypical Indian talk, hinting that he knows things only Indians know, until he's found out, then he becomes a normal American man in speech and 'knowledge', and willingness to help out his fellow man - for a price.


  • Subverted somewhat, in the works of Tomson Highway, including The Rez Sisters—who play bingo.
  • In the Whateley Universe, there are two literal Magical Native American characters: Heyoka, a Lakota 'two-spirit' who can communicate with spirits and astral project, but can't keep from physically shifting into the form of spirits that Heyoka merges with; and Charlie Lodgeman, once the superhero Totem but now 'merely' a supervisor at the Super-Hero School Whateley Academy, who actually possesses the spirit of The First Shaman. As a subversion, there's also a superpowered mutant native American at the school who isn't magical: Skinwalker has the power to possess people and take over their bodies, but isn't a shaman.
    • Heyoka is a partial deconstruction, as she was sorta dragged into this, doesn't get ALONG with said spirits and astral projections, and wasn't especially into the specifics of her religion. (Her dad was, but he got struck by lightning.) Her powers are also a pain in the ARSE. (Her gender and personality can change pretty drastically thanks to the spirits...)
    • Ever since Little Big Man, the winkte (what Heyoka actually is with her changing from male to female) and heyoka (someone who does everything backward) are different Character Classes. Whatever the case, being either is considered a mixed blessing.
    • Skinwalkers, or yee naaldlooshi, are sort of the villains of Navajo tradition. It's a real Body Horror to be the victim of one.
  • Whiskey Jack in Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Though he actually is magical, being a culture hero from Native American mythology, most of the time he acts like an average Joe. Subverted with Samantha Black Crow. She's part Cherokee, and one of the few characters who is not magical in any way.
  • Two Bears/O'olish Amaneh from The Word and The Void novels by Terry Brooks. While he is wise and magical, he isn't above violence and in fact is a dangerous killer for the Lawful Good force in the universe, as well as being a shell shocked Vietnam vet. He's also heavily implied to be some manner of supernatural being in the form of a Magical Native American- note that as of his last appearance he's been alive for centuries, always appears exactly where and when he's needed, and actually scares Findo Gask, who is The Stoic in addition to being arguably the most powerful demon on earth.
  • Sylvia and Zoey Redbird from The House of Night.
  • Tad Williams likes to use this trope, although it's not as heavy handed as in some other examples. Binabik, Simon's friend in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, is one of the troll-like Qanuc, rides a wolf, fights with a blowgun, and solves a lot of problems with his traditional knowledge. Similarly, !Xabbu, Renie's Love Interest in Otherland, is an African Bushman who was raised partly in the Bush and partly in a modern setting. His natural sensitivity to his surroundings comes in very useful once they become trapped in the Grail Network - this would be ironic considering it's really a vastly sophisticated simulation, but it turns out that the operating system knows about this trope and is deliberately feeding him extra information.
  • The first Otherland book also starts out with a foreword by Williams that basically says "Look, I know there are like fifty billion Bushmen tribes, and it turns out they all have their own completely unique and mutually exclusive religions, but I'm kinda gonna pretend there's only one for the sake of the story, okay?" Although, even within the story, it's only insinuated that !Xabu subscribes to a general "Bushman" religion; he's the only one we ever meet, so we don't really know the constrast between the tribes.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker Alternate History series, the native americans genuinely are magical. So's everyone else. While the white Americans are hiring dowsers and crafting amulets, the natives prance through the trees in tune to nature's song. Even the papooses hunt by asking prey animals politely; experts jump over tall stockades in a single bound and bend light around themselves. They responded to the atrocities by migrating west of the Mississippi and closing down the river. Meanwhile, the Aztecs are still standing and more enthusiastic than ever.
  • The Dresden Files has Joseph Listens-to-Wind, also known as Injun Joe, genuine Illinois medicine man, senior member of the White Council and, by extension, one of the most powerful wizards in the world. He's described as having a great sense of empathy for animals and even has a pet raccoon. He's also well over two (possibly three) centuries old, so he's a Magical Native American who remembers the better part of their history with the White Man. All in all, Listens-To-Wind is probably the least strained and most Badass version of this trope. Ever.

"Don't plan to bind or banish you, old ghost. Just gonna kick your ass up between your ears."

    • He's also a partial subversion since his "magical" nature is mainly from his wizard blood, and not just because he's a Native American.
  • Mercedes Lackey is guilty of this trope by the use of the Hawkbrothers who are almost magical, though there may be some subversion of it in their cousins, the Shin'a'in, who shun the use of magic completely (except when their ultra-magical goddess gets involved). There are actually good reasons for this, revealed over the course of the series. Shin'a'in who are found to be magically inclined are either trained as Shamans, or sent to the Hawkbrothers.
    • But then again, magic use is represented heavily across all cultures in the Valdemar series; Lackey uses the stereotype but it's far from out of place in-universe.
  • Joanne Walker from The Walker Papers.
  • Subverted in that Tadewi Omaha, the scythe-wielding main character of Grimmer Reaper, is an actual Native American from the Age of Exploration, but seems not in tuned with nature (or people, for that matter) at all, nor is she magical or spiritual. While she does have powers (wind manipulation, actually) , so does (almost) everyone else in the series. And don't take her name the wrong way. She was given the last name "Omaha" after her tribe by the officials who hired her. The same happened with the cavewoman character Leia Sapien. But she does make reference to the culture on occasion, and dresses in the traditional garb of the Omaha tribe when not on duty, complete with the open buckskin jacket with no shirt underneath. Though it's worth noting that Tadewi actually comes from an off-shoot of the Omaha tribe, which is probably just the author trying to cover for any accidental or intentional mistakes he/she makes in Omaha tribe lore.
  • Charles deLint has an entire collection of novels and short stories of urban fantasy based on the idea that the various Native American spirits (Coyote, Raven, etc) are still around and active in people's lives, particularly in one town. Further, once you encounter one of these individuals, their magic is "contagious," and you will almost certainly encounter more and become more aware of the magic surrounding everyday life than you probably wanted to be.
    • Of course, a house in Ottawa is a nexus of planes in deLint's stories. And many of the magical creatures are Celtic, such as the evil faeries.
  • The People of the ___ novels by Kathleen and Michael Gear, though they seem to be a case of Shown Their Work.
  • The Little House on the Prairie books are particularly guilty of this because they're supposed to be true stories about Laura Ingalls Wilder's life, but some of the parts about Indians are completely made up. For example, The Long Winter has a scene in which an Indian comes into the town and predicts the titular winter (through his magical weather knowledge), saying something like "heap big snow come, many moons." The snowy winter actually happened—the Indian scene didn't.
    • While the scene is made up, it seems like it's not necessarily implying magic at work, either. It could just be somebody who had lived in that area a lot longer than the settlers and was better at predicting its weather, too.
  • Twilight character Jacob Black and his fellow Quileute werewolves are all an example of this. They're apparently not true werewolves, but rather "spirit wolves," which comes from a traditional Quileute origin story about shape-shifters. Unlike vampirism, spirit-wolf-ism is hereditary.
  • In Avalon: Web of Magic, Adriane's Native American grandmother dispenses mystical advice and fortune cookie sayings almost every time she appears, while a Native American rock monument is a literal gateway into the magical spirit world.
  • In the Jane Yellowrock Series, Jane the main character is of Cherokee decent and has the power of shape-changing passed down in her line.
  • Ruth, who is Hopi, in Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult. After helping Delia deal with the aftermath of her father kidnapping her as a child from her alcoholic mother with wisdom and sayings, she kills herself at an ancient mural rather than go through chemo.
  • In Mike Resnick's The Buntline Special Native American magic has been powerful enough to keep the United States of America East of the Mississippi as of 1881.
  • Exploited by Sherman Alexie's character Victor Joseph, who uses his "stoic look" to meet women.
  • Mercy Thompson is herself an example as a half-Native coyote shapeshifter, although she subverts it in part by having a job (auto mechanic) that's about as far from Closer to Earth as you can get. The series itself has featured this trope in the backstory of Bran's son, Charles, whose mother was a Native shaman's daughter and practiced real magic, some of which Charles has inherited along with his father's lycanthropy.

Live Action TV

  • Anything relating to the natives with whom Walker interacts on Walker, Texas Ranger. Or Walker himself, what with his Cherokee precognition and ability to communicate with and command wild animals by staring them down.
  • Toyed with in the Wonderfalls episode "Totem Mole." It is subverted through most of the episode, when Jaye tries to force the utterly unremarkable accountant grandson of a tribe's recently-deceased Medicine Woman into his grandmother's former role, though every "test" he undergoes signifies that Jaye herself is the rightful successor. In the end, however, the brilliant Native American trial lawyer (who serves as an antagonist through most of the episode) experiences a heat exhaustion-fueled vision of the Medicine Woman and becomes her tribe's new spiritual leader.
  • Chakotay of Star Trek: Voyager was a Magical Native American In Space. Complete with a mystical tattoo and vision quests that seemed to do the trick when the navigational deflected transponder isolinear emmitter broke down. One episode revealed that aliens had long ago visited Earth and inspired the creation of the culture and traditions of Chakotay's tribe.
    • Then there was the TNG episode "Journey's End", in which Wesley meets Lakanta, a member of a tribe that actually came from the Americas to the planet Dorvan V and settled there in soon-to-be-again Cardassian space. Near the end of the episode, the man freezes time and reveals himself to be The Traveler, whom he'd met in "Where No One Has Gone Before". (This tribe, by the way, was intended to be the origin of the aforementioned Chakotay, according to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (in turn, according to Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki).)
  • War of the Worlds featured an episode set on a Native American reservation, complete with shaman, who uses magical powers (assisted by what may be an alien artifact) to destroy an alien ship. He also manages, depending on your interpretation of the final scene, to play into a much older and more offensive stereotype about Native Americans as dishonest traders, as he gives Blackwood the alien crystal he had used in his "magic", but then later reveals to his son that he'd actually substituted a different crystal for no clear reason. (The scene is not entirely clear on this point; it may actually be that he had several identical crystals).
  • The latest season of Heroes has an African bushman with the power to "spirit walk." The powers don't come directly from shamanism, but they're still pretty much yoked to the shamanic motif. He also has the weird ability to extend his power to his headphones so when Matt puts them on, he sees the future too. He also is making Matt get a totem, a turtle.
  • A few episodes of Roswell feature an elderly Native American called River Dog, who leads a ceremony in a smoke hut that allows him to identify the alien present. He also knows how to heal said alien when the ritual makes him sick. In all fairness, he learned this from the last alien who showed up.
  • Malcolm in the Middle had the brother Francis stuck in Alaska with no purpose in his life. He turns to a totem pole that his buddies stole to give him a vision and guidance to his life. He is unable to do so when the original owner turns up and reclaims the pole. Francis begs him to reveal the magic of the totem. The guy chides him for assuming he's a Magical Native American, points out that he's a proud Methodist and has only one word for snow: snow!
  • Featured frequently on Dr. Quinn - Medicine Woman.
  • The main character of the short-lived FOX show New Amsterdam was made immortal by a Native American shaman after taking a bullet meant for her.
  • Mulder gets brought back to life by a Native American ritual after getting gassed in a boxcar full of dead alien hybrids on The X-Files, and later on fights a reanimated South American Shaman. The plot thread with the alien boxcar is subverted a bit, however, when Skinner has the idea to work with some Navajo World War II vets who were in the Codetalker program to "store" an account of what happened. Making it not a case of Native American Magic saving the day, but language.
    • Another X-Files episode has a monstrous wolf attacking ranches. Molder suspects that a Native American is shape shifting but it turns out to be a subversion.
  • Averted with the character of Edgar K.B. Montrose on The Red Green Show, played by Aboriginal actor Graham Greene. Edgar is portrayed as obsessed with explosives, despite not having a license and permits and getting all his training by watching a lot of old Roadrunner cartoons, and is more or less as stupid as the rest of the lodge members on the show.
  • In the Smallville episode "Skinwalker", the Native American character Kyla can turn into a wolf.
  • Jamie "Great Wolf" Webster became one of these in the second season of WMAC Masters (during the first he just had a Native American gimmick), he began having visions of the future and doing ceremonies outside the arena, and was even able to foresee the Dragon Star being stolen in the final (even though in his vision the thief Tsunami saved it).
  • Subverted somewhat in an episode of Bones. The investigative team is being introduced to a case by a small-town sheriff who mentions the remains were found by a native American who will be assisting in the investigation. When someone asks if he's a "Indian tracker" the sheriff remarks sarcastically that since the man is a park ranger and found the remains in the course of his normal duties he "didn't have to use any of his Indian powers." Later on that same sheriff asks the ranger if an apparent Indian ritual site is legitimate, to which he replies, "What am I, a shaman?"
  • While following a magic wolf in Magic School in an episode of Charmed, Phoebe, ran into a shaman student who sent her on a vision quest.
  • More or less averted in the revival of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, where the native Americans don't have any real powers beside total lack of vertigo, and a plot-significant knowledge of local herbs.
  • Criminal Minds mostly subverts it with the episode "The Tribe" and the character of John Blackwolf. Blackwolf is the reservation sheriff and does exhibit excellent powers of deduction, but it's more akin to the skills used by the BAU themselves than anything mystical. He also figures out that the tribal-looking murders are not being done by the Apache - if the UnSubs were Apache, they "wouldn't be so confused", if anything, they'd be more brutal. Finally, Blackwolf is shown to abhor guns, and talks Hotch into taking down the UnSubs, who are college-aged kids brainwashed by a cult leader, with just a baton and his hands. Hotch does end up shooting one.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Thanksgiving episode Pangs, Buffy faces a Native American vengeance spirit who can shapeshift, and summon ghostly Native American warriors.
    • Arguably this is an aversion / subversion / Deconstruction. Magic is hardly limited to Native Americans in the Buffyverse, and this trope is sort of examined—Willow feels sympathetic to the spirit since it's avenging legitimate wrongs, while everyone else points out that, you know, it's still a murderous vengeance spirit that kills people and gave Xander magical syphilis. They wind up destroying it at the end.
  • Tommy's brother David Trueheart in season 4 of Power Rangers is ridiculously magical. His arrowhead even holds a Monster of the Week.
  • The episode of Supernatural called "Bugs" featured a curse of "Death By Bug-Inflicted Murder" on the builders/residents of a housing community unwittingly built on an Indian Burial Ground.
  • Pretty much every role that Tom Jackson has ever played.
  • Sherman Alexie talks about this myth a lot during his first interview on The Colbert Report. "No, I can't talk to animals. I have no Dr. Doolittle-type powers. Pocohontas couldn't talk to animals, either. But in the Disney movie, she did talk to Mel Gibson, which sort of counts."
  • An iCarly example: To avoid revealing an implant that functions as a GPS, the Paper Thin Excuse is "a chip--pewa. A Chippewa Indian guide find you." It should be noted that they're in Tokyo at the time. A bit far from Minnesota.
  • Power Rangers Zeo has Tommy's brother David Trueheart. What kind of lame name is David Trueheart, anyway? The whole plot is this.
  • Dharma and Greg has an old Native American who shows up to die in their apartment building because it was built over an ancient burial mound. He returns in at least one later episode as a ghost/spirit guide - or possibly a dream. It's up to the viewer to decide.
  • An episode of The Sentinel has a shaman of a Peruvian native tribe show up in Cascade. There's also the fact that "Sentinels" seem to have feline spiritual companions and an ancient temple in the jungle that boosts their abilities Up to Eleven. Unfortunately, it also burns them out.
  • An episode of So Weird takes place on a reservation and includes a tale of the Coyote Spirit who helps those lost in the woods. At the end of the episode, the coyote turns into the Native American who told the story.

Tabletop Games

  • In Deadlands, Native Americans and those who have been welcomed into their tribes are the only characters eligible for Guardian Spirits or leaning rituals and favors from the spirits, at least in the American West. (Oddly enough, Native Americans who had been raised by white people could not learn these things unless they became a tribe's blood brother later in life, which makes it sound like your "Magical Native American"-ness can be revoked; as it's a function of religion, not birthright, this is probably intentional.)
  • The Metaplot for Shadowrun has Native Americans as the first to use magic properly after the Awakening, with the reasoning being that they never really left it behind in the first place.
  • In the Old World of Darkness game Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Garou follow a tribal structure, with two of the tribes, the Uktena (exploratory mystics) and the Wendigo (warriors who still weren't over colonization) being Native American. Then again, the game also had tribes of urban primitives, Amazons, Irish warrior-poets, and Egyptian travelers, so it was a bit of a grab bag. Also, werewolves gained their particular form of magic, Gifts, by making deals with spirits.
  • Werewolf wasn't the only game in the Old World of Darkness to work the Native American motifs. Mage: The Ascension had the Dreamspeakers, a mystical Tradition made up of shamans of all types (Aborigines, Native Americans, African bushmen, even modern technoshamans) who showed a mastery over the spirit world. Changeling: The Dreaming had the Nunnehi, changelings who took after Native American myths the same way the Kithain took after European (and African) myths, and whose relationship with the Kithain ranged from "friendly, but keep your distance" to "fucking white man."
  • The tribes and spiritual motifs continue in the successor game, Werewolf: The Forsaken, but the Native American themes are downplayed. Furthermore, the werewolves in this game aren't so much protectors of the spirit world as they are protectors of humanity from a rapacious spirit world.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Necromunda has the Ratskins. Otherwise, does not have much place for this - Psychic Powers in general are more of risk than they're worth, and the Exodite Eldar (local Wood Elves stand-in) are more of dinosaur riding cowboys.
  • In Witchcraft, the Native Americans had just as many coven equivalents as everyone else. The reason the Natives didn't use their magical superpowers to stop the White Man was because the Combine nullified their advantages somehow.
  • Silver Age Sentinels: Mother Raven (one of the setting's major heroines) is a shaman who received her powers from the actual Raven.
  • In the Ravenloft campaign, the Nightmare Lands are home to the Abber nomads, primitive humans who have a culture and general appearance similar to North American tribes. (Their language is described as "absolutely unique" and unlike "any tongue spoken by any other race in any known land", hinting that they may have origins with actual Native Americans, like the inhabitants of Odiarre, whose language is described the same way, as it is Gothic Earth's equivalent of Italian.) While they can't outright use magic (unless they gain levels as druids, and some do) living in the Nightmare Lands have made their minds tough enough to withstand a place that tends to drive visitors insane; they don't dream, and can distinguish illusion from reality with ease. In game terms, one source gives a flat 25% chance of such magics failing against them, while other sources say it depends on several factors, like Class Level, Wisdom score, etc.

Video Games

  • Pictured above: Nightwolf, the Badass Bookworm from the Mortal Kombat games.
  • "I AM Turok!" His magical power, of course, was the ability to carry enough firepower to kill half the planet.
  • In Prey, aliens start their invasion of the earth with a reservation, and the main character ends up using spirit magic to fight them off. The main character's grandpa fits the bill better, though. Before getting abducted the hero thought all that stuff was just so much eyewash. The "(frequently Native American) character who thinks all that stuff is hoohah but has to take on his grandfather's shamanic mantle" is a trope in its own right.
  • Chief Thunder from Killer Instinct.
  • Vulcan Raven from Metal Gear Solid has some elements of this, though surprisingly without much of the actual magic part. While he's able to instantly know that Snake is half-Japanese (he certainly doesn't look it) by making one of the ravens that swarm him eat a small chunk of Snake's face, claims to be able to predict the future, lays curses on people with the tattoos on his body and is eaten up by his ravens almost instantly upon death, it's actually no weirder than most Metal Gear bosses. And in his boss battle, he prefers to invoke the mysterious cosmic powers of a M61 Vulcan. The "Magical" aspect of this trope when it comes to Raven is more prominently featured in the fan webcomic The Last Days of Foxhound.
  • Averted by Thunder Hawk and Rick Strowd of Street Fighter and Real Bout Fatal Fury 2, respectively. While both are fighting to protect their people, neither of them have any "shaman" powers: they rely on good old-fashioned brute strength. Hell, since neither of them has anything in the way of Ki Attacks, they're appreciably less "magical" than most fighters in their respective series.
  • The Tauren from World of Warcraft are considered to be the most spiritually attuned to the land; until the Cataclysm expansion pack, they were the only Horde race that could take the druid class. Needless to say, they live in teepees, have large totem poles, and wear lots of leather. Despite being cows, they're clearly omnivorous and hunt (although, to avoid Carnivore Confusion, the stand-in species for buffalo are vaguely saurian). New Tauren characters are even given a Vision Quest. They're also one of the most overwhelmingly "good" races in the game.
  • Shadow Hearts: From the New World gives us two: Natan, a quiet dual gun-wielding bad boy, and his amazingly hot traveling partner Shania (a literal case, as she can transform just like Yuri from the previous two games).
  • While averted in One Must Fall: 2097 in that Raven, the (apparently) Native American character is a purely urban kickboxer and bodyguard to the Big Boss, he seems to somehow have become a Magical Native American by the sequel game, appearing as the boss of the first tournament with his now-well-known mystical defensive power... which also protects the robot he's remotely piloting (OMF doesn't do flesh-and-blood combat). Ookay.
  • The Baskars of the Wild ARMs series have more than a bit of this, being in harmony with nature, very capable with the setting's Functional Magic and Magitek, and given to a distinctly Native American visual theme. A partial subversion comes in the fact that they aren't really an ethnic group, more of a religious commune which anyone may join.
    • And Gallows is an outright subversion; he's Baskar and has both the look and the magical powers of the trope, but his personality—an idiot lecher who doesn't want to fulfill his responsibilities, even outright running from them—defies it. He defies the Squishy Wizard trope to a "T", as well.
  • The Pokémon Xatu is made to resemble a Totem Pole creature, and coincidentally, is a Psychic-type.
    • It could be a tribute to haplogroup D, since its feather pattern when its wings are closed is distinctly Ainu.
  • Suikoden III has Aila, a Shaman-in-training from the Karaya Tribe. We never get to see what a full-fledged shaman is capable of; however, she can communicate with the spirits of nature and 'read' the earth well enough that she's able to track 'unnatural magic' with relative ease. This saves her from being caught up in the Hate Plague cast on Karaya, as she senses the spell being cast and goes to investigate. There is also Jimba a.k.a. Wyatt Lightfellow, who's pretty handy with a Water Rune having a True Rune and all, but it's never utilized in the way this trope would, since pretty much anyone in the setting can use a Rune.
  • Humba Wumba in Banjo Tooie is a transformation-magic-using shamaness who lives in a magical teepee. In "Nuts and Bolts", she keeps the Hulk Speak and makes occasional references to both her own magical traditions (sometimes thanking you for your contribution to the shaman magic awareness fund when you make purchases) and Mumbo's, but otherwise the magic is ignored in favor of the various roles she plays throughout the game.
  • Dusty Earth in Vigilante8. "I will make right what's wrong". A shaman and tribe leader in a '70s SUV with a magical eagle that can summon a tornado. Due to the game's semi-realistic '70s setting, this comes across as a bit out of place.
  • The Wolves tribe of Digital Devil Saga wear stereotypical Native-American clothes, can shape shift and use magic. The last two can be excused by all but one person in the game world doing it as well however.


  • Parodied in the journal comic Moosehead Stew by Alina Pete where she comments on how she has to do her part to keep up the "Mystical Indian" image, citing such requisite powers as: telling the time by the position of the sun, sensing when enemies are approaching, and occaisionally fading into the mists. Her boyfriend is.... skeptical.

Layne: I've seen you trip over your own feet on level sidewalk. Mystical Indian you ain't.

  • The Clan of the Hawk attempted to invoke this with William Ghostraven in The Wandering Ones, which was why he left.

William: "The only use the "Clan of the Hawk" had for me was to play "Wise Native Dude." Always asking me about this ceremony or that craft. In the before time, I worked in a freakin' Casino! I just wanted to scream!"

  • Subverted in the Ciem Webcomic Series: Imaki Izuki is half-Indian (partially Navajo and partially Apache) in the books, although he is implicitly fully Japanese in the comics. He's the one who supplies Candi with her Magitek Zeran accessories right before she finalizes the look of her Ciem identity with his help. Several in the village he takes her to in the books look like Magical Native American types, but don't have any actual powers. Then there's "Jackrabbit," who's a Phexo mutant given kangaroo legs. Powers, yes; but no actual magic.
  • Romeo in No Songs for The Dead is native American, and inherited his magical powers due to his father being a messenger of the Primordial, an entity who is also the source of black magic. He does not wear any of the stereotypical clothing or any warpaint, though he does go around bare-chested most of the time.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons had an episode where Bart is shown his somewhat unpleasant future (as a drunken, washed-up rock star living with Ralph Wiggum) by the head of a Native American casino after he tries to sneak into the casino in The Great Gabbo's dummy case.
    • At first, this is Doubly Subverted: When they meet, Bart is very surprised that the casino owner knows his name and thinks he's this trope, before revealing he knows it because Homer put Bart down as collateral while taking out a second mortgage on the house. He then reveals he really is this trope.
  • John Redcorn of King of the Hill moves between being a subversion of or playing with this trope. He has a leitmotif of being introduced with spiritual noise and blowing leaves even on mundane occasions, has for years been nailing Dale's wife (with Joseph as proof of that, despite Dale's claim that Joseph's brown skin is from a Jamaican grandmother Dale allegedly has), and some of his spiritual talk comes across as simply B.S. as part of his profession as a masseur/faith healer. His job is mostly a front for bedding women; when Hank goes in for treatment, it's revealed that make-out music and mood lighting automatically activate in his "treatment room". However, some episodes do portray him as genuinely spiritual and advocating for his tribe, more in line with the traditional Magical Native American.
    • This seems to work with the show's theme of mocking romantic, exotified views of other cultures and instead focusing on undercutting racism by showing characters' fundamental similarity. When played straight, Redcorn's "love for the land" is shown to be no fundamentally different from the love Hank Hill has for his home (and propane), and is appealed to in similar terms.
    • Being "genuinely spiritual and advocating for his tribe" doesn't put him in line with this trope, the whole point of which is that spiritual beliefs and traditions aren't the same as mystical powers.
    • John Redcorn more exploits the trope for money and love. He could be based on Vincent Laduke, alias Sun Bear, who also exploited this trope, for much the same reason.
  • Challenge of the Superfriends had Apache Chief, whose magic phrase (which causes him to grow to 50 feet tall) is quoted at the top of this page. One episode says that this is the Apache word for "giant man" (it isn't).
    • In one episode, this power was far more powerful; he was able to say the word dozens of times in succession and actually become bigger than the Earth itself in order to fight a Cosmic Entity that was just as big. This is clearly a case of New Powers as the Plot Demands, but it did seem to come out of nowhere.
    • There's also one episode where some of the Superfriends find their comrades "with the help of Apache Chief's keen tracking abilities."
    • Longshadow from Justice League was a Shout-Out to the Chief, much like all the Ultimen were Shout Outs to the OC characters on Superfriends; while clearly Native American, he didn't have as many blatant racial stereotypes, Longshadow was also the Only Sane Man among the Ultimen. Unlike the Chief, he didn't need a verbal phrase to use his growth powers, and was a decent fighter even at human-size.
  • The toy-based animated series Bravestarr, which had a titular character based on this trope... Just, like said, in space. Magical Native Spacemerican. He was the on-duty marshal of a mining colony on the planet "New Texas", making liberal use of animal powers bestowed on him by spirits. His mentor's name was "Shaman"...
  • Parodied in an episode of South Park where Indians are about to buy out South Park to build a casino, and Stan has to become a Magical Middle Class White Guy. Complete with Vision Quest.
    • the 'magic native' trope is ridiculed further It hit the fan. where they (rightfully) assume that a Las Vegas waiter could identify a mystic Arthurian gemstone, simply by being British.
    • In another episode dealing with alternative medicine, there was Chief Running Pinto and Carlos Ramirez. This is an odd double-subversion. On the one hand, they're paper-thin scammers. On the other, they're really Mexicans. But of course, only Americans believe that border with Mexico always existed.
  • See the Family Guy episode where Lois loses the car to corrupt Native American casino owners. They realize they are being jerks, give the car back and wonder what the hell is wrong with them. The fact they are very rich is a comfort.
    • Another episode, "PTV," has a cameo from the above-mentioned Apache Chief, whom Peter summons to install his satellite dish. Having done so, Apache Chief dejectedly says that was the high point of his day and goes off to gamble.
  • The Native Martians in Futurama play the part, as they can summon sandstorms by making some strange noise. Aside from hypnotoad, and a few Energy Beings they seem to be the only race in the Futurama verse capable of something resembling magic.
    • They also parody it when, discovering that the "bead" that their ancestors traded their land for is actually a gargantuan diamond (they'd just assumed it was worthless because their ancestors had no sense of value), they are delighted to realise that they're rich, and are happy to leave Mars and just buy a new planet, where they'll "act like it's sacred".
  • Hawk in Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic is literally this; bonus points because he has the stereotypical connection to nature.
  • Gray Owl in the 1997 animated series The New Adventures of Zorro is Zorro's Mentor in spirituality and magic. A very similar character called White Owl appears in the 2005 novel Zorro by Isabel Allende, where she's Diego's grandmother. In Zorro: Generation Z, another (unnamed) version of the character is a six-year-old girl who gives Zorro cryptic advice, but who he later recognises in a portrait of his dead grandmother when she was young.
  • Hilariously subverted in one episode of The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, that ironically deals with Magical Native Americans. Jonny and co meet one old man who turns out to be completely ordinary person, who only knows Jonny's name because it's written on the dog's collar, and he only guessed that the enemy has a helicopter because he saw one recently, as opposed identifying the trail a helicopter would leave behind after taking off. Despite this, both he and his wife are sufficiently amused by the idea that they start acting as stereotypical native Americans for the rest of the episode, from referring to themselves as Indians, to calling Lorenzo 'white man', culminating in them honoring an old native tradition at the end of the episode.
  • The Sun Warriors [1] and the Foggy Swamp Waterbenders [2] from Avatar: The Last Airbender. The regular Water Tribes might count, as they're Inuit counterparts and many have waterbending powers, but their powers and wisdom aren't treated any differently from that of the Earth Kingdom or Fire Nation. The one special thing they do have is the Spirit Oasis, where the moon and ocean spirits live, but that's based off the Chinese yin-yang. And even then, there are subversions: the Sun Warriors have a very stoic, Aztec-style culture, but the Foggy Swamp Waterbenders come off as a mix of Vietnamese river tribes and Southern yokels.
    • None of those are good examples of this trope, to be honest. Neither the Sun Warriors nor the Swampbenders have powers different from any other societies in the show's universe - they both just developed different cultures out of isolation. Their abilities are completely par-for-the-course.
  • In Gargoyles, Elisa Maza's father is this, but he's not very fond of the idea. He eventually ends up accepting it though. Of course his magical nature pretty much comes down to sharing some sort of bond with the Coyote, other than that he's a pretty ordinary old man.
  • On Young Justice Jaime talks to his friend's grandfather, who seems to be this. Played for Laughs: the Scarab calls him "unbalanced" and, when the grandfather says something insightful, declares that he "knows too much" and must be destroyed.
  1. who share ancient Firebending wisdom with Aang and Zuko
  2. who have a special connection with the earth, and whose home is an ancient Genius Loci that shows people visions