The Legend of the Origin of the Texas Bluebonnet

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Tony Maples Photography


Native American folklore is woven into the fabric of Texas history. According to the Bullock Museum, “hundreds of different groups of native peoples with a variety of languages, customs, and beliefs lived on the land for at least 11,000 years before the arrival of Europeans.” One particular tale in the book Legends and Lore of Texas Wildflowers, explains how bluebonnets came to be a staple of our culture.

The legend describes how the weather in Texas hadn’t exactly been kind to the natives. They suffered a catastrophic flood, which was followed by a devastating drought. Summers brought scorching temperatures and dust storms. Winters were harsh with blizzards. Food was scarce, causing many to starve. Disease swept through the tribes. It was clear the Great Spirit was angry with them.

Water became nonexistent. The land dried up, and crops died. 

Dust storm in Arizona. Photo: Jason Weingart

Medicine men performed ceremonies. Warriors cut their flesh. Yet efforts to appease him were unsuccessful. One night a council of medicine men gathered around the fire when suddenly the Great Spirit spoke. He told them their plight was brought on by selfishness. The only way to make amends with him was to burn the tribe’s most prized possession, then scatter the ashes to the four winds.

The Great Spirit spoke to the council. 

Native American night portrait Moyan Brenn. Photo: Flickr/Moyan Brenn

Unbeknownst to the council, a little girl sat in the darkness, listening. She clutched her cornhusk doll, dressed in a deerskin robe with horse hair braids and blue feathers. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she knew what had to be done.

When everyone fell asleep, the child sneaked out of her teepee, gathered hot coals from the fire and climbed up a hill. She used some leaves and twigs to build a fire. She lifted the doll, her most prized possession high above her head and offered it to the Great Spirit. She tossed the doll into the fire as the flames leaped from the ground. Once the fire had burned out and cooled, she gathered up the ashes. The little girl turned north, south, east, then west allowing the ashes to fall from her hands as she spun.

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