Ghost of the White Deer: A Native American Legend

“Spirit Elk” by Hermon Adams.  Used with permission.

The Chickasaw story “Ghost of the White Deer” is one of the most well known Native American legends.  Such stories have been used for hundreds of years to teach lessons and give meaning to life.  Animals in these myths are very powerful and highly symbolic.  White deer are seen as spiritual and magical, and their appearance is always significant.

A brave young Chickasaw warrior, Blue Jay, fell in love with Bright Moon, the daughter of a chief. The chief did not like the young man, so he created a price for the bride that he was sure Blue Jay could not pay.

“Bring me the hide of the White Deer,” said the chief. The Chickasaw believed that all white animals were magical. “The price for my daughter is one white deer,” the chief laughed. He knew that an albino deer was very rare and would be very hard to find. White deerskin was the best material to use in a wedding dress, and the best white deer skin came from the albino deer.

Blue Jay went to his beloved, Bright Moon. “In one moon’s time, I will return with your bride price and we will be married. This I promise you.” Taking his best bow and his sharpest arrows, Blue Jay began to hunt.

Three weeks went by. Blue Jay was hungry, lonely, and scratched by briars. Then, one night during a full moon, Blue Jay saw a white deer, who seemed to drift through the moonlight. When the deer was very close to where Blue Jay hid, he shot his sharpest arrow. The arrow sank deep into the deer’s heart. But instead of sinking to its knees to die, the deer began to run. Instead of running away, he charged straight toward Blue Jay, with his red eyes glowing and his horns sharp and menacing…

A month passed and Blue Jay did not return as he had promised Bright Moon. After months of waiting, the tribe decided that he would never return.

But Bright Moon never took any other young man as a husband, for she had a secret. When the moon was shining as brightly as her name, Bright Moon would often see the white deer in the smoke of the campfire, running, with an arrow in his heart. She lived believing the deer would finally fall, and Blue Jay would return.

To this day the white deer is sacred to the Chickasaw People.

From, a website of cultural information about Native American and First Nations (Canadian) indigenous people.  Here is a list of other Native American legends that are included on this website.