Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The author collected stories of the paranormal and supernatural from 10 enrolled members of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold, North Dakota. The research participants were members of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes. Five research questions guided the study: (1) Where did these contemporary stories of the paranormal or supernatural originate? (2) What is the meaning behind these stories? (3) How are these stories different from other stories of the paranormal or supernatural? (4) Do the respondents “believe” in these stories of the paranormal? (5) Do these stories connect to traditional American Indian customs and beliefs?

The content of the stories fell into several categories: the Little People, Hoffman, Bigfoot, and a miscellaneous grouping. Three concepts guided the interpretation of the stories: the American Indian oral tradition, Walter Fisher's narrative paradigm, and the paranormal or supernatural.

The American Indian oral tradition was revealed in the way the stories were told, complete with the use of sometimes sacred language and nonverbal communication. Fisher's concepts of fidelity and coherence were present in the storytelling through the use of culturally believable details and enough focus to show a central meaning for each story. The paranormal or supernatural were revealed in characterizations of the Little People, sometimes as witches; Bigfoot as a nine-foot spiritual being and; Hoffman as a fantastical human figure with hooved feet. Houses which were lit up and filled with life turn out to be derelict and abandoned upon revisiting.

Five themes emerged from this qualitative study: Theme one: Research participants believe in these stories and experiences because of their values, traditions, and language. Theme two: Research participants believe in the stories and experiences because they come from family and elders. Theme three: These stories and experiences originated from tribal beliefs. Theme four: Research participants consider these stories spiritual rather than supernatural or paranormal. Theme five: Research participants consider many of these stories as warnings or taboo.

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Psychology Commons