North America’s “Tiny People” Who Were Believed to Have Lived in the Appalachian Mountains

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The belief in “tiny people” have been part of the folklore of many cultures in human history, including Ireland, Greece, the Philippines, and the Hawaiian Islands; however, the most committed people to this belief are by far the Native Americans — and the Cherokee in particular.

While the Holy Bible speaks about ancient “giants” who roamed the earth during the days of Noe, Native American legends speak of a race of “tiny people” who lived in wooded and rocky areas.

Often described as “hairy-faced dwarfs” in stories, petroglyph illustrations show them with horns on their head and traveling in groups of 5 to 7 per canoe.

Native legends often talk of the tiny people playing pranks on individuals, such as singing and then hiding when an inquisitive person searches for the music. It is often said that the little people love children and would take them away from bad or abusive parents or if the child was without parents and left in the woods to fend for themselves.

Other legends say the tiny people if seen by an adult human would beg them not to say anything of their existence and would reward those who kept their word by helping them and their family out in times of need. From tribe to tribe there are variations of what the tiny people’s mannerisms were like, and whether they were good or evil may be different.

One of the common beliefs is that the tiny people create distractions to cause mischief. They were believed to be gods by some. One North American Native tribe believed that they lived in nearby caves. The caves were never entered for fear of disturbing the tiny people.

Though the vast majority of things believed about these “tiny people” is clearly the stuff of legend, there are a handful of evidences that seem to indicate there could possibly be a little validity to these stories.

An 1876 New York Times article describes numerous graves discovered in Tennessee that contain skeletons of Pygmies. Initially, the remains were thought to be those of children, however, later examination revealed that this is probably not the case:

“In this state [Tennessee] burying grounds have been found where the skeleton appear all to have been pygmies… it is affirmed that the skulls are found to have possessed the dentes sapientiae [Wisdom teeth] and must have belonged to persons of mature age. … two bodies that were found in the vast limestone cavern… neither of them more than four feet high: the hair seemed to be sandy or inclining to the yellow “

According to Cherokee legend, a group of tiny people known as the “Yunwi Tsunsdi’” inhabited the Appalachian Mountains. These individuals were believed to have spent much of their time drumming and dancing.  It has been postulated that if there was any truth to this Cherokee belief, then the bones found in Tennessee could belong to those of the “Yunwi Tsunsdi’”.

The Pigmy Tribes of the Ohio Valley, states, “One far flung theory is presented by Virgilio R. Pilapil, who asserts that the Tennessee graves did contain pygmy remains, and that the pygmies arrived in ancient times from southeast Asia, where today’s diminutive Aetas live.”

Like articles like this? Then you would love Appalachian Magazine’s Mountain Voice: 2017: A Collection of Memories, Histories, and Tall Tales of Appalachia!  Click here to check out the book on Amazon!

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