Dream Catcher: A Beautiful Lakota Legend

· November 11, 2018

The legend of the dream catcher comes from the Lakota tribe, an ethnic group that encompasses part of the Sioux and lives on the banks of the Missouri River in the USA. They’re the same people who starred in Dances with Wolves, a film that shows part of their customs and rituals.

The Lakota have a divine figure they call Iktomi. This is the god of maximum wisdom, who always teaches the community. The Lakota believe that Iktomi sometimes appears in human form as a tall man with a red and yellow painted face.

However, most of the time he appears as a spider. Iktomi is a very wise spider who sometimes utters mysterious words and other times is a prankster. He knows many stories and sometimes he shares them with mortals. Iktomi taught the Lakota the legend of the dream catcher. 

“Each one of us has been placed here and now to personally decide the future of humanity. Did you think you were here for something less important?”

-Arvol Looking Horse, head of the Dakota-


A magical mountain

Many years ago, an old Lakota man climbed a mountain. Iktomi appeared to this man as a spider. He began to speak in a sacred language.

While he spoke, Iktomi took a branch from the oldest willow tree in the area and fashioned it into a ring. Then, he found some horse hair and some beautiful feathers from colored birds. He also had beads and other small, beautiful objects. When he had all of this at hand, he began to weave.

While he wove, he told the old man that life is a cycle. He told the man that there is a beginning and an end. We don’t move in a straight line. Actually, we start a cycle and finish it at the beginning of a new one, and so on.

The first dream catcher was woven by the god Iktomi.

The life and ages of mankind

The legend of the dream catcher says that Iktomi told the old man that our ages are also cycles. We start our lives as very fragile and dependent beings. Little by little, we get stronger. We walk on our own feet and then we run and become adults. That makes us more capable and free.

However, we then grow old. We once again become fragile beings who need others. That’s when the final cycle closes and death comes. The ending is similar to the beginning, and the cycle repeats itself over and over again with every single human being.

Iktomi continued to weave inside the willow ring while the old Lakota man listened to him, enthralled. The revelation seemed extraordinary. He had understood that each end is also a beginning. This is the ultimate meaning of the dream catcher.

A dream catcher has a gap in the center.

The dream catcher

Iktomi continued his teachings. He told the old man that there are many forces that act in different directions in every stage of life. Some are positive and others are negative. Those forces can alter the natural harmony of destiny. Therefore, we must pay close attention and know how to identify them, since good ones don’t always look good and bad ones don’t always seem bad.

Iktomi wove the spider web toward the center. However, he eventually stopped and left a gap in the middle. Then, he told the old man that he would give him that creation so that all the Lakota people would learn to make good use of their dreams and visions. Good ideas and good projects would be trapped in the web. The bad ones would go through the hole that was in the middle.

The old man shared the legend of the dream catcher with the others. Since then, the Lakota have used Iktomi’s weaving as the basis of their future. Westerners call it a “dream catcher”. If used well, it allows us to scrutinize our dreams in search for the truths that will guide us in life.