I don't specifically remember how old I was when I first heard the legend of the Deer Woman but it had to be near the end of elementary school, fifth or sixth grade. I was growing up in a small oil town in the Cherokee Strip on the border of the Ponca Nation. Naturally, as schools there are what today's woke crowd calls "super diverse," we all grew up sharing in native culture.

Now I don't know if it was just an average campfire tale or our generation of students entering early adolescents and some parents wanting to start their boys down a good path of learning how to treat the other sex, but it terrified all of us.

The topic hasn't come up since then, out of sight, out of mind. It wasn't until Reservation Dogs aired the Deer Woman episode that portrayed the spirit as a demon succubus of sorts. A beautiful woman with cloven feet that seduces promiscuous and evil men, only to hand them their death.  I began to wonder what stories existed in other tribal cultures.

With a quick Google, you'll read that Deer Woman, or Deer Lady in other versions, is a fertility spirit in many Native American tribes' cultural lore. Some legends depict her/it as a type of cupid that can guide some to find love and offer help to others to begin growing a family.

This is not the Deer Woman we learned about together in the lunchroom at my school.

Among Oklahoma tribes, Deer Woman takes on, for lack of a better term, the form of an evil bogeyman. A spirit that tramples and kills boys for one reason or another.

In most cultures, she/it is known for being the justice a man that hurts women and children is served... In my youth, she/it was the punishment for being too wild or disobedient to your parents.

The story was a total buzzkill that whole first year after hearing the tale. It made it a challenge for all of us little boys to be little boys, especially in our little rural Oklahoma town.

For reference, this was a Mayberry type of town at that time. It was the 90s and it was totally normal for the kids to go outside until the streetlights came on. No cell phones, little to no parental oversight, and we all loved some good old-fashioned getting in trouble.

Times were good, but when the activity was about to elevate to epic, it never failed... that one cautious kid in the group would say something like "What if Deer Woman catches us?"

It's as if our collective rebellious streaks were tied to the moral grid via a light switch, we'd almost universally change activities. When we tied a rope to a tree between houses and found the courage to try swinging from one roof to the other, Deer Woman was the only thing that could alter the normal flow of the double-dare process and kill the idea before someone had a chance to get hurt.

Since there seem to be a few easily found versions of this legend, I'd be curious what you've heard of Deer Woman.

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