This Month I Learned (TMIL): The Stick Indians

Hail, heroes, and welcome to a new feature, This Month I Learned (TMIL)! In these short blog posts, we'll talk about the (potentially) weird stuff we need to research as we write our books.

June's feature is all about the Stick Folk in our upcoming LitRPG series, dARkness: Online.

In Native American culture, these creatures are known as the Stick Indians (or Ts*atko [editor's note, it was brought to our attention that using the real name for these creatures is seen as giving them power, and so we have opted to use the translated name to avoid being disrespectful]), Stick-Shower Indians, or Little People of the Pryor Mountains (or Itśte-ya-ha). Typically related to the western tribes (specifically the Salish or Umatilla), these spooky little humanoids also show up in multiple myths in the mid-West too. And they're absolutely terrifying. So let's talk a little about them.

In dARkness: Online, the Stick Folk are the creatures that come out when a character's stability meter is low. This was due to information found in our research about this myth where the Stick Indians are malevolent forest spirits who would disorient, hypnotize, kidnap, or even eat travelers. Especially women and children. They are sometimes seen as vengeful, and would retaliate against someone who disrespected them, no matter how small the slight.

But Stick Indians are sometimes seen as playful creatures, too. They can have a language that sounds more like bird calls and animal noises, rather than human speech. But they could mimic human noises, specifically screaming and whistling, in their attempts to disorient. Pranks blamed on them can range from harmless, such as stealing food or fish from nets, to very harmful, including kidnapping.

These creatures were typically used as a boogeyman story to keep children from wandering the forest at night. A child could be told of the Stick Indians' desire to steal them and treat them like slaves, or even eat their flesh.

Visually, no tribe really has the same description. Western tribes describe them as taller than humans, and even relate them to the Bigfoot myth, where as the Crow Nation's myth says they more resemble dwarves. There are even some tales where they are much closer to humans, with long, thin bodies that sport exaggerated limbs.

In dARkness: Online, we wanted them to be extra creepy, and so we kept them as humanoid shadow that form or dissipate depending on the stability bar. And they act much differently from other creatures in the game.

So, have you ever heard of the Stick Indians (by any of their many names)? If so, what myths have you heard that are different? We'd love to hear some personal accounts as well!


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© 2017 by Riley S. Keene