Natural Environment Reference

horned frog

Native to deserts and semi-arid habitats of North and Central America, the horned frog, more commonly referred to as a horned, or horny, toad, is in fact a lizard, identifiable by its round shape, short snout, and spike-covered (horned) head and back. In various indigenous cultures in the Americas, the horned toad is revered as a grandfather figure, one who can bestow blessings and luck.

The horned toad is usually brown, gray, or yellow in color, and feeds on ants, as well as other insects such as grasshoppers and spiders. When attacked, some species can squirt blood out of their eyes to a distance of up to three feet. The blood contains a noxious chemical that deters dogs and coyotes.


A type of rock also known as steatite, which has a high content of talc and a texture that is relatively soft and therefore conducive to stone carving. With prolonged exposure to air, it hardens and its natural gray, green or brown color darkens. Soapstone was used by indigenous peoples throughout the Americas to make ceremonial objects, bowls, pipes, and fetishes.


A large bird of prey common throughout North America. In many Native American traditions, the eagle is a prominent mythological animal representing hunting or fighting power and skills, and associated with the sky spirits of rain, thunder, and lightning. Eagle dances are common among various tribes, and are performed as blessings for successful hunting, in preparation for war, or to honor peace agreements between tribes. In Navajo lore, the eagle has a central role in the Beadway and Eagleway healing ceremonials.

In the U.S., the bald eagle was adopted as the national bird and is featured on the Great Seal of the United States, as well as on the presidential flag and the seals of many federal agencies.


Insects, myriapods, and crustaceans all have a pair of thin, protruding sensory organs on their heads called antennae (the plural form of antenna). The term can also refer to a metallic wire or rod that is used for receiving or transmitting radio waves.

blue heron

The great blue heron is a large water bird native to North America. It can be found in saltwater as well as freshwater habitats, and is quite common in the Southwest, along riverbanks, marshes, and lakes.

In the Navajo creation myth, the First World (or underworld) was completely dark, with a small island in the middle of four seas. The Heron was one of the supernatural beings who was in charge of one of the seas. The other three rulers were Big Water Creature, Frog, and White Thunder. The Heron is also associated with the Second World, which is characterized by the color blue. Finally, Heron is the creature sent back into the underworld to fetch witchcraft, an ambiguous bundle of powers that can be employed for good or bad reasons, at the behest of First Woman and First Man.


A term in astronomy referring to a group of stars that can be seen from Earth as forming a certain shape. Various ancient mythologies (such as Greek, Euphratean, and Native American) contain stories based on star constellations that were imagined as characters and objects that interacted with humans on earth. Modern astronomy has defined and categorized 88 constellations that aid in mapping star systems and tracking artificial satellites.


A large predatory cat recognizable by its uniquely patterned pelt, which consists of a yellow background covered in small, black spots. The cheetah is known for its speed, which can reach 70 miles (110 km) per hour during a hunt chase. Cheetahs are native to Africa and inhabit a wide range of habitats. They prey on a variety of animals, including antelopes, rabbits, and birds.


A mixture of rain and snow. The term also refers to small hailstones that occur when raindrops freeze in the air, as well as to the accumulation of clear ice on objects.


Not capable of inducing disease.


A group of anaerobic bacteria that is potentially pathogenic, or disease-causing, for humans and other warm-blooded animals. Certain types of Salmonella may develop in food or water and when ingested can cause gastrointestinal inflammation, typhoid fever, or septicemia.


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