Lakota storyteller Chante’ Reddest shares Native American folklore through TikTok

As you’re scrolling through TikTok, a steady, authoritative voice lulls you into an imaginative state of mind as a young Native American man delivers legendary tales from Indigenous culture. 

For stories of Moon-Eyed People, ​​Walking Sam and Devil’s Tower, he creates an aura of safety that is then disrupted when he delivers the unsettling, otherworldly twists — for instance, pale men with glowing eyes come out only at night, a stick person wears the souls of his victims on his arms and a rock formation is covered in claw marks because of a battle with a giant bear. 

The voice belongs to Chante’ Reddest, a 20-year-old photography student who lives in Ohio. He is Italian Oglala and Sicangu Lakota and is affiliated with the Rosebud Sioux tribes

Reddest uses his TikTok account, which boasts an impressive 745,000 followers, to educate anyone interested in the intricacies of Indigenous culture. 

Though his stories recounting Native folklore have drawn the most attention to his work, he has shared what tipis really look like, how chiefs actually dressed and even dug into the horrifying history of residential schools.

“No one else was talking about Native stories [on TikTok], so I took the opportunity to tell some stories that revolve around my culture,” Reddest told In The Know in an interview. “I feel like anyone could tell them, but there are few that actually can tell them real specifically.”

The question of who has the right to tell Indigenous stories has long been debated. How non-Native people can blamelessly deliver these deeply important tales while still properly conveying the effects of colonialism and intergenerational trauma is not Reddest’s focus, though. He himself is Native, and he’s eager to share stories people can learn from. 

“I don’t really get into different types of debates when it comes to stuff like that. There are plenty of people that make videos of myth and such that aren’t Native,” he said. “[These stories] talk about how my people lived and how I can apply different things in my life, like compassion, humility, trustworthiness, etc.”

For example, one of Reddest’s first popular videos recounts the legend of the “deer woman” — a spirit that appears as a gorgeous human that can ruin a man’s life if he gets near her.

“Sometimes the danger out there is not that your body might be injured or wounded. Sometimes the danger is for your spirit, too,” Reddest said in the video, recounting a lesson his grandmother had told him.

Another example is Reddest’s video about the Baykok of the Anishinaabe Ojibwe Tribe, a spirit that is created when a warrior dies a dishonorable death.

“The remains are thrown in lakes and forests for those they have wronged, and as a result, the spirits are unable to rest,” he explained. “They have eyes that glow like red coals, and when hunting, it can make itself invisible and fly through the night sky making disturbing screams that frighten those who hear it.” 

All the more reason to avoid dishonor. 

Some of Reddest’s videos have a little less information, but that doesn’t make them any less spooky. 

“I think what makes these stories so unsettling is [that] not a lot of people realize we are in-between the real world and the spirit world … it’s just like the ‘Upside Down’ from Stranger Things,” he explained. “There are many different things that go on at night on reservations — spiritual things many people can’t explain.”

His TikTok about nightcrawlers introduces his audience to eerie figures that, well, crawl around in the night. 

Another explains mysterious footprint-shaped holes in the ground as evidence that giants existed and fought his ancestors long ago.

“Evil does exist, but so does good,” Reddest summarized. “The response [to the TikTok posts] has been good, and a lot of people want me to tell more stories and keep it up.”

Above all else, Reddest wants to educate and inspire his followers. He has a special connection to those who are mixed-race like him and aims to encourage them to embrace their Indigenous roots through his storytelling.

“I just want people to know that they can be themselves in this life because we only have one,” he said. “Once they figure that out, their journey begins.” 

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If you liked this story, you might also enjoy reading about a Native TikToker’s fry bread recipes.

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