This is our index of Algonquian folktales and traditional stories that can be read online.
We have organized our Native American legends section
by tribe to make them easier to locate; however, variants on the same
legend are often told by American Indians from different tribes, especially if those tribes are kinfolk or neighbors to
each other. On this page, we have included myths and legends from the
and Mi'kmaq tribes,
eleven Algonquian tribes of the eastern woodlands who speak similar languages
and share many cultural similarities, including much of their folklore.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend an Algonquian legend for this page, please let us know.
Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Algonquian mythology.
Nanabosho, Glooscap, or Wisakedjak
(also spelled Nanabozho, Wenaboozhoo, Nanabush, Manabush, Gluskabe, Wisaka, and several other ways):
These are the Native names of the culture heroes of the Algonquian tribes (sometimes referred to as a "transformer" by folklorists.)
Manabozho is the hero's name in the Anishinabe tribes, Glooscap is his name among the Wabanaki tribes, and Wisaka/Wisakejak are his names among the
Cree and Central Algonquian tribes. There are a few cultural differences between the three heroes (for example, Nanabosho is associated with rabbits while
the other two are not; Glooscap and Nanabosho were raised by important grandmother figures, while Wisakedjak is usually described as a loner.)
However, they are generally very similar figures, and many of the same stories are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing.
Nanabosho, Glooscap, and Wisakejak all play the role of trickster in some Algonquian stories, but are more important as teachers and benefactors of humans--
indeed, even their silliest escapades are seen as teaching the people how to behave. Unlike tricksters in some tribes, Algonquian culture heroes do not model
evil or highly socially inappropriate behavior. They are not necessarily taken seriously at all times, but are nonetheless beloved and respected figures.
Pronunciations vary widely from tribe to tribe. In Minnesota Ojibwe, Wenaboozhoo is pronounced way-nah-boo-zhoo; in Mi'kmaq, Glooscap is pronounced
gloo-scopp, and in Plains Cree, Wisakejak is pronounced wiss-ah-kay-jock.
This name and its many linguistic variants mean "Great Spirit," and is used to refer to the Creator (God) in the Algonquian tribes.
Gitche-Manitou is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender) and is rarely personified in Algonquian folklore. The name
is pronounced similar to gih-chee muh-nih-doo in Ojibwe, but varies widely from tribe to tribe.
The wise old grandmother of Nanabosho (and sometimes Glooscap), who raised the hero. Pronounced noh-koh-miss, noo-koh-miss, noke-miss
or nook-miss, depending on which language is being spoken.
Chipiapoos or Moqwaio:
Manabozho's brother, who was killed by evil water spirits and became the ruler of the land of the dead. He is sometimes associated with wolves.
His Potawatomi name is pronounced similar to chee-bee-ah-boose, and his Menominee name is pronounced similar to muh-hwow.
Windigo or Chenoo:
An evil man-eating spirit. Windigos play the roles of monsters and bogeymen in some legends; in others, Algonquian people who commit sins
(especially selfishness, gluttony, or cannibalism) are turned into a Windigo as punishment. It is usually pronounced ween-dih-goo or ween-dih-go.
Mythological little people of the forests. Their nature varies considerably in the folklore of different tribes. In Anishinabe folklore, pukwudgies are
mischievious but generally good-natured beings. In the Wabanaki tribes, pukwudgies are dangerous and must be treated with caution and respect.
In the Wampanoag tribe, pukwudgies are unruly gremlins who can be malicious and deadly. Their name means "wild man" and is pronounced similar to
buh-gwuh-jih-nih-nee in Ojibwe.
(Native names include Mishibizhiw, Nampeshiu, and other variants):
A powerful mythological creature of Algonquian Indian stories, something like a cross between
a cougar and a dragon. It is a dangerous monster who lives in deep water
and causes men and women to drown.
(Native names include Mishiginebig, Kichiginebig, etc):
An underwater horned serpent, common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes. Its name literally
means Great Serpent, and it is said to lurk in lakes and eat humans.
(Native names include Animikii, Binesi, and Jigwe):
Thunderbird, a giant mythological bird common to the northern and western
tribes. Thunder is caused by the beating of their immense wings.
Although thunderbirds are very powerful beings, they rarely bother humans,
and were treated with reverence by Algonquian people.
Wintermaker (also known as
Biboon): The spirit of the North Wind, who brings winter to the land.