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Legends of the Algonquian Indian Tribes

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 Chippewa, Algonquin, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Menominee, Cree, Abenaki, Penobscot, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, 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.

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Important Algonquian Mythological Figures

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.

Gitche Manitou: 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.

Nokomis: 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.

Pukwudgies (Bagwajinini): 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.

Water Panther (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.

Horned Serpent (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.

Thunderbird (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.

Algonquian Folklore

*Ojibwe Oral Tradition: * Potawatomi Oral Tradition * Menominee Oral Tradition:
    Online collections of Algonquian folklore from Indian Country Wisconsin.
*Anishinaabe Children's Legends:
    Fourteen Algonquian legends told by Chippewa and Menominee students.
*Koluskap: Stories from Wolastoqiyik:
    Nineteen Maliseet stories.
*Manabozho's Adventures * Indian Superstitions and Legends * Malecite and Passamaquoddy Tales * Indian Why Stories:
    Online books of Algonquian myths and legends.
*Creation of the World * History of the Anishinabek * Legend of the Potawatomi * Abenaki Emergence Myth
    Micmac Creation Myth * Gluskonba Makes the People
    Algonquian myths about how the world began.
*Nanabush * Nanabosho and the Algonquian * Nanabozho * Gluskabe * Gluskab * Gluskabe:
    Articles on the Algonquian culture heroes.
*Ottawa Flood Myth * Algonquin Flood Myth: * Great Serpent and the Great Flood:
    Algonquian flood myths.
*How the Anishinabe Became One People * A Potawatomi Story:
    Potawatomi legends of how the Algonquian people came to be allies.
*A Gust Of Wind * Manabozho's Birth * Manabozho's Wolf Brother:
    Anishinabe myths about the culture hero Weneboozhoo's birth and childhood.
*Manabozho and the Muskrat * Nanabozho and the Origin of the Earth * How Muskrat Created The World
    Waynaboozhoo and the Coot: * The Creation of Turtle Island:
    Algonquian myths telling how the earth was formed.
*Wunzh, Father of Indian Corn * Mon-Daw-Min * The Legend of Indian Corn * The Strange Origin of Corn
    Corn Mother * First Mother, First Father * First Mother Saves the Penobscot * First People and the First Corn * The Coming of Corn:
    Legends telling how corn came to the Algonquian people.
*The Union of Corn and Bean:
    Ottawa Indian legend about why corn and beans are always planted together.
*Glooscap and the Water Monster * Koluscap and the Giant Skunk * Koluskap and the Giant Beaver * Passamaquoddy Allegory:
    Sugarloaf Mountain * Gluskabe and the Monster Frog:
    The culture hero Glooskap protects the Wabanakis by turning monsters into animals.
*Manabozho and the Theft of Fire * How the Birch Tree Got Its Burns:
    Ojibwe legends about Nanabozho and the origin of fire.
*How Gluskabe Stole Tobacco: * Grasshopper and the Tobacco:
    Algonquian stories about the origin of tobacco.
Gluskabe Changes Maple Syrup * Gluskabe the Transformer * How the Indians Got Maple Sugar * Manabozho and the Maple Trees:
    Algonquian Indian myths about the origin of maple syrup.
How Glooscap Found Summer: * How Glooskap Found The Summer:
    The origin of the seasons.
The Lazy Rabbit * Rabbit and Otter * Rabbit Calls a Truce:
    Wabanaki stories about rivals Rabbit and Otter.
*Algonquin Legends:
    Several Algonquin Indian legends.
*The Origin of the Thunderbird * On the Trail of the Thunderbird:
    Wabanaki legends about the Thunderbird.
*The Horned Serpent:
    The legend of Weewillmekq/Jipijka'm, the Wabanaki horned serpent.
Gluscabi and the Wind Eagle * Why We Need Wind * The Bird whose Wings Made the Wind:
    Gluskabe decides to stop the wind from blowing, and learns a lesson about the world.
*When Squirrels Were Huge * Klouskap and the Squirrel * Glooscap Shrinks the Animals * Gluskabe the Transformer:
    Algonquian legends about how the squirrel got its small size.
*Why Wolves and Dogs Fear Each Other * How Dogs Came to Live With the Indians:
    Algonquian legends about Dog defecting from the Wolf people to the humans.
*Nanaboozh and the Turtle:
    Ottawa legend about how turtles got their shells.
*How Fisher Went to the Skyland:
    Algonquian legend about the Big Dipper.
*The Creator Visits:
    The Creator rewards a family's generosity. In English, Micmac, and Maliseet.
Indian Summer * Nibubalnoba, the Indian Summer:
    Legends about the origins of "Indian summer," the brief recurrence of summer-like weather before the snows fall.
When Tcikabis Trapped The Sun * The Sun Snarer * The Little People Ensnare the Sun * Snaring the Sun:
    Anishinabe stories in which the sun is trapped in a snare.
*Wenebojo and the Dancing Geese * Manabozho and the Hell-Diver * The Shut-Eye Dance:
    Stories about Algonquian tricksters convincing gullible prey animals to shut their eyes.
Wisakatchekwa and the Birds:
    Algonquian stories about trickster heroes being carried off by an unwisely lassoed flock of birds.
*The Reed Dancers * Manabush and the Tree Holders:
    Algonquian stories about a humorous mistake of Manabozho's.
*Why Porcupine Has Quills:
    Algonquian stories about Manabozho helping Porcupine defend himself.
*Skunk Woman * Chicago, Place of the Skunk* The Woman Who Became A Skunk:
    Algonquian legends about a man whose wife turned into a skunk.
Glooskap and Mikchich * The Changing of Mikcheech * Turtle Marries the Chief's Daughter:
    The adventures of Glooskap and his uncle the Turtle.
Glouscap and the Baby * Gluskabe and Dzeedzeez:
    Gluskabe is outmatched by a baby. (Wasis means "baby" in Passamaquoddy, and Dzeedzees means "baby" in Abenaki.)
*Saga of Iyash * The Legend of Ayas:
    Stories about the epic hero Ayas, in Ojibwe and Cree with English translation.
*The Girls Who Wished to Marry Stars: * Women Who Married Star Husbands:
    Ojibwe and Mi'kmaq legends about two foolish girls who marry stars.
*The Girl and the Windigo * Cannibal Giants of the Northern Forest * The Girl Chenoo: * The Windigo Baby: * The Girl and the Chenoo:
    Algonquian mythology about the fearsome windigo monsters.
*How Dogs Came To The Ojibwas:
    Chippewa legend about the first dog.
*Mishebeshu * The Underwater Panther:
    Algonquian stories about the water monster Mishipishiw.
*Algon and the Sky-Girl:
    Algonquin legend of a man who married a star.
*Gluskonba and the Four Wishes * The First Pine Trees * The Fearful Warrior * Three Wishes
    The Sun's Wishes * Spirit Rock * The Legend of Spirit Rock:
    Algonquian legends in which the culture hero grants the wishes of different people, but careless or greedy wishes turn out badly for the wisher.
*The Spirit Bride:
    Algonquin Indian legend of a man's visit to the afterworld.
*The Dream Fast * The Boy Who Became A Robin:
    Ojibwe legends about the first robin.
*Legend of the Bear Family:
    Origin of the Penobscot Bear Clan.
*Arrowhead Finger:
    Legend of a Penobscot girl who bore a medicine child.
*Raccoon Learns A Lesson: * The Deceived Blind Men * Wisakatchekwa and the Blind Men:
    Algonquian folktales in which trickster figures play pranks on blind men.
*Pamola, A Penobscot Legend:
    Penobscot story about a woman who married the bird spirit of Mount Katahdin.
*The Legend of the Birch Tree:
    Algonquian legend about a young man who became the first birch tree.
*Wiza'ka'a and the Buzzard * The Trickster's Great Fall and his Revenge:
    Algonquian legends about the trickster Wisaka falling from the sky and punishing Buzzard for it.
*Origin of the Trailing Arbutus:
    Legend of the Potawatomi/Ottawa tribal flower.
*The Meadow Dandelion * Shawondasee and the Golden Girl:
    Ojibway folktales about the South Wind and the Dandelion.
*The Legend of Nanabozho & Animoshak:
    A humorous Anishinabe folktale about Nanabozho and the tails of dogs.
*Mooin, the Bear's Child:
    Micmac legend of a boy adopted by a bear.
*Oochigeas and Invisible Boy * Mi'kmaq Indian Cinderella * The Hidden One * Mi'kmaq Cinderella Interpretation:
    Micmac and Maliseet versions of the French 'Cinderella' story.
*Thunder Mountain:
    Potawatomi legend about a battle between a thunderbird and a horned serpent.
*The Owl Husband:
    Legend of a Passamaquoddy girl who married the great horned owl.
*The Snake Husband:
    Peoria legend of a careless woman who was led astray by a rattlesnake.
*They That Chase After The Bear (A Star Story) * Chasing the Bear:
    Algonquian legends about the origin of the constellations.
*An Opossum Becomes Disliked Because of His Pretty Tail:
    Algonquian legends about a vain opossum losing his beautiful tail.
*Blue Flower:
    Folktale about a loyal Passamaquoddy girl.

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Recommended Books on Algonquian Mythology

Algonquian Spirit:
    Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Algonquian tribes.
The Mishomis Book: Voice of the Ojibway:
    Excellent book by a Native author exploring Algonquian legends and traditions.
Ojibway Ceremonies:
    A good book on Algonquian spirituality and ritual life by an Ojibway author.
Living Our Language:
    Ojibwe legends and oral histories.
Ininatig's Gift of Sugar:
    A wonderful book for kids illustrating Algonquian traditions of maple sugarmaking in the past and present.
Gluskabe and the Four Wishes:
    Children's book based on an Algonquian legend where four people are granted wishes, but not all their wishes turn out as they hoped.
Raccoon's Last Race * How Chipmunk Got His Stripes:
    Children's picture books illustrating Algonquian legends, by acclaimed Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
*The Birth of Nanabosho * Nanabosho Steals Fire * Nanabosho Dances * Nanobosho, Soaring Eagle, and Great Sturgeon:
    Series of well-told Nanabozho stories by an Ojibwe author. The first one, Birth of Nanabosho, is especially good.
Thanks To The Animals:
    Charming picture book telling a Passamaquoddy story about a lost child protected by the animals of the forest.

Additional Resources

 Bibliography of the Algonquian Languages
 Algonquian Indians
 Algonquian languages
 First Nations
 Northeast Woodland tribes



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