Native Languages of the Americas: Nanabozho Stories and other Algonquin Legends
This is our collection of links to Algonquin folktales and traditional stories that can be read online.
We have indexed 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, so you may also want to visit our page comparing
the stories from the Anishinaabe tribes (which
include the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Algonquin Indians), since the traditional stories of those
tribes are very similar.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend an Algonquin legend for this page or think one of the ones on here
should be removed, please contact us and let us know.
Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Algonquin mythology.
(also spelled Nanabojo, Nanaboozhoo, Wisakejak, and several other ways.)
This is the benevolent culture hero of the Anishinabe tribes (sometimes referred to as a "transformer" by folklorists.)
Nanabozho/Wisakedjak shares some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Wabanaki
Glooskap and Blackfoot
Napi, and many of the same stories
are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing. Nanabozho is pronounced nah-nah-boh-zhoh
in Algonquin, and Wisakedjak is pronounced wee-sah-kay-jock.
Michabo (also spelled Michabou):
This is actually just another name referring to Nanabozho-- it is a French corruption of the Algonquin word Mishābōz, which means
"Great Hare." Nanabozho is associated with rabbits and sometimes appears as a rabbit in Algonquin traditions,
which is why he is sometimes called by this title. The
Algonquin name is pronounced mih-shah-bose; the French name is pronounced mih-shah-bo or mih-shah-boo;
and the English name is usually pronounced mih-chah-bo.
This means "Great Spirit" in the Algonquin language, and is the Algonquin name for the Creator (God.) Kichi Manido
is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender) and is never personified in Algonquin mythology. The name is pronounced
Nokomis (also spelled Nōkomis):
Nanabozho's wise old grandmother, who raised him. Pronounced noh-koh-miss.
Kichi-Odjig (Great Fisher):
An animal-spirit hero who slew monsters, set the seasons in motion, and is represented as the "Big Dipper" constellation of stars.
Widjigo (also spelled Wėdjigō):
An evil man-eating spirit. Widjigos play the roles of monsters and bogeymen in some Algonquin myths; in others, Algonquin people who commit sins
(especially selfishness, gluttony, or cannibalism) are turned into a Widjigo as punishment.
Their name is pronounced wee-jih-goh in the Algonquin language, but today they are better-known by their
Ojibwe name, Windigo.
Pagwadjinini (also spelled Pagwadjininė):
Mythological little people of the forests. Their name means "wild man" and is pronounced similar to
pug-wuh-jih-nih-nee. Pagwadjininis are mischievious but generally good-natured beings in Algonquin legends.
Memegwesi (also spelled Memegwesė):
Small water spirits, usually said to inhabit waterfalls or riverbanks. They are also
generally benign creatures, but sometimes blow canoes astray or steal things when they are not shown proper respect. Their name is
An underwater horned serpent, common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes, which is said to lurk in lakes and eat humans. Its name literally
means Great Serpent and is pronounced mih-shih-gih-nay-big.
Water Panther (Algonquin name
Mishibijiw): A powerful mythological creature something like a cross between
a cougar and a dragon. It is a dangerous monster that lives in deep water and causes men and women to drown. Its Algonquin
name is pronounced mih-shih-bih-zhew.
Onimikė or Pinesė:
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 Algonquin people. Onimikė, which means "thunderer,"
is pronounced o-nih-mih-kee, and Pinesė, which means "great bird," is pronounced
The spirit of the North Wind, who brings winter to the land. His name is pronounced similar to pih-boon or pih-bone.