This is our index of Anishinabe 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
Ottawa tribe, and
four Anishinabe 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 Anishinabe legend for this page, please let us know.
Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Anishinabe mythology.
Manabozho or Wisakedjak (also spelled
Nanabozho, Wenabozhoo, Nanabush, Manabush, Wiske, and several other ways.)
Manabozho is the benevolent culture hero of the Anishinaabe tribes (sometimes referred to as a "transformer" by folklorists.)
His name is spelled so many different ways partially because the Anishinabe
languages were originally unwritten (so English speakers just spelled it however it sounded to them at the time), and partially because the Ojibway and
Algonquin languages are spoken across a huge geographical range in both Canada and the US, and the name sounds different in different dialects.
Not only that, but some Algonquin and Oji-Cree people call the same character by the name Wisakedjak instead, which is a name that
comes from Cree folklore. The correct pronounciation here in Minnesota is similar to
way-nuh-boo-zhoo, but in other places in the Anishinabe world it is pronounced mah-nah-boh-zho, mah-nah-boo-zhoo, nah-nah-boh-zho,
nay-nuh-boo-zhoo, nain-boo-zhoo, or nay-nuh-boash. Nanabozho shares
some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Wabanaki
Glooscap and Blackfoot
Napi, and many of the same stories
are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing.
This name means "Great Spirit" in the Anishinabe languages, and is used to refer to the Creator (God) in the Anishinabe tribes.
Gitche-Manitou is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender) and is never personified in Anishinabe folklore. The name
is pronounced similar to kih-chee muh-nih-doh or gih-chee muh-nih-doo, depending on which language is being spoken.
Manabozho's wise old grandmother, who raised him. Pronounced noh-koh-miss, noo-koh-miss, noke-miss or nook-miss, depending on which language
is being spoken.
Manabozho's brother, who was killed by evil water spirits and became the ruler of the land of the dead. His name is pronounced similar to jee-bee-ah-booze
An animal-spirit hero who slew monsters, set the seasons in motion, and is represented as the "Big Dipper" constellation of stars.
An evil man-eating spirit. Windigos play the roles of monsters and bogeymen in some legends; in others, Anishinabe people who commit sins
(especially selfishness, gluttony, or cannibalism) are turned into a Windigo as punishment. It is pronounced ween-dih-goh, ween-duh-goh, or ween-dih-goo.
Mythological little people of the forests. Their name means "wild man" and is pronounced similar to
buh-gwuh-jih-nih-nee. They are mischievious but generally good-natured beings in Anishinaabe mythology.
Small riverbank-dwelling water spirits. They are
also generally benign creatures, but sometimes blow canoes astray or steal things when they are
not shown proper respect.
Water Panther (Native
names include Mishibizhiw, Nampeshiu, and other variants):
A powerful mythological creature 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.
Mishiginebig (or Kichiginebig):
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, Nimki, Binesi, Cigwe, 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 Anishinabe people.
Bibon (also known as
Winter Maker): The spirit of the North Wind, who brings winter to the land.