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Manabozho Legends and other Anishinabe Stories

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 Ojibway tribe, Algonquin tribe, Ottawa tribe, and Potawatomi tribe, 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.

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Important Anishinabe Mythological Figures

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.

Gitche Manitou: 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.

Nokomis: 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.

Jiibayaabooz: 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 or chee-bee-ah-boose.

Great Fisher: An animal-spirit hero who slew monsters, set the seasons in motion, and is represented as the "Big Dipper" constellation of stars.

Windigo: 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.

Pukwudgies (Bagwajinini): 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.

Memegwesi: 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.

Thunderbird (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.

Anishinabe Folklore

*Nanaboozhoo and the Creation of the World: * History of the Anishinaabek: Legend of the Potawatomi Indians:
    Anishinaabe myths about how the world began.
*Nanabush * Nanabosho and the Anishinabe * Nanabozho:
    Articles on the Anishinaabe culture hero.
*Ottawa Flood Myth * Algonquin Flood Myth: * Great Serpent and the Great Flood:
    Anishinabe flood myths.
*How the Anishinabe Became One People * A Potawatomi Story:
    Potawatomi legends of how the Anishinabe people came to be allies.
*Ojibwe Oral Tradition: * Potawatomi Oral Tradition:
    Online collections of Anishinaabe folklore from Indian Country Wisconsin.
*Tales from the Land of Deep Water:
    Collection of Anishinabe legends and folk traditions from the Temagami band.
*A Gust Of Wind * The Birth of Wenabozho the Trickster:
    Anishinaabe myths about Weneboozhoo's birth.
*Manabozho and the Muskrat * Nanabozho and the Origin of the Earth * How Muskrat Created The World * Waynaboozhoo and the Coot:
    Anishinaabe myths telling how the earth was formed.
*The Creation of Turtle Island:
    An Ojibwa storyteller's alternate version of the creation of the earth.
*Manabozho's Adventures:
    Anishinabe tales from the Ojibwa and Menominee tribes.
*Indian Superstitions and Legends:
    Collection of Anishinaabe myths and legends by 19th-century Potawatomi author Simon Pokagon.
*Wunzh, Father of Indian Corn * Mon-Daw-Min * The Legend of Indian Corn:
    How corn came to the Anishinabe people.
*The Union of Corn and Bean:
    Ahnishnahbe legend about why corn and beans are always planted together.
*Manabozho and the Theft of Fire * How the Birch Tree Got Its Burns:
    Ojibwe legends about Nanabozho and the origin of fire.
*Anishinabe Children's Legends:
    Fourteen Anishinabe legends told by Chippewa and Menominee students.
*Algonquin Legends:
    Several Algonquin Indian legends.
*Indian Why Stories:
    Online collection of Blackfoot and Chippewa-Cree legends from Montana.
*Manabozho and the Maple Trees:
    Ojibwe legend about the origin of maple sugar.
*Nanaboozh and the Turtle:
    Ottawa legend about how turtles got their shells.
*How Fisher Went to the Skyland:
    Anishinabe legend about the Big Dipper.
*Why Porcupine Has Quills:
    Anishinaabe story about Manabozho helping Porcupine defend himself.
*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:
    Ojibwe legend about two foolish girls.
*Thanksgiving Feasts, and the Feasts of the Dead:
    Tales of traditional Ottawa feasts and how they began.
*The Girl and the Windigo * Cannibal Giants of the Snowy Northern Forest * The Windigo Baby:
    Anishinaabe mythology about the fearsome windigo monsters.
*How Dogs Came To The Ojibwas:
    Chippewa legend about the first dog.
*Mishebeshu * The Underwater Panther:
    Anishinabe stories about the water monster Mishipishiw.
*Algon and the Sky-Girl:
    Algonquin legend of a man who married a star.
*The Spirit Bride:
    Algonquin Indian legend of a man's visit to the afterworld.
*Skunk Woman * Chicago, Place of the Skunk:
    Anishinaabe legends about a man whose wife turned into a skunk.
*The Dream Fast * The Boy Who Became A Robin:
    Ojibwe legends about the first robin.
*The Legend of the Birch Tree:
    Anishinabe legend about a young man who became the first birch tree.
*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.
*Arch Rock on Mackinac Island:
    Ottawa legend about the day the sun fell from the sky.
*The Legend of Nanabozho & Animoshak:
    A humorous Anishinabe folktale about Nanabozho and the tails of dogs.
*Legends and Folklore of the Northern Lights:
    Aurora Borealis stories from the Algonquin, Makah, and Tlingit tribes.
*Thunder Mountain:
    Potawatomi legend about a battle between a thunderbird and a horned serpent.

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Recommended Books on Anishinabe Mythology

Living Our Language:
    Anishinaabe legends and oral histories.
The Mishomis Book: Voice of the Ojibway:
    Excellent book by a Native author exploring Anishinabe legends and traditions.
Ojibway Tales:
    Collection of traditional folktales told by an Ojibway author.
Ojibway Ceremonies:
    A good book on Anishinaabe spirituality and ritual life by an Ojibway author.
Ritual and Myth in Odawa Revitalization:
    Interesting book on the importance of traditional Anishinabe spirituality to the people today.
The Dog's Children: Anishinaabe Texts:
    Traditional Anishinabe stories written in Ojibwe with English translations.
Myths and Folk-Lore of the Timiskaming Algonquin and Timagami Ojibwa:
    Classic collection of Ojibway and Algonquin legends.
Mermaids and Medicine Women:
    Ojibwe folktales about mythological female spirits, told by a Native author.
Strength of the Earth: The Classic Guide to Ojibwe Uses of Native Plants:
    Book of Anishinabe traditions regarding woodland and prairie plants.
Ininatig's Gift of Sugar:
    A wonderful book for kids illustrating Anishinabe traditions of maple sugarmaking in the past and present.
*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.
Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend:
    Children's book depicting an Anishinabe story about a persevering duck.
Algonquian Spirit:
    Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Anishinabe and other Algonquian tribes.

Additional Resources

 Anishinaabe Mino-Bimaadiziwin: The Way of a Good Life
 Anishinaabe traditional beliefs
 Anishinabe culture
 Books of Native American legends
 Native American religions
 Anishinabe words
 Canadian Indian tribes
 Woodlands Indians



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