Native Languages of the Americas: Wenabozho Stories and other Chippewa Legends
This is our collection of links to Chippewa 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 Algonquin, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Chippewa Indians), since the traditional stories of those
tribes are very similar.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Chippewa 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 Chippewa mythology.
(also spelled Waynaboozhoo, Nanabozho, Nanabushu, Nanabush, Manabozho, Minabozho, and several other ways.) Wenabozho 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. The correct pronounciation here in Minnesota is similar to way-nuh-boo-zhoo, but in other places in the
Anishinabe world it is pronounced nay-nuh-boo-zhoo, nain-boo-zhoo, nain-bozh, nay-nuh-boash, or mah-nah-boo-zhoo. Wenabozho shares
some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Wabanaki
Napi, and Cree
Wesakechak, and many of the same stories
are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing.
(also spelled Michabou, Mishabooz, and other ways): This is actually just another name referring to Wenabozho-- it is a French corruption of the
Ojibwe word Mishaabooz, which means "Great Hare." Wenabozho is associated with rabbits in Algonquin and Ojibwe mythology, which is why
he is sometimes called by this title.
The Ojibwe name is pronounced mih-shah-bose or mih-shah-boos; the French name is pronounced mih-shah-bo or mih-shah-boo;
and the English name is usually pronounced mih-chah-bo.
Gichi Manidoo (also spelled
Gitchi Manitou and other ways):
This means "Great Spirit" in the Ojibwe language, and is the Ojibwe name for the Creator (God.) Gichi-Manidoo
is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender) and is never personified in Ojibwe legends. The name is pronounced
similar to gih-chee muh-nih-doh or gih-chee muh-nih-doo, depending on dialect.
Nokomis (also spelled Nookomis):
Waynaboozhoo's wise old grandmother, who raised him. Her name just means "grandmother" in the Ojibwe language, and is
pronounced noh-koh-miss or noo-koh-miss, depending on dialect.
According to some Ojibwe legends Jiibayaabooz was 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.
Windigo (also spelled Wiindigoo):
An evil man-eating spirit. Windigos play the roles of monsters and bogeymen in some legends; in others, Chippewa people
who commit sins (especially selfishness, gluttony, or cannibalism) are turned into Windigos as punishment. It is pronounced ween-dih-goh or
ween-dih-goo in the Ojibway language, depending on dialect.
Aayaash (also spelled Iyash, Ayashe, and other ways):
An epic hero who defeats many monsters and changes the form of humans and animals to make life better. In many tellings, Aayaash
is also said to be responsible for the World Fire in which the earth was destroyed and reborn.
Waagoshii-Mindimooye (Fox Old Woman):
A minor animal spirit, a wise elder who appears sometimes in the form of a fox, other times in the form of an old lady.
Waagoshii-Mindimooye plays an important role in the epic of Aayaash, where she adopts the hero as her grandson and
gives him advice and items of power to use in his quest.
Gichi-Ojiig (Great Fisher):
An animal-spirit hero who slew monsters, set the seasons in motion, and is represented as the "Big Dipper" constellation of stars.
Mandaamin (also spelled Mondawmin, Mondamin, and other ways.)
The spirit of the corn. Unlike in most Algonquian tribes, Ojibway myths portray the corn spirit as male. His name is pronounced mun-dah-min and literally means
Bagwajiwinini (or Puk-Wudjies):
Mythological little people of the forests. Their name means "wild man" and is pronounced similar to
bug-wuh-jih-wih-nih-nee or buh-gwuh-jih-nih-nee, depending on dialect. (In some communities these creatures are called
Apa'iins or Pai'iins instead, which literally means "little person.") In most Ojibwe stories,
Pukwudjininees are portrayed as mischievious but generally good-natured beings.
Memegwesi (also spelled Memengwesi):
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.
Another race of water-spirits. These are shaped like mermaids, with human torsos and fish tails.
Underwater Panther (Ojibwe name Mishibizhiw):
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.
(also known as Mishi-Ginebig or Kichikinebik):
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.
Animikii or Binesi
(also spelled Animiki, Nimkii, Bnesi, Bineshi, and other ways):
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 Ojibwe people. Animikii, which means "thunderer,"
is pronounced uh-nih-mih-kee, and Binesi, which means "great bird," is pronounced
Biboon (also known as
Beboonikae or Winter-Maker): The spirit of the North Wind, who brings winter to the land.
His name is pronounced bih-boon or bih-bone, depending on dialect.
A folk hero of Cree and Northern Ojibwa mythology, sometimes referred to as the Man in the Moon. He is usually depicted as a dwarf.
In some Ojibway stories Chakabesh acts in a rash or foolish way, especially tending to ignore the good advice of his older sister,
but he is brave and good-hearted and never stays in trouble for long. His name is pronounced similar to chuh-kah-baish.
(also known as Mishi-zhigaag): A giant man-eating skunk monster that killed people with his poisonous spray.
After his defeat this monster became the origin of ordinary skunks.