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Native Languages of the Americas:
Cree Legends, Myths, and Stories

This is our collection of links to Cree folktales and traditional stories that can be read online. We have indexed our Native American mythology 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. In particular, though these legends come from the Cree tribe, the traditional stories of related tribes like the Innu and Ojibwe are very similar.

Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Cree legend for this page or think one of the ones on here should be removed, please let us know.

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As in many Native American tribes, sacred Cree stories and myths are traditionally told only during the winter. Myths about the culture hero Wisakejak, even the most humorous ones, were among the stories restricted to wintertime. In some Cree communities, legends about animals were also forbidden during the summer. Folktales and other stories, such as legends about human heroes, monsters, and historical events, have always been told at any time of year. Some Cree families continue to follow this old tradition today, while others do not.

Important Cree Mythological Figures

Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Cree mythology.

Wesakechak (also spelled Wisakedjak, Whiskey-Jack, and several other ways.) Wesakechak is the benevolent culture hero of the Cree tribe (sometimes referred to as a "transformer" by folklorists.) His name is spelled so many different ways partially because Cree was originally an unwritten language (so English speakers just spelled it however it sounded to them at the time), and partially because the Cree language is spoken across a huge geographical range in both Canada and the US, and the name sounds different in different dialects. The correct pronounciation in Plains Cree is similar to wee-sah-keh-chahk.

Wesakechak is a trickster character whose adventures are often humorous, but unlike Plains Indian tricksters he is portrayed as a staunch friend of humankind, not a dangerous or destructive being. Wesakechak shares many similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Wabanaki Glooskap, Blackfoot Old Man, and Anishinabe Manabozho, and the same stories are often told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing.

Kisemanito (also spelled Kihci Manito and other ways.) This means "Great Spirit" in the Cree language, and is the Cree name for the Creator (God.) Kisemanito is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender) and is never personified in Cree folklore. The name is pronounced similar to kih-say muh-nih-toh or kih-chih muh-nih-tuh, depending on dialect.

Witiko (also spelled Wihtikiw, Wihtikow, and other ways.) An evil man-eating spirit like the Windigo of the Anishinabe tribes. Witikos play the roles of monsters and bogeymen in some legends; in others, Cree people who commit sins (especially selfishness, gluttony, or cannibalism) are turned into a Witiko as punishment. It is pronounced wih-tih-koh or wih-tih-kew in the Cree language, depending on dialect.

Memekwesiw (also known as Mimikwisiw, Mannegishi, and other names.) These are small river-dwelling water spirits (or "little people.") They are mischievous and often play tricks but are not usually dangerous, although they sometimes capsize canoes if they are not treated with proper respect. They are the size of young children and are often said to lack noses. Their name is pronounced differently in different Cree dialects; "memekwesiw" is pronounced similar to may-may-gway-sue.

Apiscinis (also spelled Apisciyenis, Apische'nes, and so on.) This literally means "little person" in Cree. In some Cree communities, this name is used instead of Memekwesiw (or as a synonym of Memekwesiw), referring to the same noseless riverbank spirits. In other Cree communities, Apiscinis is a different type of little person, a strong, hairy dwarf who lives in remote wilderness areas and may steal people's belongings or even their children (conversely, if they are in a good mood, these dwarves may help people by warning them of danger or leading lost hunters back to their camp.)

Ayas (also spelled Âyâs, Ayasi, 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, Ayas is also said to be responsible for the World Fire in which the earth was destroyed and reborn.

Chahkabesh (also spelled Cahkâpêsh, Cahkapes, and other ways): A Cree folk hero, sometimes referred to as the Man in the Moon. He is usually depicted as a dwarf. In some Cree stories Chahkabesh acts in a rash or foolish way, but he is always brave and good-hearted and never stays in trouble for long. His name is pronounced similar to chuh-kah-baish.

Grandmother Fox: 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. Grandmother Fox plays an important role in the epic of Ayas, where she adopts the hero as her grandson and gives him advice and items of power to use in his quest.

Misikinebik (also spelled Msi-kinepikwa, Misi-Kinopik, and other ways): 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.

Great Lynx (Mishipizhiw): 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.

Piyesiw (also spelled Pinesiw, Pithisiw, 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 most Cree people. The name is pronounced differently in different Cree dialects; in Plains Cree, it is pronounced similar to pih-yay-syoo. In some communities they are also referred to as Onimiski, which is the literal word for "thunder."

Stiff-Jointed Bear (Kacitowaskw): A giant hairless bear monster. Some people associate this creature with ancient mammoths.

Cree Indian Folklore

    Article on the Cree culture hero.
*The Beginning of the Cree World:
    Cree creation myth.
*World Parent Myths:
    Comparison of Huron, Inuit, and Cree creation myths.
*Cree Flood Myth * Knisteneaux Flood:
    Cree legends about the flooding of the earth.
    Two Cree legends about the trickster Wisakecahk.
*Omushkego Stories:
    Audio files of Swampy Cree legends, in English and in Cree.
*The Seagull and the Whiskey Jacks:
    Chapleau Cree story about the difference between seagulls and gray jays.
*Why the Weasel Is Nervous:
    Cree legend of a trick Weasel played on Wesukechak.
    Epic legend about ten Cree brothers and their Thunder wives.
*How The People Hunted The Moose:
    Cree legend about showing proper respect for the moose.
*The Cannibal Rabbit:
    Cree legend about an evil man-eating rabbit.
*Frog and Rabbit:
    When Rabbit and Frog were married.
*How the Indians Obtained Dogs:
    Cree story of how dogs came to the people.
*Grandmother's Creation Story:
    Cree legend about the animals interceding on behalf of humans.
    (This legend is mistakenly identified as "Creek" on the site.)
*The Ghost Stallion:
    Cree legend about a man who was punished for his cruelty to animals.
*Weesakaychak and the Ducks:
    Cree legends about Wisakecahk playing tricks and being tricked in return.
*Why The Mouse Is So Silky:
    Swampy Cree legend about Wesukechak's reward to a mouse.
Elder Speak:
    Collection of oral history narrated by Dene and Cree elders.
*Flying Wonder:
    Cree legend about a witch rejected by his human inlaws.
*The Revenge of the Mountain Goats:
    Cree legend about a friendship between a hunter and a mountain goat spirit.
*The Blind Hunter:
    Cree legend about a blind hunter whose sight was restored by loons.
*The Legend of Ayas:
    Audio file of a James Bay Cree storyteller narrating the story of the Cree hero Ayas.
*The Jealous Father:
    Another version of the Cree story of Ayas.
*The Magic Gifts:
    Cree legend about a hunter who won powerful gifts from a mysterious stranger.
*The Foundling Who Was Befriended By Wolves:
    Legend about a Cree man rescued by wolves after a murder attempt.
*Mythology of the Crees:
    Early 20th-century collection of Cree and Athabaskan legends.

Recommended Books on Cree Mythology
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Cree Legends And Narratives from the West Coast of James Bay:
    Large bilingual collection of Cree legends and oral history.
Sacred Legends of the Sandy Lake Cree:
    Book of Oji-Cree myths.
Mwakwa Talks to the Loon:
    Picture book illustrating a Cree legend about Loon teaching the people to hunt and fish responsibly.
The Little Duck Sikihpsis:
    Picture book illustrating a Cree folktale about a duck learning to accept himself.
Algonquian Spirit:
    Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Cree and other Algonquian tribes.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
    Compilation of more than a hundred stories about Wesakaychak and other Native American tricksters.
    (Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.)

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Additional Resources

 Traditional Cree philosophy
 American Indian books of folklore
 Native religions
 Cree Indians
 Cree words
 Canadian Native Americans
 Subarctic Indians
 Algonquian language
 History of the Native Americans

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