Native Languages of the Americas: Illini Legends, Myths, and Stories
This is our collection of links to Illini folktales and traditional stories that can be read online.
We have indexed our Native American folklore 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 Illini tribe, the traditional stories of
related tribes like the
Miami and Menominee are very similar.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Illini legend for this page or think one of the ones on here
should be removed, please let us know.
Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Illini mythology.
Wisakatchekwa is the benevolent culture hero of Miami and Illinois myths (sometimes referred to as a "transformer" by folklorists.)
His name is pronounced similar to wih-sah-kah-chuck-wah. Wisakatchekwa is the same character as the Cree
Wesakechak and shares some
similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Wabanaki
Gluskap, and Anishinabe
Nanaboozhoo; many of the same stories
are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing.
(also spelled Kiche Manit8a and several other ways.)
This means "Great Spirit" in the Miami-Illinois language, and is the Illini name for the Creator (God.) Kiche Manetowa
is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender) and is never personified in Illini legends. The name is pronounced
similar to kih-chih mah-neh-taw-ah.
Thunder Beings (Ciinkwia):
Powerful storm spirits that live in the sky and cause thunder and lightning. Although they are associated with birds, particularly in
artwork, Thunder Beings are described as having human form in most Illinois legends.
A fearsome horned serpent that lurks in lakes and rivers and eats people. The only thing they fear is thunder, for the Thunder Beings are
their sworn enemies and have the ability to strike them dead with thunderbolts.
Magical little people of the forest, similar to European gnomes or fairies.
In most Illinois stories, the Little People are portrayed as mischievous but generally benign nature spirits, who may play
tricks on people but are not dangerous.
True Tiger (Lenapizha, also known as Real Lynx):
A powerful underwater monster resembling a giant lynx with antlers and armored scales, which lurks in deep water and causes
people to drown.
This is not actually a real Illinois monster, but a fictional character invented by a white writer of adventure stories in the 1800's.
The monster was, however, loosely based in a mishmash of real Native American mythology: an Illinois cliff painting of the True Tiger,
a corruption of the Illinois name Payiihsa, and the well-known legends from other tribes about Thunderbirds and other giant birds.