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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 Shawnee 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.

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Important Miami Mythological Figures

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

Wisakatchakwa: 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 Whiskeyjack 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.

Kichi Manetowa (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.

Manetowa: 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.

Paisake: 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.

Piasa: 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.

Illini Indian Folklore

*Miami-Illinois Indian Legends:
    Online collection of several Miami and Illinois legends.
*The Snake Husband:
    Illini legend about a woman who married a snake.
*The Painted Turtle:
    Illinois Indian story about a woman who became a turtle.
*Rabbit and Possum:
    Miami-Illini story about how Rabbit got his harelip.
*How Wisakatchekwa Got Into Some Trouble:
    Illini stories about the demigod Wiskatchekwa.

Recommended Books on Illini Mythology
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

Algonquian Spirit:
    Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Miami-Illinois and other Algonquian tribes.

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Additional Resources

 Illini religion
 Native American myth books
 Native American religious beliefs
 Illinois Indians
 Illini words
 Eastern Woodlands Indians
 Illini nation
 American Indian culture for kids

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