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Native American Legends: Kitanitowit (Cautantowwit)

Name: Kitanitowit
Tribal affiliation: Lenape, Wampanoag, Narragansett
Alternate spellings: Ketanëtuwit, Kittanitowet, Ketanitowet, Kitanetuwit, Ketanetuwit, Kihtanutoowet, Ketanutowet, Kautantowit, Kautantowwit, Cautantowwit, Cautantouwit, Kehtannit, Kiehtan, Keihtan, Kiehton, Kehtean, Keihtanit, Kehtanit, Kiehtan
Pronunciation: keh-tah-nuh-tuh-wit
Also known as: Kishelëmukonkw, Kishelamàkänk, Kishelemukonk, Kishelemukong, Kishelamakank, Kishelamàkânk, Kitselemukong, Gicelemu'kaong, Gicelemuhkaong, Kiisheelumukweengw, Kishelumukank, Kishlamekong, Kijilamuh Ka'ong, Kickerom, Kickeron, the Creator, the Great Spirit, Master of Life, Good Spirit, Kanshë-Pàhtàmàwas, Kaanzhu Pahtamawaas, Kaunzhe Pah-tum-owans, Kanshe Pahtumawas, Pa'tumawas, Welsit Manëtu, Manto, Manetu, Manitoo-oo
Type: High god, Creator
Related figures in other tribes: Niwaskw (Abenaki), Gitchy Manitou (Ojibway), Gisoolg (Micmac)

Kitanitowit is the great creator god of the Lenape and neighboring Algonquian tribes. The Lenape name Ketanëtuwit (Cautantowwit in Narragansett) literally means "Great Spirit." Sometimes Kitanitowit is also referred to as Kishelëmukonkw (or any of its many spelling variations), which means "the one who created us" or "Creator," or Kanshë-Pàhtàmàwas, which means "Great God." Another name for the Creator that can sometimes be found in older texts, "Kickeron," is probably a corruption of a Munsee Delaware word for "our lord."

Unlike most other Algonquian folklore, Lenape stories sometimes personified the Great Spirit as a human interacting with the Lenapes. Other Lenape myths treated Kitanitowit as a divine spirit with no human form or attributes. "Kitanitowit" and "Kiehtan" were used as translations for "God" in early translations of the Bible into the Lenape and Wampanoag languages, and indeed many Algonquian people today consider the Creator and the Christian God to be one and the same.

Kitanitowit Stories

*The Lenapé Creation Story:
    Myths about the creation of the world by Kishelamàkânk (Kiehtan.)
*Lenape Creation Web:
    Another version of the Lenape myth about the Creator, Kittanitowet. (In this rendition, Kittanitowet and
    Kishelemukong are two separate entities, though our Lenape speakers insist they are one and the same.)
*The Meesink Story:
    Lenape legend about Meesink arguing with Kishelemukonk about the creation of humans.
*Cautantowwit * Nipmuc Creation Story:
    Nipmuc legends about the Creator God Cautantowwit and the beginnings of the earth.
*Rainbow Crow, a Lenape Legend * Mànàka'has:
    Lenape legends about Kishelamakank's gift of fire.
*When Squirrels Were Huge * The Giant Squirrel:
    Myths about the Lenape Creator protecting humans from a giant squirrel.
*How the Butterfly Came To Be:
    Lenape legend about the Creator's gift of butterflies.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

Legends of the Delaware Indians and Picture Writing:
    Collection of Delaware Indian folktales by a Lenape tribal historian.
Mythology of the Lenape:
    An overview of the Lenape worldview and belief system.
Algonquian Spirit:
    Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Lenape and other Algonquian tribes.

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Additional Resources

 Lenape legends
 Delaware language
 Lenape culture
 Wampanoag tribe
 Languages of New Jersey
 Northeast Woodland Native Americans
 Algic names

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