Legendary Native American Figures: Kokumthena (Our Grandmother)
Name: Kokumthena Tribal affiliation:Shawnee Alternate spellings: Kohkumthena, Kokomthena Paboth'kwe, Kokomthena, Kohkomthena, Kuhkoomtheyna, Kohkomhthena, Kohkumthena Pronunciation: koh-kumm-theh-nah Also known as: Our Grandmother, Grandmother Spirit, Cloud Woman, Paboth'kwe, Papoothkwe, Papoothkwee, Pabothkew, Inumsi Ilafewanu, Shikalapikshi, Lithikapo'shi Type:Transformer, goddess, heroine, culture hero, grandmother Related figures in other tribes:Sky Woman (Iroquois), Nokomis (Anishinabe), Old Lady (Blackfoot), Grandmother Woodchuck (Abenaki), Nukumi (Mi'kmaq)
Most Algonquian cultures have a Transformer hero in their mythology-- a revered human-like supernatural being
who created people, shaped the world into a better place for them, and taught them the arts of civilization.
Kokumthena is somewhat unique in that she is female (the Blackfoot tribe have a married couple, Old-Man and
Old-Lady, in this role; all the other Algonquian tribes we know of have male Transformer figures.) In Shawnee
legends, Kokumthena is depicted as an old woman (her name means "our grandmother") and does not take part
in any of the monster-slaying or humorous exploits other Algonquian Transformer heroes engage in. Kokumthena
may originally have been important primarily as a grandmother goddess, similar to the wise grandmothers of
other Algonquian mythology like the Anishinabe and the Wabanaki. Her role as Transformer
is not mentioned in earlier collections of Shawnee legends and oral history, though that could have been an
omission by the non-Shawnees doing the recordings.
Paboth'kwe (or Papoothkwe) is another Shawnee name for this matriarchal figure, meaning "cloud woman."
Perhaps this may be an indication that she is related to Sky Woman of the Iroquois tribes. In some books
Kokomthena's name is given as "Inumsi Ilafewanu," "Shikalapikshi," or "Lithikapo'shi," but our Shawnee volunteers
do not recognize any of these names and we're not sure where they could have come from (the first one,
in particular, is definitely not from the Shawnee language and looks like it might be African.)