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Native American Bittern Mythology

The name "bittern" is not Native American in origin; it comes from Old French (bitterns are found in both Europe and the Americas.) However, the regional American name for the bittern, "sun-gazer," is a direct translation from the bittern's name in many Native American languages (such as the Pawnee name sakuhkiriku, "looks at the sun," or the Ojibwe name ganawaabimogiizisweshiinh, "bird that looks up at the sun.")

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Bitterns do not play a very important role in Native American mythology. Bitterns are associated with water and rain by many tribes, such as the Blackfoot, and the silhouette of a bittern with its neck stretched vertically is sometimes used as a symbol for water in Native American art. In some Athabaskan flood stories, Bittern helped to end the Great Flood by swallowing the flood waters and then spewing them out in the form of rivers.

Bitterns are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Bittern Clans include the Chippewa (whose Bittern Clan and its totem are called Mooshka'osi.)

Native American Legends About Bitterns

Recommended Books of Bittern Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Birds of Algonquin Legend:
    Interesting collection of legends about bitterns and other birds in Algonquian tribes.
Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend, and Superstition:
    A good book on the meaning of birds in world mythology, including North and South America.



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