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Native American Sucker ("Carp") Mythology

True carp are not native to the Americas-- carp are fish of Asia and Europe, and in fact are currently posing problems as invasive species in the US and Canada. So how did they get into Native American mythology? The answer is a simple one: early colonists referred to unfamiliar fish they encountered in the New World as "carp," even though they are actually entirely different species. Today, these fish are referred to by the common name "sucker fish" or "carpsucker" instead, which relieves the confusion. But they are called "carp" in older texts, and this usage persists in the English name of the Anishinabe Carp Clans. In Ojibwe, the name of this fish is namebin, and in Potawatomi, it is nmébena.

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Carp, or suckerfish, do not play a very important role in Native American legends, featuring most often as a food item. Sometimes giant carp appear as lake monsters who swallow people. Carp are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Carp Clans include the Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe (whose Carp Clan and its totem are called Namebinaa Doodem.)

Native American Legends About Carps (or Carpsuckers)

*Blood Clot Boy:
    The adventures of a Blackfoot hero, including rescuing people from a giant sucker-fish monster.

Recommended Books of Carp Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

Back to Animal tales
Back to American Indian myths and symbols
Back to Indian gods

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