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Native American Chickadee Mythology

The chickadee may be one of several animals with names borrowed from Native American languages. The Cherokee Indian name for this bird, "tsigili'i" (also spelled tsikili, jigilii, jigalili, or many other ways) was recorded in Cherokee texts well before the English word "chickadee" was (the chickadee did not have its own English name before the 1800's, being referred to by the more general name "titmouse.") Nobody knows for sure whether the English word "chickadee" was borrowed from "tsigili'i," or whether the two names were completely independent attempts to mimic the bird's call.

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Chickadees are viewed very positively in many Native American cultures. In Cherokee mythology Chickadee is associated with truth and knowledge, and the arrival of a chickadee is thought to warn of danger or foretell the future. In many Plains Indian tribes, chickadees are symbols of success, and it is considered good luck to see or hear one, particularly in a dream or vision.

Native American Legends About Chickadees

*The Bird Tribes:
    Cherokee legend about the creation and symbolism of the chickadee and other birds.
The Thunder Nation and the Eagle:
    Cherokee legend about the powers given by Eagle to Chickadee and other birds.
*Spear Finger:
    Cherokee legend about Chickadee helping the people to defeat an evil witch.
The Bird Medicine:
    Seneca legend about a chickadee that brought a generous warrior back to life.

Recommended Books of Chickadee Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Birds of Algonquin Legend:
    Interesting collection of legends about chickadees 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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