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Native American Chipmunk Mythology

The chipmunk is one of several North American animals whose name has Native American origins. Unfortunately, those exact origins are unknown. Early colonists in New England reported that "chitmunk" was the name for the animal in a local Algonquian language, but this word was never recorded in a dictionary and the Algonquian languages of that region are no longer natively spoken, so the original form and meaning of the word has been lost to time. It is a good guess that the word probably actually meant "squirrel," since "chitmunk" sounds similar to words for "squirrel" in living Algonquian languages (such as the Odawa word jidmoonh, pronounced similar to chit-moon.)

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In any case, Chipmunk is not a common character in Native American folklore. When he does appear, Chipmunk's notable trait is usually failing to think before he speaks, often receiving the stripes on his back in an attack from a more powerful character (Bear, Nanabozho, Ictinike, etc.) who he had insulted or annoyed with his chatter.

Native American Legends About Chipmunks

Chipmunk and Bear:
    An Iroquois Indian legend about Chipmunk being punished for his impertinence.
*Chipmunk's Back Is Striped:
    Blackfoot legend about Napi turning Sickness into the first chipmunk.
*Chipmunk and Meadow-Lark:
    Sanpoil legend about two animal children menaced by an owl monster.

Recommended Books of Chipmunk Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

How Chipmunk Got His Stripes:
    Delightful picture book illustrating a Woodlands Indian legend about Chipmunk.
How Chipmunk Got Tiny Feet: Native American Animal Origin Stories:
    Collection of children's stories based on Native American legends about the origins of the chipmunk and other animals.
Native American Animal Stories:
    American Indian tales about chipmunks and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.



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