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Native American Cougar Mythology

Cougars play a variety of different roles in Native American mythology. In some Western tribes, seeing a cougar or hearing its screams is an evil omen, and cougars are often associated with witchcraft. On the other hand, among eastern tribes such as the Seminoles and Shawnees, cougars were considered noble animals with powerful hunting medicine, and the Panther is one of their major clan animals. In the legends of these tribes, Panther sometimes features as a leader or warrior of the animal people. And among the Pueblo tribes, Cougar is believed to have powerful hunting medicine and considered one of the six true directional guardians, associated with the north and the color yellow. Several Pueblos had Cougar Societies, and Zuni hunters carried stone cougar fetishes for protection, ascribing to them both healing and hunting powers. In South America, cougars were associated with wealth and the earth by the Quechua (Incan) people, and many Quechua still consider it lucky to catch sight of a cougar today.

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The cougar is also one of several North American animals whose name has Native American origins, though they are rather obscure-- the word "cougar" is actually a French corruption of a Portuguese corruption of a real Brazilian Indian name for the cat (cuacuara, guazuara, cuguacuara, or susuarana, in different Tupi-Guarani languages.) "Puma," another common English name for the same animal, comes from the Quechua language by way of Spanish.

Tribes with Cougar Clans include the Creek (whose Cougar or Tiger Clan is named Katsalgi or Kaccvlke), the Chippewa (whose Cougar Clan and its totem are called Misibizhiw,) the Chickasaw, the Caddo, the Osage, the Shawnee, and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.

Native American Cougar Gods and Spirits

Toho Kachina (Hopi)
*Underground Panthers
Viracocha (Inca)

Native American Legends About Cougars

*The Wolf, the Fox, the Bobcat and the Cougar:
    Legend about a cougar spirit that helped the Shoshone-Bannocks defeat the warlike Little People.
*The Adventures of Coyote:
    Caddo legends about the trickster Coyote and his more powerful friend Mountain-Lion.
*How Rabbit Stole Mountain-Lion's Teeth:
    Caddo legend about Rabbit tricking Mountain-Lion.
*The Boy Who Married A Mountain Lion:
    Caddo legend about a man with cougar medicine.

Recommended Books of Cougar Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Lion Singer:
    Charming picture book by a California Indian author about a boy who saves his sister's life from a mountain lion.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
    Book by a Karuk elder about the meanings of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on cougars.
Listening to Cougar:
    An interesting book about human interactions with cougars throughout history, including a chapter on Navajo cougar myths.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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