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Native American Dolphin Mythology

Porpoises and dolphins are often confused with each other in English translations of Native American mythology. The "dolphin clan" and "dolphin totem" of the Tlingit and other coastal Alaskan tribes are actually Dall's porpoises, for example. (Some true dolphins, like the striped dolphin, do live as far north as Alaska, but the Tlingit have a different name for them.) Dolphins and porpoises are closely related to each other, and in some tribes (particularly tribes of the California coast) the same word is used to refer to both kinds of animals.

In any case, Native American tribes living near the oceans, like coastal cultures all over the world, have many stories about dolphins and porpoises helping people by carrying them to shore in rough waters or driving away menacing sharks. In some California Indian legends, dolphins are said to have been transformed from humans, and serve as special protectors of the tribe. (Some tribes forbid the eating of dolphin meat for this reason; others, like the Chumash, believe that dolphins intentionally sacrifice themselves to hunters in order to feed the people, and hold special Dolphin Dances in their honor.) And in South America, Amazon River dolphins (also known as "pink dolphins" or "boto dolphins") are regarded with fear and awe by some indigenous tribes, who believe the dolphins to be powerful shapeshifting sorcerers that may seduce women or drive men insane.

Native American Dolphin Gods and Spirits

Ina (Bakairi)

Native American Legends About Dolphins

Limuw: A Story of Place:
    Chumash Indian legend explaining the origin of dolphins.

Recommended Books of Dolphin Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

The Rainbow Bridge:
    Children's book illustrating the Chumash creation and migration legends, including the origin of dolphins.
The Legend of Katama: The Creation Story of Dolphins:
    Picture book for kids based on a Wampanoag dolphin story about a pair of star-crossed lovers.
Dance of the Dolphin: Transformation and Disenchantment in the Amazonian Imagination:
    Collection of indigenous Brazilian folklore about the enchanted dolphins of the Amazon River.
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 dolphin spirits.
Lore of the Dolphin:
    Interesting collection of dolphin tales and mythology from all over the world.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.



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