Fish play several different roles in the mythology of Native American tribes. Most important is probably their
role as a staple food animal for many fishing tribes, who consequently revere fish just as Plains tribes revere
buffalo. Salmon, in particular, are a major medicine animal for most of the Northwestern tribes, and there are
many rites and ceremonies that revolve around honoring the salmon. Other types of fish, like sturgeon and
halibut, are similarly honored by Native fishermen in other parts of North America. Giant fish also appear as
monsters in the folklore of many tribes, and shapeshifting fish spirits who marry humans and teach them
water magic are also common. The Ojibwe generally associate fish with long life and wisdom.
Fish are commonly used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Fish Clans include
the Ojibwe (whose Fish Clan is called Giigoonh), the Creek (whose Fish Clan is named Hlahloalgi,) the
Chickasaw, and the Ho-Chunk. There are clans in many other tribes named after specific types of fish,
and fish crests such as salmon, dogfish, and halibut are often carved on totem poles.
Many eastern tribes, such as the Lenape, Caddo, and Iroquois, also have a Fish Dance among their
tribal dance traditions, and the Hopi have a Fish kachina.
Native American Fish Mythology In Various Tribes (Including Shellfish)
Recommended Books of Fish Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
First Fish, First People:
A fascinating comparison of indigenous fish myth and literature from North America and Asia.
A Northwest Coast legend about the Salmon People presented by the Sechelt Nation of Canada.
The Girl Who Swam With The Fish:
A modern retelling of an Alaskan Athabaskan legend about a girl who turns into a fish.
Native American Animal Stories:
Good collection of American Indian tales about fishes and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.