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Native American Fish Mythology

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.

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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)

Carp legends
Catfish legends
Codfish legends
Crayfish legends
Devil-fish legends
Eel legends
Halibut legends
Pike legends
Salmon legends
Shark legends
Skate legends
Starfish legends
Sturgeon legends

Names of Native American Fish Gods and Spirits

Big Sturgeon (Menominee)
Pakiokwik Kachina (Hopi)
Salmon Boy (Northwest Coast)

Native American Legends About Fish

Glooscap and the Giant Beavers:
    Mi'kmaq story of the culture hero restoring fish to the Restigouche River.
*The Indian Fish Monster:
    The story of how the Menominee culture hero slew a man-eating giant fish.
*Tale of the Giant Pike:
    Anishinabe folklore about a child swallowed by a monster fish. The Cat-Fish Story:
    Menominee legend about how catfish got their strange appearance.
*Mink and the Fish Tale:
    Mink tricks two fish into fighting each other so he can eat them.

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.
Salmon Boy:
    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.



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