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Native American Fisher Mythology

The fisher is a kind of wild animal that lives in the eastern woodlands area of North America. In English translations of Native American legends, Indian fishers are often referred to as "black cats" or "black foxes." (The famous chief Black Fox, for example, was actually named "Inoli" or "Inali," which means "fisher" in Cherokee.) In reality, fishers are neither cats nor foxes, but a kind of weasel, like this. In Canada, the fisher is sometimes known as "pekan," "pequam," or "wejack," which are French and English corruptions of American Indian fisher names (the Abenaki word pekane, Mi'kmaq word pqwamk, and Cree word ocek, respectively.)

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Like their cousins the martens, fishers are usually portrayed as brave heroes in Woodland Indian folklore (whereas weasels and wolverines tend to play more negative roles.) In California Indian tribes, fishers are considered lucky animals like other members of the weasel family.

Fishers are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Fisher Clans include the Chippewa (whose Fisher Clan and its totem are called Maanadwe) and the Menominee tribe.

Native American Fisher Gods and Spirits

Gitchi Ojig (Great Fisher)
Pogumk (Black-Cat)

Native American Legends About Fishers

Pogumk and Pook-Jin-Skwess:
    Wabanaki Indian story of a hero and an evil witch, contesting for leadership of the Black Cats (Fishers.)
*Fisher Tale:
    Algonquin legend telling how Fisher brought summer to the people.
*How Fisher Went to the Skyland:
    Ojibwe Fisher story about the origin of the Big Dipper.

Recommended Books of Fisher Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Nanabosho and Kitchie Odjig:
    A nice retelling of a Chippewa Indian legend about a trickster learning respect for the Great Fisher.
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 wolverines and fishers.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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