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Native American Groundhog Mythology

The groundhog is sometimes also known as the woodchuck, a name that derives from a Native American word for the animal which was originally recorded as wuchak.

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The most common question we get about groundhogs is whether "Groundhog Day" and the folk belief that the shadows of groundhogs can predict the weather comes from Native American lore. The answer to this is: No, it does not. It is true that there are many Native American legends about the behavior of animals predicting the weather, but in this case, the groundhog folktale is European in origin. It traces back to an old German belief about weather-predicting badgers, which the Pennsylvania Dutch brought with them to the United States in the 18th century and applied to the new animal.

Groundhogs are not prominent animals in Native American mythology, and we do not know of any tribe with a groundhog clan or totem. The Tlingit of Alaska do have a clan symbol called the Groundhog Crest, but the animal represented in this crest is actually a hoary marmot, not a groundhog. The Wabanaki tribes of New England and the Canadian Maritimes do have a mythological groundhog character, named Grandmother Woodchuck, who is the adoptive grandmother of their culture hero Glooskap. She is usually depicted as a wise elder whose patience and wisdom teaches lessons to the good-hearted but often impetuous Glooskap. The Cherokee also have a Groundhog Dance among their tribal dance traditions.

Native American Groundhog Gods and Spirits

Grandmother Woodchuck (Abenaki)

Native American Legends About Groundhogs

*Grandmother Woodchuck:
    Article about the meaning of groundhog myths in Wabanaki Indian mythology.
Gluscabi and the Wind Eagle * Abenaki Tobacco Story:
    Wabanaki Indian stories about the culture hero Glooskap and his wise grandmother Groundhog.

Recommended Books of Groundhog Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

Back to Animal symbolism in Native American mythology
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