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Native American Lynx Mythology
Lynx play a variety of different roles in Native American folklore. In Northwestern
tribes, the primary characteristic of Lynx is usually hunting prowess. Sometimes he also
models responsible and socially acceptable behavior, in contrast to the reckless and foolish
behavior of Raven or Coyote. In Northeastern tribes, Lynx more often appears in folktales
as a villain, notable for his greed and violence, who is frequently outwitted by humans or by
smaller animals such as Rabbit. Among the Anishinabe tribes, lynx are seen as
dangerous but also powerful, and many communities considered them one of the spirit animals
of the Midewiwin medicine society.
The dreaded Water Panther, a dragon-like aquatic
monster of Eastern Woodlands mythology, is associated with the lynx in some northern tribes
within this region (whose name for the creature has the literal meaning "Great Lynx.")
And among tribes living in parts of North America where lynx were known of but rarely or
never seen, these cats took on a mystical quality. The Blackfoot name for "lynx" means "powerful
bobcat," for example (lynx were only occasionally seen in the westmost parts of the Blackfoot
homelands, whereas bobcats were common throughout their lands.) The Mohave tribe,
who lived outside the natural range of the lynx but close enough to be aware of its existence,
accorded great spiritual significance to lynx and believed that dreaming of a lynx would bring
a man special hunting powers.
Lynx are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with
Lynx Clans include the Chippewa tribe (whose Lynx Clan and its totem are called Bizhiw.)
Native American Lynx Gods and Spirits
Great Lynx (Algonquian)
Real Lynx (Miami-Illinois)
Native American Legends About Lynx
Run, Rabbit, Run Rabbit and the Lynx:
Mi'kmaq and Passamquoddy stories about Lynx being outwitted by the trickster Rabbit.
Innu Lynx Myth:
Innu story about a resourceful woman who tricks a greedy lynx into killing himself.
The Cannibal Rabbit:
Cree legend about a group of lynx children who defeat a man-eating monster.
The Magic Gifts:
Legend about a Cree hunter who won powerful Lynx medicine from a mysterious stranger.
Legend of the Giant Skunk:
Cree story about how Wolverine and Great Lynx defeated a giant skunk monster.
Old Man and the Lynx A Lynx Story:
Blackfoot legends explaining how lynx got their strange shape.
Ojibwe storytellers describe the legendary water lynx.
Recommended Books of Lynx Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
Great Rabbit and the Long-Tailed Wildcat:
Children's book illustrating an Algonquin legend about how Wildcat lost his tail.
The Story of Lynx:
Anthropological text on the meaning and importance of Coyote and Lynx myths in Native American tribes.
Native American Animal Stories:
Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
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