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Native American Octopus Mythology

Octopi do not play a major role in most Native American mythology-- most coastal tribes consider the octopus to be just another type of shellfish. In some Northwest Coast tribes of British Columbia and Alaska, the octopus plays a more prominent role as a medicine animal, considered to have formidable powers over the weather or over sickness and health. (Octopus is often referred to as "Devilfish" in older English translations of Northwest Coast mythology, but that is an old-fashioned English term for the animal, not a literal translation of the Native American name.) Devil-fish are important totem crests of the Northwest Coast, and some tribes, such as the Tlingit and Haida, have Devilfish clans as subclans of the Raven moiety. Giant octopi appear in some Northwest Coast legends as monsters, too.

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The octopus also has significant meaning in the mythology of Native Hawaiian people. Native Hawaiians are Polynesian people, not American Indian, but their traditional religious beliefs are often of interest to people researching indigenous American mythology. Here is a link to an online book of Native Hawaiian and other Polynesian mythology, including the Hawaiian creation myth featuring the octopus as the sole survivor of an earlier world.

Native American Octopus Gods and Spirits

Xa'niyus (Kwakiutl)

Native American Legends About Octopi

The Devil-Fish's Daughter:
    Tale of a Haida man who became an octopus ("devilfish.")
Raven Annoys Octopus:
    Northwest Coast Octopus legend about Raven the trickster learning a lesson.

Recommended Books of Octopus Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

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



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