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Native American Porpoise Mythology

Porpoises and dolphins are often confused with each other in English translations of Native American mythology. The "Dolphin Clan" and "dolphin crest" of the Tlingit and other coastal Alaskan tribes are actually Dall's porpoises, for example. (Some dolphins, like the striped dolphin, do live as far north as Alaska, but the Tlingit have a different name for them.) Like whales, porpoises were hunted for food by skilled canoe hunters in many Northwest Coast tribes, and were often considered Dolphins and porpoises are closely related to each other, and in some tribes of the California coast, the same word is used to refer to both kinds of animals.

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In any case, Native American tribes living near the oceans, like coastal cultures all over the world, have many stories about porpoises and dolphins helping people by carrying them to shore in rough waters or driving away menacing sharks. Porpoise are also occasionally used as a clan crest or totem in Northwestern tribes, such as the Tlingit Porpoise Clan, called Chookaneidi or Chukanedi in Tlingit. Porpoise can sometimes be found carved on totem poles in these cultures.

Native American Porpoise Gods and Spirits

Porpoise-Woman (Haida)

Native American Legends About Porpoises

The Porpoise Crest of the Tcucanedi:
    Origin and meaning of the Chukanedi clan's porpoise crest.
Hariwali And The Wonderful Tree:
    Arawak story including the origin of the first porpoise.

Recommended Books of Porpoise Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

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



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