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Native American Whale Mythology

Whales play an important role in Inuit and Northwest Coast Native American folklore. Like salmon and buffalo, whales are believed to offer themselves up as food to help the people survive, and therefore hold a special position of honor and respect. Even sighting a whale is considered lucky in many Northwest Coast tribes, and men who were successful whalers were among the highest-esteemed members of traditional Northwest Coast societies. Whales are also associated with wisdom and spiritual awareness in some Salishan tribes.

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Whales are also used as a clan animal in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Whale Clans include the Tlingit tribe. Whale is used as a clan crest in some Northwest Coast tribes, and can sometimes be found carved on totem poles.

Native American Whale Gods and Spirits

Aumanil (Inuit)
Bootup (Wabanaki)
Moshup (Wampanoag)
Seu'ku (Alsea)

Native American Legends About Whales

*A Wizard Carries Off Glooscap's Housekeeper:
    In this Mi'kmaq tale, the culture hero Glooscap is responsible for tricking whales into beaching themselves.
*Turtle Gets A Whale:
    Maliseet legend in which bumbling Uncle Turtle tries to learn how to hunt for whales, with many mishaps.
*A Killer Whale Story:
    Tlingit legend about the origin of killer whales.
*How Shewish Became a Great Whale Hunter:
    Nuu-chah-nulth legend about American Indian whale hunting.
*How Raven Killed Whale:
    Athabaskan legend about a gullible whale being deceived by a trickster Raven.

Recommended Books of Whale Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Whale in the Sky:
    Picture book for kids based on a Northwest Coast Whale legend.
Whale Snow:
    Children's book depicting the importance of whales to traditional Inuit culture.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
    Book by a Karuk elder about the meaning of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on whales.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about whales and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.



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