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Native American Woodchuck Mythology

The woodchuck is one of several North American animals whose name has Native American origins. Unfortunately, those exact origins are unknown. Early colonists in New England reported that "wuchak" was the name for the animal in a local Algonquian language, but this word was never recorded in a dictionary and the Algonquian languages of that region are no longer natively spoken, so the original form of the word has been lost to time. It may have actually been the word for a fisher (a member of the weasel family) instead, since the word for fisher sounds similar to wuchak in living Algonquian languages (such as the Cree word ocek, pronounced similar to oo-check.) Or it might have been an English corruption of a longer word like the Narragansett word ockqutchaun, which did refer to a woodchuck. In any case, English-speaking Americans later adapted the name "wuchak" into the modern form "woodchuck," which was easier for them to remember.

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Woodchucks are not prominent animals in Native American mythology, and we do not know of any tribe with a woodchuck clan or totem. However, the Wabanaki tribes of New England and the Canadian Maritimes have a mythological woodchuck 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 Woodchuck Dance among their tribal dance traditions.

Native American Woodchuck Gods and Spirits

Grandmother Woodchuck (Abenaki)

Native American Legends About Woodchucks

*Grandmother Woodchuck:
    Article about the meaning of Agaskw the Woodchuck in Wabanaki mythology.
Gluscabi and the Wind Eagle * How Glooskap Stole Tobacco:
    Stories about the Wabanaki culture hero Glooskap and his wise grandmother Woodchuck.

Recommended Books of Woodchuck Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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