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Native Languages of the Americas:
Munsee Indian Legends, Myths, and Stories

This is our collection of links to Munsee folktales and traditional stories that can be read online. We have indexed our Native American legends section by tribe to make them easier to locate; however, variants on the same legend are often told by American Indians from different tribes, especially if those tribes are kinfolk or neighbors to each other. In particular, though these legends come from the Munsee Delawares, the traditional stories of related tribes like the Lenape and Nanticoke are very similar.

Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Munsee legend for this page or think one of the ones on here should be removed, please let us know.

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Important Munsee Delaware Mythological Figures

Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Munsee mythology.

Kihtanutoowet (also spelled Kitanituwit and other ways.) This means "Great Spirit" in the Delaware language, and is the Delaware name for God, who is sometimes also referred to as Kiisheelumukweengw ("the Creator") or Kaanzhu Pahtamawaas ( "the great god.") Unlike most other Algonquian folklore, Munsee stories sometimes personified the Great Spirit as a human interacting with the Lenapes; other Munsee myths treated Kihtanutoowet as a divine spirit with no human form or attributes. Kihtanutoowet is pronounced similar to kih-tah-nuh-too-wit, and Kiisheelumukweengw similar to kee-shay-luh-mook-kwang, with a slight whistle at the end.

Matantoow (also spelled Matanto and other ways.) The manutoo (spirit) of death. A destructive, often evil being usually in opposition to Kihtanutoowet. After the introduction of Christianity, Lenape people frequently identified Matantoow with the Devil. Pronounced muh-tun-too.

Mooshkiingw (also spelled Moskim and other ways.) Rabbit, the benevolent culture hero of the Lenape tribes (sometimes referred to as a "transformer" by folklorists.) Not many stories about Mooshkiingw are still told today, but he seems to have shared some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Wabanaki Gluscabe, Anishinabe Nanapush, and Cree Whiskey Jack. "Mooshkiingw" is pronounced similar to moash-keeng or moosh-keeng.

Msiingw (also spelled Mesingw and other ways.) This is the Delaware Mask Spirit, a powerful medicine spirit who appears to Delaware men in dreams and is the focus of certain traditional Delaware religious rituals. Some non-Delaware people have recently been claiming Msiingw has something to do with Bigfoot. This is a total fabrication as far as any of us know. Many Native American tribes do have bigfoot/sasquatch/hairy man legends but the Mask Spirit is not one of them. The name is pronounced in between muh-seeng and muh-seeng-wuh.

W'axkook: Underwater horned serpent common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes. It is said to lurk in lakes and eat humans.

Thunder Being (Puleesuw): Powerful storm spirit that lives in the sky and causes thunder and lightning. They are usually depicted as giant birds in Munsee legends, although sometimes they have human heads or other attributes. Thunder Beings are dangerous spirits who sometimes kill people with their powers, but they are also sworn enemies of the horned serpents and sometimes rescue people from those monsters.

Wemahtekenis: Magical little people of the forest, like sprites or dwarves. They are mischievous but generally benevolent creatures according to Munsee Indian stories, although they can be dangerous if they are disrespected. Their name is pronounced weh-mah-teh-guh-neese.

Mhwee (also spelled Mhuwe and other ways.) A man-eating giant monster, like the Windigo of the Ojibway and Cree tribes or the Chenoo of the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet.

Munsee Indian Folklore

*Origin of the Big House Ceremonies:
    Myth about the Msiingw vision that began the Delaware Big House tradition.
*Origin of the Doll Dance:
    Myth about the beginnings of the Delaware Doll Dance.
*The Four Directions:
    Munsee story about the mani'towuk of the four winds.

Recommended Books on Munsee Mythology
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The White Deer:
    Collection of Lenape and Munsee folktales.

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Additional Resources

 Mahican and Munsee ceremonies
 Native books of mythology
 Indian values and beliefs
 Stockbridge Munsee tribe
 Munsee language
 New York Indians
 Northeastern Woodlands tribes
 Algonkian languages
 Native American Indian cultures

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