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Native American Legends: Paissa (Paisake)

Name: Paissa
Tribal affiliation: Sac and Fox, Miami, Illini, Potowatomi, Kickapoo, Ottawas
Alternate spellings: Payiihsa, Paisa, Paiasha, Apayaciha, Apayashiha, Apayaasa, Apayaashiiha, Piesiihia, Pa'is, Ba'is, Pahiins, Pa'iins, Apa'iins, Pai'iins. The Algonquian plural form of their name is Paisake, Paisaki, Payiihsaki, Paia'shiwuk, Pia-si-ki, Pa-i-sa-ke, Pa-i-sa-ki, Apaiyacihaq, Apaiyacihug, Apayashihaki, or Piesiihiaki.
Pronunciation: Differs depending on dialect: pah-yee-sah, pie-sah, or uh-puh-yah-shee-huh.
Also known as: Little Creatures of Caprice, Wasimahetitcigi, Wasimetitcigi, Wasimahetitcig, Wäsimähetitcigi, Wäsimetitcigi, Wäsīmähetītcigi, Wêsîmêhetîchiki, Wêsîmetîchiki, Tcatcagi-mehtusānenīhähagi, Ca-caki-mehtose:nenihe:haki
Type: Native American little people, nature spirits
Related figures in other tribes: Pukwudgies (Wampanoag), Megumoowesoo (Micmac), Mannegishi (Cree)

Paissa are magical little people of the forest in Central Algonquian folklore, similar to European gnomes or fairies. Paissa are said to be about two feet tall, and their name literally means "little ones." In most stories, Paissa are portrayed as mischievous but generally benign nature spirits, who may play tricks on people but are not dangerous. In other stories, Paissa have more formidable magic powers and pose a threat to humans or even to the culture hero Wisake, but usually only if they are provoked. And in some Miami traditions, Paissa played a more important religious role as guides to lead the spirits of the dead along the Milky Way to the afterlife.

In the Fox and Sauk tribes, the native names for the Little People also include the twin heroes Lodge Boy and Thrown Away. These heroes are also little people, but are not really dwarves; rather they are magical children who never grow up. In Sac and Fox folklore, the names "Paia'shiwuk" or "Apayashihaki" can be seen referring either to the magical boys or to the forest dwarves. Longer Sac and Fox names such as "Ca-caki-mehtose:nenihe:haki," literally "miniature mortal men," are sometimes used to refer to the dwarves to avoid ambiguity. The Kickapoo, Miami, and Illini tribes also have twin heroes similar to Lodge Boy and Thrown Away, but do not use the name Paissa (or any of its many variants) to describe them.

In Anishinabe and Cree, the name "Pa'iins" is sometimes used to refer the Paissa, other times to the water sprites also known as Mannegishi or Memegwesi, and other times to tiny, insect-like fairies also known as Wiings. These confusions arise because names such as Pa'iins literally mean simply "small people," a description that can sensibly be applied to several different types of mythological beings. In fact, some of these names are also used to refer to an ordinary person of small size. "Pa'is" is a common man's nickname in Potawatomi, similar to "Shorty."

Paissa Stories

*The Little Creatures of Caprice Ensnare the Sun:
    Meskwaki legend about the Paisake.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

Algonquian Spirit:
    Excellent anthology of Native stories, songs, and oral history from the Fox, Miami, and other Algonquian tribes.
The Deetkatoo:
    Traditional tales about little people from 14 different Native American tribes.

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Additional Resources

 Illinois myths
 Miami myths
 Fox myths
 Sac and Fox
 Michigan Indian reservations
 Eastern Woodlands map
 Algonkian legends

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