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Native American Legends: Pogumk (Black-Cat)
Tribal affiliation: Maliseet, Passamaquoddy
Alternate spellings: Pokomk, Po'gum'k, B'gumpk, Pogumpt, Pogump, Pogunuk
Also known as: Fisher, Black-Cat, Black Cat
Type: Hero, fisher
Pogumk is a hero in Maliseet and Passamaquoddy legends. The name Pogumk
literally means "Fisher." Sometimes it is erroneously translated as "black
cat." Fishers are actually a species of large weasel, like
this. Pogumk was the
chief of the Fishers, and his hero cycle had to do with defending his family
and his tribe from the witch Pukjinskwes,
who wanted to get rid of him so that she or her husband could become chief in
his place. Despite being identified as fishers, Pogumk, his family and his
rival are usually portrayed as humans in Wabanaki legends. It is typical of
Native American legends for the line between humans and animals to be
blurred in this way.
Some folklorists have claimed that Pogumk was in reality an alter ego of the culture hero
Glooscap. However, we consider this highly unlikely. First, Maliseet elders
have dismissed this possibility. Second, the Fisher hero cycle is the only myth in
which the name Pogumk is used, and if this was really another name for
Glooscap, it would be used more frequently in other myths and legends, since
Glooscap is such a major figure in Wabanaki mythology. And third, there are too
many differences between the two heroes. Glooscap has powerful magic from
the time of his creation, which he used to shape the earth, change monsters into
small creatures, etc. Pogumk has no magic powers until his friend Fox lends him
some. Pogumk's mother features prominently in this story, whereas Glooscap
never knew his mother (either he was created directly by the Great Spirit, or his
mother died in childbirth.) Pogumk has more similarities with other heroes of
Eastern Woodlands folklore, who are often stranded by their enemies on islands,
in bird nests, in caves, or other remote places from which they need to use
their ingenuity and the help of nature to escape.
Black-Cat and the Sable Pogumk and Pook-Jin-Skwess:
Two versions of the story of Pogumk and Pukjinskwes.
Glooscap and the Panther-Witch:
The story of Pogumk and Pukjinskwes, retold with Glooskap as the protagonist.
Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends
Giants of the Dawnland:
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Good collection of Wabanaki legends told by a Penobscot Indian author.
On the Trail of Elder Brother:
Another good book of traditional stories, told by a Mi'kmaq author and illustrator.
Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Maliseet and other Algonquian tribes.
Twelve Thousand Years
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