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Legendary Native American Figures: Pukjinskwes (Jug Woman)

Name: Pukjinskwes
Tribal affiliation: Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Abenaki
Alternate spellings: Pohkecinskwehso, Pukedji'nskwes'u, Pukcinsqehs, Bokwjinskwaso, Pukdjinskwess, Pukjinskwest, Pukdcinskwes, Poktcinskwes, Pookjinskeqwees, Pook-Jin-Skwess, Pook-jin-squess, Pook-jin-squis, Pak-zin-skwa, Pokinsquss, Poktcinskwes, Pukadji'nkwes, Pukdji'nskwe'ssu
Pronunciation: poke-dzeen-skwuss-oh (in Abenaki-Penobscot) or pook-cheen-skwass (in Maliseet-Passamaquoddy.)
Also known as: Jug Woman, Pitcher Woman, Tree-Stump Woman, Squatty-Woman, Toad Woman
Type: Antagonist, witch, fisher

Pukjinskwes is a notorious witch who appears in many Wabanaki legends and folktales. Her name literally means "jug woman" or "pitcher woman." Pukjinskwes appears most often in Wabanaki folklore as a sort of bogey-woman who steals Indian babies and raises them as her own. In a more mythic role, she is the adversary of the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy hero Pogumk. Sometimes she is portrayed as a black panther, but this is the result of a mistranslation-- she and Pogumk were both members of the Fisher tribe, which is often erroneously translated "black cat" in English. In reality, fishers are a kind of large weasel, like this. There are no black panthers in New England.

Pukjinskwes is usually depicted as a squat, ugly human woman in Wabanaki legends, although like most characters of the mythic age, she is able to shape-shift (in particular, she is noted for sometimes appearing as a man.) After being defeated by Pogumk, she turns into a mosquito or other stinging insect.

In some legends, Pukjinskwes also features as an enemy of Gluskap (usually trying to revenge herself on him for rejecting her attempts to flirt with him.) Indeed, some folklorists believed that Gluskap and Pogumk were one and the same. This is probably not the case, since there are many important differences between the two heroes, but the confusion has caused some storytellers to conflate them and tell the entire Pogumk epic with Gluskap as the hero instead.

Pukjinskwes Stories

Black Cat and Pookjinsquess * Pogumk and Pook-Jin-Skwess:
    Two versions of the story of Pogumk and the Pitcher-Woman.
*Glooscap and the Panther-Witch:
    The story of Pogumk and Pukcinsqehs, retold with Glooskap as the protagonist.
*Gluskabe and the Monster Moose:
    A more traditional Glooskap legend in which he briefly encounters (and rejects the advances of) Squatty-Woman.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends

When the Chenoo Howls: Native American Tales of Terror:
    Collection of horror stories about the Penobscot witch Toad Woman and other Native American monsters and villains.
Passamaquoddy Texts:
    Collection of traditional Passamaquoddy stories including some about Kuloscap and Pukjinskwes.
Giants of the Dawnland:
    A good collection of Wabanaki legends told by a Penobscot Indian author.
Algonquian Spirit:
    Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Maliseet and other Algonquian tribes.

Additional Resources

 Penobscot mythology
 Maliseet words
 Indian tribes in Maine
 Woodlands Native people
 Algonkian



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