Native Languages of the Americas: Shawnee Indian Legends
This is our collection of Shawnee 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 Shawnees, the traditional stories of
related tribes like the Potawatomi and
Lenape tribes are very similar.
Enjoy the stories! If you would like to recommend a Shawnee legend for this page or think one of the ones on here
should be removed, please contact us and let us know.
Click on each character's name for more detailed information about his or her role in Shawnee mythology.
(also spelled Mise Manito and other ways):
This means "Great Spirit" in the Shawnee language, and is the Shawnee name for the Creator (God.) Mishe Moneto
is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes (including gender) and is usually not personified in Shawnee folklore.
The name is pronounced similar to mih-sheh-muh-neh-toh.
Most Algonquian cultures had a Transformer hero in their mythology-- a human-like supernatural being who shaped the world
and helped the people. Kokumthena is somewhat unique in that she is female (the Blackfoot tribe had a married couple, Old-Man and Old-Lady, in this
role; all the other Algonquian tribes we know of had male Transformer figures.) In Shawnee legends, Kokumthena is depicted as an old
woman (her name means "our grandmother") and does not take part in any of the heroic or whimsical exploits other Algonquian Transformer heroes
engage in. Kokumthena may originally have been a more typical Algonquian grandmother goddess like the Anishinabe
Nokomis and taken on her Transformer role later in Shawnee history.
A Shawnee storm spirit. Some sources identify Cyclone Person as male (like the other Shawnee wind spirits), while others identify Cyclone Person as female
(like Whirlwind of the Iroquois tribes.) It's possible that Cyclone Person was not originally anthropomorphized at all, like Mishe Moneto, and over time the
different Shawnee communities, living in locations far away from each other, came to conceptualize this being differently. The dark tendrils of a tornado are
described as the long flying hair of Cyclone Person. Despite this being's destructive power, she (or he) has always been considered a benign and kindred spirit by the
Shawnees and is said to never intentionally kill Shawnee people.
Crazy Jack (Cheekitha, Little Jack, etc.)
Human trickster figure, notable for foolishness and laziness, but usually escaping serious peril through moments of intuitive wisdom and good luck.
A giant hairless bear monster, associated by some people with ancient mammoths.
(also known as Psikinepikwa, Msi-Kinepikwa, or Wewiwilemita Manetu):
An underwater horned serpent, common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes. Its name literally
means Great Serpent, and it is said to lurk in lakes and eat humans.
Water Panther (Msi-pissi, Manetuwi-Rusi-Pissi):
A powerful mythological creature something like a cross between
a cougar and a dragon. It is a dangerous monster who lives in deep water and causes men and women to drown.
Nenimkee or Binesi
(also known as Waputhi):
Thunderbird, a giant mythological bird common to the northern and western
tribes. Thunder is caused by the beating of their immense wings.
In some Shawnee communities, Nenimkee are described as magical winged men rather than giant birds, and are said to
Unlike in some tribes, Little People are not important mythological characters in Shawnee tradition, but they often appear in
folktales and superstition. Shawnee little people are small nature spirits who live in trees or rocks in the wilderness. They are
mischievous and can be annoying or even dangerous to people who fail to treat them with respect, but are not malicious creatures.
When strange or frustrating things happened to Shawnee people in the wilderness, it would often be blamed on the pranks of
Little People, but there are also stories of Little People helping lost children or returning lost items to people.