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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 Lenape and Algonquin 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 let us know.

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Important Shawnee Mythological Figures

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

Mishe Moneto (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.

Kokumthena: 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.

Cyclone Person: 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.

Yakwawi: A giant hairless bear monster, associated by some people with ancient mammoths.

Kinepikwa (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 speak backwards.

Little People: 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.

Shawnee Indian Folklore

*Shawnee Mythology:
    Summaries of the Shawnee creation myth and other legends.
*Waupee and the Star Maiden * White Hawk * The Star Maidens and the Corona Borealis:
    Shawnee legends about a man who married a star.
*Our Grandmother of the Shawnee:
    Academic study about Kokumthena and the nature of Shawnee folklore.
*Brother Crow and Brother Buffalo:
    Shawnee legend about how the crow became black.
*Thunder Son:
    Shawnee story about a woman who married a serpent.
*The Grasshopper War:
    Lenape and Shawnee folktales about a war started for a frivolous reason.

Recommended Books on Shawnee Mythology
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

Indian Tales:
    Collection of Miami, Wyandot and Shawnee folklore.
Algonquian Spirit:
    Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Shawnee and other Algonquian tribes.

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Additional Resources

 Shawnee religion and expressive traditions
 Indian traditions and beliefs
 Shawnee Indians
 Shawnee language
 Indian tribes of Ohio
 Eastern Woodlands
 Algonquian linguistic group
 North American native tribes

Learn more about the Shawnee tribe.
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