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Native American Otter Mythology

Otter features as a light-hearted trickster character in the folklore of some tribes, particularly in children's stories. His exploits are mischievous but not usually malicious or aggressive. Otters are considered lucky animals in many Native American cultures and the otter is a symbol of loyalty and honesty in some West Coast tribes, but in northern British Columbia and the Alaskan coast, river otters (usually called "land-otters") were associated with ghosts and drowning and were regarded by the people with awe and dread. It was taboo to eat land-otters in many Pacific Northwest tribes, and in colonial times, the trapping of land-otters to sell their furs to non-Natives became a source of tension in some communities. Sea otters, on the other hand, had long been hunted for their skins and meat by these tribes, and sea otter fur was considered very prestigious on the Northwest Coast.

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Otters are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Otter Clans include the Muskogee Creek (whose Otter Clan is named Osanalgi or Osvnvlke,) the Chippewa (whose Otter Clan is called Nigig,) the Menominee, and the Abenaki. On the Northwest Coast, the otter is sometimes used as a totem pole crest.

Native American Otter Gods and Spirits

Keoonik (Micmac)

Native American Legends About Otters

The Lazy Rabbit * Rabbit and Otter Story * Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting * Master Rabbit and the Otter:
    Wabanaki stories about rivals Rabbit and Otter competing for food.
*Rabbit Calls a Truce:
    Rabbit and Otter team up to save the Penobscots from starvation.
How the Bear Lost His Tail:
    Ojibwe legend about Otter tricking Bear into losing his tail.
*The Crane and the Otter:
    Assiniboine legend telling how otters got their thick fur.

Recommended Books of Otter Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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How Rabbit Tricked Otter:
    Excellent book of Cherokee folktales about the trickster animals Rabbit and Otter.
How Rabbit Lost His Tail:
    Children's book based on a Cherokee legend about the trickster Rabbit trying to steal Otter's fur coat.
The Old Man with the Otter Medicine:
    Bilingual picture book illustrating an Otter folktale from the Tlicho (Dogrib) tribe.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
    Book by a Karuk elder about the meanings of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on otters.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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