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Native American Raccoon Mythology
The raccoon is one of several North American animals whose name has Native American origins.
The word for "raccoon" was among the Powhatan words first recorded by English colonists at
Jamestown, variously spelled aroughcun, arathkone or rahaugcum. (The
Spanish word for "raccoon," mapache, comes from the Nahuatl/Aztec names for the creature,
mapachin or mapachtli.)
Raccoon is a trickster spirit in many North American tribes, particularly common in more light-hearted
tales aimed at children. In some Raccoon legends he is portrayed purely as a mischief-maker, while the legends of
other tribes focus on Raccoon using his cleverness and dexterity to escape from danger or acquire food.
Raccoons are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Raccoon Clans
include the Muskogee Creek (whose Raccoon Clan is named Wotkalgi or Wotkvlke,) the
Chippewa (whose Raccoon Clan and its totem are called Esiban,) the Chickasaw, the Shawnee,
and the Menominee. Some eastern tribes, like the Lenape, Shawnee, and Iroquois, also have a Raccoon
Dance among their tribal dance traditions.
Native American Raccoon Gods and Spirits
Native American Legends About Raccoons
Azban the Raccoon:
Abenaki Raccoon story in which the trickster loses a shouting match with a waterfall.
The Adventures of Raccoon:
A series of Potawatomi trickster tales about Raccoon.
Raccoon Learns A Lesson: A Menominee Raccoon Myth:
Algonquian stories about Raccoon playing a trick on two blind men.
The Last Track:
Story from a Lenape man sharing his grandfather's words of wisdom about the meaning of a raccoon's life.
Recommended Books of Raccoon Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
Raccoon's Last Race:
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Funny children's book illustrating an Abenaki legend in which Azban the Trickster learns a lesson.
The Raccoon and the Bee Tree:
Another charming picture book based on a Sioux legend about a mischievous raccoon's misadventure with a colony of bees.
Brother Wolf: A Seneca Tale:
Picture book based on a Seneca legend about Wolf and Raccoon playing tricks on each other.
Trickster: Native American Tales:
Excellent collection of Raccoon and other trickster animal stories told by Native American storytellers.
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 raccoons.
Raccoons in Folklore, History and Today's Backyards:
A book of raccoon myths and facts, including several Native American tales.
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