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Native American Woodchuck Mythology
The woodchuck is one of several North American animals whose name has Native American
origins. Unfortunately, those exact origins are unknown. Early colonists in New England reported
that "wuchak" was the name for the animal in a local Algonquian language, but this word was
never recorded in a dictionary and the Algonquian languages of that region are no longer natively
spoken, so the original form of the word has been lost to time. It may have actually been the word
for a fisher (a member of the weasel family) instead, since the word for fisher sounds similar to
wuchak in living Algonquian languages (such as the Cree word ocek, pronounced similar
to oo-check.) Or it might have been an English corruption of a longer word like the Narragansett
word ockqutchaun, which did refer to a woodchuck. In any case, English-speaking
Americans later adapted the name "wuchak" into the modern form "woodchuck," which was
easier for them to remember.
Woodchucks are not prominent animals in Native American mythology, and we do not know of
any tribe with a woodchuck clan or totem. However, the Wabanaki tribes of New England and
the Canadian Maritimes have a mythological woodchuck character, named Grandmother Woodchuck,
who is the adoptive grandmother of their culture hero Glooskap. She is usually depicted as a wise
elder whose patience and wisdom teaches lessons to the good-hearted but often impetuous
Glooskap. The Cherokee also have a Woodchuck Dance
among their tribal dance traditions.
Native American Woodchuck Gods and Spirits
Grandmother Woodchuck (Abenaki)
Native American Legends About Woodchucks
Article about the meaning of Agaskw the Woodchuck in Wabanaki mythology.
Gluscabi and the Wind Eagle How Glooskap Stole Tobacco:
Stories about the Wabanaki culture hero Glooskap and his wise grandmother Woodchuck.
Recommended Books of Woodchuck Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
Native American Animal Stories:
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links
Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
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