Alternate Names: Wenabozho, Wenebojo, Wenebosho, Nanabush, Nanabosho

Nanabozho was the trickster hero figure that dominates much of the mythology of the Chippewa (Ojibwa) people of the north-east to north-central United States. He is portrayed, as common to the trickster archetype, as having a dual nature. He is both evil, yet innocent, foolish, yet cunning, murderous, yet life-giving. In Native American mythology, he often symbolizes man's animalistic desires and urges rather than the rational and developed consciousness. He often acts on feeling and instinct, rather then through thought.

Nanabozho, in most of the myths, is said to be the first indian, or the bearer of the first Indians. He is also credited with the creation of earth, although, he is not looked upon as a creator god in the traditional sense.

The story goes something like this:

There was a place, that was not the earth that there is now, but some other place. There was only one woman alive at this time, however, she conceived and delivered twin sons (in some stories triplets), and died in childbirth. The first born was called Nanabozho.

Nanabozho ended up killing his younger brother, to free himself from the attachment, and traveled throughout the land. He encountered a pack of wolves, and desired to join them. The wolves agreed, but after a few months, they grew tired of Nanabozho's antics, so they left him with a younger wolf from the pack to care for him.

This wolf, his "nephew", cared for him so well, that the spirits under the waters (in some instances, it is thought that this refers to Lake Superior) became jealous and drowned the wolf. This tore Nanabozho apart.

One day, while the underwater spirits were out on the shore sunning themselves, Nanabozho snuck up on them and shot the King of the spirits and the spirit next to him with an arrow. The other spirits had seen what happened, and became enraged, and flooded the world. Nanabozho escaped by climbing the highest tree.

At this point, the whole world was underwater, and all the animals were swimming around. Nanabozho saw some of these animals, and asked them to dive down to the bottom to fetch some earth so that they would have land again. The first animals tried, but drowned. Finally, one of the animals was able to grab a few grains of sand from the bottom.

Nanabozho spread these grains around, and an island formed. He asked a bird to fly around the island to make it grow, and thus, the earth was created.


The stories of Nanabozho are often tales of foolishness, and teach about how one should not act. Nanabozo, although he had the power to create the earth, is often tricked by simple means, or, easily gets into troublesome situations. His antics serve two purposes, to teach about acceptable behavior, and to explain "why" nature is the way it is.

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