Native American Little People: Memegwesi

Published on November 9, 2012 by Casey

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Native American Little People: Memegwesi

Name: Memegwesi

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Tribal affiliation: Ojibway, Algonquin, Ottawa, Cree, Metis, Innu, Menominee

Alternate spellings: Memengwesi, Memegweshi, Memegweś, Memegawansi, Omemengweshii, Maymaygwayshi, Memekwesi, Memekwesiw, Memekwisiw, Memegwecio, Memegwicio, Mannegeshi, Mannegishi, Memekueshu, Mimakwisi, Mamagwasi, Mamakwasew, Memegawensi, Memengweshii, Mee’megwee’ssi, Memogouissiouis, Mimikwisi, Mimikwisiw, Mîmîkwîsi, Memegwe’ju, Mee’megwee’ssio, Memegwe’djo, Memekwe’zu, Memegwedjo

Pronunciation: Varies by dialect: may-may-gway-see, may-mane-gway-see, or uh-may-mane-gway-shee

Also known as: Memegwesiwag is the plural form of their name, also spelled Memegwesiwak, Memengweswag, Mamagwasewug, Memekwesiwak, Maymaygwaysiwuk, Mimakwisiwuk, Mimikwisiwak, Mîmîkwîsiwak, Meymeykweysiwak, May-may-quay-she-wuk, May-may-quay-so-wuk, or Ma-ma-kwa-se-sak. Sometimes also known as Apa’iins, Pai’iins, or Pa’iins, which literally means “little people.”

Type: Little people, river spirits

Related figures in other tribes: Wanagemeswak (Passamaquoddy), Wiklatmu’j (Micmac), Mikumwes (Wabanaki), Makiawisug (Mohegan)

Memegwesi are small riverbank-dwelling water spirits. They are generally benign creatures, but sometimes blow canoes astray or steal things when they are not shown proper respect. In some Ojibwe traditions, Memegwesi can only be seen by children and medicine people; in others, they can appear to anyone, and may help humans who give them tobacco and other gifts. Most often Memegwesi are described as being child-sized and hairy with a large head and a strange voice that sounds like the whine of a dragonfly. The Cree and Innu describe them as having narrow faces, and some Menominee storytellers have said that they have no noses. It is sometimes said that Memegwesi were originally created from the bark of trees. Memegwesi are said to carve symbols on rocks and sometimes carve small canoes for themselves out of stone. Some people believe that their name comes from the Ojibwe word for “hairy,” memii, since Memegwesi are usually described as having hairy faces and bodies. Other people believe that their name is related to the word for butterfly, memengwaa.

Source: native-languages Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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American Psychological Association (APA):

Native American Little People: Memegwesi Unabridged. Retrieved May 23, 2015, from website:

Chicago Manual Style (CMS):

Native American Little People: Memegwesi Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia (accessed: May 23, 2015).

Modern Language Association (MLA):

"Native American Little People: Memegwesi" Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia 23 May. 2015. <>.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):, "Native American Little People: Memegwesi" in Unabridged. Source location: Native American Encyclopedia Available: Accessed: May 23, 2015.

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    title = { Unabridged},
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    year = 2015,
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