Published on November 8, 2012 by Casey
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Tribal affiliation: Sac and Fox, Miami, Illini, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Ottawa
Alternate spellings: Payiihsa, Paisa, Paiasha, Apayaciha, Apayashiha, Apayaasa, Apayaashiiha, Piesiihia, Pa’is, Ba’is, Pahiins, Pa’iins, Apa’iins, Pai’iins. The Algonquian plural form of their name is Paisake, Paisaki, Payiihsaki, Paia’shiwuk, Pia-si-ki, Pa-i-sa-ke, Pa-i-sa-ki, Apaiyacihaq, Apaiyacihug, Apayashihaki, or Piesiihiaki.
Pronunciation: Differs depending on dialect: pah-yee-sah, pie-sah, or uh-puh-yah-shee-huh.
Also known as: Little Creatures of Caprice, Wasimahetitcigi, Wasimetitcigi, Wasimahetitcig, Wäsimähetitcigi, Wäsimetitcigi, Wäsīmähetītcigi, Wêsîmêhetîchiki, Wêsîmetîchiki, Tcatcagi-mehtusānenīhähagi, Ca-caki-mehtose:nenihe:haki
Type: Native American little people, nature spirits
Related figures in other tribes: Pukwudgies (Wampanoag), Mikumwes (Micmac), Mannegishi (Cree)
Paissa are magical little people of the forest in Central Algonquian folklore, similar to European gnomes or fairies. They are said to be about two feet tall, and their name literally means “little ones.” In most stories, Paissa are portrayed as mischievous but generally benign nature spirits, who may play tricks on people but are not dangerous. In other stories, Paissa have more formidable magic powers and pose a threat to humans or even to the culture hero Wisake, but usually only if they are provoked. And in some Miami traditions, Paissa played a more important religious role as guides to lead the spirits of the dead along the Milky Way to the afterlife.
In the Fox and Sauk tribes, the native names for the Little People also include the twin heroes Lodge Boy and Thrown Away. These heroes are also little people, but are not really dwarves; rather they are magical children who never grow up. In Sac and Fox folklore, the names “Paia’shiwuk” or “Apayashihaki” can be seen referring either to the magical boys or to the forest dwarves. Longer Sac and Fox names such as “Ca-caki-mehtose:nenihe:haki,” literally “miniature mortal men,” are sometimes used to refer to the dwarves to avoid ambiguity. The Kickapoo, Miami, and Illini tribes also have twin heroes similar to Lodge Boy and Thrown Away, but do not use the name Paissa (or any of its many variants) to describe them.