From the Halfway People of the Mi’kmaq and the Lampeqinuwok of the Maliseet, to the story of Ne Hwas told by the Passamaquoddy and the story of the first merman told by the Potawatomi, there is no shortage of tales about the half human creatures.
The Mi’kmaq tell the tale of Lone Bird who stumbles upon a cove of five beautiful maidens swimming and playing in the water: “They were lovely, it is true, but they looked nothing like human maidens, for humans do not have pale skin, spotted with silvery scales. They do not dress their hair with strands of seaweed. And though maidens adorn themselves with necklaces of bright shells, humans have legs. Their bodies do not end in long fish tails,” from the book Spirits, Fairies, and Merpeople: Native Stories of Other Worlds by C.J. Taylor.
Lampeqinuwok are water sprites from Maliseet and Passamaquoddy stories. The website Native-Languages.org reports that in some stories they take human form, and in others they have fish tails, but in most stories they fall into the power of anybody who can steal their magical garments.
The Passamaquoddy tell the story of He Nwas, the mermaid. It’s about two girls who defy their mother by swimming where they weren’t supposed to. The girls turn into mermaids and instead of playing on the shore, they tow their parent’s canoe for them.
“They were all slimy; they grew to be snakes from below the waist. After sinking a few times in this strange slime they became very handsome, with long black hair and large, bright black eyes, with silver bands on their neck and arms,” from The Algonquin Legends of New England, by Charles G. Leland.
Below: Mermaids by Jean Francis Aubertin, circa 1920.