Injun Devils

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 30th, 2006

There are many offensive terms for different kinds of people. The list is long. One phrase that you will find in old records and some modern ones, denoting Native Americans or American Indians, is “Injun.”

Injun Devil

The exact origins of “Injun” are lost in time, but dictionaries will tell you that the word seems to have surfaced in 1805-1815, as a variation of “Indian,” through assibilation (the act of changing a name by pronouncing it with a hissing or whistling sound). Scholarly sources even compare “Injun” to what happened in 1875-1880, to those who settled in Louisiana and Maine, descended from Acadians (people from Nova Scotia), who became known as “Cajuns.”

Today, there is a general embracing and acceptance of “Cajun,” but not of “Injun.” Of course, it is not too politically correct to use “Injun.” But it is part of American history and we have to try to understand it was rather more commonly used. For example, you’ve find “Injun Joe” and the expression “Injun devil” in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Linguistics is a subject of some importance to cryptozoology, and we must take into context names, places, and times. Carefully, I would like to take you on a pre-pc trek, regarding the use of the term “Injun” in conjunction with cryptozoological phenomenon in my home state. (Please take into account too, if you wish, that I am part Eastern Band Cherokee, so the use of this word is not out of disrespect but only my attempt to examine it in a historical context at Cryptomundo.)

Old records exist of cryptozoological animals called “Injun Devils.”

In Maine, Injun Devils could mean, usually, one of two types of cryptids.

One form of Injun Devils was the “lucifees or lynxes,” as well as mountain lions and panthers. In other words, some “Injun devils” appeared to be tied to members of the Felidae, the cat family.

Injun Devil could also be employed and attached to, rather literally, as Maine’s preferred name for the eastern Bigfoot, also known as Windigo. For example, I’ve interviewed some individuals, oldtimers actually, in the Rangeley, Maine, area who told of seeing Injun Devils, and describing them as bipedal hairy hominoids, like Bigfoot, with glowing eyes apparently reflected from campfires – near lumbering sites near the Rangeley lakes around the turn of the 19th to 20th century. Tales from Mt. Katahdin also mention Injun Devils.

Thanks to Mark LaFlamme, Judith Meyer, and their separate articles about the Maine Mutant or Mystery Beast, an archival news item has surfaced of an old Maine Injun Devil report. I have already spoken elsewhere as to the shortcomings of Meyer’s articlee (including the fact the 2004-2005 reports of the four-legged Turner-Greene Mystery Beast do not match the folklore of the Bigfoot-like Windigo or Wendigo, as noted in that long piece). But Meyer’s article did carry text from the public domain 1906 article, at least.

Here it is:

Lewiston Daily Sun, 1906

The “Injun” devil is frightening the West Gardiner berry pickers. They have seen him lying on his side in fields and pastures – a strange dun brown thing with lolloping chops and tasseled ears. They have caught glimpses of him flying through the thickets at dusk, and he has been faintly seen on distant hills against the twilight, a ghostlike creature scenting the evening woods. His height is five feet, and the tracks that he has made as determined by local observers, measures ten feet apart. Some call him “Lucifee,” some call him the Indian devil. The range of running is around Cobbossecontee, Manchester, West Gardiner and Purgatory Mills. He has injured nobody as yet, but the berry pickers ar afraid to go to the pastures. No attacks have been made by him upon domestic animals, and hence it is supposed that he lives on rabbits, and other food most desired by Indian devils.

What kind of Injun Devil is this 1906 one? Well, it is hard to tell, isn’t it? But just as in the use of the phrase “New Jersey Devil,” an umbrella name like “Injun Devil” can be used to hide any unknown creature that the local people wish to describe.

You can begin to see what has happened. A confusing cryptozoological situation is being made more difficult to unravel with the addition of an enigmatic phrase that has never been helpful to use: Injun Devil.

Are they hominoids, felids, or canids? No one knows, and what often happens is that the eyewitnesses forget to specifically describe them because they have the false notion that they are telling us something when they merely use the “Injun Devil” label. To begin to see the media in Maine doing this will not be a useful addition to this Maine Mutant business, even though it is really on its last legs.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

11 Responses to “Injun Devils”

  1. oldbutnotstupid responds:

    I’ve never given this any thought before but it is rather interesting.

    Seeing the two words Injun and cajun, could it be we are looking at it wrong and these are shortened forms of the words Injun being (Indian Jun) and cajun being (Canadian jun)?

    The meaning of just jun or juns may hold the key if any reference to this suffix being used as a word can be found.

  2. aaha responds:

    Early Pre-Jerry Crew bigfoot accounts must be given serious attention.

  3. Maohk Kiaayo responds:

    I think that when you are dealing with Native American stories or legends they tend to be very non descriptive or to fantasized. Also by now they are told and retold and heck several different people across the country had the same fanciful account 200 years ago in the same spot. You see what Im saying. However I think they are the key. If we want to delve more into the secrets of this land then we need to seek the people that were here first.

  4. Sunny responds:

    I think you’ll find that “Cajun” is an adaptation of “Acadian”, the French-Canadian folks who were exiled from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI after they refused to pledge allegiance to the English Crown in the mid 1700s…yes, they are from Canada, but the word comes from “Arcadia” —

    The linguistic folks are pretty sure that “Cajun” and “Injun” are just language bastardizations of “Acadian” and “Indian”, as they refer specifically to the *people*, as opposed to cryptoids.

  5. Lee Pierce responds:

    Interesting article. I live in NW New Mexico close to the Navajo reservation. I count many of them among my friends. Most of them use the term “Indin” when talking about themselves. The proper term to describe them is “Dine” (Dinay)which means “The People”.

  6. afigbee responds:

    The particular injun devil in the 1906 article could as easily be a wild hog, with its lolling chops and tassled ears.

  7. tpeter responds:

    Dear Loren,
    I confess I never gave as much as two minutes concentrated thought to the history, semantics, etc., of the word “Injun,” always simply taking it for granted that it’s obviously just a slurred or careless pronunciation of “Indian,” usually used in a somewhat contemptuous or derogatory sense, like the “n”-word for African Americans. I don’t believe I recall ever coming across the term “Injun devil,” or if I did gave it no particular thought. It’s of course good to know that it used to be a common term once for various sorts of cryptids–so that if we come across it in historical or folkloric materials we’ll know people were seemingly referring to some sort of cryptid. However, it’s too vague and too redolent of ethnic condescension to be worth seriously reviving in this day and age! :=) As a serious contemporary cryptozoological term, it’s about as informative as calling any Garden State cryptid a “Jersey Devil”!
    –Cheers, T. Peter

  8. sschaper responds:

    Certainly -jun is as to -dian as -shun is to -tion. The former case is voiced, the latter is not. The former has been written down, the latter mainly only pronounced.

    I would also guess that the context is more like ‘devils the indians tell us about.’

    From my grandmother’s Ideals magazines and other sources, not that long ago in this country, folk thought of this land as inherited from the Indians, that their presence was still very much about. Not a PC view of it being their land, but a more traditional folk sort of way.

    So, “Injun Devil” would make sense. This was their country, and this was one of the monsters of their land.

  9. oldbutnotstupid responds:

    I’ve done a little research, about an hour, and have come up with some food for thought.

    I don’t believe that at the time it was used, Injun was not meant to be an offensive term.

    Here’s why. We all know how words of other races have gotten into the english language. In fact English is mixed as the population of North America.

    Jun is chinese, its a name meaning truth.

    That said, we have two peoples, Injun and Cajun. The words may simply have meant people of pure race as opposed to
    a mixed linage at the time in question. True Acadian and true Indian.

    Why I say this is based on the two examples given. Injun joe and injun devil. Injun Joe would simply be a Native American person who went by the name of Joe. Possibly because his native name was too hard for whites to pronounce.

    The term Injun devil, I believe refers to a Native American of bad caracter,we have them in every race. It could have been a killer for example, a person with dangerous tendancies do to harm. This is how legends begin.

    The two things the native peoples and the acadians held in common at the time was they spoke their own languages as a first language rather then english. This also may have played a part in the formation of the words. It is us latecomers who may be seeing things in the wrong light.

    That’s my thinking. Injun devil may be quite human and not a crypto at all.

    The answer to this one may lay with the elders of some of our Native American friends on here, they are in a better position to research this than I.

    Words change meaning and become disrespectful only through the ignorance of our own thought processes.

  10. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    Hmmm, the tassled ears here are the thing that make me think we are dealing more with a lynx or a canid with fuzzy tufts of some sort.

    The ten foot stride sounds a bit long for a lynx or an unknown canid though.

    Maybe it was just a really old BF that was starting to get those same tufts of “old man hair” in his ears that my granddad has.

  11. talthar responds:

    I always thought the wendigo was a cannibal spirit, sort of a cautionary legend of what could happen to people who were trapped in the wilds with no food. If you turned to cannibalism you would be possessed by the spirit of the wendigo.

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