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.”
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.