Visions of the great mystery: Grounding the Algonquian manitow concept

Clinton N. Westman, Tara L. Joly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides an overview of the Algonquian manitow concept. Manitow is often translated as spirit, god or mythical being, but reflects more complex and culturally grounded ideas about power in animist ontologies. The article suggests that manitow should be translated with care, with attention to a range of meanings. The authors refer primarily to Cree examples from Alberta, Canada, but also take a broader view to consider examples from other Algonquian contexts. Beginning with a discussion of definitions, the article then turns to the concept’s theoretical career. The article provides data on the contemporary dynamics of the manitow in the context of Cree religious pluralism, as well as on the emplacement of manitow relations through toponymy, particularly as seen around lakes named manitow sâkahikan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-375
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Compass
Issue number3
Early online date24 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • Algonquian
  • Cree
  • indigenous
  • manitow
  • North America
  • religious language


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