Son of Mudjekeewis (the west wind) and Wenonah. His mother died in his infancy, and Hiawatha was brought up by his grandmother, Nokomis, daughter of the Moon. He represents the progress of civilisation among the American Indians. He first wrestled with Mondamin (Indian maize), whom he subdued, and gave to man bread-corn. He then taught man navigation; then he subdued the Mishe-Nahma or sturgeon, and told the people to “bring all their pots and kettles and make oil for winter.” His next adventure was against Megissogwon, the magician, “who sent the fiery fever on man; sent the white fog from the fen-lands; sent disease and death among us;” he slew the terrible monster, and taught man the science of medicine, He next married “Laughing Water,” setting the people an example to follow. Lastly, he taught the people picture-writing. When the white man landed and taught the Indians the faith of Jesus, Hiawatha exhorted them to receive the words of wisdom, to reverence the missionaries who had come so far to see them, and departed “to the kingdom of Ponemah, the land of the Hereafter.”
Longfellow's song of Hiawath'a may be termed the “Edda” of the North American Indians.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894