Memegwesi are small riverbank-dwelling water spirits. They are generally benign creatures, but sometimes blow canoes astray or steal things when they are not shown proper respect. In some Ojibwe traditions, Memegwesi can only be seen by children and medicine people; in others, they can appear to anyone, and may help humans who give them tobacco and other gifts.
Most often Memegwesi are described as being child-sized and hairy with a large head and a strange voice that sounds like the whine of a dragonfly. The Cree and Innu describe them as having narrow faces, and some Menominee storytellers have said that they have no noses. It is sometimes said that Memegwesi were originally created from the bark of trees. Memegwesi are said to carve symbols on rocks and sometimes carve small canoes for themselves out of stone. Some people believe that their name comes from the Ojibwe word for “hairy,” memii, since Memegwesi are usually described as having hairy faces and bodies. Other people believe that their name is related to the word for butterfly, memengwaa.