I woke before dark to the unmistakable odor of skunks , for it was so strong as
to leave no doubt there was more than one . I tried at first to ignore it and then
put a pillow over my nose , finally rising . A double window at my head , and one
to my left , and a box fan , could not clear the foulness .
So I looked it up :
Native American Skunk Mythology
The skunk is one of several North American animals whose name has Native American origins. It is not known exactly which tribe first taught colonists the word for “skunk,” since the names are extremely similar in many different northeastern Algonquian languages (skonks in Mohegan, škakw in Lenape, squnck in Wampanoag, zhigaag in Ojibwe, etc.)
Skunks often play the role of monsters in Native American legends. Skunk’s spray is usually said to have been fatal in the distant past, but after his defeat by a hero or other animals, becomes merely annoying. Some tribes did not eat skunks because of a superstitious belief that skunk meat was poisonous (which is not actually true; people in other tribes ate skunk meat with no ill effects.) Crossing paths with a skunk was considered bad luck in some tribes, and skunks were sometimes even associated with evil sorcery. But in some southeastern tribes, such as the Muskogee Creek, skunks are admired for their stalwart self-defense and usually appear in folktales defending themselves and their families from threats or taking justifiable revenge on other animals who have behaved badly. The Cherokee ascribed medicine powers to skunks and believed that a skunk’s odor can ward off disease, so during times of plague, dead skunks were sometimes hung over people’s doorways!
Skunks are used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Skunk Clans include the Creek (whose Skunk Clan is named Kunipalgi or Konepvlke), the Choctaw, and the Chickasaw. The Hidatsa also had a Skunk or Pole-cat Society, which was a ceremonial organization of young women associated with the celebration of war honors.