The legend of the Piasa Bird has its roots in old Native American traditions. The Illini tribe, whose name became the basis for the eventual naming the State of Illinois, was responsible for giving this creature the name "Piasa", which means "a bird that devours men." It is described as being similar to a panther, but sporting elk-like horns, and having a winged body covered with greenish-black scales and a very long tail that wraps around its body and ends in a fish tail. The most remarkable feature of the Piasa Bird is its bearded, humanlike face that is endowed with huge fangs. Accounts by the Illini stated that the Piasa Bird was strong enough to carry off a fully grown buffalo in its talons
For years the fierce Piasa Bird continuously attacked Illini villages and slaughtered their people and their animals. Many warriors perished in failed attempts to kill the Piasa Bird, but the creature finally met its match in Chief Ouatoga. The elderly chief was determined to put an end to the destruction of his tribe's villages and the deaths of his people at the hands of the insatiable and murderous Piasa Bird. After a long fast, Ouatoga was visited in a dream by the Great Spirit who told him to arm a group of his best warriors with bows equipped with poison arrows and to set up an ambush outside the Piasa Bird's cave. The chief himself volunteered to be the bait to attract the creature into bowshot range.
As the Piasa Bird swept down and seized Ouatoga, the braves aimed their arrows at the vulnerable areas under the beast's wings where there were no protective scales. Hit by dozens of arrows, the fatally injured monster fell into the Mississippi River where it was swept away by the current. After recovering from his wounds, old Ouatoga led his people in a celebration of the demise of the evil Piasa Bird