Annihilation of the Hočągara II

retold by Richard L. Dieterle


Hočąk Version, by Mrs. Joseph LaMère. "Once when the Hočągara lived near Red Banks, all the other tribes leagued against them. The enemy had cut them off from water, except for one deep ravine where they could get water by tying their pack straps together and lowering their pails to the bottom of the ravine. In time the enemy discovered this and cut their pack straps. Thus they were left with no water at all. The people were becoming desperate, so they spread out their blankets and offered tobacco so that their priests might cause rain. After it rained, they wrung out the blankets and drank the water from them.

The enemy gradually killed off the men one by one. Then they began to kill all the male children. They would lift up the skirt of the child and if it proved to be a boy, they would dispatch him. The mother of one boy tied a string to his penis and pulled it back between his legs so that he had the appearance of a girl. Thus he escaped. All pure blooded Hočąks today are descended from this boy and his mother.

When a young Hočąk chief painted himself blue and remanded himself to the enemy, the war came to an end."1


Menominee Version. The following story is a Menominee version of the same events. It is set at a Native American fort built near the primeval site of Hočąk origins at Red Banks. This fort is now known as the "Winnebago Fort," since it is widely believed to have been built by the Hočągara when they were masters of this region. The story is related by a woman named Okiwa, "The Sea," who was said in ca. 1855 to have been "upwards of one hundred years of age." The story was told in Menominee and rendered into English by "a faithful interpreter":

"'It was long ago,' said O kee-wah — 'I was so high' — placing her hand about three feet from the ground, 'when my grandfather told me the story. The Sauks and the Outagamies [Fox] lived in the old fort at the Red Banks. They had lived there a long time, and had their planting ground there, and ruled the whole country. The forests eastward were full of deer, the waters of the [Green] Bay were full of fish, and they possessed the whole. We (the Menomonees) lived over the Bay (at the Menomonee River), and we sent down the Lakes, inviting the other tribes to come up and help us drive out the Sauks and the Outagamies. They came in canoes — the Chippewas, and Pottawattamies, and Ottawas, and many more. You see how wide this Bay is; their canoes stretched half way across; the Bay was half full of canoes, and each canoe was full of fighting men; they sent their greatest braves. They landed here at the Red River, after coming across from Manomonee, and for two miles along the beach their canoes were so thick that no more could be crowded in. From here they all went, in the night, to the Red Banks. They had bows and arrows, and the heads of the arrows were of flint. Silently they paddled along until they came to the fort, and then the canoes were stationed all along in front, out of reach of arrows from the shore. A part of the warriors staid in the canoes, and a part went on shore and formed a line around the fort, so that, with those on shore and those on the water, it was completely surrounded, and there was no escape for the people inside. So cautiously was all this done, that of all within that fated fort, but one discovered it. A young woman, whose parents lived within the walls, had that day been given, against her will, to be the wife of one of the Sauks living in the immediate vicinity. In the night she ran away from his wigwam and went home, passing on her way the lines of the besiegers. Rushing into the fort, she awakened her family, with the cry, 'We are all dead!' The father laughed at her story, and laid down to sleep again.

"Just before daylight the battle began, and it lasted many days. The besieged fought bravely, standing in the trenches within the walls, and the blood was up to their ankles. They had no water, for the supply was cut off by the party on the beach. They tried in every way to obtain it. Vessels attached to cords were let down to the water by night, but the cords were cut before they could be drawn up. 'Come down and drink!' cried out the Menomonees; 'here is plenty of water, if you dare to come down and get it.' And they did go down many times. Their taunts, and their great necessity, made that narrow way the scene of many desperate sallies, but all to no purpose. The besiegers were too strong.

The heat of a burning sun, and the dreadful suffering for the want of water became intolerable. Some rain fell once, but it was only a partial relief for those who were perishing in sight of that sparkling water which was almost within reach. At length one of the youngest chiefs, after fasting strictly for ten days, thus addressed his companions: 'Listen! — last night there stood by me the form of a young man clothed in white, who said, 'I was alive once — was dead, and now live forever; only trust in me, now and always, and I will deliver you. Fear not. At midnight I will cast a deep sleep upon your enemies. Then go forth boldly and silently, and you shall escape.'

Thus encouraged, and knowing this to be a direct revelation, the besieged warriors decided to leave the fort. That night an unusual silence pervaded the entire host of their enemies, who had been before so wakeful. So in silent, stealthy lines, the wearied people passed out and fled. Only a few, who disbelieved the vision, preferred to remain, and they were massacred with fiercer barbarity than ever, when next morning the besieging tribes awoke from their strange slumbers to find that their prey was gone.'"2


Commentary. Hočąk VersionThe origin story of the berdache says that the institution was founded by a warrior who surrendered and who chose to be a woman rather than be put to death. This choice is made for the boy by his mother in order to preserve the nation; and instead of becoming impotent, the boy becomes the sire of his tribe.

Menominee Version The strange thing about this version is the utter omission of any mention of the Hočągara, even though this fort and the Red Banks territory is intimately associated with them; nor should it be forgotten that the Menominee and Hočągara had a strong friendship relation. The Fox and Sauk did not ordinarily venture that far east. The suspicion is that this is an adaptation of the Hočąk story with a role for the Menominee as besiegers (since they do not share with the Hočągara a tradition of having been wiped out). The spirit person dressed in white, who died and lived again, and in whom they are to trust, is almost certainly Jesus Christ.


Comparative Material. The theme of the second beginning in the Hočąk story recalls the Hebrew myth of Noah, who although he was not the first man, was the father of all humanity that came after him. The Hočąk story narrows the scope of the second beginning to the tribe rather than humanity as a whole, and instead of a universal flood, there is a terrible deficit of water.


Links: Introduction.


Stories: about the origins of the Hočąk nation: Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Creation Council; about the (post-Columbian) history of the Hočągara: The Cosmic Ages of the Hočągara, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, First Contact, Origin of the Decorah Family, The Glory of the Morning, The First Fox and Sauk War, The Fox-Hočąk War, The Masaxe War, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Great Walker's Medicine, Great Walker's Warpath, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Spanish Fight, The Man who Fought against Forty, The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, They Owe a Bullet, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Origin of the Hočąk Name for "Chicago"; mentioning the Menominee: Origin of the Name "Winnebago" (Menominee), The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 2b) (Origins of the Menominee), The Fox-Hočąk War, First Contact, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), Two Roads to Spiritland, The Two Children, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e (Extracts ...), Introduction; mentioning the Fox (Mesquaki): The First Fox and Sauk War, The Fox-Hočąk War, The Masaxe War, The Mesquaki Magician, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e (Extracts ...), Introduction; mentioning the Sauk (Sac, Sagi): The First Fox and Sauk War, Mijistéga and the Sauks, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, Little Priest's Game, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e (St. Peet ...), A Peyote Story, Introduction; mentioning the Anishinaabeg (Chippewa, Ojibway): White Fisher, White Thunder's Warpath, Great Walker and the Anishinaabe Witches, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, The First Fox and Sauk War, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, First Contact (vv. 2-3), Introduction; mentioning the Potawatomi: Fourth Universe, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Masaxe War, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), First Contact (v. 2), Little Priest's Game, Xųnųnį́ka, Introduction; mentioning the Ottawa (Odawa): The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e (St. Peet ...), Introduction; set at Red Banks (Mógašúč): The Creation Council, The Great Lodge, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3, 5), Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2a, 3, 8, 11, 12), The Winnebago Fort, Blue Bear, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 10), Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins (fr. 1), Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Šųgepaga, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e ("St. Peet," "Hočąk Origins"), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), The Seven Maidens, First Contact, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpathh.


Themes: descriptions of human warfare: The Warbundle Maker, The First Fox and Sauk War, Great Walker's Medicine, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Wazųka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, The Fox-Hočąk War, Great Walker's Warpath, White Fisher, The Lame Friend, White Thunder's Warpath, The Osage Massacre, A Man's Revenge, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, They Owe a Bullet, The Spanish Fight, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), Tobacco Man and Married Man; a male survives execution by assuming the attributes of a female: Berdache Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Big Stone (inverse: male/female). Cf. also, good people (and spirits) completely annihilate a race of bad spirits except for two, whom they allow to live (so that they do not undo the work of the Creator): Sun and the Big Eater, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Redhorn's Father, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 7-9. The original text (it was told in English) is in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3862 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago I, #3: 1-3.
2 Charles D. Robinson, "Legend of the Red Banks," Wisconsin Historical Collections 2 (1855): Appendix 16: 491-494.