by Richard L. Dieterle
The common honey bee is not native to the New World, having been imported at an early date from Europe. To get at the honey, the Hočągara used to cut off the branch on which the hive was attached. Despite their value as a source of honey, the appearance of bees in the Wazija was not a cause for celebration: “It is a fact perhaps not generally known that the honey-bee is just in advance of the white population in the settlement of a new country, and its first appearance is a cause of great anxiety to the Indians.”1
Trickster organized a race among Turtle, Lark, and Wolf. As they set off for the turn around point, Wolf cheated by grabbing honey from a hive of bees, whose stings greatly inspired the speed of his premature return. When he returned, Trickster denounced the wolf and condemned his kind forever to scratch, shiver, and avoid man with just as much fervor as Wolf did when he was attacked by the bees.2 However, Trickster himself rarely gave any thought to the bee's sting. When Red Ant told him where they could get some honey, Trickster's greed got the better of him. Red Ant told him just to stick his head into the hive and have all the honey he wanted. As anyone else might expect, the bees stung Trickster viciously, and he ran off into the distance with all the bees in hot pursuit. Thanks to Trickster, Red Ant was able to help himself to all the honey.3
Links: Ants, Turtle Spirits, Bird Spirits, Wolf and Dog Spirits.
Stories: mentioning bees: Trickster and the Honey, The Shrewd Winnebagoes of Dixon's Crossing, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark.
1 From a letter by Judge Joseph Gillespie, quoted in Henry Rush Boss, Sketches of the History of Ogle County, Ill., and the Early Settlement of the Northwest (Polo, Illinois: Henry R. Boss, 1859) 50-51 .
2 Capt. Don Saunders, When the Moon is a Silver Canoe. Legends of the Wisconsin Dells (Wisconsin Dells, Wisc.: Don Saunders, 1947) 8-9.
3 Pat Smith Medina, The Trickster and Red Ant, in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 36.