Black Hawk (Kerejų́sepka)

by Richard L. Dieterle

I. Another name for Great Black Hawk, Chief of the Thunders. Radin, in his ethnological work, was unable to determine whether there was any difference between Black Hawk and Great Black Hawk.1 However, since in offerings their names are listed together,2 there can be no doubt that in certain contexts Kerejų́sepka also names someone other than Great Black Hawk.

II. Probably the name of the mortal counterpart of Great Black Hawk. We are told by a Wolf clansman that the Creation Council was presided over by a black hawk.3 The council was held in the lodge of the Thunderbird Clan, and therefore hosted by the chief of that clan.4 As Kunu, he was also the oldest of the four brothers who were the progenitors of the Bird Clan.5 The progenitors of each of the four Bird Clans was lowered to earth by his corresponding divine Thunderbird.6 These first four men were Kunu, Woną́ǧire Wąkšik, Eagle, and Pigeon. Since those who came down in bird form were named after their kind, it follows that since the chief among them was a black hawk, that he should carry the name Kerejų́sepka, "Black Hawk." As the Thunder Chief on earth, Kunu (Black Hawk) is the counterpart of the Chief of the Thunders, Great Black Hawk. The latter is so-called most probably to differentiate him from his lesser counterpart.

However, Kunu was not only mortal, but was the first man to die. He established the spirit village in the west where deceased members of the Thunderbird Clan go to live under his rule.7 The corresponding chief of the Thunderbird spirit village is Great Black Hawk, and in this respect they are counterparts as well. Therefore, Kunu is almost certainly Black Hawk.

On certain occasions people make offerings to Black Hawk, as distinct from Great Black Hawk (see Black Hawk 1). The following is the prayer given to Black Hawk during the Thunderbird Warbundle Feast:

Black Hawk, you also added your powers for grandfather, it is said; and a handful of tobacco I am pouring for you for that reason. Whatever war powers and life the Creator put in your control, that I ask of you. You blessed grandfather Jobenągiwįxka for as long a period as the world would last, and you said that you would always smoke tobacco, it is said. If you are cognizant of this tobacco, let us obtain life and war powers. For this we ask.8

The grandfather Jobenągiwįxka spoken of in the prayer is an ancestor of the speaker who had a role in the foundation of the feast.

Links: Great Black Hawk, Black Hawks, Hawks, Thunderbirds, The Creation Council, Earthmaker, Wonáǧire Wąkšik, Eagle (II), Pigeon, Pigeon Hawk, Ghosts, Hummingbirds.

Stories: featuring Black Hawk as a character: Morning Star and His Friend, The Creation Council; mentioning black hawks: Hawk Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), The Dipper, The Thunderbird, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Waruǧábᵉra, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Morning Star and His Friend, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hocąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (blackbirds, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧábᵉra, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (turkey buzzard), The Shaggy Man (blackbirds), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (blackbirds), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įcorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds, and the sources cited there.


1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 393.

2 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 381, see 414 nt. 53.

3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 192.

4 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 194.

5 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 164-168.

6 Sam Blowsnake (Thunderbird Clan), Crashing Thunder. The Autobiography of an American Indian, ed. Paul Radin (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983 [1926]) 33-40. Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 164-168.

7 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 164-168.

8 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 415.