Blue Mounds

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

Blue Mounds was once considered to be a sacred mountain by the Hocągara. It has two peaks, the west peak being called Wihągaja (< Wihą́-ga-eja), "the Place of the Second Born Daughter."1 It is said by some that partway down the mountain, where a spring flows out from a chert outcropping, Earthmaker himself used to sit and view the countryside. When he lit his pipe a great haze would grip the top of the peak. If the clouds spread out evenly over the crest, the Earthmaker was in a good mood; but if the smoke went straight up, then he was perturbed. Now that the land is no longer controlled by the Hocąk Nation, it is said that Earthmaker no longer visits this eminence, but he leaves behind the smoky clouds as a memorial of that day.2

Commentary. "Blue Mounds" — this is actually a twin peak, the pair sometimes being called "West Blue Mounds" and "East Blue Mounds." D. M. Brown says that "West Blue Mounds is a landmark which can be seen from a distance of fifty or more miles." The town of Blue Mounds, which is at the base of the eastern mound, is the oldest white settlement in Dane County (1826).3 There is a cavern called "Cave of the Mounds" at the base of the mountain. See Blue Mounds Cave.

"Wihągaja" — this name is inferred from the phonetic Weehaukaja, which the source said meant "Beautiful View." The second daughter to be born to a family was automatically given the name Wihą-ga (the suffix -ga being the definite article used in the context of personal names). Since one peak was named "Second Born Daughter," it seems reasonable to suppose that the other would have been called Hinųgaja, "Place of the First Born Daughter," although the name is not attested to my knowledge. The Hocąk word xete means both "large, great" and "older," showing the association of size with age (at least among childen, and among adults, it persists as a metaphor). It would seem that the taller West Blue Mounds, being the one that is xete, would be named after the elder sister; so the names may be switched.

"a spring flows" — called "Blue Mounds Spring."4

"a chert outcropping" — a site where stones for tools were mined.

"a great haze" — the twin peaks were originally known as the "Smoky Mountains" on account of this haze.5 The haze surrounding the summit often appears blue. The name "Smoky Mountains" is a translation of the Hocąk Xešojera (< xe-šoc-ra), where šoc means "smoke" as a noun, but when used as an adjective, means, "murky, roily, riled, hazy, clouded," and applies both to air and water.

"the smoke went straight up" — at first glance, this seems odd, since it is said of fire that if the flames stand straight up when an offering is made, the spirits are happy with what they received. If the flames are scattered, then they reject it. These accounts can be reconciled if we suppose that it is the action of the wind that is primary, as lack of it will cause flames to assume a vertical position, but smoke will settle. Nevertheless, an updraft will cause both flames and smoke to move upward, which is consistent with the idea that the offerings conveyed are being swept up by the heavenly spirits. Therefore, what is said in this story may not be correct.

Links: Earthmaker.

Stories: mentioning Blue Mounds: The Tavern Visit; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hocąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Lost Lake, The Hocągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; mentioning springs: Trail Spring, Vita Spring, Merrill Springs, Big Spring and White Clay Spring, The , Bear Clan Origin Myth, vv. 6, 8, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Lost Child, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Wild Rose, The Omahas who turned into Snakes, The Two Brothers, Snowshoe Strings, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Nannyberry Picker, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, The Two Boys, Waruǧábᵉra, Wazųka, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Turtle and the Witches.

Themes: ...

1 Wildernet Website: Wildernet > Wisconsin > Blue Mounds State Park —

2 Dorothy Moulding Brown, Indian Legends of Historic and Scenic Wisconsin, Wisconsin Folklore Booklets (Madison: 1947) 61-62.

3 Brown, Indian Legends, 61.

4 Brown, Indian Legends, 10; from Wisconsin Archeologist, 18, #1: 18-19.

5 William J. Park, Madison, Dane County and Surrounding Towns: being a History and Guide (Madison: William J. Park & Co., 1877) 240, from the memoirs of J. R. Brigham, the nephew of Ebenezer Brigham.