Brave Man Gambles
narrated by Frank Ewing
translated by Richard L. Dieterle
Hočąk-English Interlinear Text
(4) There was a village there and in it lived a rich man with his wife and little boy. And the man died. That woman's very fine boy grew older, but he could not work. Then the mother's brother worked there. They took care of chickens. And he gambled. Again chickens and pigs [he drove] towards the players, and he gambled. Again he arrived back at the lodge, (5) and there at the lodge he slumped down. And Brave Man (or Warrior) [said], "Hure, we'll eat." Four times the others did not do it with Brave Man and he became angry and knocked them down. The fourth time then [he said], "Huré-e!" and sat down and played cards. Brave Man was being cheated. He had five coins left. (6) He went to the other village. There again Brave Man stayed with the evil ones. Again he was whipped badly. Now Brave Man went home. He did not do the mission that he (Earthmaker) had given him. Before he became a ghost, the woman he crossed over to would touch him. And so Old Woman made a ghost. Having set out a large loaf of bread and two plovers there, (7) she cracked (the skull of) Brave Man with her hands. He cried out. She sent him off as a ghost. He slumped down in the seat. And so then the woman took it. And they had an old man for Chief of Entering the Earth (Mąkewehųka). Then Brave Man was very quiet. If the bad spirits came again, he, Brave Man, the son of Earthmaker, would come again too. (8) Therefore, he said that the coat of the Black Robes (Christians) should not be ended, they say. The Son of God was to have a religious movement. The son would preach, they say. Still at this time he was made the spirit that is over the United States. And thus what I tell ends.1
Commentary. "Brave Man" — or "Warrior" is a name that is sometimes given to Bluehorn. However, he could be anyone, although he must be one of the sons of Earthmaker. On the other hand, the penultimate son of Earthmaker sent down to rescue humanity is the inventor of war, Turtle. The last son of Earthmaker, Hare, was successful. It is he, as the founder of the soteriological Medicine Rite, who has some claim to an identity with Christ.
"Old Woman" — she is known elsewhere as "Spirit Woman" (see under Links).
"set out a large loaf of bread and two plovers there" — it is said that Old Woman feeds the deceased before she makes him into a ghost.
"Mąkewehųka" — this name has not been encountered anywhere else. It is said that the chief over the dead is the eldest of the four founders of the Thunderbird Clan.
"if the bad spirits came again" — the other sons of Earthmaker who descended to earth to combat the evil spirits had at least some success, so when it is said that they might return, it carries some weight. Here it is an empty formulaic utterance, since this avatar clearly failed completely in his mission.
"the coat" — the Hočąk (wonąžíra) has just this meaning, but the significance of saying this is obscure. Perhaps wonąžíra refers to the robes by which the holiness of the Christians is identified, so that what the sentence means is that their holiness (spiritual power) would not come to an end.
"Black Robes" — in Hočąk, Waisepína, the old word for Christians, taken from the fact that the French Jesuits, who were the first to make converts in this part of North America, wore black robes.
"Son of God" — given the context, this does not seem to refer to Brave Man, but to the Black Robes' Christ, Son of God.
"the spirit that is over the United States" — the Hočąk is literally, "spirit-the-sitting-one United States." In the text, the last name is given in English. It is not clear whether this means that Brave Man or Christ is the guardian spirit over the United States.
Links: Spirit Woman.
Stories: mentioning Spirit Woman: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Journey to Spiritland (v. 8) (old woman)
Themes: spirits come to earth in order to rescue humanity from enemies who threaten their existence: Bladder and His Brothers, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Grandfather's Two Families, The Hare Cycle, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Raccoon Coat, Redhorn's Sons, The Redhorn Cycle, The Roaster, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Spirit of Gambling, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Trickster Cycle, Wojijé, Redhorn's Father, Turtle and the Merchant.
1 Frank Ewing, Story of the Boy who Ate too Much, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3899  (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1909?) Winnebago III, #19, Story 19c (1), 4-8.