Origin of the Hocąk Name for "Chicago"

from the collection of W. C. McKern

Original manuscript pages: | 176 | 177 |

(176) This was before the city was thus. At that time there was a Winnebago town at that place. It was called Kų́skĕonąk, "Skunk Running Away." This is the reason for its name. In the old times, it is said, there was a white man's trading post. A Frenchman was there, trading traps, guns, powder, etc., for skins. That is why they called him "Skunk," because he was anxious to buy skunk hides. There were many wars in those days. One time, they went out hunting and trapping. Skunk went with these Winnebago. Then some enemies came to fight with the Winnebago. This happened at the spot where the city now is. After the war was over, they (177) looked everywhere for Skunk. They could not find him anywhere. They could not even find his dead body. They never found him. They said, "He must have run away." That is why they called the place, "Skunk Running Away."

That is all.1

Commentary. "Kų́skĕonąk" — for Gų́šgĕoną́k, which comes from gųšge, "skunk"; and honą́k, "to run along." Most accounts of the city's name follow that given to Gatschet: "According to the etymological legend grown out of the name, somebody held the skunk and it ran off along the (Chicago) river."2

Comparative Material. ...

Links: Skunks.

Stories: about the (post-Columbian) history of the Hocągara: The Cosmic Ages of the Hocągara, The Hocągara Migrate South, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, Annihilation of the Hocągara II, First Contact, Origin of the Decorah Family, The Glory of the Morning, The First Fox and Sauk War, The Fox-Hocąk War, The Masaxe War, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, Black Otter's Warpath, 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, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, They Owe a Bullet, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga; mentioning traders: Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Turtle and the Merchant, Brawl in Omro, How Jarrot Got His Name, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, The Tavern Visit.

Themes: ...


1 W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) 176-177.

2 Albert Samuel Gatschet, "Hotcank hit'e," in Linguistic and Ethnological Material on the Winnebago, Manuscript 1989-a (Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives, 1889, 1890-1891).