Chipmunks (Hécgenįgera)

by Richard Dieterle


The chipmunk plays an important role in establishing the proper measure of things. When the earth was new and the year was to be set in its length, a creation council had to determine how many moons would occur in this time period. Both the turkey and the partridge suggested that the number of moons be equal to the lunar spots on their tails, but the council considered that there were be far too many months in a year if that were adopted. Then Chipmunk came forward and said that the number of moons should be equal to the number of stripes on his back, with the black stripes defining the warm months, and the white stripes those of the cold time of year.1

In another story, the chipmunk regulates the proportion of things in space as well. When Trickster was first in the world, his penis was so long that he had to carry it in a box on his back. However, someone kept teasing him about it, but Trickster could not see who it was. Finally, he ran in the direction of the noise and saw a chipmunk run into the hollow of a log. He told his penis that since it had been abused, it could go after the offender, and he stuck it into the hole in the log. However, he could not seem to get to the end of it, and when he reeled his penis back in, he found that the chipmunk had gnawed the bulk of it off. The enraged Trickster pulled the chipmunk out and flattened him.2

Thus the chipmunk, by its nature, trims back things that are too long in space and time and gives them their proper shape and order.

Links: Turkeys, Partridge (I), Moon, Trickster.

Stories: featuring Trickster as a character: The Trickster Cycle, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Trickster Soils the Princess, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster and the Eagle, Trickster and the Honey, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Trickster and the Geese, Trickster and the Dancers, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Markings on the Moon, The Woman who Became an Ant, The Spirit of Gambling, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Green Man, The Red Man, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Waruǧábᵉra; mentioning chipmunks: Black and White Moons, Trickster Loses Most of His Penis; mentioning Moon: The Markings on the Moon, Berdache Origin Myth, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, Hare Kills Wildcat, Grandfather's Two Families, Berdache Origin Myth (v. 1), Turtle and the Giant, A Deer Story; featuring partridges (quails) as characters: The Quail Hunter, The Big Stone, Black and White Moons, The Spirit of Gambling, Partridge's Older Brother; about turkeys: Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Bluehorn's Nephews, Hog's Adventures, Black and White Moons, The Birth of the Twins, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Story of the Medicine Rite; about Trickster's penis: Trickster's Penis, Trickster Loses Most of His Penis.

Themes: animals insult Trickster as he sojourns on earth: Trickster's Warpath, Trickster Loses Most of His Penis.


1 Oliver LaMère and Harold B. Shinn, Winnebago Stories (New York, Chicago: Rand, McNally and Co., 1928) 91-99. Informant: Oliver LaMère of the Bear Clan.

2 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 38-40.