Grandmother's Gifts

by Jasper Blowsnake


Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


 

(253) He whom We Call Nephew asked Grandmother something. He said to her, "Grandmother, did not Earthmaker let you bring something?" he asked her. "My dear grandson, you have spoken the truth," she told him. "Since you're a man, you're good and wise," she told him. Then she did it. From her right breast, she exposed her nipple. (254) When she grabbed it, an extremely white light burst forth. When she stopped, it became in semblance like the ears of beavers. When they took their eyes off it, one branch after another came forth. A little boy with a very yellow head stood there. When they took their eyes off her for the third time, stocks (?) appeared. When they took their eyes off her for the fourth time, there stood an old man, white-headed. There was the Means of Life, become overly ripe.

Then she grabbed something from her left side. A very white light burst forth. When she quit, the branched leaves of spirit food appeared. After they took their eyes off her, a yellow headed little girl stood there. When they took their eyes off her for a second time, a second branch came forth. When they took their eyes off her a third time, (255) the third branch came forth. When they looked for the fourth time, there was the sort of woman who was somewhat advanced in years. She stood in the east, baldheaded, with a body like a flea, her arms like the stem of a pipe. Here was the over ripe spirit food.

He Whom we Call Nephew did it. What they call "untanned buckskin," he stood up with one of these, and he was holding tobacco in his hand. It had been mixed with the Chief of Trees, and then when he got there, he spread it out in the middle of the lodge. "I wonder if he is going to call on us," (the spirits) thought. The smell lay there filling it up. All of them sat there anxiously. Where else would he call on? The one in the east, that one they thought it would be.

At the back of the lodge on the right side, he rose up. A very white faced wolf (kixikéra) who took what he was going to use and he grabbed the Means of Life. He filled his pipe and then taking four puffs, (256) his life was very full. He appeared very old. He scratched up the earth with his feet, sending it off in all four directions, and he howled, hoho-ho-ho hwa-hwa, he said, and then after he shook himself, he became just what he had been. "Hare, this they should also imitate after me. What you're seeking for them, if one does this properly, then he cannot fail in this. If anyone thinks about it properly, this is how they will be." Then when what they held in their mouths (the pipe) had been all around, the day began to become bigger as it went along.1


Commentary. "He whom We Call Nephew" — this is Hare, who because of his virgin birth among humanity, is everyone's nephew.2

"she exposed her nipple" — Radin remarks in the Hočąk text that the expression is, "referring to the fact that in planting the earth is put in a hill,"3 that is, a small mound is made and a stick is thrust into the top of the mound and several kernels of corn are placed in the resultant hole, then covered up. The corn later sprouts up from the mound. The mound could also be viewed as her breast.

"the ears of beavers" — a reference to the blossoms of the maize plant, according to Radin. What follows describes the progression of the maize plant through its stages of growth.

"branch" — the maize plant only branches where it will terminate in a corn cob.

"a very yellow head" — this would seem to refer to the period in which tassels appear. Indian corn is not yellow, so it does not refer to the corn kernels themselves.

"stocks (?)" — the Hočąk is waixaitanína, which looks as if it were from waixa, "branch," and hitanína, "third." Might not the "third branch" be the cob? The first branch would be the stalk, the second the branch from which the cob grows, and the third, the cob itself.

"white-headed" — this would seem to refer to the final stage of the tassels, when the corn is ripe. However, the month of Wixóčera is July, before the corn is fully ripe. The name means the "Gray Month" because the tassels make the fields look gray. When the corn is ripe, it is said to "pop," hence, Watajóxhíwirá, "the Corn Popping Month." This is the month of August, when the first green corn is harvested and roasted.

"spirit food" — this is tobacco, so-called because the spirits crave it with such intensity.

"Chief of Trees" — this is the oak whose leaves are ground up and mixed with tobacco to make kinnikinnick. For the Chief of Trees, see (1) and under "Stories" below.

"where else would he call on?" — this alludes to the story in which Eathmaker directly, or via his agent Hare, bestows on mankind the boon of tobacco, passing over all the spirits who were convinced that one of their own number would be the beneficiary. Earthmaker decided to give it to humanity because of the weakness of the human race. By means of tobacco, people could obtain augmented power by in effect trading tobacco with the spirits for their power. See the Tobacco Origin Myth.

"wolf (kixikéra)" — the word kixikéra is unknown elsewhere. It may be formed by a kind of reduplication from xiké, "smoke, mist." Radin's comment on the wolf is, "Probably a reference to one of the messengers sent out originally to invite the spirits to the Creation-Lodge."4

"his life was very full" — a Hočąk expression, wąkšigo'ina hixjį́, meaning "he attained full life."5

"Hare" — the Hočąk is Wašjįge. The normal vocative (the direct address), would be Wašjįgera, where the general definite article suffix -ra replaces the specialized definite article -ga used in indirect discourse. The vocative with the terminal /e/ is said to be used when superiors address inferiors.6

"what you're seeking for them" — that is, life for his uncles and aunts (humanity).

"to become bigger" — that is, the Light and Life, Hąpera (which also means "day"), increased from the spiritual power imparted by the Rite and by those spirits who were present for it. The increase in the day, which is correlated with the increase in Light and Life, is an interesting homonym, since the gaining of the spiritual light has the effect of increasing one's days of life.


Links: Earth, Hare, Earthmaker, Maize, Tobacco, Tree Spirits, Wolf & Dog Spirits.


Stories: featuring Grandmother Earth as a character: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Maize Origin Myth, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Owl Goes Hunting, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Kills Wildcat, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, The Necessity for Death, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Steals the Fish, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Kills Flint, The Gift of Shooting, The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man (vv 4, 6), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Redhorn's Father (?); featuring Hare as a character: The Hare Cycle, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Necessity for Death, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare Kills Wildcat, The Messengers of Hare, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Kills Flint, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Hare and the Grasshoppers, The Spirit of Gambling, The Red Man, Maize Origin Myth, Hare Steals the Fish, The Animal who would Eat Men, The Gift of Shooting, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Petition to Earthmaker; about maize (corn): Maize Origin Myth, Maize Comes to the Hočągara, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Green Man, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet; mentioning tobacco: Tobacco Origin Myth, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth (v 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, The Thunderbird, First Contact, Peace of Mind Regained, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Dipper, The Masaxe War, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; mentioning kinnikinnick: The Lost Blanket, The Old Man and the Giants, Woruxega, Peace of Mind Regained, Redhorn's Father; mentioning the Chief of Trees: The Commandments of Earthmaker, Peace of Mind Regained; relating to dogs or wolves: The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, A Man and His Three Dogs, White Wolf, Wolves and Humans, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Old Man and His Four Dogs, Worúxega, The Dogs of the Chief's Son, The Dog that became a Panther, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Wild Rose, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Canine Warrior, The Dog Who Saved His Master, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, The Big Eater, Why Dogs Sniff One Another, The Healing Blessing, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Trickster Loses His Meal, Sun and the Big Eater, Redhorn's Sons, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Hog's Adventures, Holy One and His Brother, The Messengers of Hare, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Bladder and His Brothers, The Old Man and the Giants, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Kunu's Warpath, Morning Star and His Friend, Peace of Mind Regained (?); mentioning white wolves or dogs: White Wolf, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Old Man and His Four Dogs, Worúxega, The Messengers of Hare, Wolf Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2), Wolves and Humans, A Man and His Three Dogs, Grandmother's Gifts, Peace of Mind Regained (?); pertaining to the Medicine Rite: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Maize Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hog's Adventures, Great Walker's Warpath, see also Other Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite.

Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite (The Road of Life and Death) in notebook order: The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Historical Origins of the Medicine Rite, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), The Creation of the World (v. 12), The Creation of Man (v. 8), Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), Testing the Slave, South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 1), The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 2), East Shakes the Messenger, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 4), The Messengers of Hare (v. 2), North Shakes His Gourd, South Seizes the Messenger, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Messengers of Hare (v. 1), The Island Weight Songs, The Petition to Earthmaker, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Completion Song Origin, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Great Walker and the Anishinaabe Witches, The Diving Contest, The Sweetened Drink Song, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 3), The Tap the Head Medicine, The Claw Shooter, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 4), Peace of Mind Regained, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 5), A Wife for Knowledge, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 2), South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), Death Enters the World.


Themes: Grandmother (Earth) causes the first maize plant to grow from her left breast: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth; something is of a (symbolic) pure white color: White Bear, Deer Spirits, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), White Flower, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Fleetfooted Man, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Worúxega, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket (white spirits), Skunk Origin Myth, He Who Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Messengers of Hare, The Brown Squirrel, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Bladder and His Brothers, White Thunder's Warpath, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Dipper, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Creation of the World (v. 12), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Descent of the Drum, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5), The Diving Contest, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Completion Song Origin, North Shakes His Gourd, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Peace of Mind Regained.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [1945]) 323-324; the original text is in Jasper Blowsnake, Untitled, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3876 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Library, n.d.) Winnebago II, #7: 253-256.

2 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 344 nt 48.

3 Radin, Notebooks, Winnebago II, #7, note at the top of p. 254.

4 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 345 nt 49.

5 a note by Radin at the top of page 256 in Jasper Blowsnake, Winnebago II, #7.

6 Paul Radin, Winnebago Linguistic Notes, Manuscript 1800a-e (Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives, 1908-1909) 1800: 234.