Great Walker's Warpath

"There was once a village at a place called 'Great Lake' (Lake Winnebago). It was there that the people called Hocągara became human beings. Before this they had lived as spirits. There also all the clans originated. Before that they had been animals but lived just as human beings do.   Sometimes they would turn themselves into animals again, and it is for this reason that the waikąs were composed (about animals). Then after a time some transformed themselves into human beings while others retained their animal shape. In so doing they used up all their 'transforming' power, which they possessed, and after that they were not able to change themselves either into animals or human beings at will, as they had been accustomed to do. In consequence of that the human beings remained human beings since that time, and the animals remained animals. In the early days, the Hocągara lived holy lives because they still remembered the life they lived as spirits. They started life at Green Bay and it was there that all the clans met, it is said. Later on they came to Lake Winnebago and there they formed a very large village.

One day during the autumn moving some of the Hocągara were killed before they could get back to their camp, and from that time on, war was waged incessantly. It was not safe for one lodge to move away from the main camp, as ten lodges full of people had been attacked by the Sioux. The Hocągara started to pursue them and soon found their trail. It was a long trail so they figured there must have been a large attacking party. All the Hocągara that were able bodied joined the pursuing party and went with utmost speed. The Sioux, however, did not flee.

After the Hocągara had been going for some time, they suddenly stopped and one of them said, 'Now then, a large body of people had ought to have one or a few leaders.' The others said, 'Very well.' There were many holy men there and many warriors who were considered invulnerable. Finally, one of them said, 'Let Great Walker lead us.' He said, 'Very well.' Great Walker was a holy man, and was the equal of the spirits. He had actually met Waterspirits face to face, and had even killed one and had taken material for 'instruments' from it for himself. Such was Great Walker. The warparty offered him tobacco and poured two handfuls into his hands, but he did not even say, 'Ho!' He smiled and took the tobacco and he poured it out right where he was standing. Then he stood with his head bowed long time and was very quiet. Then, after awhile he said, 'Now then, let us go.' He started off walking ahead of them. Before this he had been running but now he walked taking his time. 'Kora!' some exclaimed, while others said, 'Don't talk so. The leadership has been given to him, and he will lead us. Besides we are not equal in powers, and he must know what he is doing.'

Finally, when evening came upon them, Great Walker said, 'Beyond those woods runs a stream. There we will pitch our camp.' Then he continued, 'Let ten fleet young men go for food. One bear will be enough, but if you think not, they might bring two instead.' 'Leader, let it be two bears, as there are many of us here,' said the warriors. The leader Great Walker replied, 'Ten of you may go taking the other side.' So two parties went out. Then the leader said, 'Let ten more fleet young men follow up the others. You may divide up the packs and lighten the load.' When the second detachment came up to the first ten men, they were already busy dressing the bears they had killed. When the main party arrived, the fire had been built. There was plenty of food and fat. All night they slept there and the next morning they started out again. They went on slowly. At noon they stopped to rest and smoke. When evening came, they camped again and two bears were again killed. Then the next morning they started out again and went very slowly. They went far too slowly for a warparty chasing an enemy. Thus they kept on traveling very slowly and frequently stopping to eat on the way. They came finally to Long Lake.

It was a very beautiful day and the snow was melting very fast. At noon they stopped and the leader said, 'Now then, I wish to tell you something about myself.' So they all stood about and waited for him to begin. 'I have been also feeling like you, my attendants, and more so perhaps; you said when you offered me tobacco that our relations had been killed, and as they had been used so miserably, we were to get revenge. You also said that you offered tobacco to the spirits below. So I asked them to do it for us, and even as I stood with bowed head at the time, they said they would. That is why we have come here. This is the place. Here lives one of the great Waterspirits and he will take revenge on them, he told me. That is why we have come to this place. The Waterspirits said that we could have them [the Sioux]. Now then, if you are going to put on your war paint you must hurry and may paint your faces only. If you have tobacco you must have it handy to make offerings with. If you have any other offerings with you, you must have them ready also.' Thus spoke the leader, and they painted their faces in a hurry and had their offerings handy. Then he said, 'Now then, let us go.'

About this time the Sioux had just gotten on the lake. 'Well it was always said that the Hotanka were long-chasers and we thought that we could have a great time when they caught up with us,' some of the Sioux said. 'They are aware that we have come with you; and that is why they do not catch up with us,' others said. Still others said, 'Do not speak so. Sometimes they chase up to the enemies' village.' This was the opinion of the older men. 'Ah, if they would only catch up with us here,' some of them said, as they ran about on the ice. Even as they were speaking, one of them said, 'Oh, look over there. There they are, and I suppose that is why they are spoken of in that manner.' Some said, 'Now do not relent.' The boastful ones said, 'It is good!'

Soon the Hocągara caught up with the Sioux on the ice. 'Now then,' said the leader, 'All of you stand in a row side by side.' They stood in a row. Then he began to sing a Water Song. The Sioux said, 'Thus the Hotankas always are. They always go through ceremonies for anything. What is the use of their doing that?' As soon as the singer stopped singing, they gave the war whoop. Then the Hocągara gave the whoop and rushed at them. As they ran they dropped their offerings. They ran in a row a they had been told, and imitated the noises of all sorts of animals. The Sioux said, 'It is going to be very difficult for us; we had better try and get on land where there are trees which we can get behind. That will be the only way we can save ourselves.' As this took place in the winter, the ice was frozen. As the Sioux began to flee and make for the land it so happens that there was a place that was only covered with a thin layer of ice and snow. Into this they ran, broke into the lake and disappeared under the ice. There the water was filled with floating people. Some of the Hocągara had spears which they extended to the Sioux in the water; and when the latter reached the shore, they killed them. Others cut long poles and with these pulled out some of the Sioux and killed them.

Thus matters went on, then one of the Sioux said in his language, 'Great Walker is my brother.' Thereupon the Hocągara said, 'Let us take him over to the warleader since he says that he is his brother. We might be doing something wrong if we killed him.' So they took him over to the chief, guarding him while on either side and holding him up as he had just come out of the cold water and was so numb that he could not walk. The warleader was standing on his buffalo robe with his back toward them. They said, 'Warleader, here is a man that says that he is your brother.' The Sioux said, 'Oh my brother!' as he tried to get hold of him. 'Žižiži! he might harm you,' someone said. But the Sioux took hold of Great Walker by the arm. The chief said, 'Well he has done it now' 'You should not have brought him over,' said some of the others, 'for these never mean any good to us. Now the chief will probably spare them.' Then the warleader said, 'Let all those who are alive be spared.' So they did not kill any more. There were only a few of them left. Then the warleader said, 'Since you are going to spare them, build a fire for them on the shore.' So a row of fires were built on the shore and the captive Sioux were brought there.

Then Great Walker said to the man that claimed to be his brother, 'Older brother, you are not brave to go around with the people who are acting wrongly and helping to kill the Hocągara. Why did you at this time say that you were a Hocąk, and that Great Walker was your brother? If it were I, I would never say such a thing. If you were not afraid to fight with me, and you came along with those who wished to kill me, then why did you become frightened? I thought that all the tribes knew about me. How is it that you never heard of me? Great Walker is holy and is a spirit. He is a Waterspirit. You should not have acted so to the Hocągara. The spirit that is in charge of Long Lake told me that he would take care of you for me, and therefore he followed you. We came here and he did as you have seen and destroyed you, and you were not able to cope with him. Now we have spared a certain number of you.' Then the Hocągara that had food with them fed the Sioux. There also some of them arraigned the scalps that they had won. When they were about to part with them, Great Walker's brother said, 'Now then, I will answer what my younger brother has asked of me. What my younger brother has said to me is all true. I am thankful to him that my life was spared. I have acted wrongly when I went to fight against the Hocągara because I wanted to kill them, although I knew that my brother was holy. I have really done wrong, and that is why at the last moment I repented and was afraid. Therefore, as long as I live, whenever any Sioux shall speak againt the Hocągara, I shall tell him to stop. If he disobeys me, I shall kill him; and should I hear that anyone has killed a Hocąk, I shall kill him. As you have spared me when otherwise I should have died here, henceforth I shall always do as I have said.' He continued, 'I have no more desire to kill the Hocągara. I want to live among you as you have given me my life. I spent my life in trying to kill the Hocągara, and I am really dead as far as my people are concerned.'

When he had finished speaking, another Sioux arose. He was the bravest Sioux of them all. As he had been spared, he also told them that he was ashamed of his conduct and repeated what the other had said. Then the remainder of the Sioux arose one after another, and each pledged himself in the same way. From that time on, the fighting between the Sioux and the Hocągara stopped. From that time on the Sioux never tried to make war on the Hocągara.

Great Walker was the holiest Hocąk that ever lived, and therefore ceremonies and changes that he instituted are still in existence and alone are powerful. The medicine for the sick and the poison medicine that he made are even used today by the people, and they alone are effective. These are the only powerful things in the Medicine Dance. He added a position for a dish. He was never initiated. He just joined, for he had known the Dance when he was in the land of the spirits. He also added some of the speeches and some of the songs. Even to this day, his band is the largest in the Medicine Dance. He had the greatest vision that any Hocąk ever had. Many of the Hocągara are still using the powers that he obtained."1

Commentary. "Great Lake" — it is almost universally held that the progenitors of the clans formed their national union at Red Banks on the shores of Lake Michigan. "Great Lake" (Te Xetera) is actually the name of Lake Winnebago, whereas the Hocągara call Lake Michigan Te Šišik, "Bad Lake." Since he recognizes that Green Bay was the site at which the clans met, and says that they moved later to Lake Winnebago, he is probably using the American toponym "Great Lakes" to narrowly refer to just one of their number, Lake Michigan.

"Long Lake (Te Serec)" — there is a Long Lake in Winnebago County, Wisconsin. However, this is probably not the Long Lake to which the story refers. The Long Lake where the Waterspirit dwells is just off the Mississippi at St. Paul, Minnesota. So the Hocągara have chased the Sioux into their own territory in the Land of Sky-Blue Waters (Minne So Ta) at Blue Clay Banks, called Mąnicórus by the Hocągara.

"the spirit that is in charge of Long Lake" — in the "Lost Blanket," it is said that the Waterspirit Traveler was established at Long Lake at Mąnicórus. This famous spirit is the one who empowered Great Walker.

Links: Waterspirits, Lake Winnebago.

Stories: about Great Walker: Great Walker's Medicine, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (?); about famous Hocąk warriors and warleaders: How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Masaxe War (Hogimasąga), Wazųka, Great Walker's Medicine (Great Walker, Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Šųgepaga (Dog Head), The Warbundle Maker (Dog Head), Black Otter’s Sacrifice to a Thunder, Black Otter's Warpath (Dog Head, Black Otter), The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara (Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Osage Massacre (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Fox-Hocąk War (Cap’ósgaga), The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, White Thunder's Warpath, Four Legs, The Man who Fought against Forty (Mącosepka), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, The Hills of La Crosse (Yellow Thunder), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Fighting Retreat, Mitchell Red Cloud, jr. Wins the Medal of Honor (Mitchell Red Cloud, jr.), How Jarrot Got His Name, Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, They Owe a Bullet (Pawnee Shooter); about the origins of the Hocąk nation: The Hocąk Arrival Myth, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, The Hocąk Migration Myth, The Creation Council, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, First Contact, The Beginning of the Winnebago; 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, 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, Origin of the Hocąk Name for "Chicago"; about scalping: The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšucka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Moiety Origin Myth, Turtle's Warparty, White Fisher, Black Otter's Warpath, The Dog that became a Panther, Wazųka, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Fox-Hocąk War; mentioning the Sioux (Šąhą): The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," Little Priest's Game, Berdache Origin Myth, Potato Magic, The Masaxe War, White Flower, The Man who Fought against Forty, First Contact (vv. 2-3), The Omahas who turned into Snakes, The Love Blessing, Run for Your Life, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšucka, Introduction; in which Waterspirits occur as characters: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells, The Lost Child, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bluehorn's Nephews, Holy One and His Brother, The Seer, The Nannyberry Picker, The Creation of the World (vv. 1, 4), Šųgepaga, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, The Waterspirit of Lake Koshkonong, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Devil's Lake — How it Got its Name, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Waterspirit of Sugar Loaf Mounds, Lakes of the Wazija Origin Myth, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, The Diving Contest, The Lost Blanket, Redhorn's Sons, The Phantom Woman, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, White Thunder's Warpath, The Descent of the Drum, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2), The Two Children, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧábᵉra, Ocean Duck, The Twin Sisters, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The King Bird, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Heną́ga and Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, The Story of the Medicine Rite, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spiritual Descent of John Rave's Grandmother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Shaggy Man, The Woman who Married a Snake (?), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake; mentioning snow: Waruǧábᵉra, The Glory of the Morning, Holy One and His Brother, Wolves and Humans, Grandfather's Two Families, The Four Steps of the Cougar, Brave Man, Redhorn's Father, Bladder and His Brothers, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Old Man and the Giants, Old Man and Wears White Feather, White Wolf, North Shakes His Gourd, The Fleetfooted Man, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, Witches, Shakes the Earth, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, The Raccoon Coat, Silver Mound Cave, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married; pertaining to the Medicine Rite: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Maize Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hog's Adventures; set at Lake Winnebago (Te Xete): Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The First Fox and Sauk War, White Thunder's Warpath, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 2), The Great Fish, The Wild Rose, The Two Boys, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Fox-Hocąk War, Holy Song, First Contact (v. 2), Lakes of the Wazija Origin Myth, The Two Children (?); set at Green Bay, "Within Lake" (Te Rok): Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3), Story of the Thunder Names, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 4), The Seven Maidens, Ioway & Missouria Origins, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I (v. 2), The Fox-Hocąk War (v. 2), The Creation Council, First Contact, Gatschet's Hocank hit’e; occurring in Minnesota: James’ Horse, Bow Meets Disease Giver, The Lost Blanket, Traveler and the Thunderbird War; set at Long Lake (Te Serec) in St. Paul, Minnesota: The Lost Blanket, Traveler and the Thunderbird War.

Themes: animals begin as humans, then turn into humans again when they establish a Hocąk clan: Wolves and Humans, Elk Clan Origin Myth; certain beings are thought to be invulnerable (but may not be): The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, Partridge's Older Brother; a warparty gives its leader tobacco so that he might reveal to them what victories the spirits have placed in his hands: The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, White Thunder's Warpath, Šųgepaga, The Dogs of the Chief's Son; a Waterspirit is killed and his body is used as medicine: A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Seer; hunters are sent out for bears and each comes back with one: Turtle's Warparty, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara; spirits bless someone with the right to kill a man ("give him a man"): White Thunder's Warpath, Šųgepaga, A Man's Revenge, The Masaxe War, Little Fox and the Ghost, Thunderbird and White Horse; in a conflict between the Hocągara and the Sioux, a Waterspirit helps rub out the entire Sioux warparty while they are crossing its lake: The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake; descriptions of human warfare: Black Otter's Warpath, Annihilation of the Hocągara II, The Warbundle Maker, The First Fox and Sauk War, Great Walker's Medicine, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Wazųka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath, The Fox-Hocąk War, White Fisher, The Lame Friend, White Thunder's Warpath, The Osage Massacre, A Man's Revenge, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, They Owe a Bullet, The Spanish Fight, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), Tobacco Man and Married Man, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšucka; a Sioux leader asks for quarter: Berdache Origin Myth; a warleader will not return to his people (because he has lost so many of his men): The Dipper.


1 Paul Radin, The Story of Big Walker, in Notebook Winnebago IV, #7, Freeman #3860 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Story 7h: 1-7.