Hawks (Kerejų)

by Richard L. Dieterle


Under the concept Kerejų, the Hočągara include both hawks and kites, but exclude eagles (čaxšep). This is a list of species for which we have Hočąk names:

black hawk kerejų́sep [jb-C]
kérečųsép [Dorsey]
Black Hawk, a mythological character and a name in the Bird Clan Kerejų́sepka [jh-M, Radin, Winnebago Tribe, Miner]
Big Black Hawk Kérečųsépxátega [Dorsey]
chicken hawk hiwizík [Lipkind]
manowįke [Dorsey]
chicken hawk (modern) wanįgerú’ą [cf. ru’ą, to lift up ?] [Marino]
wanįgrú’ą [Miner]
duck hawk kérečųsép
falcon, wing-footed hiwįčakijąke [cf. wį, to pinch in ?; čak, to be forked; ją, to curl around] [Marino]
fish hawk jojóke [Dorsey]
forked-tailed kite hiwíčakijąkéka [Dorsey]
night hawk hąpók [Dorsey]
pigeon hawk k’irįk’írisge [Radin, Winnebago Tribe]
Little Pigeon Hawk, a mythological character Kírikirisgénįka [jh-M]
yellow hawk kírikíriske [Dorsey]

Hawks, like all other brides, descend from Thunderbirds. As the Thunderbirds traversed the heavens, they would occasionally lose a feather. From such feathers, the visible birds sprang into existence. From the largest quill feathers of the Thunders there came into being the race of eagles; from other large feathers came the race of hawks and their kind; from the small feathers came such birds as partridges; from the down feathers came the small birds like robins and pigeons; and from the mere fuzz of down feathers emerged the very smallest of birds, such as sparrows and hummingbirds.1 When Earthmaker created spirit birds for the Medicine Rite, first he created out of his own body an eagle and his mates, then he created a pair of black hawks.2 This reflects the hierarchy of the Bird clans: Thunderbird Clan, Eagle Clan, Hawk Clan, and Pigeon Clan. The Hawk Clan in the Hočąk nation is particularly associated with war, being also known as the "Warrior Clan," just as the Thunderbird Clan is associated with peace. There are a number of hawk names found in the Warrior Clan:

Hišja Kererejąga Hawk Face [Dorsey]
Hiwičająkega Forked-Tail Hawk, a personal name in the Bird Clan [Radin, Winnebago Tribe]
Kerejųsepga Black Hawk [Radin, Winnebago Tribe]
Hiwičakijąkega Forked-Tailed Hawk (Falcon), a Warrior Clan personal name [d-WG]

That they have the name Wągeručgega, "Cannibal," and were said to have eaten people, they would be most paradigmatically represented by the falcon, since the falcon eats other birds.

Although eagles outrank hawks, the Thunderbirds are themselves ruled by someone who is in the spiritual form of a hawk, Great Black Hawk (Kerejų-sep-xete-ga). The Black Hawk was identified by Joseph LaMère as the American Swallow-tail Kite (Elanoides forficatus),3 although Dorsey identifies the Kerejų-sep with the Duck Hawk.4 The American Swallow-tail Kite disappeared in Wisconsin around 1850,5 so when Radin brought the issue up, he found that Thunderbirds were described as a particular kind of eagle.

Something of the older conception still clings to him, however, for he frequently acts as a bird and the flashing of his eyes still causes lightning. His baldness itself is an archaic feature, because the Thunderbird originally was supposed to be a kind of eagle.6

It is clear now that it is not the Bald Eagle which served as the model, but the bird that naive people have been known to confused with it, the American Swallow-tail Kite. The high status of this Kerejų derives from its extraordinary aerobatic skills, making it "the most aerial of our birds of prey."7 Its forked tail may have contributed to its being associated with lightning. At a mystical level, the shells shot at an initiate in the Medicine Rite are said to be black hawks.8 When the initiate is struck by the shell-projectile, shot from a bladder, he falls upon the ground, sometime quivering, as if he had been struck by lightning, the weapon whose governance falls to the Thunderbirds, whose chief is Great Black Hawk. The bladder for shooting shells may in some cases have been inserted inside the body of a black hawk.9 The speed of the black hawk also associates him with lightning. In a race between the Giants and the Wind, the former turned themselves into pigeon hawks, so the wind turned himself into a yet faster bird, the black hawk.10

The pigeon hawk (kirikirisge), next to the black hawk, is the most frequently mentioned in stories. Pigeon Hawk, a powerful war deity,11 is a younger brother of Great Black Hawk, Chief of the Thunders. When he was a nestling, a human captured him and treated him well as a pet. When he matured, the human gave him his freedom. This man was captured some time later by the Bad Thunderbirds, who intended to eat him. Pigeon Hawk intervened through his older brother, and the man was set free. This man, in recognition of his achievements, was granted a copy of the Thunderbird Warclub.12 In a lacrosse game with lives at stake, Little Pigeon Hawk took the ball, but was overtaken by Black Hawk, who cleaved him in two with his stick.13

Two other kinds of hawks are mentioned in a a story about a lacrosse game among the spirits: Red Tailed Hawk [inset] and Rough Legged Hawk. Red Tailed Hawk was paired with Naked One, a friend of Redhorn's. During the struggle for the ball, Naked One struck Red Tailed Hawk with his club, and threw him to the side. He declared, "Earthmaker did not make you so that you could be a bane to humanity. From now on, you shall feed on snakes." A human who looked just like Redhorn, was paired up against Rough Legged Hawk. The human struck him with his club and threw him to the side, saying, "The Creator did not create you for this purpose, so from now on you shall only eat mice."14 Both these hawks flew off and their kind lived the kind of life to which they were condemned.

While hawks are sometimes bad spirits, one was noted for having rescued Wears White Feather, who had become stuck in the fork of a tree. As hard as he tried, he could not free himself, but he saw a hawk flying overhead, and called out to him, "Grandfather, I am stuck. See if you can come down and do something." So the hawk descended to the tree and split the fork in which the young man was caught. After that, Wears White Feather was able to go on to defeat the Giants in a race to the ends of the earth.15

Hawks are famous as physicians. Once a man had an arrow lodged in his body. Wolf tried to remove it, but could not budge it. Turtle tried, but actually pushed it in farther. Hawk had breathed upon the arrow, then had given it a pull and had gotten it half way out. The man, however, had yelled, "Ow!" It turned out that only Redhorn could remove the arrow and cure the wound.16 Once Holy One wounded two Waterspirits with his arrows, so they summoned a hawk to cure them. Holy One intercepted the hawk on his way there, found out what he was to do, then killed him. In this disguise, he approached the wounded Waterspirits and finished them off.17


The Rough Legged Hawk
Pigeon Hawk

Links: Great Black Hawk, Black Hawk, Black Hawks, Pigeon Hawk, Wonáǧire Wąkšik, Thunderbirds, Redhorn, Earthmaker.


Stories: mentioning hawks: Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Holy One and His Brother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Thunderbird, Partridge's Older Brother, Creation Council, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Waruǧápara, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; mentioning Great Black Hawk: Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Chief of the Heroka, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, Waruǧápara, The Lost Blanket, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Redhorn's Sons, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga; featuring Black Hawk as a character: Morning Star and His Friend, The Creation Council; mentioning black hawks: Hawk Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), The Dipper, The Thunderbird, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Waruǧápara, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Morning Star and His Friend, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; mentioning pigeon hawks (kirikirisge): The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse; featuring Wonáǧire Wąkšik as a character: Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 1) (?) (called "Spirit of War"?), Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Redhorn and His Brothers Marry (where he is called "Hawk"), cf. The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, Owl Goes Hunting, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (kaǧi, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧápara, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Heną́ga and Star Girl (black hawk), Worúxega (eagle), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (eagle), The Gift of Shooting (eagle), Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (buzzards), The Shaggy Man (kaǧi), The Healing Blessing (kaǧi), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (kaǧi), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įčorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Fleetfooted Man, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds, and the sources cited there.


Themes: people turn into birds: Waruǧápara (owl, Thunderbird), Worúxega (eagle), The Thunderbird (blackhawk, hummingbird), The Dipper (black hawk, hummingbird), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (blackhawk, owl), The Hočąk Arrival Myth (ravens), The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (turkey), The Quail Hunter (partridge), The Markings on the Moon (auk, curlew), The Fox-Hočąk War (goose), The Fleetfooted Man (water fowl?), The Boy Who Became a Robin (robin); a human turns into a (spirit) animal: How the Thunders Met the Nights (Thunderbird), Waruǧápara (Thunderbird), The Dipper (hummingbird), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (blackhawk, owl), Elk Clan Origin Myth (elk), Young Man Gambles Often (elk), Sun and the Big Eater (horse), The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Were-Grizzly, Partridge's Older Brother (bear), The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother (bear), Porcupine and His Brothers (bear), The Shaggy Man (bear), The Roaster (bear), Wazųka (bear), White Wolf (dog, wolf), Worúxega (wolf, bird, snake), He Who Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (buffalo), The Brown Squirrel (squirrel), The Skunk Origin Myth (skunk), The Fleetfooted Man (otter, bird), The Diving Contest (Waterspirit), The Woman who Married a Snake (snake, Waterspirit), The Omahas who turned into Snakes (four-legged snakes), The Twins Get into Hot Water (v. 3) (alligators), Snowshoe Strings (a frog), How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (v. 3) (earthworms), The Woman Who Became an Ant, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane (ant); a young man has a living bird with a clear voice as his headdress: Old Man and Wears White Feather The Dipper (blackhawk).


Notes are in a separate file.