The Hočąk Arrival Myth

by One Who Wins

retold by Richard L. Dieterle


 

On account of his vision, a great Menominee chief commanded that all manner of supplies be assembled at a white sand beach on Lake Michigan. And when all this had been done and set in order, as the sun reached its zenith the vision came to life: in the pure blue sky of the eastern horizon a single dark cloud began to form and move irresistibly towards them. It was a great flock of ravens — not at all ordinary blackbirds — but spirit birds with rainbow plumage of iridescent colors. The instant that the first of these landed, he materialized into a naked, kneeling man. The Menominee chief said to his people, "Give this man clothing, for he is a chief." And the others landed in like fashion, and were given great hospitality. They were the Hočąk nation, and that is how they came to Red Banks.1


Commentary. This story probably originated within the Bear Clan. In version 3 of the Bear Clan Origin Myth, the founders of the clan changed into ravens (crows) as they were crossing the waters. When they arrived on land, they changed back into bears. Because they changed twice, they were held to have greater power.2 It may also be of interest that a raven is included as one of the items of the Thunderbird Warbundle.3 The first man to land and to be recognized as chief would be expected to be a member of the Thunderbird Clan, as the chief is always drawn from that clan. When the Hočągara wish to sue for peace the chief will strip completely naked, paint himself blue, and run to the enemy village where they may accept peace at his hands or burn him alive, as they see fit. The chief arriving before the Menominee without clothes may make allusion to the accepted ritual for seeking peace.

The Hočąk word for "raven, crow" is kaǧi. They also call the Menominee Kaǧi.4 So the Hočągara came to Red Banks as one with the Menominee. Some Hočąk mythology is characterized by role reversals: the Hočągara attributing to other tribes what they uniquely do themselves. In this case, the fact of the matter is that the Menominee moved west from land on the other side of Lake Michigan and were accepted with hospitality by the Hočągara.


Comparative Material. The Fox have a story about the origin of the Sauk nation that is parallel and at the same time inverse in some respects. "The People of the Red Earth [the Fox] dwelt a long time by the sea. Old men used to congregate at the shore, where they could sit and look out over the sea. On one of these occasions they beheld an object coming from afar, and making straight for the shore where they were. They watched, and saw that it was a huge fish. For a while its head reared above the water; and when it ducked beneath, up came the tail a-switching. Thus it came, first the head out of the water, and then the tail. When the fish drew nigh, the people saw that its head was like the head of a man, and they were astonished. They watched it come to the shore, and when it arrived in water too shallow for swimming, it rose; and every part that lifted out of water became the same as a man. The tail was the last to change; it became legs and feet after leaving the water behind. Behind the strange being came a great school of other fishes, and the same thing happened to them. They changed from fishes into people. They went up from the water and followed their leader. He was bigger and taller than all the rest. He was their chief. He led them off to a place close by the town. Everything they saw they copied. Everything they saw the Foxes do, they went and did the same. The Foxes asked them who they were, why they left the sea, what manner of life they had while there. But the new folk were unable to tell. All they knew was, that they had lived in the sea, that one day they followed their chief inshore, and became transformed into people when they quit the water. Nothing more could they tell. Thereupon, because they knew nought of themselves while in the sea, the Foxes named them Osagiwagi, which is 'people who come out into the open.' They gave the name as a symbol to show that they came out of one manner of life and entered into another which they knew nothing of before. It was a sign that they came out to become a race of people."5 The friendship people of the Sauk are the Fox, and the Sauk come not as ravens flying over water, but as fish emerging from it.


Links: Kaǧi, Bird Spirits, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.


Stories: about first contacts: First Contact (French/Hočąk), The Cosmic Ages of the Hočągara (French/Hočąk).; about the origins of the Hočąk nation: The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Creation Council, Great Walker's Warpath, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, First Contact; about the relationship between the Menominee and the Hočągara: Origin of the Name "Winnebago" (Menominee), Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 2b) (Origins of the Menominee); mentioning the Menominee: Origin of the Name "Winnebago" (Menominee), Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 2b) (Origins of the Menominee), The Fox-Hočąk War, First Contact, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), Annihilation of the Hočągara II, Two Roads to Spiritland, The Two Children, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e (Extracts ...), Introduction; about the migration of the Hočągara: The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Hočągara Migrate South, The First Sauk and Fox War, The Spanish Fight, Quapah Origins, cf. Hočąk Clans Origin Myth; mentioning kaǧi (crows & ravens): Kaǧiga and Lone Man, Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2, 3), The Spider's Eyes, The Old Man and the Giants, Turtle's Warparty, The Shaggy Man, Trickster's Tail, The Healing Blessing, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Ocean Duck; 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, 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), 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; set at Red Banks (Mógašúč): The Creation Council, Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The Great Lodge, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3, 5), Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2a, 3, 8, 11, 12), The Winnebago Fort, Blue Bear, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 10), Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins (fr. 1), Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Šųgepaga, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e ("St. Peet," "Hočąk Origins"), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), The Seven Maidens, First Contact, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath; set at Lake Michigan (Te Šišik): Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 3), Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," Gatschet's Hočank hit’e ("Hočąk Origins").


Themes: the Hočąk nation arrives from another (warmer) place: The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells; The Hočąk Migration Myth; the Hočągara arrive in the Wazija by crossing a great body of water: The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Hočągara Migrate South; Proto-Hočągara arrive at Red Banks in the form of ravens: Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 3); people turn into birds: Waruǧápara (owl, Thunderbird), Worúxega (eagle), The Thunderbird (black hawk, hummingbird), The Dipper (black hawk, hummingbird), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), 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).


Notes

1 Walter Funmaker, The Winnebago Black Bear Subclan: a Defended Culture (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Minnesota: December, 1986 [MnU-D 86-361]) 6-7. Informant: One Who Wins of the Winnebago Bear Clan.

2 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 181-182.

3 Paul Radin, "Winnebago Tales," Journal of American Folklore, 22 (1909): 288.

4 Mary Carolyn Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago: An Analysis and Reference Grammar of the Radin Lexical File (Ph.D. Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, December 14, 1968 [69-14,947]) p. 279, sv. kaǧi.

5 Fred McTaggart, Wolf That I Am: In Search of the Red Earth People (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976) 177-178.