Hočąk Clans Origin Myth

retold by Richard L. Dieterle


Version 1. After Earthmaker created the world and populated it with living creatures, he looked down to see how things fared. He soon discovered that the two legged walkers were being preyed upon by evil spirits of every description. In their misery they cried out for protection. Earthmaker took pity upon them, and summoned eight winged creatures and appointed them to oversee the welfare of the two legged walkers. Four of them flew over the earth. They were Thunderbird, Eagle, Hawk, and Pigeon. The other eight winged beings took up living on the earth's surface. They became the founders of the eight earth clans: Bear, Wolf, Waterspirit, Deer, Elk, Buffalo, Fish, and Snake. The earth and sky clans, decreed Earthmaker, were to be equal, and none among them wanted to be chief. Thus the Hočągara live as a single nation with diverse but harmonious parts.

Now that they formed a single nation, they had to decide what language they would speak. The eldest, Thunderbird, said, "Let us speak Ho-čąk, for čąk is a word of praise. Whenever we speak, our language will be a voice of praise to Earthmaker." Thus they became the Hočągara.1


Version 2. When Earthmaker had completed his creation he was pleased, but he realized that there were many things that were not right. Either from his poverty or his misbehavior, his last creation, man, was having his troubles. Then Earthmaker said, "Since things have fallen into disorder, especially for the two-legged walkers, I must have someone who will restore order to my creation." Earthmaker called together twelve spirits who were his servants. Then he said to them, "You shall go down and be the caretakers of my creation. Four shall be of the air, and four shall be on the face of the earth, and four shall be on the earth, under it, and under the waters." The four of the upper world were the Thunder, the Eagle, the Hawk, and the Pigeon; the four who were on the earth were the Bear, the Wolf, the Buffalo, and the Elk. Those who were under the earth, or who were under the waters, were the Snake, the Fish, the Deer, and the Waterspirit.

When Earthmaker saw the condition of the two legged walkers, he took pity on them. He sent out his voice that mankind should have a special plant. He told his messengers, "Whenever a human offered tobacco and asked for a favor, it cannot be denied him. Never deny him, as the tobacco is his possession alone. It is not in my nature to take it away from him. It is for his use so that he might make himself into something."

Before the twelve spirits assumed their posts, they sat down to consider what they should speak. Kunu spoke and said, "We shall speak Ho Čąk, of course." Then the spirits came down and when they spoke to one another, the people overheard them and understood, for they too spoke Ho Čąk, the "Voice of Praise." For it is said that when the two-legged walkers first began to speak to one another after the creation, they spoke the language of praise in the voice of praise. In the new creation, the people appreciated the Creator, and whenever they spoke, they spoke reverently in the voice of praise. In those times there were no swear words, and even words spoken in anger, were in the voice of praise. "The Voice of Praise," this is the meaning of Ho Čąk.

As time passed and the numbers of the people waxed, the precepts of the language fell into disuse, and the praiseworthiness of the language degenerated. In the beginning, however, it was a language that praised Mą’ųna, and that is why the people have called themselves the Hočągara.2


Version 3. "... their belief [is] that their own nation was brought into existence before any other. They suppose that they descended from the air by direction of the great spirit, bearing the human form at the time of their descent. They first inhabited the Winneebaágoa banks, so called, on the south east side of Green Bay, 12 miles from the mouth of the Fox river. It was during their residence at that place that they discovered the Munnoáminnees, who crossed the Bay in their bark canoes to the village at the Banks.3 ... The nation is divided into nine tribes [clans] whose names are taken from animals and birds sent with them by the great spirit to the earth, and transformed into indians, with the power & capacity to govern. These names are as follows, viz:

Hoan.tchér.ra. Or  the  Bear
Shoánk.tshaunk. Wolf
Wauk.hún.tsher.na. Thunder
Wauk.hún.na. Snake
Wauk.tshér.hee.na.   Devil
Hoa.wún.na. Elk
Tshau.waúk.shep. Grey Hawk
Hoo.rá.rau. Eagle
Ker.ne.djoo.sép. Hawk

Of these tribes, the Eldest Chief in the Thunder tribe is the most powerful."4


Commentary. "voice of praise" — the word čąk means "big, great, to be praiseworthy." The word Hočąk can therefore mean, among other things, "those of praiseworthy speech," from ho, meaning "voice, speech."5 However, it is more usually interpreted to mean "Great Voice."

"tribes" — the corrected list reads as follows:

Hųjᵋra Hoan.tchér.ra. Bear
Šųkčąk Shoánk.tshaunk. Wolf
Waką́jara   Wauk.hún.tsher.na. Thunderbird
Waką́na Wauk.hún.na. Snake
Wakčéxina   Wauk.tshér.hee.na.   Waterspirit
Hųwų́na Hoa.wún.na. Elk
Čawą́kšep Tshau.waúk.shep. Bull Moose (Deer)
Xurax’a Hoo.rá.rau. Gray Eagle (Eagle)
Kerejųsep Ker.ne.djoo.sép. Black Hawk (Hawk or Warrior)

The Pigeon Clan, Buffalo Clan, and Fish Clan were omitted.


Links: Earthmaker, Eagle (II), Pigeon, Elk (II), The Creation Council, Supernatural & Spiritual Power, Bear Spirits, Bear, Tobacco, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.


Stories: about (the origins of) the Hočąk clans: Bird Clan Origin Myth, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Story of the Thunder Names, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, The Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Snake Clan Origins, Fish Clan Origins; containing lists of the Hočąk clans: The Hočąk Migration Myth, Bladder and His Brothers, Origin of the Hočąk Chief; about the origins of the Hočąk nation: The Hočąk Arrival Myth, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Creation Council, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I; about the Creation Council: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Tobacco Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Origin of the Winnebago Chief, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Snake Clan Origins; mentioning the Thunderbird Clan: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, The Creation Council, Waruǧápara, The Greedy Woman, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth (v. 5), The Thunderbird; mentioning the Wolf Clan: Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, Little Priest's Game, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 3), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth; pertaining to the name Hočąk: White Flower; Introduction; about the creation of the world: The Creation of the World; Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, Šųgepaga; alluding to the creation of man: The Creation of Man, The Creation of the World, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Elk Clan Origin Myth, The Spirit of Gambling, Wolves and Humans, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed; about the union of the two moieties: Moiety Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth; featuring Pigeon as a character: Pigeon Clan Origins, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, Bird Spirits, The Creation Council, The Creation of Man (v. 2); mentioning pigeons: Pigeon Clan Origins, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Waruǧápara, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Lost Blanket, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Bird Origin Myth, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, The Creation Council, The Creation of Man (v. 2), The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Gottschall: A New Interpretation; mentioning eagles: The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), Pigeon Clan Origins, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Trickster and the Eagle, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Gift of Shooting, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; 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), 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; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; featuring Bear as a character: Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Bear Offers Himself as Food, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Woman Who Fought the Bear; and the sources cited there; mentioning (spirit) bears (other than were-bears): White Bear, Blue Bear, Black Bear, Red Bear, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Shaggy Man, Bear Offers Himself as Food, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Messengers of Hare, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Red Man, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Two Boys, Creation of the World (v. 5), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Brown Squirrel, Snowshoe Strings, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Spider's Eyes, Little Priest's Game, Little Priest, How He went out as a Soldier, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Trickster's Tail, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Warbundle Maker, cf. Fourth Universe; mentioning elks: Elk Clan Origin Myth, The Animal who would Eat Men (v. 1), The Elk's Skull, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Deer Clan Origin Myth, The Creation Council, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, Little Fox and the Ghost (v. 2), The Great Fish; See The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits; mentioning tobacco: Tobacco Origin Myth, Hare and the Grasshoppers, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Grandmother's Gifts, 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.


Themes: Earthmaker gives humanity control over tobacco (to compensate for its powerlessness): Tobacco Origin Myth, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 3), The Creation of Man (v. 11); Hočąk is the first language: The Creation of Man (vv. 2, 11).


Notes

1 Felix White, Sr. (Wolf Clan), "Origin Story of the Winnebago Clans," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 15-16.

2 Kathleen Danker and Felix White, Sr., The Hollow of Echoes (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978) 55-57. Informant: Felix White, Sr.

3 Charles C. Trowbridge, "Manners, Customs, and International Laws of the Win-nee-baa-goa Nation," (1823), Winnebago Manuscripts, in MS/I4ME, Charles Christopher Trowbridge Collection (02611), Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library, p. 86.

4 Trowbridge, "Manners, Customs, and International Laws of the Win-nee-baa-goa Nation," 89.

5 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]) 259 sv ho, 184 sv čąk.