The Hočąk Migration Myth

by David Lee Smith

retold by Richard L. Dieterle


One night Earthmaker spoke to Bear in a dream: "Tomorrow you shall set out for a new land, a hunting ground of abundant game where you shall have food beyond what you now take from the waters." That morning Bear held a council with the clan chiefs and told them the great blessing that Earthmaker had given them. Deer and his people were chosen to leave first. Then Bear left, followed by Wolf. The next day Buffalo led his people away along the same path. Finally, Eagle blessed those people left behind and flew off into the sunrise. After a long journey, Bear came across a mighty river. They held a council in which Bear asked, "How shall we ever travel across a river so wide?" Just then, unexpectedly, jingling noise was heard, and Bear knew immediately who it was: "Ah, it's my friend Turtle!" Bear told him of their dilemma, and Turtle replied, "You can ride on my back." Many thought to themselves, "Turtle always exaggerates! How can anyone fit on his back?" But unexpectedly Turtle enlarged himself to the size of a long lodge, so that many people were able to sit on his back as he floated across the great expanse of river. Soon all the earth people had crossed over on his back while the winged creatures among them flew overhead. They thanked Turtle very much, and ever after they were called the People of the Turtle. This is how the Hočągara came to the Wazija.1


Commentary. Turtle represents war more than any other spirit, since it was he who created the institution. The turtle becomes an apt symbol for war because, among the Hočągara, snapping turtle claws were used for arrowheads. To say that the Hočągara entered the Wazija "on the back of Turtle" certainly sounds like saying that they took it through the power of Turtle, that is, by conquest. Bear is the especial friend of Turtle because of all the clan animals the bear is the most warlike in temperament, and the function of the Bear Clan is that of police, which is a paramilitary function. It is interesting to note that only a portion of the existing clans are mentioned:

Clans Enumerated: Clans Omitted:
1. Deer 1. Thunderbird
2. Bear 2. Hawk (Warrior)
3. Wolf 3. Pigeon
4. Buffalo 4. Waterspirit
5. Eagle 5. Elk
6. Snake
7. Fish

Deer may have led because they are said to have roamed the world when they first came to earth. Despite Deer's pulling point, Bear is clearly in charge. However, the omission of the other six clans can be explained. Mention is made of the winged clans "flying overhead," so that Eagle may simply have stood for the whole "Bird Clan" which is now the Upper Moiety. The Elk Clan is strongly associated with the Deer Clan, which may explain its abscence from the list. The remaining clans have totem animals that can at least sometimes swim, although Snake is a problem in this context.

Paleolinguistics shows that the Chiwere separated from the Çegiha around 1300 AD.2 The Omaha and Ponca remember their former affiliation with the Hočągara, and refer to them as "older brother."3 It is therefore possible that this worak recalls the migration from a proto-Çegiha-Chiwere homeland in the prairies to the Chiwere homeland in Wisconsin, since it is an eastward migration that appears to cross the Mississippi. There was a tradition that the Hočągara migrated from the southwest. Wak’ąhaga of the Snake Clan believed that the Hočągara took their name from the whale which was found in abundance in their ancestral homeland on the shore of the southwestern ocean (see also this).4

Some of the repeating elements in this worak are not too difficult to extract:

Earthmaker Earthmaker's Because Turtle
blessings Blessings has helped them,
speaks to Bear are spoken of by Bear are given by Eagle Bear asks they are called
about the destiny of the people to the people to the people the people "The People of Turtle."
in a dream in a council. in a council
about a new land. They are to go to a new land. to get to the Wazija, This is how the Wazija
They live off the waters They shall cross the waters. "How are we to cross the waters?"
They set out left They cross was entered by the Hočągara.
in serial order behind. together
on foot floating on Turtle's back,
with earth clans first, except the bird clans above
except that Eagle flies. who fly.

As short as the worak is, it still forms an intensive miniature, with its constituent elements repeating themselves at least five times.


Links: Bear II, Wolf & Dog Spirits, Earthmaker, Turtle, Eagle (II), The Wazija.


Stories: about the migration of the Hočągara: The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, The Hočągara Migrate South, The First Sauk and Fox War, The Spanish Fight, Quapah Origins, cf. Hočąk Clans Origin Myth; the five clans mentioned: Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, containing lists of the Hočąk clans: Bladder and His Brothers, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Origin of the Hočąk Chief; about the origins of the Hočąk nation: The Hočąk Arrival Myth, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, The Creation Council, Great Walker's Warpath, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, First Contact; for Eagle, see The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth; 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 Necessity for Death, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, 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; 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, Grandmother's Gifts, Bladder and His Brothers, The Old Man and the Giants, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Kunu's Warpath, Morning Star and His Friend, Chief Wave and the Big Drunk; Peace of Mind Regained (?); featuring Bear as a character: Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Bear Offers Himself as Food, Hočąk Clans Origin 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; 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, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The Messengers of Hare, Bird Clan Origin 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; featuring Turtle as a character: The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Turtle's Warparty, Turtle and the Giant, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Turtle and the Merchant, Redhorn's Father, Redhorn's Sons, Turtle and the Witches, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster Soils the Princess, Morning Star and His Friend, Grandfather's Two Families, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Kunu's Warpath, Redhorn Contests the Giants, Redhorn and His Brothers Marry, The Skunk Origin Myth, Porcupine and His Brothers, The Creation of Man, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee, The Chief of the Heroka, The Spirit of Gambling, The Nannyberry Picker, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Markings on the Moon (v. 2), The Green Man, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way; mentioning eagles: The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), Pigeon Clan Origins, Hočąk Clans Origin 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), Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin 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 the Wazija: Trickster and the Geese, The First Fox and Sauk War, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Cosmic Ages of the Hočągara, Deer Spirits, Waruǧápara, The Creation of Man; set on the Mississippi (Nį Kuse): The Two Children, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Oto Origins, Bluehorn's Nephews, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle.


Themes: the Hočąk nation arrives from another (warmer) place: The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells; The Hočąk Arrival Myth; the Hočągara arrive in the Wazija by crossing a great body of water: The Hočągara Migrate South, The Hočąk Arrival Myth; crossing a body of water on the back of an animal: Ocean Duck (Waterspirit), Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads (crabs), The Seduction of Redhorn's Sons (leeches), Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (beaver), Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts (horse), cf. The Shaggy Man; Turtle carries a number of people on his body: Redhorn's Sons, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth; the Hočągara as the People of Turtle: The Creation of Man (v. 4).


Notes

1 David Lee Smith (Thunderbird Clan), "The Migration of the Ho-Chunk People," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 26-27.

2 James W. Springer and Stanley R. Witkowski, "Siouan Historical Linguistics and Oneota Archaeology," in Oneota Studies, ed. Guy Gibbon (1982); Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 2-3.

3 Henry Schoolcraft, Information respecting the Historical Conditions and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States (J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1852-1854) 3:236.

4 Personal communicatoin from B. W. Brisbois to Rueben G. Thwaites (1882), Wisconsin Historical Collections, 10 (1885): 500; Lawson, "The Winnebago Tribe," 83.