Keramąnįš’aka's Blessing

by Jasper Blowsnake
retold by Richard L. Dieterle


Jasper Blowsnake

Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


(69) Greetings. There was one whom they called Keramą́nįš’áka ("Ancient Sky Walker"). And downstream on the Mississippi at Mo’uičā́ the Ioway were settled. This Keramą́nįš’áka, every single fall, would visit the Ioway Čašex'įga. (70) On the fourth of these continual visits, he took a boat in which he took along all those things that the man would present to him. When he got there, then the Ioway put on as much clothing as he was going to wear. And he presented to the one who was the Ioway's wife sufficient clothing to cover her as well. And to the child that the Ioway had, he again gave sufficient clothing, that indeed he did, and he placed in the Ioway's lodge as much food as anyone could eat, that much he laid out for them. Then a gun, the kind they used to call "back-trimmed," he put in the front, facing the opposite direction, and two leashed hunting dogs he placed there. He placed them there with two cords of buffalo hair. Then this indeed he said to him there: "Hąhą́’ą́, younger brother, how you have shown your consideration for me; you are indeed a Medicine Rite man. And, younger brother, then whatever thing that you seek, in that very thing is all you have accomplished for me; but you will not take (this power) right now. Once you are home and have arrived at the time of your fourth sleeping, then I will present it to you. I will come, but then, younger brother, do not sleep. If you were to sleep, you would make yourself poor." Then he went home.

Once Keramą́nįš’áka was home, after having slept for the fourth time, then early in the evening he began listening. Then, whence he had come, a bird, a black hawk, cried out. Yet now he instantly arrived at the lodge, and alighted upon the roof, and after it had come to the roof of the lodge, it was an owl that had landed on the roof, and it strained its neck about the lodge. "Ja, younger brother, are you awake?" "Hąhą́’ą, I am awake." He said, "It is good. You did yourself well," he said to him. Then he went in. After he had gone in, then what he had been making for himself, there he gave it to him. He said to him, "Now, younger brother, choose for yourself what you will do." Then he did this: he placed the two medicine bundles in front of him. Keramąnįš’aka thought to himself, "Indeed, this would be a lot. If I selected the child, it would indeed amount to a male scalp," he thought. Then he said, that is, the Ioway said, "If you do not take one, then your little brother will possess it." He uncovered all of the child's medicine bundle. The other one was a woman's scalp, and this he spoke for, and took the woman's scalp. If he had taken the child, it would indeed have been too much to pour the tobacco for it. Because he thought this, therefore he did not take it. Then he said, "Younger brother, I give you the breathings. However, I want you to never turn it wrong end up. When you wish to obtain life, then stand it upright on a child's lap, then start up one of the dances, then if you make a dance, those who wish Life, they will live it. I have not asked it for much. If in the course of time, something makes you hurry, and you wish to use the breathings right away, go ahead and do so. This is all I have to say."

This, they say, is as far as the story goes. This sets out the way in which it may be obtained, they say.1


Commentary. "Keramą́nįš’áka" the name can mean either "Ancient (Old) Sky Walker," or "Ancient Cloud Walker." Inasmuch as "sky walker" is a formulaic name for birds, the name would be from the Bird Clan. Compare, Mąxíwimànįga, "Cloud Walker"; Mątajehimaniga, "Wind Walker"; Čoraminąka, "Sits in the Blue."

"the Ioway" — the tribe perhaps most closely related to the Hočągara. Their traditions say that they are an offshoot of the Hočąk nation, and they refer to the Hočągara as "older brothers."

Fort Armstrong as Seen from the Illinois Shore

"Mo’uičā́" — Radin says in a MS note: "name of place down the Mississippi where Iowas used to live (Rock Island)".2 The name appears to be the Hočąk, mo’ų, "to move," and hičá, "there." Rock Island (41°29′21″N 90°34′23″W), the largest island in the Mississippi, is mainly noted for the Sauk village of Saukenuk, where Black Hawk was born. It was the site of Ft. Armstrong from 1816 to 1836.

"Čašex'įga" — this name is (also) Hočąk, and means "Wrinkled Neck," perhaps a reference to the vulture.

Jim Gordon Collection, GRRW
Lehman Indian Rifle, 1850s

"back-trimmed" — the Hočąk is nąké rujip, where nąké means "back" and rujip, by default, means "trimmed." Radin has nąké translated as "stalk" which may be a mispelling from his translator for "stock." We may infer that the back of the gun was taken to be its stock, as we might expect. Most rifles sold in the Indian trade were plain, but several models had trimming on their stocks, such as the Lehman model above. This feature was much sought after, and often Indians would themselves trim their stocks with their own ornaments, such as brass tacks.

"a black hawk" — Radin remarks, "The black hawk is the Iowa and his power to transform himself into this animal indicates that he is an evil medicine man."3

"an owl" — owls have a sinister reputation and are often vehicles of ill foreboding. This reinforces Radin's suggestion above that the Ioway is an evil medicine man.

"bundles" — these are medicine bundles. The skins are a special wrapping enclosing a number of very sacred objects imbued with great supernatural power, which is then conferred on the legitimate owner.

"the child" — the bundle made of the child's skin would on the face of it appear to be the least powerful. In war, an enemy warrior's head is more valuable than a woman's. Someone who killed a child is awarded a feather of proportionate size, much smaller than feathers awarded for killing an adult. Human skin as the covering of a bundle represents a high order of power. A case is known from the story of the Thunderbird Warbundle, which was made from the skin of a human volunteer. Its power exceeded those of all other bundles. It may be that the contents of the child's scalp bundle was simply more powerful, a fact that he could intuit from having examined its contents.

"amount to a male scalp" — this is ambiguous: does it mean, as Radin suggests, that it will enable Keramaniš’aka to obtain a scalp in battle, or does it mean that its powers are like those possessed by an enemy warrior's scalp?

"too much to pour the tobacco for it" — Radin adds,

The pouches mentioned were the type used only in shamanistic practices. That the Iowa medicine man presses his guest to take the pouch has many significant overtones. The Iowa wishes his guest to take it because it is the more powerful of the two and because, as a competing shaman, he has no objection to the other over-reaching himself. However, it is also intended as a gracious compliment to the courage and the power of his visitor. Keramaniš’aka, we see, is sorely tempted but finally realizes that it is too dangerous and takes the pouch made of the woman's scalp. Putting a person to such a test is a typical incident in the vision quest. It is the persistent preaching of the Winnebago to every faster, not to let his ambition and greed override his sense of proportion and fitness lest what is good and life-giving be converted into its opposite."4 See also the Commentary to "The Warbundle of the Eight Generations."

However, Keramąnįš’aka is clearly saying here that the amount of tobacco required to do proper honor to the spirits attached to the bundle would simply exceed his supply of tobacco. In other words, it is largely a practical matter of his wealth, which is not sufficient to properly work the power of the bundle.


Links: Supernatural & Spiritual Power, Black Hawks, Hawks, Owls, Witches.


Stories: mentioning the Ioway: Ioway & Missouria Origins, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Migistéga’s Magic, Little Priest's Game, A Peyote Story, Introduction; mentioning witches or warlocks: The Witch Men's Desert, The Thunder Charm, The Wild Rose, The Seer, Turtle and the Witches, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Claw Shooter, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Migistéga's Death, The Mesquaki Magician, The Tap the Head Medicine, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, The Magical Powers of Lincoln's Grandfather, The Hills of La Crosse, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara (v. 2), Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Potato Magic, Young Rogue's Magic; 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, 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; mentioning black hawks: Origin Myth of the Hawk Clan (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, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; in which owls are mentioned: Owl Goes Hunting, Crane and His Brothers, The Spirit of Gambling, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Glory of the Morning, The Chief of the Heroka, Partridge's Older Brother, Waruǧápara, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, The Green Man; pertaining to the Medicine Rite: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Maize Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hog's Adventures, Great Walker's Warpath; mentioning medicine bundles: The Tap the Head Medicine, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, The Mesquaki Magician; set on the Mississippi (Nį Kuse): The Two Children, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Oto Origins, Bluehorn's Nephews, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle.

Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite (The Road of Life and Death) in notebook order: The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Historical Origins of the Medicine Rite, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), The Creation of the World (v. 12), The Creation of Man (v. 8), Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), Testing the Slave, South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 1), The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 2), East Shakes the Messenger, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 4), The Messengers of Hare (v. 2), North Shakes His Gourd, Grandmother's Gifts, South Seizes the Messenger, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Messengers of Hare (v. 1), The Island Weight Songs, The Petition to Earthmaker, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Completion Song Origin, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Diving Contest, The Sweetened Drink Song, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 3), The Tap the Head Medicine, The Claw Shooter, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 4), Peace of Mind Regained, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 5), A Wife for Knowledge, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 2), South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), Death Enters the World.

The prequel to this story is found in The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle.


Themes: a witch blesses someone with (things of) power: Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle; a human turns into a (spirit) animal: How the Thunders Met the Nights (Thunderbird), Waruǧápara (Thunderbird), The Dipper (hummingbird), 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), The Spotted Grizzly Man (bear), Brass and Red Bear Boy (bear, buffalo), White Wolf (dog, wolf), Worúxega (wolf, bird, snake), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (buffalo), The Brown Squirrel (squirrel), The Skunk Origin Myth (skunk), The Fleetfooted Man (otter, bird), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (otter), 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); people turn into birds: Waruǧápara (owl, Thunderbird), Worúxega (eagle), The Thunderbird (black hawk, hummingbird), The Dipper (black hawk, hummingbird), 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); someone must stay awake for a long time in order to receive a blessing: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Snowshoe Strings; a man rejects a blessing because it is too powerful: The Warbundle of the Eight Generations.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Culture of the Winnebago: As Defined by Themselves. The Origin Myth of the Medicine Rite: Three Versions. The Historical Origins of the Medicine Rite. International Journal of American Linguistics, Memoirs, 3 (1950): §1.3, 69.1(2)-70.36. Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [1945]) 92-93. Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Library) Winnebago II, #6: 17-21 (the original interlinear MS); Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Library) Winnebago II, #1: 30-33 (handwritten phonetic text); Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Library) Winnebago III, #12: 18-20 (typed text, phonetic only); Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Library) Winnebago II, #5: 31-34 (typewritten phonetic text with a typewritten interlinear translation).

2 Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society Library, n.d.) Winnebago II, #6: 16 verso.

3 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 337 nt 30.

4 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 337 nt 30.