A Man's Revenge
narrated by Aleck Lonetree
Hočąk-English Interlinear Text
(1) When they told stories, they would always tell them this, they would mention to which tribe they belonged. These were Hočąk, and they numbered about a thousand. They erected a village, but after the Indians were done there, they always kept moving on, and as in the early days they were eating different animals, they followed the deer and buffalo in order to chase after them. And in the winter, they used to move to a particular lake. Before very long during the winter, an old man, his wife, his daughter, and his son-in-law, four of them, lived in a single lodge by themselves. As the old man was aged, he could not hunt, and he couldn't even trap or hunt little animals. So his son-in-law had to provide by hunting. And it would be the case that this old man used to give a feast. (2) "My daughter," he said, I used to feast every winter. It is near the time for it, and if my son-in-law were to kill one thing for me, that would suffice for a feast. Once he learns of it, then just a single deer would be fine, if he could do that for me, he would make me very grateful," the old man said.
That man said to his wife, "Here war is afoot, but what he did to be here in this land I would never do, I think. So tomorrow, take the children with you, go out two day's travel to where they used to camp. It will be for one hunt. The next morning, they started back. (3) She took the children, and as they went along, finally, there was a good camping place. There they stopped. In the evening, the woman tried to make a lodge. The man said, "While you are making a lodge, I'll go out quickly and hunt for some little thing," he said. He told his wife this while he stood there looking around. And then he started off. He took his bow and arrows, and then the woman gathered wood, and when she was done, she went to dip water, and she scooped it up in a pail, and put it on the fire so that it would be ready. It was already getting dark. The man packed a deer home. They skinned it, and then they cut it up, and the left overs that they were going to eat at that time, the woman placed to dry. And once the kettle had cooled, they ate. When they quit eating, they retired. Soon the children were asleep, as well as the woman.(4) This man wasn't sleeping. He was thinking. As he lay there, he thought about what he would do in the hunting on the following day. "I could kill something and I would make my father-in-law's heart feel good," he thought. So he couldn't sleep very long. The next morning, when they woke up, after they had eaten, he said, "My wife, as you know, I think much of you. If the moment we get into a bad thing, at this juncture, no matter what happens, wherever you go, I have always said that I would come there for you. If something that's not good comes up, don't leave the children," he said, and he kissed the children. Then he went off. He hunted all day long. At that time, as he was going about things, he killed a deer. (5) He skinned it, and he packed it in the skin which he carried on his back, and then that one went home.
When he approached, he noticed that the lodge poles were sticking straight up. From the first, he knew what had happened, as thus they used to do. "They have killed my wife, my children," he thought. He started for the lodge, and when that one returned there, he peeped in, and there sat his own children where they had been placed. They had killed them, and they had raised their lips in such a way that their teeth were visible. His heart ached much, but he laughed, and said, "I am going to cook for my two children. We will eat together for the last time." After the food was cooked, he cut pieces of meat for them, little pieces. He pried open the mouth, and in his mouth, he put a little piece of meat. (6) Then he ate. Then he was talking to them. They made my heart to ache, I will do for the children enough by making many really good gifts for their limbs, and then I will place you in the earth, and I think that I'll retrieve your mother. Also I have always believed that I could do a little bit of this warfare myself. I have always believed, when thinking of myself, that I am no big deal. So when your spirits go to that very good place, there thus you will go," he told them.
Then he painted himself. Half his body he made white, and then the other side he made black. After he finished this, he tightened his bowstring. Then he straightened his arrows, and then set out. As he went along, that one came into a war road trail. (7) After very carefully scrutinizing the tracks, he saw that his wife was with them, as her tracks were there. He knew that here they had taken her prisoner. There he used the form of a ghost, and went in pursuit. When he got near to them, he ran ahead of them. And then he hid, and when the Warbundle Bearer came along, he whooped, and knocked him down, severing him at the neck, and then he ran off. He put it in a hiding place, and again ran ahead of them. Again, the next time the Warbundle Bearer came along, he now whooped and knocked him down. Again, immediately, he whacked off the head, and once more ran off. There again he put the head in a hiding place. Once more he ran ahead of them. As the Warbundle Bearer came along for a third time, he then whooped again, and whacked off his head, and ran off with it. Then he put it in the hiding place, and ran ahead of them again. Then again for the fourth time he killed the Warbundle Bearer. (8) Thus as that man kept on, he killed eight Warbundle Bearers, and then daylight appeared. Here he took all of the warclubs and the heads that he had, and then he went back towards the camp. When he returned to where he had camped, there he fixed the heads, and then he addressed his children: "My dear children, in any case I have done well enough for your limbs, but the daylight came upon me, and so I did not get your mother," he told them.
Then the man started for his own people. When he arrived nearby, he put the human heads near the village there in a row, and the warclub belonging to each that he knew of, there he set them by their sides. And once it had become dark, he came towards his father's camp. He got there late at night when the fire was dying down. (9) Where he used to sit, there he very deliberately sat down. Those parents of his were asleep. He arranged his hair in braids, and made his own face black, and there he sat down. The old man awoke. As he glanced about, he found him. In the place that his son used to occupy, There was one who was blackened, and was seated. He said, "My wife, there in our son's seat a man is sitting, and so it must be my son, or so it seems. Better fix the small fire," he said to her. Once that old man had the fire fixed, as it became lighter, when they looked at that man, it was their son. And indeed, how little they knew. (10) Then that old man said, "Jaha, my son, what brings you here again?" he said. After he had said this, his son replied, "While I was out hunting there was a war thing, and they came upon my lodge, and in the evening when I got back, the lodge poles were upright when I arrived. They killed for me my children, then they took my wife prisoner. My heart ached, but I made excellent food for my children, and then in a place I put them away, and I told them what I was going to do for them, and then I went after them, going for the Warbundle Bearers, eight of whom I killed, and then when Our Grandfather appeared, I quit. Then I brought them back to the lodge, and there I fixed them, and then I told the children something. I had done enough for their little limbs, and they would certainly travel well. (11) And I brought these heads home, their warclubs with them, placing them in a row near the village, and just which warclub that belong to each. I placed them on top," the man said. "My son," the old man said, "In truth, some further good you did for the children, and for your own people you have also done well. You've brought them some nice heads. They will have some excellent fun with them, and they will place them in front of you. It is just this way that I want to be wealthy, and it was for this reason that I used to say this to you went you were small. Indeed, in this great deed, you have surpassed yourself. My mind feels great. I will play with them myself, as I myself declare," said the old man, (12) and, "Tomorrow at first light, the crier will go around this village. He'll announce what a man who has returned has done." When they heard, it was his brothers-in-law who went there first. "We want to be the first to count coup this way, this is the sort of thing that we are seeking, brother-in-law," said Kunúga. So that man told them about it, and where the heads were, and that they would be the first to count coup, and they like this a lot. They thanked their brother-in-law. Then they gathered together as many men as could handle warclubs. The old man entertained the notion that he might be able to do a little running himself. All of them started out. When they found those human heads, when those men, the brothers-in-law, found them first, they became the first to count coup. (13) When the men came up, they gave a whoop and scrambled to hit them as well. Finally, after they had all had victories, they took the human heads along with them, and brought them to the War Lodge, where they meticulously executed the Victory Dance (Wakje Waši). They were all saying, "This man has done a holy thing," they were saying. Finally, when the dance was over, the man once more meticulously rubbed charcoal in, and then he fasted. Finally, after it had gone on for about forty days, he said that he was leaving, so his brothers-in-law killed deer for him, and they held a feast. And he said, "You young men, here the War Controllers must have blessed me a bit. I am going back. Therefore, I shall be going to fetch back my wife. (14) What I am destined to do to that village, I was trying to know myself, that's why I was doing this. I have been fasting, and as many as there are, that many I'm marching with. Whoever would follow me, if you make yourselves ready, when you're done feasting, tomorrow when Our Grandfather appears, we will all gather near the brush on the side of this hill near there, and here we will start," he told them.
Once they had gathered, his brothers-in-law were all in attendance. Then they started out, and went all day. Finally, early in the evening, there he arrived and marked out the camp. For the remainder of the night, those warriors were telling stories (woragᵋra). (15) Doing thus on the warpath, they would not sleep. Then the day came, and the next morning, they went back again. Thus they did. And when he had marked out the fourth camp there, then the man, the leader, said, "And you young men, it is near here, the place we are going to, therefore, this night I myself am going out, I'm going out to scout," he told them. Then he started off. Since he went swiftly, when he came to the village late at night, he caused the whole village to sleep. And wherever the chief's lodge was situated when he arrived, it was in there that his wife was. Here he spoke to her, "If you want to live, go to your brothers, as I myself am going to be fighting alone, is what I'm saying. (16) Then I used to say, that wherever they take you, I would come after you. I would say this at the very time I was coming after you, but a large number of them, eight to be exact, I killed, and then it became day, so I was not able to take you away from them. I am telling you that it is enough for our children's limbs, and your older brothers did well in counting coup themselves. And then I came after you, and I am doing this rescue now. The War Controllers gave me this whole village. And so in the morning when the sun appears, then we'll make for them. All of your brothers have come with me. So do not be afraid of them, and go into their midst, and you must say to your brothers, "My brothers, I want to live," you must say. (17) And I will know, so I'll tell them the way you'll be. Do not be afraid of the ghosts, do the way that I have told you, and you will not die. If you do that, there they will set you free. You will do it and accomplish it," he said to her.
And when he came, when he arrived, he informed the men of how the village was, and the situation was clear. They knew nothing about their force. "We'll do some good killing," he said. And told his wife's brothers what their sister was going to do, telling them and making it clear so that they would not kill her. "To safeguard her, take her along with you," he said. "But I declare that these I am going to fight," he said. And he said, "You, our young men, get yourselves ready. It will be early in the morning," he said. (18) "While it is still dark, when it gets light enough, we'll get going. It is rich in everything. We will try to do some really good man killing, but don't play around abusing them any more than you have to. They gave the whole of it to me, but take care what you do so that Our Grandfathers will like it," he said.
And towards morning, when they started as the day dawned, when the village came into sight, he gave a whoop, and they fell upon it. Then the woman came with everything she had. "Don't kill her, she's my wife," he said. So they did not kill her. Then they made for the village, and they killed them, and then it was that they did the prisoners, and a little later that they did it. An excellent victory they had. They had killed every bit of a village. The young man was clever, but they had tried to be abusive, so he killed the entire village, or to put it differently, he made it disappear. That is what they meant. He fasted, so for as long as they have told stories, for as long as it will endure above, they have talked about him. That one, a young man, the holy one (wakąčą́gᵋra), thus he did, and this is who they were always talking about when the old people told stories.
Commentary. "a single lodge by themselves" — They were living apart from the village in order to increase their ability to find game. This made their position very precarious, as enemy warparties would usually strike where there were the fewest number of people in order to maximize their ability to succeed without taking any casualties themselves. The husband later comments upon how dangerous this is.
"thus" — meaning the funeral rites, the Ghost Lighting, that he is performing, not to mention the vengeance he plans to take. In that context, those whom he kills will be obliged to escort them on the right path to Spiritland, as he has their souls under his command.
"he used the form of a ghost" — in very recent times this power was claimed by Hočąk warriors. See "James' Horse," where James was blessed by a ghost and therefore had the power to go about invisibly.
"there was one who was blackened" — this would ordinarily refer to the charcoal rubbed on the face to blacken it as an expression of mourning; however, we have already learned that he painted half his body a dark color, presumably black, so it might refer to this body paint. The significance of the body paint is probably in part the same, but that it covers half his body tends to suggests that other forms of symbolism are also in play here.
"Our Grandfather appeared"— the sun is always portrayed as an elderly man, but one with extraordinary energy and power, with an appetite to match. See Sun, and Grandfather's Two Families.
"some further good you did for the children" — it was believed that a warrior present at a wake could denote the services of all those whom he had killed in battle to the aid of the departed. Thus the eight Sak’ina would help the children find their way on the path to Spiritland.
"the War Lodge" — this is apparently a special lodge of the Warrior (= Hawk) Clan. Prisoners were initially held by the Bear Clan, who functioned as the police force. However, at some point they were always given over to the Hawk Clan. Once a prisoner entered any lodge of the Hawk Clan, he was doomed. See the Lost Notebook of W. C. McKern, 202.
"Victory Dance" — an all night dance centered about the war trophies taken by the warparty. See the entry in the Glossary.
"a holy thing" — wakąčąk, "holy," is not to be understood in Christian terms. Here it refers to supernatural power which humans obtain by blessings from the spirits. It may be used for good or ill. It is rather closer in meaning to "superhuman."
"Our Grandfathers" — here the expression refers to the War Controllers who have blessed him with the power to take the lives of the whole village.
Commentary. A scene similar to the gruesome treatment of the warrior's slain children occurs in an Hidatsa myth. Having killed a woman, "he took the doorposts which were forked and set them up outside and placed the woman against them and held out her lips with two sticks as if she were laughing."2
Stories: mentioning Warbundles: Waruǧápara (Thunderbird), The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Thunderbird), The Warbundle of the Eight Generations (Thunderbird), Wanihéga Becomes a Sak’į (Thunderbird), Šųgepaga (Eagle), The Warbundle Maker (Eagle), The Masaxe War (Eagle?), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (Bear), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo), Paint Medicine Origin Myth (Hit’énųk’e Paint), The Blessing of Kerexųsaka (Sauk), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store (Potawatomi); mentioning the Sak’įna (Warbundle Bearer): Wanihéga Becomes a Sak’į; mentioning ghosts: The Journey to Spiritland, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Holy One and His Brother, Worúxega, Little Human Head, Little Fox and the Ghost, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Lame Friend, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Hare Steals the Fish, The Difficult Blessing, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Two Roads to Spiritland, Sunset Point; mentioning the War Controllers: The Masaxe War, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth; mentioning deer hearts: The Green Man.
Themes: someone expresses concern about the military danger of the area where someone has erected his lodge: Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, The Warbundle Maker, White Fisher, The Dog Who Saved His Master; someone kills children, then sets them upright in front of their lodge with smiles on their faces so that their parents will think that they are greeting them: Trickster and the Mothers; someone is abducted and led off into captivity: The Captive Boys, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Lost Child, Wears White Feather on His Head, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Bladder and His Brothers, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Green Man, Brave Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Šųgepaga, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, Wolves and Humans, The Woman Who Became an Ant, Thunderbird and White Horse, Heną́ga and the Star Girl, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), The Boy who Flew, Testing the Slave; descriptions of human warfare: Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The Warbundle Maker, The First Fox and Sauk War, Great Walker's Medicine, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Wazųka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, The Fox-Hočąk War, Great Walker's Warpath, White Fisher, The Lame Friend, White Thunder's Warpath, The Osage Massacre, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, They Owe a Bullet, The Spanish Fight, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), Tobacco Man and Married Man; someone goes out searching for a missing person who was dear to them: The Woman who Married a Snake, Waruǧápara, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Snowshoe Strings, Brass and Red Bear Boy; head hunting: White Fisher, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Young Man Gambles Often, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), The Dipper, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Porcupine and His Brothers, Turtle's Warparty, Ocean Duck, The Markings on the Moon, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Man with Two Heads, Brave Man, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Redhorn's Sons, Fighting Retreat, The Children of the Sun, Heną́ga and the Star Girl, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Were-Grizzly, Winneconnee Origin Myth; a person who fasts receives blessings from the spirits: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Redhorn's Sons, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Seer, Maize Comes to the Hočągara, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Thunderbird, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, Great Walker's Medicine, Šųgepaga, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, Heną́ga and the Star Girl, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Man who Defied Disease Giver, White Thunder's Warpath, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Diving Contest, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Holy Song, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Completion Song Origin, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights; spirits bless someone with the right to kill a man ("give him a man"): White Thunder's Warpath, Šųgepaga, Great Walker's Warpath, The Masaxe War, Little Fox and the Ghost, Thunderbird and White Horse; men fight one another over women: Iron Staff and His Companions, The Green Man, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Heną́ga and the Star Girl, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister.
1 Aleck Lonetree, Untitled, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3867 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago III, #17: 1-20.
2 Martha Warren Beckwith, "Myths and Hunting Stories of the Mandan and Hidatsa Sioux," Publications of the Folk-Lore Foundations (Poughkeepsie: Vassar College, 1930) #10: 1-116 .