by Richard L. Dieterle

Martens are an arboreal animals that chiefly prey upon squirrels. They are valued chiefly for their fur, as we see in the courtship costumes of the Nannyberry Picker1 and of Trickster,2 both of whom sport a white marten skin quiver. When Sun came to earth as Grandfather, the sixth son of his first family specialized in hunting nothing but martens.

Because of their arboreal nature, martens are considered creatures of the upper world as much as they are of the earth. In the story of the Dipper, the Grandfather, who also plays the role of the sun, has bad dreams that tell him that he must have the meat of a white marten with its hair singed off, or he will sicken and die. His grandson, Black Hawk Looking at Us as He Stands, agrees to go in search of the white marten of his dreams. The grandson finds him among a host of martens, but these agree not to give the alarm in exchange for that special plant over which humans alone have control, tobacco. He kills the white marten with two arrow shots and escapes with his body. When the meat is prepared, the spirits come to the feast.

Black Hawk Looking at Us as He Stands went courting women with the Thunderbirds, who always marry Nightspirits. He was searching for two women that Grandfather had told him about. He eventually came back with them. One of them was a marten in reality, although she had a human form. It was she whom he married. For a time they lived as hummingbirds. When their adventures on earth were over, the marten woman became the Little Dipper and her husband, the grandson, became Polaris.3

Once Great Walker was blessed by a white Marten Spirit. This marten was the attendant of a great white Waterspirit who lived in the Spiritland of Wa'ųni. The martin had the power to lay upon the surface of the water, and gave Great Walker a plant that grew from his body. This plant had the virtue of being a purgative that could save someone who had been the victim of poisoning.4

Links: Fishers, Waterspirits, Celestial Spirits, Thunderbirds, Nightspirits, Hummingbirds, Polaris, Bird Spirits, Trickster, Sun.

Stories: mentioning martens: Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), The Dipper, Grandfather's Two Families; featuring Sun as a character: Sun and the Big Eater, Grandfather's Two Families, The Big Eater, The Children of the Sun, Hare Burns His Buttocks, The Birth of the Twins, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun; about stars and other celestial bodies: The Dipper, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, The Seven Maidens, Morning Star and His Friend, Little Human Head, Turtle and the Witches, Sky Man, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, The Star Husband, Grandfather's Two Families, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Children of the Sun, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Origins of the Milky Way, The Fall of the Stars; in which Waterspirits occur as characters: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells, The Lost Child, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bluehorn's Nephews, Holy One and His Brother, The Seer, The Nannyberry Picker, The Creation of the World (vv. 1, 4), Šųgepaga, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, The Waterspirit of Lake Koshkonong, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Devil's Lake — How it Got its Name, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Waterspirit of Sugar Loaf Mounds, Lakes of the Wazija Origin Myth, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, The Diving Contest, The Lost Blanket, Redhorn's Sons, The Phantom Woman, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Great Walker's Warpath, White Thunder's Warpath, The Descent of the Drum, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2), The Two Children, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧábᵉra, Ocean Duck, The Twin Sisters, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The King Bird, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Heną́ga and Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, The Story of the Medicine Rite, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spiritual Descent of John Rave's Grandmother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Shaggy Man, The Woman who Married a Snake (?), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake; mentioning white Waterspirits: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, White Thunder's Warpath, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth.


1 Paul Radin, "Wuwukihge," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #45.

2 Paul Radin, "The Trickster Soils the Princess," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #47: 1-80.

3 Paul Radin, "The Dipper," Notebook Winnebago IV, #8 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Story 8r: 1-29 = Paul Radin, "The Dipper," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #49-50: 1-267.

4 Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [1945]) 137-138.