Mighty Thunder

by Captain Edward Jahn and Captain Don Saunders
retold by Richard Dieterle


Captain Eddie Jahn was a noted tour guide for the Lower Dells back in the 1950's. When he was a boy, he spent most of his time playing with Hočąk children, and in particular with Miles Yellow Thunder, the son of Chief Yellow Thunder, the grandson of the famous Wakąjaziga, Yellow Thunder(bird) (d. 1874). When they were a bit older, Miles' brother Albert had an emergency and needed some money to cover his costs, so Eddie, by every means he could think of, raised the cash. Miles was very grateful. One day, Miles was swimming in the Dells between Romance Rock and High Rock when he sustained a cramp in his leg and suddenly found himself drowning. Eddie swam out and saved Miles' life, a fact that he never mentioned to his own family. Sometime later, the two of them were cleaning fish when Miles cut his left hand. Eddie was going to make a tourniquet, when the idea struck Miles that they should be "blood brothers." He cut Eddie's left hand, and they clasped their hands so that the blood nearest their hearts would blend together.

When this was made known to the elder Yellow Thunder, the matter was treated with great seriousness, since being a hičakóro was more than what whites understood by "friend," and even more than being a kikínųp (brother).

Tradition demanded that the recipient of the Indian kee-kee-noop [kikínųp], which brought the white boy much closer to the Indian than his own brothers, must visit the clan's lodge and partake of a feast in his honor culminating the sacred ritual. Gifts are exchanged and a name is bestowed upon the blood brother in a solemn ceremony. The incident bore a triple significance as the Indians hold the youngest son in highest reverence; the blood letting and mixing was done by a member of the Thunder Clan, the clan of chiefs; it was the first time in the history of the clan that a white man was so honored.

The rite gave formal recognition to the pact, and culminated in giving Eddie a Thunderbird Clan name, "Mighty Thunder."1


High Rock and Romance Cliff

Commentary. "Romance Rock and High Rock" — this channel is seen in the photo above, where High Rock is on the left and Romance Cliff is in the background. The beach there is photographed sometime prior to 1908 by H. H. Bennett.

"the youngest son in highest reverence" — this may be a bit overstated, and in this context, "Indians" should mean the Hočągara. In support of this contention, we have a number of themes that occur in the corpus of stories that are relevant:

the youngest offspring is superior: The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Young Man Gambles Often, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Twins Cycle, The Two Boys, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Children of the Sun, The Creation of the World (v. 12), The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Sun and the Big Eater, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 4, 7), Snake Clan Origins, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, Snake Clan Origins, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth; a group of brothers plots with a Waterspirit against the youngest (who is the most favored): The Shaggy Man, Įčorúšika and His Brothers; the eldest and youngest brothers dominate: Įčohorucika and His Brothers, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Bladder and His Brothers.

"Mighty Thunder" — the text gives the name as K’ho Hay day gah, which is for K’oxetega, "Big Thunder."


Links: ...


Stories: about two male friends: Wazųka, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Lame Friend, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Morning Star and His Friend, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Worúxega, The Fleetfooted Man, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Tobacco Man and Married Man; mentioning the Big Knives (white Americans): The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Little Priest's Game, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, A Prophecy, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, The First Fox and Sauk War, The Cosmic Ages of the Hočągara, Turtle and the Merchant, The Hočągara Migrate South, Neenah, Run for Your Life, The Glory of the Morning, First Contact, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon; set in the Wisconsin Dells: The Twin Sisters, White Flower, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Red Cloud's Death, Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Sunset Point; mentioning Yellow Thunder: Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, The Hills of La Crosse


Themes: ...


Notes

1 "Mighty Thunder," in Captain Don Saunders, Driftwood and Debris: Riverside Tales of the Dells of Old Wisconsin by the River Guides, 2d ed. (Wisconsin Dells: Wisconsin Dells Events, 1959) 52.