The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker

Version 1

by Felix White, Sr.

Mą’ųna created first the earth, then the plants and animals, and finally the two-legged walkers. He noticed that the last of his creation was having a hard time. He thought to himself, "I had better do something, as the two-legged walkers are beset by all kinds of enemies: evil spirits, large animals, and Giants." So he sent down his first son called Wakjąkaga, "Trickster." But Kunu did not succeed in ridding the world of those who preyed on the two legged walkers.

Then Mą’ųna sent down his second son, Turtle. However, Turtle went around bragging about his prowess and made out that he was the answer to every woman's prayer. Because he was such a war monger, braggart, and lady's man, he was not able to accomplish the mission that Mą’ųna had given him.

Then Mą’ųna sent down another son, He who Wears Human Heads as Earrings. He went around talking to people, but they would always fix on his earrings which were actual, living, miniature human heads. When these little heads saw someone looking at them, they would wink and make funny faces. In the end, He who Wears Human Heads as Earrings could not accomplish the mission either.

Then Mą’ųna sent another son, the one they call "Bladder." If he was praised in any way, he would puff up with pride. Because Bladder was so puffed up, he couldn't see anyone but himself. He thought he was the best of the great ones. He became inflated with his own self importance and disregarded other people. He could blow a stream of air anywhere he wanted, and had the power of a whirlwind or tornado. While he was on earth he succeeded in killing a one-legged evil spirit called Herešguniga; but his mission was to kill all evil spirits, not just one of them.

So Mą’ųna sent down his fifth and last son whom they call Wašjingéga, "Hare." This one succeeded where the others had failed. Then he founded the Medicine Lodge where the Hocągara could preach to one another and where they could learn the path through life. The Medicine Lodge was a road to salvation just like the church, and Wašjingéga was compared to Christ, since he showed the Hocągara the proper way of life. He showed how the Great Spirit intended for people to be good to one another, and to take criticism, and things of that nature.1

Version 2a (incomplete — collected ca. 1945)

Version 2a, Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

Preceding part of the story.

(58) Again he made one. When he (Earthmaker) finished him he called him "Turtle" (K'ec'ą́ñgega). (59) The two-legged walkers, having been created at the end of his thinking, were about to come to an end. "You are going to make the earth good, Turtle." Thus he said, and he caused him to have a knife. When he came to earth he made war. He did not look after the creation for him. And again because he did not look after things for him, he took his own (Turtle) right back. ...2

Next part of the story.

The whole story as presented by Lipkind's source.

Version 2b

This story is a mere variant of v. 2a above. Although it is in English, it was told well before its Hocąk-language variant.

Preceding part of the story.

"Then he made a man. When he had finished him, he called him 'Tortoise.' At the end of all his thinking, after he came to consciousness, he made the two-legged walkers. Then Earth-maker said to this man, 'The evil spirits are abroad to destroy all I have just created. Tortoise, I shall send you to bring order into the world.' Then Earth-maker gave him a knife. But when Tortoise cam to earth, he began to make war. He did not look after Earth-maker's creation. So Earth-maker took him back."3

Next part of the story.

The story continues in exact parallel with the Hocąk-language version collected over 30 years later by Lipkind. See the complete story.

Version 3

of the Medicine Rite

by Oliver LaMère

This is part of the Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 5).

(410) After a time the cries of the people came up to Him and He saw that great monsters were destroying the people. So he sent one of His sons to appear on earth and destroy the monsters, and he came with power to perform his mission, but he seemed to be distracted by trivial and foolish matters, and neglected his duty; therefore he was called the "Foolish One." It is said that was the beginning of foolish acts on the earth.

The Creator sent another one, and he was called the "Turtle" and was a great warrior. He destroyed a great many monsters but he delighted in warfare and finally wandered off and made war on the people; so he failed, and that was the origin of wars.

The Creator sent another one who was called the "Bladder," but he was a failure. His weakness was the result of inactivity and boastfulness.

The fourth one was the Hare who came and sat at a spring of water where one of the daughter of the earth was wont to go and get water. Here he waited and the woman conceived him. While yet in his mother's womb he heard the cries of his people and for that reason he was born in seven months, and at his birth his mother was injured to such an extend that she died, leaving him an orphan with his great mother the Earth, (411) who reared him. As a child when he went out, he went around the lodge and cleared all that portion of the bad things; and the next time he went out he went as far as the clearing around the lodge and cleared all that portion of the bad things and monsters.

The third time he went over half of the earth, and the fourth time he went over all the earth and destroyed all the monsters, and he compelled the bad birds with sharp claws to go higher in the air, and the tramped into the earth all that destroyed the people.

Then he desired an everlasting life for the people, but the Creator had willed it otherwise, so he was instructed to organize a lodge, which, when the rituals were rightly performed, would lead the people to a everlasting spiritual existence.4

Commentary. Usually Human Heads as Earrings is listed as the fourth son following Bladder. Human Heads as Earrings is more commonly called "Redhorn." He is sometimes missing from the list of the sons of Earthmaker, and his inclusion in this scheme that culminates in Hare, is probably a late edition reflecting a rise in his status; unless it is the opposite: his displacement by another character, perhaps Bladder.

The failings of the sons of Earthmaker put into sharp relief the fallibility and finitude of the supreme being. Unlike the convoluted, preztel-like, twisted logic of Christianity with its omnipotent, but perfectly righteous god, who somehow coexists with a world full of evil, the Hocąk explanation for evil is simple: the supreme being is fallible and mistakes of design are possible. Evil entered the world by mistake, so Earthmaker made his sons to correct it, but the power of evil is great enough that it can't be completely checked even by the supreme being or his special creations.

Comparative Material. The Menominee are the friendship people of the Hocągara, despite the fact that they are of Algonquian speech and lacking any near relationship to this nation, either in blood, language, or prehistory. They are, however, immediate neighbors. So it is of considerable interest that they have an account rather similar to the Hocągara. In their account, a great manitou (spirit) descends to earth and marries a mortal woman. His first son is Manabush, who grows to be the friend of mankind, and goes about the world combatting those forces who seek the destruction of the human race. The second son was Chipiapoos, who became ruler over the dead. The third was Wabosso, who the moment he was born, fled to the north where he was transformed miraculously into a great white hare. In this form he became a great manitou. The fourth and last son, Chakenapok, killed his own mother at his birth. He was made of flint or firestone, and was noted for his cruelty.5

The story of Wisakedjak, a trickster figure of the Cree, is similar to that of Turtle. The Creator sent Wisakedjak down to earth in order to teach people how to live. However, Wisakedjak disregarded all of the Creator's instructions and let things on earth devolve. Finally, men were so estranged from one another that they were spilling one another's blood in warfare. The Creator warned Wisakedjak that if he did not put things in order, he would sweep the land clean. Wisakedjak did not believe him, and so aggravated life on earth with his quarrelsome trickery, that things degenerated into a bloody chaos. So the Creator said that he would take everything away from Wisakedjak and wipe the earth clean. Even then Wisakedjak did not believe him until the rains came and flooded the entire world. Only he, a beaver, an otter, and a muskrat survived. In the end, the Creator took from Wisakedjak all his powers except the ability to flatter and to deceive.6

Links: Earthmaker, Trickster, Turtle, Redhorn, Bladder, Hare, The Sons of Earthmaker, The Cosmic Ages of the Hocągara, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.

Stories: cycles of other great soteriological spirits: The Trickster Cycle, Hare Cycle, Redhorn Cycle, Twins Cycle; featuring Trickster as a character: The Trickster Cycle, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster's Warpath, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster Soils the Princess, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Elk's Skull, Trickster and the Plums, Trickster and the Mothers, The Markings on the Moon, The Spirit of Gambling, The Woman who Became an Ant, The Green Man, The Red Man, Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, Trickster Loses His Meal, Trickster's Tail, A Mink Tricks Trickster, Trickster's Penis, Trickster Loses Most of His Penis, The Scenting Contest, The Bungling Host, Mink Soils the Princess, Trickster and the Children, Trickster and the Eagle, Trickster and the Geese, Trickster and the Dancers, Trickster and the Honey, Trickster's Adventures in the Ocean, The Pointing Man, Trickster's Buffalo Hunt, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Trickster Visits His Family, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Petition to Earthmaker, Waruǧábᵉra, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge; featuring Turtle as a character: 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, The Hocąk Migration 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 Hocągara 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; featuring Bladder (Wadexuga) as a character: Bladder and His Brothers, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker; mentioning Redhorn: The Redhorn Cycle, Redhorn's Sons, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Redhorn's Father, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Morning Star and His Friend, The Spirit of Gambling, The Green Man, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, cp. The Cosmic Ages of the Hocągara, Heroka, Redman; featuring Hare as a character: The Hare Cycle, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare Kills Wildcat, The Messengers of Hare, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Kills Flint, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, The Hill that Devoured Men and Animals, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Grandmother's Gifts, Hare and the Grasshoppers, The Spirit of Gambling, The Red Man, Maize Origin Myth, Hare Steals the Fish, The Animal who would Eat Men, The Gift of Shooting, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Petition to Earthmaker.

Themes: Earthmaker acts against those who are not doing right: The Fatal House, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Turtle and the Giant, Šųgepaga, The Seven Maidens, The Origins of the Milky Way; spirits come to earth in order to rescue humanity from enemies who threaten their existence: Bladder and His Brothers, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Grandfather's Two Families, The Hare Cycle, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Raccoon Coat, Redhorn's Sons, The Redhorn Cycle, The Roaster, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Spirit of Gambling, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Trickster Cycle, Wojijé, Redhorn's Father, Turtle and the Merchant; Earthmaker appoints one being after another to accomplish a mission, but must recall each in turn save the last: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Spider's Eyes; the youngest offspring is superior: 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, Įcorúšika 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, The Story of the Medicine Rite, 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.


1 Kathleen Danker and Felix White, Sr., The Hollow of Echoes (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978) 24-25. Informant: Felix White, Sr.

2 William Lipkind, Winnebago Grammar (New York: King's Crown Press, 1945) 58-59.

3 Katharine B. Judson, Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes (Chicago: A. C. McClung, 1914), reprinted as Native American Legends of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2000) 31.

4 Norton William Jipson, Story of the Winnebagos (Chicago: The Chicago Historical Society, 1923) 410-411.

5 Dorothy Moulding Brown, Manabush: Menomini Tales, Wisconsin Folklore Booklets (Madison: 1948) 3.

6 Ella Elizabeth Clark, Indian Legends of Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1960) 7-9.