Oto Origins

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

Once, long ago, all the other tribes surrounding the Hocągara were arrayed against them on the warpath. The nation suffered many losses and the fear of renewed war caused four long lodges to cross the Mississippi at Prairie du Chien or McGregor to seek safer lands to the south and west. They never returned. It is said that these are the Oto, for the Oto speak a language full of archaic words that have all but passed from the Hocąk language.1

Commentary. The StCyrs told Gatschet that "There is a tradition that some of the Winnebagos are lost, and that they are somewhere south."2 This might refer to the split off of the Chiwere peoples.

Radin mentions another obscure account that may be a variant of this:

Some lodges left the tribe never to return. Some say there were four, others give different numbers (of long lodges). Some say only one lodge. My uncle used to say that there were four. "I think that it is believed that they went to the east," he said.3

The east would be a very odd direction, and may explain why the informant does not connect these people with any existing tribe.

Comparative Material. From the following example, we can see one way in which these stories can arise. "The Mandan say that some of their tribe disappeared, drifting to the south-west, and they have never been able to trace them. A few years ago a Winnebago came to the village. Some Winnebago words were found to be similar to the Mandan, so the Mandan think that the Winnebago are the lost people of the Mandan. Once a young man from the Oto tribe came here at a celebration and used words like horse, knife, water, identical with the Mandan. Hence some think that the Oto are the lost people."4

Links: The Wazija, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.

Stories: about the separation of the Hocągara from other Siouan nations: Ioway & Missouria Origins, Quapah Origins, cf. Introduction, The Hocąk Migration Myth; set on the Mississippi (Nį Kuse): The Two Children, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Serpents of Trempealeau, The Story of the Medicine Rite, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Black Otter's Warpath; mentioning Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin (Niucjeja): The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, How Jarrot Got His Name, Run for Your Life, Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Gottschall: Debate and Discussion; mentioning McGregor, Iowa: Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins.

Themes: the Hocągara are the parent tribe from which other (Siouan) tribes separated: Ioway & Missouria Origins, Quapah Origins.


1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 3.

2 Albert Samuel Gatschet, Linguistic and Ethnological Material on the Winnebago, Manuscript 1989-a (Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives, 1889, 1890-1891) p. 66. Informants: Reuben David St. Cyr (b. 1864), and his father, John Michael St. Cyr.

3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 3.

4 Martha Warren Beckwith, Myths and Ceremonies of the Mandan and Hidatsa: Second Series. Publications of the Folk-Lore Foundations, #12 (Poughkeepsie: Vassar College, 1932) 139. In other editions, the title is given as Mandan-Hidatsa Myths and Ceremonies.