A Prophecy

translated from an interlinear Hočąk-English text by Thomas A. Sebeok


Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


Nothing is said of the provenience of this prophecy. It refers to a war against the Big Knives (white Americans) to take place a year later. Since defeat will presage enslavement, it is probably not an early war with the United States government, but something closer to the time when the Hočągara were expelled from their lands. This makes it likely that the prophet is the famous White Cloud, the Winnebago Prophet of the Black Hawk War.


(169) "A year from this time, here when we attack the people who wear hats, shouting the war cry, as many as they are above shall become full; again the days as many as they are; again those who walk upon the light (birds), those possibly likewise; and again the things that move upon the earth as many as there are, and all four winds; again the white faced people whom we have seen above (stars?); all will help me. When this is done, the earth will shake. When this happens, even if the Big Knives aim their guns, they would not be able to fire them, no matter what, the guns will be just as they were (unfired). They will not be able to move. When this happens we need only knock them out. When this happens we need only make an end of them. When we ourselves alone move on the earth, we shall get along with our lives very well. For this purpose did I come here.

If it happens that we fail, in time the whole earth will be fully occupied by the people who wear hats. If it is filled, in time we will fail even to have a place to live. If we should camp someplace we would have to ask permission, and we shall camp there only if they give us permission. Again if we were to cut a stick for a lodge frame, we shall have to ask permission to cut even one. Thus it will be. We would think that the land will not be filled, but in time it will be overcrowded."1


Commentary. "the people who wear hats" — this is the only story in the collection in which white people, normally called "Big Knives," are referred to as "the people who wear hats."


Links: Witches.


Stories: about seers: The Seer, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, Witches, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Great Walker and the Anishinaabe Witches, The Claw Shooter, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Diving Contest; 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, 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, Mighty Thunder.


Themes: a seer makes true predictions down to unusual details: The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Witches, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Fox-Hočąk War, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Claw Shooter, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store.


Notes

1 Thomas A. Sebeok, "Two Winnebago Texts," International Journal of American Linguistics, 13 (1947): 167-170; Text II — A Prophecy, 169-170.