The Sons of Earthmaker

by Richard L. Dieterle


Mą’ųna, "Earthmaker," is said to have four or five sons.1 He did not have these sons in the usual manner: they were not conceived of woman, and therefore they have no mother. Nor were they really conceived in any other way, as from the body of Earthmaker (as far as can be told). Nevertheless, they were created directly by Earthmaker, and it is on this grounds that they are said to be the sons of Earthmaker. All other beings, with one notable exception, are the products of the natural processes of reproduction.

The very first man that Earthmaker created turned out to be defective: he had but one leg, either the other broke off, or his two legs were fused together.2 This being Earthmaker cast away. He is known as Herešgúni(-na/-ga), and he became the chief of the evil spirits. He is never spoken of as the "son of Earthmaker," perhaps because he was disowned. The first ordinary human being, who was not in anyway a spirit (waxop'ini), was also created directly by Earthmaker.3 Some say that he was even created from the flesh of Earthmaker himself.4 However, as he is not a spirit being, he had much the same status as animals, who were also created directly by Earthmaker. The true sons of Earthmaker are, like their progenitor, human in form, but spirit beings in their powers.

The first of these spirit-humans that Earthmaker created was Wakjąkaga, "Trickster." Since he was the first created, he is often called simply Kunu, "First Born." He, and all the other sons of Earthmaker, were created for a purpose, as were indeed all spirit beings. The sons of Earthmaker were given the task of ridding the world of the many animals and spirits who were preying upon human beings.5 Trickster's nature was not suited to the task. He was an affable and unserious person, whose foolish nature delighted in tricks of all kinds. Therefore he was not able to take seriously his duties. Earthmaker recalled him and gave him rule over a celestial paradise for the departed.6

Earthmaker's second son was Kečągéga, "Turtle." He too lacked a properly serious nature. He misdirected his conquests: he seduced women, bragged about real and imaginary exploits, and introduced war, not upon those whom he was sent to destroy, but among the humans, those whom he was sent to rescue.7 As a result, he was counterproductive, and had to be recalled. Earthmaker gave him an underworld paradise where those killed in action may live a happy afterlife.8

Earthmaker therefore found it necessary to create his third son, Wadexúga, "Bladder." Bladder created numerous brothers, some say as many as twenty. He declared that no spirit was his equal and that they had nothing to fear. Yet all his brothers were killed.9 Bladder was puffed up with his own sense of power, but was not serious enough about it to exercise proper leadership. Although he did succeed in killing One Legged One, the human form of Herešgúni, he never took the initiative to kill any other. Thus he was also recalled, and Earthmaker appointed him to rule over the lowest subterranean paradise.10

Some say, although there is no universal agreement on this point, that Earthmaker next created Human Heads as Earrings, better known as Hešúčka, "Redhorn."11 His role in the mission to rescue humanity is obscure, and he was probably introduced into the set at a recent date in order to make them five in number to correspond to the cardinal points (the four quarters plus the center). Redhorn had miniature heads in his earlobes. They detracted from his seriousness by constantly sticking their tongues out at people, winking at them, and generally making funny faces.12 Redhorn had some success against the Giants, but later was actually killed by them.13 After the passing of many years, his sons were finally able to revive him.14 Nevertheless, he too was recalled by Earthmaker, although nothing is said of his ruling over any kind of paradise.

The last (fourth or fifth) son of Earthmaker is Wašjįgéga, "Hare" or "Rabbit." Although Hare was created directly by Earthmaker, he caused himself to be ingested by a woman so that he could be born as a human being.15 Therefore, he called all of humanity his uncles and aunts. This gave him the requisite seriousness of purpose to persevere in his mission. In the end he succeeded. It is said of those enemies of humanity that he did not destroy outright, that those of the air he pushed higher into the sky, and those of the earth he pushed lower into the ground.16 However, since he looked back at his grandmother Earth during the course of a ritual in which this act was proscribed, he caused death to enter the world and became responsible for the permanence of human mortality.17 This tragic outcome caused him to fall into depression, from which he was cured by Great Black Hawk.18 Earthmaker then allowed him to establish the Medicine Lodge whose rite created the fullest life possible for human beings.19 Earthmaker granted Hare rule over this earth and over the present cosmic age.20


Links: Earthmaker, Trickster, Turtle, Redhorn, Bladder, Hare, Spirits, Herešgúnina, Giants, One Legged One, Sons of Redhorn, Cosmography, The Cosmic Ages of the Hočągara, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map, Grasshoppers, Great Black Hawk, Gottschall, Maize.


Stories: cycles of other great soteriological spirits: The Trickster Cycle, Hare Cycle, Redhorn Cycle, Twins Cycle; for stories about the individual sons of Earthmaker, see the following: Trickster, Turtle, Bladder, Redhorn, Hare, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker.


Notes

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

2 Walter W. Funmaker, The Bear in Winnebago Culture: A Study in Cosmology and Society (Master Thesis, University of Minnesota: June, 1974 [MnU-M 74-29]) 30. Dr. Funmaker is a member of the Bear Clan of the Winnebago tribe. Paul Radin, "The Bladder," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #27: 1-61. "The Morning Star, A Winnebago Legend," collected by Louis L. Meeker, Nov. 22, 1896 (National Anthropological Archives, 1405 Winnebago, A.D.S.); "The Morning Star," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 105.

3 John Harrison (b. 1865), Dorsey Papers: Winnebago Ethnography (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, 4855 (102), 1883); Meeker, "The Morning Star, A Winnebago Legend"; Smith, "The Morning Star," 105; David Lee Smith (Thunderbird Clan), "How the Valleys and Hills Came to Be," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 100; Emily L. Smith (Bear Clan), "Ma-ona and the Creation of the World," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 13-14; Mary H. Eastman, Chicóra and Other Regions of the Conquerors and the Conquered (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, & Co., 1854) 22; Oliver LaMère, "Winnebago Legends," Wisconsin Archeologist, ns 1, #2 (1920): 66-68; Danker and White, The Hollow of Echoes, 55. Informant: Felix White, Sr.

4 Eastman, Chicóra, 22; Smith, "How the Valleys and Hills Came to Be," 10.

5 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 302-311; Danker and White, The Hollow of Echoes, 24-25. Informant: Felix White, Sr.

6 Paul Radin, The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic. A Study in Comparative Literature, Part I (Basil: Ethnographical Museum, Basil Switzerland, 1954) 66-70. Informant: Sam Blowsnake of the Thunderbird Clan, ca. 1912. Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 52-53.

7 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 302-311; Danker and White, The Hollow of Echoes, 24-25; Emily Smith, "Ma-ona and the Creation of the World," 13-14; LaMère, "Winnebago Legends," 66-68

8 Radin, The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic, 66-70; Radin, The Trickster, 52-53.

9 Paul Radin, "The Bladder," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #27: 1-61. Meeker, "The Morning Star, A Winnebago Legend"; Smith, "The Morning Star," 105-110.

10 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 302-311; Danker and White, The Hollow of Echoes, 24-25; Radin, The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic, 66-70.

11 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 302-311; Danker and White, The Hollow of Echoes, 24-25. Informant: Felix White, Sr.

12 Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D. C.: 1876-1877) vol. 1, #3: p. 3 col. 1. Told by Little Decorah [picture], a member of the Thunderbird Clan. Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 124; W. C. McKern, "A Winnebago Myth," Yearbook, Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, 9 (1929): 215-230; Danker and White, The Hollow of Echoes, 24-25. Informant: Felix White, Sr.

13 Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles, 128-129.

14 Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles, 131-132.

15 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 93; Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 302-311.

16 Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles, 113-114.

17 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 302-311; Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles, 113-114; Emily Smith, "Ma-ona and the Creation of the World," 13-14; LaMère, "Winnebago Legends," 66-68.

18 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 302-311.

19 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 302-311; Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles, 113-114; Danker and White, The Hollow of Echoes, 24-25. Informant: Felix White, Sr.

20 Radin, The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic, 66-70; Radin, The Trickster, 52-53; Walter Funmaker, The Winnebago Black Bear Subclan: a Defended Culture (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Minnesota: December, 1986 [MnU-D 86-361]) 108-136. Informant: One Who Wins of the Winnebago Bear Clan.