Wanihéga Becomes a Sak’į
narrated by Sam Blowsnake
Hočąk-English Interlinear Text
This story is told in connection with the closing of the Thunderbird Clan Warbundle Feast. Once it had been told, the people dispersed.
Our grandfathers used to always be teaching us that if someone risked becoming a ghost, they [the spirits] would consider it a good thing. Our grandfathers used to always be teaching us that they would always say of one, Wanihéga (Shouts in the Distance), that he used to risk becoming a ghost. They would say of Wanihéga that he stood at risk of becoming a ghost. He became the same as a man who stood at risk of becoming a ghost. Thus, a good thing they would consider it. They would say of him that he was a great warrior. He was a good one, one who had no equal.
In summer they used to forbid going to war on the warpath, as there was no good in going. Thus they used to forbid it. However, Wanihéga went to war on the warpath four times during the summer, it is said. Thus he was a man who could envelope himself in the risk of becoming a ghost. For this reason he was holy. For this reason, it followed that he was a Sak’į (Warbundle Bearer). Thus always is one who puts himself at risk of becoming a ghost.
Such a thing we will do at the very first kettle that we offer. With it (the kettle) there amongst them (the spirits), may they bless us when we join with them as they partake of it. That is what we ask for.1
Commentary. "risked becoming a ghost" — that is, put himself at great personal risk on the warpath.
"Sak’į." — the Sak’įna, or Warbundle Bearer, was an extremely important person, since the warbundle contained a potent source of supernatural power that was to be drawn upon by the warparty once it fell into battle. Since it was sacred it would be expected to be defended to the death. It was, in a smaller way, a clan counterpart to the Ark of the Covenant. Usually the warleader's nephews held it, since they would be expected to die with the warleader if necessary. Otherwise, it would be given to the most capable warrior.
Stories: mentioning the Sak’įna (Warbundle Bearer): A Man's Revenge; mentioning Warbundles: Waruǧápara (Thunderbird), The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Thunderbird), The Warbundle of the Eight Generations (Thunderbird), Šųgepaga (Eagle), The Warbundle Maker (Eagle), The Masaxe War (Eagle?), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (Bear), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo), Paint Medicine Origin Myth (Hit’énųk’e Paint), The Blessing of Kerexųsaka (Sauk), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store (Potawatomi), A Man's Revenge (enemy).
1 Sam Blowsnake, The Warbundle Feast of the Thunderbird Clan, in Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 ) 399-481 [480-481].