What Women Do When Men Go to War

by Stella Stacy
transcribed from an audio tape by Sheila Sigley

Stella Stacy

Hocąk - English Interlinear Text

(00:21) When they went on the warpath, when they would be fighting, they would do this. When they left the village there, and before they got very far from there, they would stop on the way. They would build a fire there, and there they would say, Higixara.” There they would put the higixa. (00:53) The women would usually take something to their relatives. Moccasins were brought, and one of her own men, her uncle, would always ask for moccasins, it is said.

Commentary. "Higixara" — the higixa, says Radin, was the pattern [and site], established in advance, in which a warparty will set up for the night.1

"uncle" — this is her hitek, her mother's brother. Their bond is the strongest possible, and makes them joking relations. This is explained by Radin:

A man was not permitted to take even the slightest liberties with any of his near relatives or with his mother-in-law or his father-in-law, but a curious exception to this rule was permitted for his father's sister's children (hitcûⁿckế and hitcûⁿjốŋk‘); his mother's brother's children (hitcûnckế and hitcûⁿjốŋk); his mother's brothers (hidék‘); and his sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law. In the two cases last named not only was a man permitted to joke with those relatives but he was supposed to do so whenever he had an opportunity. Under no circumstances were any of these individuals supposed to take offense. This relationship was of course reciprocal. If a person attempted liberties with people who did not belong in the category of the "joking relationship" they would stop him immediately, saying, "What joking relation am I to you" (Djagú nîŋk‘ idajitcgadjaⁿ)?2

Notes to the Commentary

1 Paul Radin, The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic. A Study in Comparative Literature, Part I (Basil: Ethnographical Museum, Basil Switzerland, 1954) 169.
2 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 133-134.


Reading by Sheila Shigley, from the audio tape in the American Philosophical Society: 10-04. Fraenkel, Gerd. Stacy, Stella. "What women do when men go to war," recorded 13 July 1959, 1 .mp3; 00:00:21 - 00:01:15. Copy made by Gerd Fraenkel of an original tape held at the Archives of Languages of the World, Indiana University. This program comes from original tape 528.7. APS accession number 7260; APSdigrec_2182; Recording Number: 02; Program Number: 34.