Burial Customs of the Warrior Clan

by Tom Big Bear (b. ca. 1853)

Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

(14) If one of the Warrior Clan died, it would be done. I would sing for him and I would make paint for him. If one of them died, with red paint, with black paint, I would make a black mark across his face. I would make the red alternate with it. Then I would make his mouth red. Then I would make him a warclub. Once I have finished the warclub, I would have the corpse hold it. I would fashion a piece of tobacco for his (other) hand, thus, (15) and then I will talk him through his four nights' walk. His spirit will be going west to the village of the Thunderbirds. With the warclub, it would not be good for anything to cross his path. When thus it is, he will not go into Herešgúnina's fire. The soul will go straight to the Thunder's village. When thus it is, the soul will say it. He will tell the sort of thing that I had told him: (16) that no one will be coming there again for some time. The sort of thing that they are asking for is Life. It would be said that they are doing well. The soul will speak this way. Thus it is.1

Notes to the Text

1 Following the text is this addendum:

Black       upper forehead
red       down bridge of nose to face
black       middle nose –
red       corner of mouth down to chin

Supposed to be marks of recognition in the spirit land.

Commentary. "Warrior Clan" — this is an Upper Moiety clan with special war powers. It was more anciently known as the Hawk Clan.

"paint" — what follows is a description of how the face of the deceased is painted. There is a unique pattern or set of patterns for each clan. A rough sketch was made in the addendum above. In the Winnebago Tribe,1 Radin shows the Hawk Clan funereal paint as having this pattern:

BAE 37: 248   BAE 37: 248
Hawk (Warrior) Clan Funereal Paint   Eagle Clan Funereal Paint

The face paint described in the text is that on the left, but that described in the addendum matches rather that of the Eagle Clan. The drawing in the addendum matches neither.

"Herešgúnina's fire" — Herešgúnina is the Hocąk counterpart to Satan. The reference to his fire may, of course, be a Christian influence. On the other hand, Herešgúnina, or as he is on rare occasions called, Horešgúniga,2 is esoterically the solar disc.3 If this was understood and expressed in this myth, then the fire to which it refers is that of the sun.

Notes to the Commentary

1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) opposite 248.
2 "The Epic of the Twins, Part One," in Paul Radin, The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic. A Study in Comparative Literature, Part I (Basil: Ethnographical Museum, Basil Switzerland, 1954) 24-41. The original text is in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago V, #2: 1-123 (syllabic text), 1-38 (English translation). The name is given on pp. 45 and 51 of the syllabic text.
3 Louis L. Meeker, “Siouan Mythological Tales,” Journal of American Folklore, 14 (1901): 161-164.


Tom Big Bear, "Burial Customs," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3899 [1254] (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago III, #19b: 14-16.