Brass and Red Bear Boy

from the collection of W. C. McKern

Original manuscript pages: | 272 | 273 | 274 | 275 | 276 | 277 | 278 | 279 | 280 | 281 | 282 | 283 | 284 | 285 | 286 | 287 | 288 | 289 | 290 | 291 | 292 |

(272) There was a boy named Masį́gᵋnika ("Brass"). A village was there. He lived with his grandmother, alone, at the edge of the village. He was about the same age as the chief's young son. Both boys were full of life. These two friends were smarter than the other boys with whom they played.

There were two great warriors who were great friends. When their enemies would come, these two braves would change into grizzly bears, and kill all the enemy. That's why the people liked them, but they also feared them because they were grizzly bears. These two lived together in a long lodge where they had many wives. Whenever they saw nice young girls, they carried them off to their lodge, without ceremony. The people were afraid to interfere, for fear of being killed. So they let these two do this thing. When their enemies came, these two were very valuable to the village; that was another (273) reason why they permitted them to steal girls. The real chief did not have much power in this village, because the two bear-men had usurped much of the power. The village was situated at the mouth of a valley. There was the end of one of the valley's ridges flanking the village. These two bear-men fixed up a mound on top of this hill. When the enemy came, they went to this place. That is where they became grizzly bears. When the war was over, they repaired to this same place and assumed human shape again.

The two boys always played together. Both were fine looking boys, it is said. One day they played with a group of boys right beside the home of the bear-men. They heard one say to the other, "Friend, let us seize these two boys. All say they are fine looking boys. Let's take them and see how they look." Then a messenger told them that these two brave men wanted the two boys to come into the house, that they might see them. So all the boys went in. They stood in the very center of the house. Then one of the men said, "I often hear you, when you play, speak of Brass or Brass's friend. Which are these two? I would like to see them." So the two boys were shoved to the (274) front. The same man said, "Say, my friend, the two boys are nice looking. Let us make tobacco bags out of them." The other said, "That is not right. As long as this world has been, we have never heard of making tobacco bags out of people. That is surely not right." "That is why we are going to have it," said the other, "because no one else ever had it so." So they decided to kill the two, after four days, to make tobacco bags out of them. So they let them go. So the caller notified the people of what the brave men were going to do to the boys. After four days, these two were to come to the mound on the hill about noon. So the people all heard.

At evening, Brass went back to his grandmother. After eating supper, the old woman said, "My grandchild, I don't want you to be killed and made into a tobacco bag, so I want you to go away tonight; don't stay around here." So she prepared food, tobacco and small white beans for him, also one eagle feather and a yarn belt. "Go wherever you please, anywhere," she said. "Maybe some spirit will pity you and meet you. If they do, give them this tobacco, this belt or this eagle feather. These beans, drop one every so often as you go along. (275) Here is a lunch of pounded corn and maple sugar and also of pounded meats. You must go tonight.

So he traveled all that night. Towards morning, he stopped. He decided to rest and sleep for a short while. He dropped a white bean every so often as he traveled. After sleeping for a little while, he got up again. It was still before sunrise. When the sun was just rising over the tops of the trees, he heard a bull buffalo. So he decided to go down to the buffalo. He traveled all day. All day he heard the sound of the buffalo, but he would not come up to it. Just before sunset he stopped again to stay overnight. Before he stopped, he made a pointed stick, like a meat fork, and pointed it in the direction from whence the noise of the buffalo came. Next morning he was up again before sunrise. Then he lunched. Then he started again, following the direction indicated by the stick. Again he heard the buffalo, when the sun reached the top of the trees. He kept on dropping the white beans. When evening came, he again prepared to rest overnight. (276) he again placed the stick point out the way. So he went on. The third night, he again placed the stick before sleeping. Each evening, he ate before going to sleep. Next morning, he did as before. Again he started. When he heard the buffalo, he went directly towards the sound. All day he traveled. At evening he did as before. This was the fourth night. Again he placed the stick. The next morning at daybreak he was up again. He lunched, then started out again. Always he kept dropping the beans. Again, as the sun topped the trees, he heard the buffalo. Each day the sound had grown louder. He thought that the sound was now right over the hill, just ahead of him. When he got to the top of the hill, there was another hill. The sound was louder. He thought sure that it had come from just over the second hill. When on the second hill, there was still a third hill. He thought sure the sound was beyond that one. So he climbed the third hill, the sound was louder, but it was behind a fourth hill. The ground shook with the noise, like an earthquake. When he got to the top of the fourth hill, he saw him. It (277) was a white buffalo. The buffalo was walking around in a circle. There was a little open space in the center of this ring. So he went down to the buffalo.

When he came near, he saw that, although it was hard ground, the buffalo's feet sank into the earth up to his knees as he walked. So he came closer. Then the buffalo lay down on the ground. Then the boy took half of his tobacco. "Grandfather," he said, "I give you this tobacco. Pity me and bless me." Then he tied the yard belt about the buffalo's horns. The eagle feather he placed in the top-wool of the buffalo's head. "Thank you," said the buffalo. "You are not my grandson, you are my son, because the Creator made our world, no one has done thus for me before. So I thank you for it. This is good. I have never before even had my pipe filled up by anyone. So I have to use this tobacco as long as the world stands. What your grandmother told you, I heard, and it is so. That is why I made you come to me. That is why I shall bless you. All the different spirits, above and below, never heard of a tobacco bag made of a human. So I bless you throughout your life on this earth, my son. When you have a hard time, you can assume my form. Our Great Spirit Father gave me all kinds of (278) spirit power. You can be a great warleader anytime you choose. Also, you can doctor your own sick people. You will cure them. I give you power to acquire all manner of goods. So you will have a long life, until the days assigned man by our Great Father have run their full course. All will come out as I now promise you. You shall see. Then hunt up your friend. He did not know where you went. That is my friend's son, and I shall call him 'son' too. He is with us. Listen, I don't want to keep you here long." Then the boy heard a drum beating. "That is where you must go. That is my friend that I spoke of," he said. "You go that way, through the thick timber, until you come to a pleasant wooded country, where there is no underbrush. Then you will see a longhouse, standing east and west, with a door in the center of the south side. Go in there. That is my friend. He knows that you are coming. He is waiting for you."

So the boy went as directed. Through the thick timber he went. When he arrived at the place where the big trees grow, and no small brush, then he got there. Then he saw the longhouse. (279) When he saw the door in the middle of the south wall, he went in. There were many met sitting around the floor of the house, smoking. As soon as he entered, four leaders he saw sitting in the center of the north wall. One of these said, "My son, sit opposite me." So he did. "My son, did you see my friend?" "Yes," said Brass. Before this, before he sat down, he gave the other half of his tobacco to this leader. "Thank you for this, my son," he said. "I am thankful for this. My own son went down there after tobacco, but he never brought any back to me. That is why I am thankful now. All these you see in this tent are from different places. These are not common men. Look well at us." So Brass looked about and saw that they were not men, but bears. "What you see is what we are inside. You can not always tell what a man is by his outer appearance," said the leader. "What my friend told you is so. No spirit above or below ever heard of a bag being made from a human. "Your boy friend could fight these two brave men single-handed, but since you left, he is crying around looking for you. He didn't know where you went." Then he noticed that the four leaders were colored (280) differently. The oldest, the speaker, was colored all red. "I am going to bless you," this one said. "We four are your fathers, and the others are your brothers. At anytime you wish, you can change to the color of any of us four. So we bless you. Our Great Father gave us power, and with this power I have authority to bless you. You shall live long, finish out the days assigned to man by the Great Father. You shall be able to doctor and cure the sick of your people. Also, you will be a great warrior, assuming the leadership as often as you choose. Also, people will load you with rich goods. These shall come easily to you. Besides this, anything that you see done in the house, you can do at will throughout your life in this world." Then they began to sing and dance again. They took from the ground wild turnips. They shook plums from dry trees. They pulled ceráp from the ground. Many wonderful things they did. With their powers was the boy blessed. Then they showed him how he could do these things. Then the leader rose, and said to those present, "I want you to tell me, who of you blessed these (281) men who now wish to make a tobacco bag from human skin? Who did this thing?" No one said anything. There was a small grizzly bear sitting by the door. He rose and said, "As long as I live, no matter how late the night, I never refuse to go, no matter how far, when I was wanted. I have done the best I could for you, whatever you commanded. So I thought that I had power to do whatever you do. That is the reason that I blessed these two men, but I did not tell them to make tobacco bags out of humans." Then he sat down. The leader then spoke. "From now on, you shall live on the surface. No more can you stay with us underground. Hereafter, when you see humans, you will become frightened. You will be afraid of them. Nor will you have power to bless anyone." So they sent him out. Then the leader said, "Say, my son, since you came away, your friend has been looking for you, but he has found where you are now. He is coming. You go to meet him. He will come through a small prairie. There you shall meet him."

So he went out, passed (282) the big timber until, at its edge, he came to a place where some young red oak brush grew. Beyond this he saw a little long prairie. At the very end of it he saw a small bear coming. He knew this one was his friend. So he ran back and hid behind the red oak bushes. When the bear was in the middle of the prairie, he rose on his hind legs and ran toward his friend. Then, when close, he assumed his human shape again. Still Brass hid. He said, "My friend, I know that you are hiding there." So Brass got up laughing and met his friend. Then his friend said, "My friend, why didn't you tell me you were coming this way? I have looked for you everywhere, since you left. Then I learned that you came this way, and so I have come to find you. I can now fight those two great warriors single-handed. I could kill both of them. It will be better for us, your coming this way." He said to Brass, "Did our fathers bless you?" "Yes," said Brass. "How did they bless you?" he asked. "Did our father White Buffalo bless you?" "Yes," he said. "How did he bless you?" "Our father, White Buffalo, told me that I could (283) assume his shape at will. I would be a great warrior. I could lead the warparty at will. I could doctor and cure any of our people who were sick. He gave me long life. He promised me great riches in goods. That's all." "Good," said his friend. "What did my own father say to you?" "He said the same thing. He blessed me in the same way as the other. I could change to be like any of the four fathers." So he told of all their promises to him. Then Red Bear Boy laughed. "I am glad," he said. "I could kill these two single handed," he said, "but now that you have spiritual power, these two great warriors are nothing." So Red Bear's son said, "Say, my friend, our father White Buffalo, let's change to his shape. Maybe he was fooling you." They began to make hópkį, and soon there were two big white buffaloes standing there. Then they changed back to human form. Thus, Red Bear Boy said, "Say, my friend, let's try what our own father promised you." "Which one?" said Brass. "Let us both be red bears like my own father." So they imitated the (284) bear in voice and action, and changed into two great red bears. Then they assumed human shape again. "That's good," they said. "Now they can kill us and make tobacco bags of us, since we have such nice hair." Then they went back to the bears' lodge. There they stayed for awhile. There it became known that the chief's son was the leader's own son, sent [to earth] by the leader to acquire tobacco for him. "Say, my son," said the leader, "I don't want you to stay here with me for a long time. That is not right. I will send you back to your human home where you belong." So they went out from the lodge. Brass looked back there and saw the Indian lodge, as he had thought it to be, was a long hill running east and west. The door in the south wall was a hole in the ground.

When they were ready to go, Red Bear Boy said, "Say, my friend, when would you like to have us arrive home?" Brass answered, "It took me four nights, but I would like to get back tonight about dark." (285) "That's a long time," said the other. "You know our boy friends at this village are lonesome for us. I thought you would say about noon, anyway. But it shall be as you say, whether we travel fast or slow, we will arrive at our village at dusk." Both of them had a bow and arrow. Red Bear's son said, "Let us play the shooting game." "All right," said Brass. So they shot arrows, one shooting first and the other trying to hit near the other's arrow. This they did as they traveled. While on the way, they came to a red oak bush. Red Bear Boy said, "See!" He pointed to where many people were coming. "Let us hide behind the bush, my friend," said Red Bear Boy. So this they did. They passed close by the bush. They, the boys, called out as they passed. The people stopped, and approached the bushes. Red Bear Boy asked, "What are you doing around here?" "We are the war band," they said. "We have been to fight an enemy." Then the boys saw that they had many scalps and some had prisoners. Red Bear Boy then asked, "Why are these tied up?" "That is what you call a 'captive'," said the warriors. "These we are taking home." "But you have many scalps; you should let these prisoners go," said the boy. "We would not do that," they said, "because (286) the spirits gave us these captives, and so we can't let them loose." Then the boy said, "I shall ask you four times to let these loose, since you have plenty of scalps, and if you do not let them loose when I have asked you four times, then I shall kill all of you." Many of the warriors had stopped to listen, and many were still coming. Those coming up, asked what had happened to stop the advance. "These two boys ask us to let go of the captives. If we do not, they say they will kill every one of us," said the first of the warparty. So they held a council. Some said, "These are but two boys," others said, "Maybe these are not two boys, maybe they are not what they seem. We had better do as they say." So they spoke to one another. Red Bear Boy said a second time, "Let these prisoners go, for you have plenty of scalps." Still others kept coming up from behind. Then someone came with a small boy. He enquired after the stop. It was told him. "Oh no," he said, "these are but two boys. I have worked hard to carry this captive a long way. I will not lose him now." "Let these prisoners go," said Red Bear Boy a third time. The man who had (287) the boy said, "I shall wait no longer; I am going on." So he went on. Some said, "Let us do what they say. We see nothing but boys, but they who speak so boldly must be something else." "For the last time," said Red Bear Boy, "I ask you to release these prisoners. If you do not do it, I shall kill you all." But they still talked about it and did nothing. "Let us slay these people," said Red Bear Boy to Brass. "Which form shall we assume? Let us become red bears." "All right," said Brass. Then they became two great red bears and began to kill the warriors. All but the captives they killed. Then they became shaped like boys again. Then they spoke to the captives, loosing them, "Now you can take their scalps, as they took those of your people. So they did, it is said. "That is one thing we did. That came out true, a promised by our fathers," said the boys.

So on they traveled again. About dusk, they approached their village. Before they arrived home, Red Bear Boy said, "When we get home we will be presented with a white deerskin, tobacco, and a white dog." The chief's son went back to his own home. Brass went to the lodge of his grandmother. The old woman said, "Why did you come back this way? You can't fight with these men. You have never blackened your face. You have (288) learned nothing. No man can stand against these two, and you are but a boy." He answered, "Oh, that's nothing, they can't do anything. Don't you worry about it, grandmother, I can fight with those two all right."

A Gray Grizzly Bear

The next morning, the chief's son came to the house of Brass, "Let us go and play with the boys," he said. "They have been lonesome for us." So they went out. The people had noticed that these two were gone; they were surprised to see them back again, for they were to be killed, it was known. So some told the brave men that the two boys were returned. So the two men said, "After four days we will kill them. They are to come to the mound on the hill at that time." So the criers announced it to everyone in the village. So the boys hear this. Then some said, "Why did you come back? They are going to kill you." "Oh, they are not going to kill anybody," said the boys. So they continued to play around. When the old people heard this, they said, "Something is going to happen. These boys went (289) away for awhile, to return unafraid. Something will surely happen." This they kept saying, and the two boys played with the other boys every day. They did not seem to worry or to care for anything. The fourth day came. Towards noon, the two boys started up the hill. All the people watched them; they saw the lads going to their death. They did not seem to be worrying about anything. The people said to each other, "We are about to see something. A strange thing is about to happen." There one of the two brave men, the one who had advised against the action contemplated, said, "Well, my friend, maybe something is going to happen to us. Everything does not seem to be just right." The other said, "Have no fear of these boys. What could they do against us?"

Then it was noon. The two warriors prepared themselves to go to the mound on the hill. The boys were playing around about the mound on the hill. Then the two warriors arrived there. Then the man began to imitate the actions of the grizzly bear, like they used to do. So they soon became two gray grizzly bears. The chief's son said, "Wait, men, I have to do something before you kill me. Just wait a moment for us." So they went behind (290) a small nearby knoll. All the people were watching them. "They have gone beyond that little knoll," they said. "Which shape shall we use," the boys said. "We will use our father, the red one; his shape will we take," said the chief's son. "All right," said the other. So they began to imitate the actions and cries of the bears. Soon they became two great red bears, larger, much larger, than the two grizzly bears. Much louder was their growling than that of the other two. The people were all greatly frightened. The old folks said, "Let us gather something to offer them. That is all that will save us." The two red bears came over the knoll and faced the two grizzly bears. When those had heard the growling of the boys, "Well, my friend," said he who had been opposed to the whole business,, "I see something ahead of us. Trouble is coming." The other said, "That is all right, when enemies come, we get help to fight them. We will now get spirit help, and they will be powerless against us." So the red bears came to them. The chief's son said, "All right, you try to make tobacco bags out of us, we are now finer looking and will (291) make better bags than we would as mere boys." Then he said, "But no, you were the ones who were going to kill us; so go ahead and do something to us now or I am going to grab you." The two brave men said, "Not so. You can have half the village and half of our wives. Let us be friends." "No," said the boy. "If you do not do something to us, I am going to jump on you now." So both the boys leaped on him and tore his body in two parts. Both of them they killed. Then they returned to the knoll where they had assumed their bear shapes. Then they became boy-shaped again.

Then they went back to the longhouse of the two brave men. Many young women were in there. "Go back to your own families," they said to them. "Do not take anything with you. These things are unholy; we are going to destroy them all." So all the women returned to their own families. Then the boys called men to help burn the lodge. The two dead bears were first placed in the lodge. Then wood was gathered to add to the fire. Then all was burnt. (292) So the people notified the two boys that they had something to offer them. So they asked for one white dog. When this dog was killed, it was placed somewhere where there were no people around, and tobacco and buckskin placed with it. The chief's son said, "This was about to happen. That is why I came to you, to protect you. It will not happen again. If it does, I will come again."

That is all.1

Commentary."Masį́gᵋnika" — McKern follows this with a parenthetical "brass!," but the exclamation mark appears to be written over an original question mark, or may even be just a strike-out line through the question mark. The /ᵋ/ looks as if it might have been erased. The ending is -nik-ka, "little" followed by the definite article indicating a personal name. However, the word for brass ("yellow metal") should be mąszi, from mąs, "metal, iron," and zi, "yellow." However, the masį́gᵋ should be for either mas-sį́k, mas-į́k, mas-hį́k; but there is some question as to whether it was properly recorded, as the first syllable, in any case, should be mąs. However, this may mean that the second syllable could be either sik, ik, or hik. Hį́k means "foremost," but this makes little sense. There is no sik, sį́k, or ik, į́k. The most likely combination is mąs-zik, where the /z/ was assimilated to the /s/, although this does not always occur. Zik means "squirrel." This would give us "Little Iron Squirrel," to which, compare "Iron Hawk," a name from the Lakota. However, there is nothing in this story that suggests any connection to squirrels, so this too is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, there is a simple solution. The -gᵋ can be taken as the common suffix -ge, meaning, "type, sort, kind." So mąs-zi-ge, would be the "yellow type of metal." Even with this solution, the matter becomes complicated further. There is more than one kind of yellow metal, and although "brass" is the standard translation for mą́s-zí, it has also been applied to gold (Helmbrecht-Lehmann). In recent times gold has been denoted by an Anishenaabe loan word, žúra, which also means "money." To disambiguate it, gold is more usually called, žúra-zi. To make matters more difficult still, the word zi does not denote just yellow. Besides yellow, the color may extend to brown (Gatchet, Radin, Helmbrecht-Lehmann) or even orange (Miner, Helmbrecht-Lehmann). Gatchet records más zí meaning "copper," that is, "brown metal." Since copper was known early on, it is possible that this was the metal with which this figure was associated. Copper is more commonly called mą́s šúc, "red metal." If the name has any antiquity, it will not have referred to brass, which in pre-Columbian times was unknown, but to copper or even gold. Copper would also have a more natural association with his friend, Red Bear. In the Sioux parallel, the protagonist is called "Little Iron" (probably, Mazasapala).

"mound" — this may be a vestige of the historical memory of a time when they lived in towns whose "hills" were actually mounds (as at Cahokia, et alia).


"small white beans" — white beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are among the variety that Gilmore says were cultivated by the Hocągara. These are today known as haricot beans. They are called honįk (Hocąk), ayacotli (Nahuatl), oŋmnića (Dakota), hiⁿbthiⁿge (Omaha-Ponca), and atit (Pawnee).2

"pounded corn and maple sugar" — in his ethnological notes (250), McKern says, "Another valuable food is dry sweet corn, roasted and ground, mixed with maple sugar. It is used as a staple for long trips. Eaten dry, it is called wašųgĕ́. Bags for this are called warúšĕ."

"a pointed stick" — McKern comments here: "Such sticks are called wawáso. When Indians are traveling, and it was desired to point out the way to others who might follow, wawáso sticks were employed, or at branches of a trail, to indicate the way of the journey."

"small brush" — McKern says, "this kind of timber is called pácokri."

"ceráp" — this is untranslated in McKern. However, we known that ceráp is the yellow lotus or water chinquapin (Nelumbo lutea) Both the nuts and tubers are added to meat for flavoring. Gilmore gives a thorough account of this plant.

This is one of the plants considered to be invested with mystic powers. It is an important native food plant, both the seeds and the tubers being used. The plant was much sought and highly prized by the tribes living within its range. The hard, nutlike seeds were cracked and freed of their shells and used with meat for making soup. The tubers, also, after being peeled, were cut up and cooked with meat or with hominy. It contributes a delicious flavor, unlike any other.

The tubers were harvested by wading into the pond to search for them in the mud with the toes. When found, the mud was worked away from them with the feet, and they were pulled out by means of a hooked stick. In shape and general appearance they much resemble a small banana. This resemblance between the banana and Nelumbo tubers was remarked by the Omaha when bananas were first brought to their notice, so they were called tethawe egan, "the things that look like tethawe" which is now the Omaha name of the banana. Nelumbo tubers might be cooked when first harvested, but to preserve them for winter use they were dried, being first peeled and cut into pieces about an inch long. An anatomical feature of the plant body is a ring of tubular air spaces extending longitudinally throughout the stem. This characteristic also pertains, naturally, to the tubers and gives rise to a droll notion in regard to them. The Indians say that one who is digging these tubers must be careful to refrain from snuffing through the nostrils, else the cavities of the tubers which he digs will become filled with mud and so spoiled. Another notion held in regard to this plant is that the tubers gathered by a tall man will be long, while a short man will get short tubers.3

Nuttal adds,

The Osages and other western natives employ the roots of this plant, which is of common occurrence for food, preparing them by boiling. In form, the tubers resemble those of the Batata (or sweet potato), and are traversed internally by from five to eight longitudinal cavities. They are found at the depth of twelve to eighteen inches beneath the surface of the earth, and are connected by means of running roots. The tubers arrive at maturity about the time that the seeds begin to ripen; before that period they abound with a milky juice, in common with the whole plant, and indeed with several other genera of aquatic, as Alisma and Sagittaria, allied to the Nymphaeaceae. When fully ripe, after a considerable boiling, they become as farinaceous, agreeable and wholesome a diet as the potato. This same species, which, according to the relation of Pallas, appears also to be indigenous to Persia, is everywhere made use of by the natives, who collect both the nuts and root.4

Ceráp is cognate to Omaha-Ponca, tethawe and Dakota, tewape.5

Ceráp Plants
Ceráp Tubers and Fruit

"all their promises" — McKern lists them in a parenthetical remark in the text: "Long life, warrior, leader warrior, doctor, promise of goods, and ability to do all that was done in the house during the dance." Later on he adds, "They were also blessed with the power to kill all the animals that they might choose — great hunters." We should also add that they acquired shape-changing powers.

"red bear" — the kind of bear after which the boy is named is the "cinnamon" bear, its color being a coat variation in the black bear.

"hópkį" — McKern notes, "hópkį = motions or voice like a buffalo."

"the shooting game" — "game = mąirokíxarake" (McKern). Probably for mąirokiǧerege, from , "arrow"; hirokiǧere, "to shoot at a mark"; -ge, "the sort of thing such that it is ...".

"you have never blackened your face" — this is a way of saying that he has never fasted and gone out to "cry to the spirits" for a blessing. Those who conduct a puberty fast do so with their faces blackened by charcoal so that they might look more pitiable to the spirits.

"this dog" — dogs are often sent to the spirit world as messengers. Its white color is associated with holiness. It seems likely that the dog was instructed to inform the spiritual fathers of these two boys that they had succeeded, and to give them the sacred gifts interred with the dog.

Comparative Material

A Sioux's Story

retold by George Ricehill

Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

Yes, again I will tell a worak. It will be a Sioux worak. And this they say, two men, friends, made one another wákącąk (full of holy power). They could turn themselves into grizzly bears. An orphan boy was also about that town. They called him by the name, "Little Iron." The little boys when they played called him by that name alone, and they thought it a big name. Those who had made themselves friends did not like this person. They said, "I think, Friend, let's kill this one whom they call 'Little Iron,' I think, and we will make for ourselves a tobacco pouch from his skin. I think tomorrow at noon." The men there did not like what this kind were doing to him, so they told that boy, "Run away," and in the evening he ran away. And in the morning these men hunted for him. They did not find him. "Friend, let it go. When he gets back, we will kill him. He will come back."

And that boy ran away. As he was going, he slept four times. There a buffalo, a really white one, talked to him then: "My nephew," the buffalo called him, and said, "through my efforts you came here. Here, right here, is a house into which you will go. There when you come to a grizzly bear lodge, I mean. When you come there, they will tell you what to do here. I know what they said to you. They tried to make a tobacco pouch of you, so I made you come here." And that boy went there to the grizzly lodge that he had talked about. When he got to the door of the grizzly bear lodge, it was full. At the rear end of the lodge a red grizzly bear was sitting and then he said, "I did it. You came here," he said to him. "You are my son," he told him, "and they tried to kill you. I blessed you, so I made you come here. I did not tell the friends to do that sort of thing. Who told them to do that kind of thing? I'm going to ask this full house, 'Which one of you told him to do it?' I will try to find out. The ones who make themselves into grizzly bears, I mean them." And he asked all of the grizzly bears, but not one knew anything about it. But there was one by the door who never said a word. "Koté! this one must have said it. Let's throw him outside. He will never visit underground again. They threw him out. And the chief said to him, "You're going home," and just then in the town where Little Iron was, there the chief's son was his friend. He was to him his little friend. He came up: "My friend, here where you came from, I knew, so I came. I too am of these grizzlies. My father also. When we get home, my friend, we will kill those two."

They went home. In the evening they got home in town and Little Iron, they say, came home. "Whenever he gets home, friend, let's kill him, we said. Tomorrow we will kill him." And Little Iron had one grandmother. She said, "My nephew, they're going to kill you. Let those who are your friends do it." The next morning Little Iron and his friend with him were on top of a little hill at the end of the town. So the friends who were already in town shouted, "They're going to kill them, so watch out." The people wondered as they came out. Now they made themselves into grizzly bears. There they went towards the others. They came really close to Little Iron when he was there. The boys too shouted like bears, and made themselves into grizzlies. They fought with them. They killed the large man. They did not do right, so they killed them, it is said. That's all.6

Links: Red Bear, Bear Spirits, Buffalo Spirits, Were-Grizzlies and Other Man-Bears.

Stories: about two male friends: Wazųka, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Lame Friend, Morning Star and His Friend, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Worúxega, The Fleetfooted Man, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Tobacco Man and Married Man, Mighty Thunder; featuring were-bears as characters: The Were-Grizzly, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Partridge's Older Brother, Turtle's Warparty, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, The Roaster, Wazųka, Porcupine and His Brothers, The Shaggy Man; about buffaloes and Buffalo Spirits: Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, White Fisher, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Bluehorn's Nephews, Redhorn's Father, The Woman who became an Ant, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Buffalo's Walk, Trickster's Buffalo Hunt, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Creation of the World (v. 3), The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Red Feather, Wazųka, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, Holy One and His Brother, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Story of the Medicine Rite, Black Otter's Warpath; mentioning white buffalo: Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Thunderbird and White Horse; mentioning Red Bear: The Spotted Grizzly Man, The Journey to Spiritland, The Creation of the World, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 7), Red Bear; mentioning grizzly bears: Blue Bear, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Were-Grizzly, The Spotted Grizzly Man, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Roaster, Wazųka, Little Priest's Game, The Story of How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistega's Magic, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, The Two Boys (giant black grizzly), Partridge's Older Brother, The Chief of the Heroka, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Dipper (white grizzly), Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Creation of Man (v. 9), The Creation of Evil, cp. The Woman Who Fought the Bear; mentioning (spirit) bears (other than were-bears): White Bear, Blue Bear, Black Bear, Red Bear, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Shaggy Man, Bear Offers Himself as Food, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, The Messengers of Hare, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Red Man, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Two Boys, Creation of the World (v. 5), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Brown Squirrel, Snowshoe Strings, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Spider's Eyes, Little Priest's Game, Little Priest, How He went out as a Soldier, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Trickster's Tail, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Warbundle Maker, cf. Fourth Universe; mentioning dog sacrifice: Wolf Clan Origin Myth (v. 5), Redhorn's Sons, Black Otter's Warpath, Black Otter’s Sacrifice to a Thunder, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, see also Wolf & Dog Spirits; mentioning red oaks: The Children of the Sun, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Bladder and His Brothers, Turtle's Warparty (v. 1), Trickster Gets Pregnant; mentioning ceráp (lotus, Nelumbo lutea): Mijistéga and the Sauks; mentioning sacred (artificial) mounds: The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, The Green Lake Band, Baraboo in the 1840s, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 1), The First Fox and Sauk War, Buffalo Dance, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 12), Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), Little Priest’s Game, The Story of How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, The Resurrection of the Chief’s Daughter, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Lost Lake, Tobacco Origin Myth, v. 5, The First Fox and Sauk War, Featherstonhaugh's Canoe Voyage; see also, The Archaeology of the Wazija, Indian History of Winneshiek County, Habitat of the Winnebago, 1632-1832, The Winnebago Tribe, The Hocąk Notebook of W. C. McKern from the Milwaukee Public Museum, The McKern Papers on Hocąk Ethnography, The Wisconsin Winnebagoes, Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, The Smoky Mountain Massacre, The Thunderbird Warclub.

Themes: a powerful man becomes tyrannical: Wazųka, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Manawa Village Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Iron Staff and His Companions; to escape a dangerous person, someone runs into the wilderness: The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee, Bluehorn's Nephews, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Two Boys; blessings from a Grizzly Spirit: The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Little Priest's Game, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; a group of spirit animals sort into four different colors: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Old Man and His Four Dogs; as a punishment, a spirit decrees that someone be transformed into an animal: The Skunk Origin Myth (skunk), The Brown Squirrel (squirrel), How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (v. 3) (worm), Old Man and Wears White Feather (owl), Waruǧábᵉra (owl), The Chief of the Heroka (owl), Hare Kills a Man with a Cane (ant); a human turns into a (spirit) animal: How the Thunders Met the Nights (Thunderbird), Waruǧábᵉra (Thunderbird), The Dipper (hummingbird), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (blackhawk, owl), Elk Clan Origin Myth (elk), Young Man Gambles Often (elk), Sun and the Big Eater (horse), The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Were-Grizzly, Partridge's Older Brother (bear), The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother (bear), Porcupine and His Brothers (bear), The Shaggy Man (bear), The Roaster (bear), Wazųka (bear), The Spotted Grizzly Man (bear), White Wolf (dog, wolf), Worúxega (wolf, bird, snake), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (buffalo), The Brown Squirrel (squirrel), The Skunk Origin Myth (skunk), The Fleetfooted Man (otter, bird), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (otter), The Diving Contest (Waterspirit), The Woman who Married a Snake (snake, Waterspirit), The Omahas who turned into Snakes (four-legged snakes), The Twins Get into Hot Water (v. 3) (alligators), Snowshoe Strings (a frog), How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (v. 3) (earthworms), The Woman Who Became an Ant, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane (ant); blessings from Buffalo Spirits: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Blessing of Šokeboka, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth; someone can transform himself into a buffalo at will: The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; someone goes out searching for a missing person who was dear to them: The Woman who Married a Snake, Waruǧábᵉra, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, A Man's Revenge, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Snowshoe Strings; someone is abducted and led off into captivity: The Captive Boys, A Man's Revenge, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Lost Child, Wears White Feather on His Head, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Bladder and His Brothers, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Black Otter's Warpath, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Green Man, Brave Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Šųgepaga, The War of Indian Tribes against White Soldiers, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, Wolves and Humans, The Woman Who Became an Ant, Thunderbird and White Horse, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), The Boy who Flew, Testing the Slave, Soldiers Catch Two Boys, a Black One and a White One; an old woman scolds her orphan grandson for being presumptuous even though he later turns out to be the most capable person in the village: White Wolf, The Roaster, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Red Feather; good spirits rescue women held by an evil spirit: Hare Gets Swallowed, The Spirit of Gambling, The Green Man, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Iron Staff and His Companions.


1 W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) 272-292.

2 Melvin Randolph Gilmore, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, Thirty-Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1911-12 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1919) 62-63.

3 Gilmore, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, 39-40.

4 Thomas Nuttall, "Collections towards a Flora of the Territory of Arkansas," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n. s. 5 (1837): 139- 203 [160].

5 Gilmore, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, 39.

6 George Ricehill, A Sioux Tale, with an interlinear translation by Oliver LaMère, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3892 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1909?) Winnebago III, #11a, 1-11.