The Brown Squirrel

translation based on the interlinear text of Oliver LaMère

Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

(1) These two brothers lived there. They lived in an oval lodge. They were there because they were hunting. The older one they called Kųnų́ga, and the younger one they called Heną́ga. The oldest one would only kill bears, the youngest would not hunt. All his meat racks stretched as far as the eye could see. He had many bearskins, but every day Kųnų́ga would pack a brown one. Then finally, one morning, he did not go hunting. "My brother, why is it that you're not going out to hunt?" he said to him. "My younger brother, now I don't feel good about something in my body," he said. (5) Yet again, in the morning, he still did not go. Yet again he asked him, but he said the same thing. Thus it went. He never went again. Now he quit asking him. Thus it was that he used to ask him why he did not go out hunting. He never recovered. A long time passed. They had stored away everything, but they had used it up. So now Heną́ga would do this: he would look for vegetarian food. Sometimes he would pick a little fruit (haz). Now in time, he had become very disabled. Now Heną́ga also had to get around some with a cane. He would go out every day to try to find something.

There, one day, someone unexpectedly shouted. He was shouting at a bear. "O-o-o-o! He has gone towards the clumps of timber," he was saying. Where he meant, there he went. Just as he was about there, it stopped. (10) He went to where the shouting had stopped. When he was about there, unexpectedly, there stood a man. He went over to him. "Hąhó, young man! Start a fire there. We shall roast, won't we?" he said. "I will skin the bear," he said. Then he built a fire. When he was done skinning it, right away he cleaned the intestines. He roasted it. "Hąhó, young man! "Now, young man, we will do the Fast Eating. The one to eat the faster of us, he will eat the most," he said. Then they bit into each opposite end of the intestines. "Hąhó," he said. As soon as he had said, "Hąhó," what he had in his mouth was all there was. He nearly bit him in his face. "Young man, I could have bitten you," he said. Heną́ga was kind of ashamed there. When they got through, he said to him, "Hąhó, young man, (15) ask for as much as you want to pack," he said. He did that. He walked over and stood by two limbs that were there. He cut off their long feet and threw them over to him there. "Hąhó, young man, that is what you chose," he said to him. Then he did it, and he packed his bear and went home. The young man's heart was sad. There he wept. He took the bear feet and went home. And besides, he also brought home a mouthful of the intestines which he bit off but did not swallow. Coming back there, in a tree near the lodge, there he put them. Then he got home.

Kųnų́ga said, "My brother, you have been crying. Why do you make such utterances?" It is not good to cry. You are a man, or one of the people must have done something to you, tell me," he said. "No-o-o (hąka-a). No one did anything to me. (20) I did not cry. I merely have a cold and the reason that I react this way is that I have sneezed a lot. That's the reason why I had a flow of tears," he said. "Ha," he said.

Then in the morning, he went out again. He supported himself with a cane, and as he went there, he had come already, shouting. He was shouting at bears. "O-o-o-o! He has gone towards the clumps of timber," he came saying. Again where he meant, he went. Again, before he got there, it stopped. He went there where it stopped. A man stood there as he arrived. "Hąhó, young man, build a fire. I will skin it," he said. "We shall roast it," he said. There he built a fire. Right away he was through skinning it. Again, right away he roasted the intestines. "Hąho, young man! we shall do the Fast Eating. The one (25) who eats the fastest will have the most to eat," he said. On opposite ends they bit the intestines. As he said, "Hąhó," right away he nearly bit him in the face, but he pulled back. "Hąhó, young man, ask for as much as you wish to pack," he said. Again on two limbs he stood. "Howá," he said, and he cut off the feet and threw them to him there. "Hoho, young man! this it is that you wanted," he said, and he did it. Then he packed his bear and went home. Again then the young man's heart was very sad. There he was weeping. Finally, when he stopped, he went home. This, some of the intestines a little piece of which he had bitten off, he took with him, and he also took along the feet, and went home. Again when he arrived near home where he had placed them, again there he put them.

(30) Again right away, "Jáha-á, my brother, I am certain that you must have been weeping," he said. "My brother, I have a cold. As my body became cold, thus I sneezed a great deal. My tears flowed, that's why I'm this way. Also yesterday I was that way, and yet again I'm that way," he said.

Yet again in the morning, as he had done, yet again he did the same. When he got home, "My brother, you are weeping," he said to him, and, "My brother, it is so. When you first said it, you guessed it. I have cried. I went from here to the clump of timber and here someone shouted at a bear, so I headed it off. He stopped prematurely. There he came shouting. When I came there, a man was standing there. The bear had been turned back there. He said, 'Hąhó, young man, build a fire. (35) We shall roast it. I will skin it,' he said, so I built a fire. When he was done, right away he had the intestines ready. He roasted it. He said, 'Young man, we shall do Fast Eating. Which ever one of us eats the fastest, he shall eat the most,' he said. Then on each end we bit. 'Hąhó!' he said. Right way he nearly bit my face as well. He very narrowly missed it. 'Young man, I might bite you also,' he said. Then he said, 'Hąhó, young man, choose as much as you want to carry,' he said, so I did. I stood on two of the limbs. Then he did it. He cut off the feet only and said, 'There it is young man, what you wanted,' he said. Then he packed his bear and went home. (40) Then I was sore in my heart. There I cried. When I stopped crying, as much intestines as I had bitten off and the feet, I took and came home. And over here near the house stands a hollow tree. I would leave them there," he said. "Hohó, my brother, long ago you should have told me of it, long ago we could have been eating," he said. "I am sick, and we are poor, but instead he abuses you. He shall know of it. (43) Go after the things where you put them away," he said. He went there and pulled them out. He singed them and put them on as a night boil.

(43) Early in the morning he ate in a hurry and went there. There where he meant, sure enough, he was already there shouting at bears. O-o-o-o-o!" He has gone to the clump of timber. "O-o-o-o-o!" he said. Where he meant, there Kųnų́ga headed him off, (45) but before he got there he stopped. Where he stopped shouting, there he went. When he was about there, unexpectedly, there he stood. He had the bear there, and said, "Hąho, young man! I will skin it. You can build a fire there. We can have a roast," he said. "Howo!" said Kųnų́ga. He built a fire. Immediately, he already had it skinned. He gave Kųnų́ga the intestines. "Young man, that you can roast there. We will eat it," he said. He roasted it. Then when he was done, he said, "Hiho, if you are done, we will have a Fast Eating Match. The one of us that can eat the fastest will eat the most," he said. "All right," said Kųnų́ga. Then on each end they bit. Then Kųnų́ga did it. "I might bite you as well," he said, and indeed he very nearly bit the other's face. Then also he said to Kųnų́ga, "Haho, young man, (50) choose whatever you wish to pack," he said. Kųnų́ga did it. He laid himself on all of the bear. He also laid all of his own limbs on its limbs. Thus he did, and he packed all of it and went home. "Koté, you did a bit much," he said. "But you asked me to choose," said Kųnų́ga, and he came on home. After awhile, with the bear on his back he got home.

"Hąho, my little brother, we are not the kind to be abused," he was saying. Thus it was. They lived there in peace. Then he said, "My little brother, I will look for him, where the one who does it lives," said Kųnų́ga. Then he went to hunt for him. Unexpectedly, there as he went, to his surprise, a flat platform lay stretched before him. He could not see the end of it. Meat lay spitted on meat racks covered with bearskin. In the middle was a big oval lodge. There he went. As he came near, unexpectedly, he was talking. (55) He listened to him, and unexpectedly, he was talking about Kųnų́ga himself. "Kora, he will be another. 'He, I also might bite you!' he had said. He ate it but good because he was starved nearly to death. Had he said, 'I will eat it,' in a gentle way, I might also have consented to it. Also to make his choice of it, he laid on all of it, as — korá! — he is tricky. If he was that way, was he trying to starve to death? Kora, 'All of it I will pack home,' he ought to have said, as that is better, but he chose by laying on all of it. Kora, perhaps he must think that I must be afraid of him, but it was because he was about to starve to death, that I let him do it. Kora, perhaps he must think that I must be afraid of him. There is not a single thing on this earth that I'm afraid of. Kora, perhaps Kųnų́ga must have thought that I must be afraid of him. He was about to die of starvation is why I let him do it, but kora, there is not a single thing on this earth that I'm afraid of. (60) Kora, I am only afraid of one thing, a protruding red horn. Of all things, I am afraid of just that alone," he said. From there Kųnų́ga ran back. "You shall know yourself, you that speaks," he said, and went home.

Then he went by a hill there where there used to be some red cedar standing. When he got there, he cut down a red cedar and took it home. He made a protruding horn of that. Then again he went over there. Again when he got there, unexpectedly, very much he was saying. He was talking about Kųnų́ga in the same way that he had been talking about him before. Then Kųnų́ga did it. He pushed the protruding horn through the door. He was still talking a lot. He had not seen it, so he hissed at him. When he heard it, he looked at the door, and there, unexpectedly, a protruding red horn was seemingly about to jump for him. (65) He cried out. It hardly seemed that he could run away, as he was also doing it at the door, and finally, at the back of the lodge he took something and there escaped, fleeing in fear. Kųnų́ga went home. "Kora, how clever that homely thing is. Where has he gone?" Kųnų́ga said. When he got home, he said, "My brother, the homely one has run away and left his home. Let us go live there instead," he said. "There are a lot of meat racks, so we will have it easy," he said. They went there instead and lived. They lived in great plenty. There in peace they lived. Finally the time had past. They ate up all the meat racks. Kųnų́ga said, "Kote! I will go look for him wherever he is," he said, Kųnų́ga said.

Then he went to hunt for him. He brought with him his protruding horn, and unexpectedly, as he was going there, as he was before, he was again. (70) The meat racks stretched way over. As he neared the lodge, unexpectedly, he was saying very much. As he said before, he was saying again. He was talking about Kųnų́ga. Once more at the door, he went and push through the protruding horn through. He cried out. Again finally at the back of the lodge he took something and again finally at the side of the lodge he burst out and he ran out. Again when he got home, "Hąho, my little bother, once more he moved from there." Again, as he lived before, that way they were again. Again, there they continued permanently. Again they ate it up. The second time, and again the third time, they did it to him.


He went to him again for a fourth time Yet again, he was talking a great deal. He was talking about Kųnų́ga. Then he thought, "What can I do? Something he must use. If this one waits anywhere to use something, it must be in back of that partition," he thought. So he did it. He opened in the back of the lodge (75) and pushed the horn through. Then he hissed at him. He looked there, and the protruding horn came protruding through. Again he cried out. His heart seemed to long for something at the back of the lodge. Then he ran, but again he would shove the protruding horn in a little more, and back he would run. Finally, he cried out, and ran out. On he went crying. He went back in. He looked behind the partition, and saw, unexpectedly, that there was a very small, little bear there. It was very white, and with him a black gourd, a small gourd that had been burnt black. Kųnų́ga said, "Kora, how he tried to be a spirit (waxopini). This must be what he used," he said. Then he took them and went home. When he got home, again they moved there instead.

Then Kųnų́ga said, "I will go look for that homely one, there where whatever he is up to," he said. Then he went to hunt for him. As he went there, unexpectedly, (80) there was a little fire from which the smoke was rising. Unexpectedly, again he was brought his protruding horn, and he tried to run away, but he told him not to. He did not run away. "I am going to ask you something, so don't run away," he said to him. Then he got there. He said to him, "The little white bear you abandoned and the gourd, how do you usually use them?" he said to him. "Well, in the morning when I am going hunting, I always asked for it, I used to tell him. So after I would rattle the little gourd over one of its tracks, wherever the bear had gotten to, there it would die," he said. "Hąhą, thus it is." Then the protruding horn he held towards him. He cried out, and a little brown squirrel ran up a big pine tree that stood there. "You tried to severely abuse humans. Ever after boys will shoot you with protruding horns. You will always just eat pine cones," he said to it. (85) There Little Squirrel was great, but when he stood among the humans, they took it all away from him. So the humans have it. That, hąhą, is the end.1

Commentary. General Remarks. This tale is at least superficially about squirrels. In Wisconsin there are three basic types of squirrels: gray, fox, and pine squirrels. This latter the Hocągara call zik-zi, "brown squirrels," which are known today in English as "red squirrels." Since this is confusing, I have generally referred to this species by one of its alternative names, "pine squirrels." The Hocągara call the gray squirrel zik-xoc, which is literally "gray squirrel." A name collected by Dorsey, and apparently a great deal older, is ca-šį-xoc, "the deer-fat gray one." The fox squirrel is known as zik-mąk-zi, "the brown-breasted squirrel," a common color pattern of the upper midwest, although the pelage of this species varies widely geographically.2 The two brothers, who act as protagonists, seem to represent the gray and fox squirrels. The antagonist, we are told explicitly, is transformed in the end into a pine squirrel (zik-zi). At a deeper level, this is a story about what it is to be human and the significance of the bow and arrow in defining the human condition. The squirrel is like mankind without technology, an animal ill equipped by nature for self defence that must live and die entirely according to the power of its wits and whatever aid the spirits in their compassion might extend. "The Brown Squirrel" shows the power that acquiring the "protruding red horn" (arrow) has over a competitor who even has magical aid. A similar underlying message is expressed by the story "Porcupine and His Brothers," where the squirrel stands for the unarmed man, and the porcupine for the human bowman. In that story, the superiority of the bowman is expressed when Squirrel, Porcupine, et alia, defeat the were-bears who besiege them.

"two brothers" — the average litter size of fox and gray squirrels is 3, so a litter of 2 is common enough.3 The sex ratio of gray squirrels from various locations was 1.35 males for every female.4

"lodge"Sciurus squirrels often live together with their own kind.

Fox and gray squirrels are relatively non-aggressive toward either their own species or the other species. During the colder months, they may share dens with a number of individuals of their own species depending on the size of the den cavity.5

The gray squirrel creates a nest out of twigs and leaves called a "drey." Since oval lodges were basically made of sticks, there is significant homology between a drey and a lodge.


"bears" — the hunting that the squirrel does is transposed into human terms where the object of the hunt is meat rather than fruit and nuts. The choice of a bear as the object of the hunt is not accidental. The word for bear in Hocąk is hųc. It is probably not an etymological accident that it is nearly identical to the name for one of the bear's favorite foods, huc, the acorn. The acorn is also one of the favorite foods of the gray squirrel6 (as we see in the inset photo of a gray squirrel eating an acorn), so it is entirely appropriate that an anthropomorphic squirrel be a hu(n)c-hunter. Acorns are also the first preference of fox squirrels as well. 7

"meat racks" — the placing of hu(n)c on wooden platforms recalls the practice of storing acorns in the hollows of trees.

"a brown one" — the Hocąk word ǧi, which denotes a light brown color (Lipkind, Miner), is an ellipsis for the brown bear, which however, is called a hųc-zi in Hocąk. At the deep level of the story, however, it actually denotes the acorn, which is a light brown color when ripe (see inset).

"he never recovered" — the long period of inactivity after a period of great plenty and hoarding of food recalls the period of hibernation undergone by bears, and the relative inactivity of squirrels. Fox and gray squirrels are most active in the months of September and October.8 Nevertheless, the illness of the great hunter in the household and subsequent starvation, is a common plot theme and may have no allegorical meaning.

"shouting at a bear" — a hunter shouts at a bear in order to drive it towards another hunter waiting in ambush. However, in the cases where this technique is mentioned in stories, there is no one assigned the role of ambusher (see The Shaggy Man). The hunter in this story turns out to be a brown squirrel (pine squirrel) in the end, and pine squirrels by nature are not social, especially when it comes to food. These squirrels are also well known for their noise:

In the wild, pine squirrels are easily recognized by their nervous scampering habits, small size, and noisy chatter. This chatter is so characteristic that their presence can be determined by sound alone.9 ... Their periodic birdlike singing advertises occupancy of territories.10

"the bear" — in the story, the hunter is identified with the brown squirrel (pine squirrel). Although the pine squirrel does not eat huc (acorns) in today's world, in this primordial time, it is a hu(n)c-hunter just like any other squirrel. However, it is precisely its ursine greed that will prove to be its undoing. The pine squirrel is much more like a bear than other squirrels, having the ursine attributes not only of being brown, but of being both solitary and irascible.

"intestines" — the word for intestines is šip, which as a homonym also means "to fall, to fall a short distance." As a noun, šip in the latter sense would denote that which has fallen a short distance, as an acorn does from its tree. So the choice of hu(n)c-šipra as the food item may also be dictated by homonyms. Hųc-šipra, bear gut, was typically used for the making of bowstrings. It therefore has an intimate association with the arrow or "horn" (see below). Kųnų́ga has a greater power to internalize this instrument of destruction, so he is more essentially possessed of the power of the bowstring than his opponent, a theme developed later on. Huc-šipra, as the acorn fallen near the tree, is the seed of the Thunders, inasmuch as the oak is their special tree, the tree in which they made the first fire. The oak is the tree struck most often by lightning. The seed of the Thunders, therefore, is the nascent power of lightning, and who is most able to take that within himself has analogous powers. Once again, the power thus alluded to, is that of the bow and arrow, which like lightning, has the power to destroy targets at a great distance.

"long feet" — the distance of a body part from the ground is involved in status symbolism. In rituals, the warrior's portion, the portion considered the best cut, is the head. So by analogy, the feet would be the least honorable portion to be doled out. It is certainly not the case that bear feet offend the palate, as the Bear Clan has the personal name, Si-ásga, "Delicious Foot." The feet given to the young man are characterized as "long," s’i, which alliterates with si, "feet." A similar word s’į means "anus, buttocks," and recalls the intestines which he retained in his mouth. More interesting is the name given for squirrels to Gatschet — síksinik. This appears to be for zik-si-nįk, "small footed squirrel," or the all but identical zik-zi-nįk, "little brown squirrel" (the more likely). Pine (or brown) squirrels have feet about half the size on average of those of the fox or gray squirrels (see chart below). If Heną́ga's spiritual identity is that of a Sciurus squirrel, then giving him the big feet of the prey would express the resentment of the small-footed pine squirrel for its competitor's pedal superiority while simultaneously achieving a sarcastic propriety of like to like.

"a mouthful" — the Hocąk is ho’ikanąkižą, from ho-, "the place at which"; ’i, "mouth"; kanąk, "to put, place, erect"; and -ižą, "a, one." The word kanąk also means, "to bear (fruit); fruit which a tree bears" (Marino). So as a pun it could mean, "a nut in the mouth." Squirrels also take nuts into their mouths and cache them rather than eating them on the spot.

"a hollow tree" — squirrels are by nature hoarding animals, so in his human form the brown pine squirrel hoards the bear he has killed, not only giving the starving Heną́ga the worst parts of the meat, but hardly any of it. The pine squirrel is solitary and does not share his cache, so Heną́ga is left with practically nothing. The identity of Heną́ga as a squirrel is made obvious by the fact that he stores his food in the hollow of a tree for future consumption.11 This is more like a pine squirrel, as it has been noted of Sciurus squirrels, "occasionally nuts are cached in a tree cavity, but most often they are stored singly underground."12 Kųnų́ga mildly scolds him for storing the food in a tree hollow, reminding him that they could have been eating all along. Generally the fox and gray squirrels will satisfy their hunger first, then cache the surplus.13 For such squirrels, "communal hoarding is common."14 This underlines a difference in the nature of the gray and fox squirrels as opposed to the pine squirrel. The former share their food with conspecifics, while the latter defend a territory excluding all others. Humans are like the Sciurus squirrels, sharing not only food, but the burdens of defense. Kųnų́ga, despite ailing from an unknown disease, will still go out and confront the man who abuses his little brother.

"all of the bear" — Kųnų́ga is now setting the limits that will define the pine squirrel. In this primordial time, all varieties of squirrel hunted hu(n)c (bears/acorns), but one of the ways in which Sciurus squirrels are different from pine squirrels, is that the former are highly dependent on huc, whereas the latter almost never eat acorns. So Kųnų́ga establishes this divide by turning the tables of greed on the pine squirrel, and establishing the precedent of being the sole consumer of acorns (here symbolized by bears).

"meat racks" — the vast meat racks are meant to represent the hoarding behavior of squirrels. As is revealed later in the myth, the bear hunter is a brown squirrel (the pine squirrel). These pine squirrels cache large quantities of white spruce cones which they feed off during the lean months of winter.15 Caches may be as deep as 30 to 60 cm. and often as wide as 2 m. in diameter.16 However, the meat racks may actually symbolize the behavior of fox and gray squirrels, who spread out their hu(n)c (bear/acorn) food over a wide area ("as far as the eye can see"). This spreading is otherwise the opposite of meat racks, since they bury their acorns singly and out of view.

"trying to starve to death" — clearly, Kųnų́ga was starving on purpose. Fasting to extremes was a technique used to gain the blessings of the spirits, and Kųnų́ga has built up a great reservoir of credit in spiritual power, so that he can now overcome a powerful enemy.

"horn" — this "horn" (he) is the arrow, as we learn at the very end of the story. The wood of a small game arrow (mą́sąc p’áų) was sharpened to a point, so the whole of it became analogous to a horn.

"red horn" — the great importance of this story is that it calls certain arrows "red horns," making a connection to the mythical figure Redhorn, who is Chief of the Héroka. The Heroka are diminutive spirit beings whose bows never miss their mark. The red horn that is created by Kųnų́ga is made from red cedar, a wood sacred to the Thunderbirds, and much used in purification ceremonies. It is this that makes the squirrel run away. The squirrel is in origin a man. Squirrels and humans have in common that they are essentially by nature defenseless animals who must rely upon their wits to survive, as the squirrel seems to when it artfully dodges predators. When Earthmaker made humans, they were the last and least of his creation, so he gave them the gift of tobacco so that they could enlist spiritual aid. However, in practical terms, what really elevates man from being something like a squirrel is the fact that he possesses the bow and arrow. This elevates him from the bottom to the top of the animal world. The proof of this promotion is the ability to kill bears, who are the natural pinnacle of the food chain. The squirrel, as a kind of man, is able to hunt bears himself, but not with a bow and arrows; rather, he gains spiritual help. This help might be considered more like sorcery, as it involves magic and the use of a lesser spirit to give him command over bears. Kųnų́ga scoffs at the little bear and does not recognize him as a proper spirit, even though he is, since as a white bear he has command over all bears on earth. However, as great as his power is, and despite its spiritual nature, there is one power that far exceeds it and gives him panic, and that is the power of the red horn. The story seems to teach us that to be properly human, it is not enough to have fire and tobacco, one must also have the bow and arrow. This is what truly separates men from other animals. If squirrels had fire (the blackened gourd) and spiritual aid, they too could kill bears, but they could never dominate man who has the power of technology, the technology to kill at a distance (like a Thunderbird). Even boys could kill such a squirrel.

"to jump for him" — that the red horn could jump (hat’ąp) for him makes it all the clearer that this "horn" is actually an arrow.

"they went there instead and lived" — unlike the pine squirrel, the Sciurus squirrels will pick up and move.

Fox and gray squirrels frequently move to new locations, especially in the fall. ... The dispersal period [is] frequently referred to as the "fall reshuffle." ... Fox squirrels in Illinois deserted one area after another as food availability shifted.17

In the upper midwest, this fall reshuffle occurs at slightly different times at different locales:

Beginning End
Michigan late August mid-December18
Ohio August 10 September 1519
Illinois - before August20

Mass migrations, particularly of gray squirrels, and fox squirrels occasionally, have been reported as early as the XVIIth century.21

"they lived" — the Hocąk is mąciwije, where mącí means, "to camp for a lengthy period" (Miner), or "to make a permanent home" (Radin); but it has the connotation of wintering, and is so defined by Marino. This matches nicely the fact that Sciurus squirrels move in the fall in preparation for winter, as noted in the previous entry.

"a black gourd" — it seems reasonable to conclude that the gourd (pex) was blackened over the fire in order to harden its rind so that it would not muffle the sound of the pebbles put inside to make it rattle.

"little white bear (hųjsganįk)" — the little (nįk) white bear takes after its spiritual prototype, White Bear. White Bear is the chief of the Bear Spirits and therefore exercises control over them. Thus, his smaller version, whom Kųnų́ga scarcely recognizes as a spirit at all, still has command over earthly bears that people are hunting. This is why it is important that he is said to be white, the color of great spiritual power.

"I would rattle the little gourd over one of its tracks" — the word for "track" here is wat’ąpka, from wa-, a prefix indicating an object of the root; t’ąp, "to press"; and -ka, "the set such that they are"; so the whole expression means, "the thing pressed [into the ground]." Normally a track is simply si, whose primary meaning is "foot." The word for gourd is pex. The word pex also denotes a rattle, including the only rattle of nature, that of the rattlesnake. The rattlesnake strikes around the foot of the aggressor after rattling at it. So the rattle in the context of the foot is a precursor to poison. So when the rattle is shaken over the "foot" (si), the effect is like that of an instantly potent poison — the bear simply collapses over dead on the spot with no outward sign of trauma.


"a little brown squirrel (zik zi)" — the word zik denotes squirrels, and the word zi denotes a color running from yellow through brown. This animal is called the "pine squirrel" (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) [inset], also known as the "American red squirrel," "boomer," "fairydiddle," "piney," or "spruce squirrel."22 Squirrels of this genus defend a territory, and therefore are less social and more "selfish."23

"pine" — the pine squirrel is said to have climbed up a cedar tree in the translation provided, but the Hocąk text clearly says that he climbed a wazi xete, "a big pine." Two sentences on, the translation has "cedar boughs" for wazi hikanakra. In this second case, both wazi and hikanak are mistranslated, since the former means "pine," and the latter means "cone." Nevertheless, inasmuch as white cedar is called waziparas, "broad pine," it is recognized as a kind of pine tree. Red cedar (juniper), on the other hand, is always called waxšuc, where šuc means "red." It is not clear whether waǧᵋra (white cedars) are a subset of wazira, but it is clear that wazi does not specifically denote cedar trees of any description. The inclination to identify the tree up which the squirrel escapes as a red cedar derives from the fact that in the present story the red projecting horn (the arrow) happens to be made of that wood.

"always just eat pine cones" — squirrels of the genus Tamiasciurus specialize in eating the seeds of conifer cones, hence their appellation, "pine squirrels."24

"Little Squirrel" — the Hocąk is Zigᵋnįka (ri Ke ni K.). The word for squirrel is zik, but here it is run into the next word, nįk, meaning "little," so the terminal /k/ is softened to /gᵋ/. The terminal -ka is a (so-called) definite article (which in most cases is -ra). On very rare occasions -ka is used in place of -ra as the definite article, as it is with hųcka, "the bear" just a few sentences before. However, -ka has become specialized for use in personal names, so that Zigᵋnįk-ka would ordinarily be the name of a particular person. The question thus arises, should the whole be translated as "the little squirrel" or "Little Squirrel"? It seems more probable that it is a personal name, since it is not zik nįka, but a unified Zigᵋnįka. The name "Little Squirrel" is apt, since pine squirrels are much smaller25 than fox or gray squirrels:26

Body Length Tail Length Hind Foot Length Body Weight
Pine Squirrel 270-385 mm. 92-158 mm. 35-57 mm. 145-260 g.
Gray Squirrel 383-525 mm. 150-243 mm. 53-76 mm. 338-750 g.
Fox Squirrel 454-698 mm. 200-330 mm. 51-82 mm. 696-1,233 g.

"they took it all away from him" — the punishment that Kųnų́ga exacts for the squirrel-man's selfishness is total deprivation, the opposite of the pine squirrel's devotion to hoarding. Now the squirrel has no meat at all, even to this day. Thus, the pine squirrel must subsist on pine cones and other such food, the price of its failure to cooperate. This was the way that Heną́ga had to live when neither he nor his brother could hunt. When Heną́ga heads off the bear and builds the fire to roast it, he gets no recognition at all by the squirrel-man. Men can eat meat not only because they have bows and arrows, but because they have cooperative hunting, a sharing of the tasks for the successful acquisition and processing of food. Therefore, those who cannot curb their greed and self-centeredness to share and cooperate, are condemned to always live in want of meat.

Links: Squirrels, Bear Spirits, Redhorn, White Bear, Gourd Rattles, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.

Stories: mentioning squirrels: Old Man and Wears White Feather, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Porcupine and His Brothers, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, Trickster and the Eagle; about two brothers: The Two Children, The Twin Sisters, The Captive Boys, The Twins Cycle, The Two Brothers, The Two Boys, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Children of the Sun, The Lost Blanket, The Man with Two Heads, Bluehorn's Nephews, Snowshoe Strings, Sunset Point, The Old Man and the Giants, Esau was an Indian; 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, Brass and Red Bear Boy, 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, 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 bear entrails: The Shaggy Man, Grandfather's Two Families, Kaǧiga and Lone Man; mentioning red cedar (juniper, waxšúc): The Journey to Spiritland (vv. 4, 5) (used to ascend to Spiritland), The Seer (sacrificial knife), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (sacrificial knife), Redhorn's Sons (coronet of Thunders, lodge), Aracgéga's Blessings (coronet of Thunders), The Twins Disobey Their Father (trees found on cliffs of Thunders), Partridge's Older Brother (smoke fatal to evil spirit), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (purifying smoke), The Creation Council (purifying smoke), The Dipper (incense), Sun and the Big Eater (arrow), Hare Kills a Man with a Cane (log used as weapon); mentioning sacred gourd rattles: North Shakes His Gourd, East Shakes the Messenger, South Seizes the Messenger, Holy One and His Brother, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, A Peyote Story; mentioning teeth: The Animal who would Eat Men, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Two Boys, The Birth of the Twins, The Twins Disobey Their Father, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Dipper, Wolves and Humans, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Children of the Sun, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, Partridge's Older Brother, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Shakes the Messenger, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, White Wolf, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth.

Themes: each member of a group of brothers specializes in the hunting of just one kind of game animal: The Quail Hunter, Grandfather's Two Families; starvation: White Wolf, The Red Man, The Old Man and His Four Dogs, A Man and His Three Dogs, Sun and the Big Eater, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Kaǧiga and Lone Man, The Shaggy Man, The Bungling Host, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation; shouting at bears: The Shaggy Man; when the kill is divided one person unjustly gets only the feet: Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; the fruit of the hunt is stolen: Porcupine and His Brothers, Crane and His Brothers, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Old Man and Wears White Feather, White Wolf; a young man who has been abused by someone comes home showing signs of sorrow, but when his eldest brother asks him about it, he does not tell him what really happened: Turtle's Warparty, Porcupine and His Brothers; the eldest brother (Turtle) realizes that one of his brothers has been abused but has said nothing to him, so he gets his brother to tell him about it, after which he avenges him upon his tormentor: Turtle's Warparty (Porcupine), Porcupine and His Brothers (Red Breasted Turtle); a greedy person who wants far more than his share is punished by being left with nothing: The Markings on the Moon, The Greedy Woman, Trickster and the Honey; someone who is otherwise fearless is deeply afraid of just one thing: Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins (a turkey), Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear (a thunder-arrow); a creature boasts that he is afraid of nothing, only to reveal later that he fears (a certain) arrow: Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear; something is of a (symbolic) pure white color: White Bear, Deer Spirits, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), White Flower, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Fleetfooted Man, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Worúxega, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket (white spirits), Skunk Origin Myth, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Messengers of Hare, The Brown Squirrel, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Bladder and His Brothers, White Thunder's Warpath, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Dipper, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Creation of the World (v. 12), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Descent of the Drum, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5), The Diving Contest, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Grandmother's Gifts, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Completion Song Origin, North Shakes His Gourd, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Peace of Mind Regained, The War of Indian Tribes against White Soldiers (wolf, bird); red as a symbolic color: The Journey to Spiritland (hill, willows, reeds, smoke, stones, haze), The Gottschall Head (mouth), The Chief of the Heroka (clouds, side of Forked Man), The Red Man (face, sky, body, hill), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (neck, nose, painted stone), Redhorn's Father (leggings, stone sphere, hair), The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father (hair, body paint, arrows), Wears White Feather on His Head (man), The Birth of the Twins (turkey bladder headdresses), The Two Boys (elk bladder headdresses), Trickster and the Mothers (sky), Rich Man, Boy, and Horse (sky), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo Spirit), Bluehorn Rescues His Sister (buffalo head), Wazųka (buffalo head headdress), The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (horn), Bear Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Deer Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (stick at grave), Pigeon Clan Origins (Thunderbird lightning), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks (eyes), Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (scalp, woman's hair), The Race for the Chief's Daughter (hair), The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy (hair), Redhorn Contests the Giants (hair), Redhorn's Sons (hair), The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle (hair), A Wife for Knowledge (hair), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (hair), The Hocągara Contest the Giants (hair of Giantess), A Man and His Three Dogs (wolf hair), The Red Feather (plumage), The Man who was Blessed by the Sun (body of Sun), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (body of the Warrior Clan Chief), Red Bear, Eagle Clan Origin Myth (eagle), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (Waterspirit armpits), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Waterspirits), The Roaster (body paint), The Man who Defied Disease Giver (red spot on forehead), The Wild Rose (rose), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (warclub), Įcorúšika and His Brothers (ax & packing strap), Hare Kills Flint (flint), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head (edges of flint knives), The Nannyberry Picker (leggings), The Seduction of Redhorn's Son (cloth), Yųgiwi (blanket); someone possesses a gourd rattle of great magical powers: North Shakes His Gourd, East Shakes the Messenger, South Seizes the Messenger, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth; an unseen creature hisses (blows puffs of air) at someone: Wears White Feather on His Head, The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Dipper, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane; as a punishment, a spirit decrees that someone be transformed into an animal: The Skunk Origin Myth (skunk), How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (v. 3) (worm), Old Man and Wears White Feather (owl), Brass and Red Bear Boy (grizzly), 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 (black hawk, owl), Heną́ga and Star Girl (black hawk), 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), White Wolf (dog, wolf), Worúxega (wolf, bird, snake), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (buffalo), The Skunk Origin Myth (skunk), The Fleetfooted Man (otter, bird), 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).


1 Paul Radin, "The Squirrel," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Notebook #22: 1 - 85. Hocąk syllabary text (by Sam Blowsnake?) with an interlinear translation by Oliver LaMère.

2 "The coat color of fox squirrels varies greatly, both locally and regionally, from all black in Florida to silver gray with a white belly in Maryland or grizzled rusty brown above with orange ventral surface in Michigan. Extreme color variations often occur among fox squirrels within a single woodlot. The most wide-spread subspecies, S. n. rufiventer, is commonly a reddish black to light grizzled color above and bright to dull rufous or light gray to dirty white below." Vagn Flyger and J. Edward Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels, Sciurus niger, and S. carolinensis, and Allies," in Joseph A. Chapman and George A. Feldhamer, edd., Wild Mammals of North America (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1982) 209-229 [209b].

3 Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 212b.

4 Durward L. Allen, Michigan Fox Squirrel Management, Publication 100 (Lancing: Michigan Department of Conservation, Game Department, 1943). Louis Goehring Brown, and Lee Emmett Yeager, "Fox Squirrels and Gray Squirrels in Illinois," Illinois Natural History Survey, Bulletin 23 (1945) 449-536. Robert Lewis Packard, The Tree Squirrels of Kansas. Museum of Natural History, State Biology Survey (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1956). Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 213a.

5 Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 216b.

6 Paul Y. Burns, Donald M. Christisen, and J. M. Nichols, "Acorn Production in the Missouri Ozarks," Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Missouri, College of Agriculture. Research Bulletin 611 (1954) 1-8. Charles M. Nixon and Milford W. McClain, "Squirrel Population Decline Following a Late Spring Frost," Journal of Wildlife Management, 33 (1969) 353-357. Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 215.

7 "Ohio fox squirrels had the following order of food preference: white orak (Q. alba) acorns, black oak (Q. velutina) acorns, red oak (Q. alba) acorns, walnuts, and corn." Phillip Baumgras, "Experimental Feeding of Captive Fox Squirrels," Journal of Wildlife Management, 8 (1944) 296-300. Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 215b.

8 Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 213b.

9 Vagn Flyger, and J. Edward Gates, "Pine Squirrels, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus and T. douglasii," in Joseph A. Chapman and George A. Feldhamer, edd., Wild Mammals of North America (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1982) 230-238 [231].

10 Flyger and Gates, "Pine Squirrels," 233.

11 Flyger and Gates, "Pine Squirrels," 233.

12 Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 217a. John Madison, Gray and Fox Squirrels (East Alton, Illinois: Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation, 1964).

13 Arnold A. Bakken, "Behavior of Gray Squirrels," Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Game Commissioners, 13 (1959) 393-407. Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 217a.

14 Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 217a.

15 C. Holden Brink and Frederick C. Dean, "Spruce Seeds as a Food of Red Squirrels and Flying Squirrels in Interior Alaska," Journal of Wildlife Management, 30 (1966) 503-512. Flyger and Gates, "Pine Squirrels," 232b.

16 Flyger and Gates, "Pine Squirrels," 233b.

17 Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 213b.

18 Allen, Michigan Fox Squirrel Management.

19 Luther L. Baumgartner, Fox Squirrels in Ohio," Journal of Wildlife Management, 7 (1943b) 193-202.

20 James S. Jordan, "Yield from an Intensely Hunted Population of Eastern Fox Squirrels," Research Paper NE-186 (Upper Darby, Pa.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, 1971).

21 Ernest Thompson Seton, "Migrations of the Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)," Journal of Mammalogy, 1 (1920) 53-58. Vagn Flyger, "The 1968 Squirrel 'Migration' in the Eastern United States," Proceedings of the Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference, 26 (1969) 69-79. Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 213b.

22 Flyger and Gates, "Pine Squirrels," 230.

23 Christopher Carlisle Smith, "The Adaptive Nature of Social Organization in the Genus of Tree Squirrels Tamiasciurus," Ecological Monographs 38 (1968): 31-63.

24 Flyger and Gates, "Pine Squirrels," 232b.

25 Flyger and Gates, "Pine Squirrels," 231a.

26 Flyger and Gates, "Fox and Gray Squirrels," 209b.