Cracked Mouth

by Oliver LaMère

Hocak-English Interlinear Text

(406) Cracked Mouth was a Frenchman. When the Sauks fought, he was one of our Grandfather’s scouts, so they sent him to go to Mud Lake [Lake Koshkonong]. There he found many Hocągara living in a swamp. Then those Hocągara said, “Your two chiefs are being held for their benefit, and we hear that they say that they are going to attack us." The women, and the children as well, are hungry. They are only eating fruits and vegetables. Cracked Mouth, Whirling Thunder, and White Crow were the three who were together. Those Hocągara told them, "Do not become frightened, since the Big Knives will not doing anything to you. Only if you do something first will they do something."

(407) It is said that Cracked Mouth married a Hocąk woman whom they called "Raven Woman."They say that Raven Woman was sometimes called the "First Born Orphan Daughter."1

Commentary. "Oliver LaMère" — was not only an informant for Jipson, but had been Paul Radin's chief translator. Oliver LaMère was the great grandson of Oliver Armel and Raven Woman.

"Cracked Mouth " — the nickname given to Oliver Armel, who was born about 1800 in Canada. Around 1828 he became an American citizen having taken up residence near Madison, Wisconsin. His Hocąk name, Ihoikšabᵋraga, is from i, "mouth"; hoikšap, "crack"; -ra, a definite article suffix also used to form plurals; and -ga, a definite article suffix used in personal names. Hoikšap is also found as a verb meaning, "to split by hitting (as firewood)." In literature, the noun form hoikšabᵋra is used to refer to Trickster's "crack," meaning the cleft of his buttocks. So i hoikšap denotes a split mouth, which would seem to refer to a cleft lip and palate, or possibly cut wounds to the mouth area.

"the Sauks fought" — a reference to the 1832 Black Hawk War.

"Grandfather" — a title of deference given to the President of the United States, who at the time, was Andrew Jackson.

"Lake Koshkonong" — located in present day Wisconsin, 42.873760, -88.962936. Jipson says parenthetically that Lake Koshkonong was "called Mud Lake by the Indians."

"Whirling Thunder, and White Crow"Whirling Thunder (Wakąjagiwįxka) was the Peace Chief of the Thunderbird Clan, and White Crow (Kaǧískága) was the War Chief of the Bear Clan. They are both found in the 1832 census rolls not in Koshkonong or the Mud Lake villages, but in the large Turtle Creek village. See Kinzie's census rolls and the notes there.

"Big Knives" — the term primarily for white Americans, but also used for white people in general. The name derives from their use of the saber.


1 Norton William Jipson, Story of the Winnebagoes (Chicago: The Chicago Historical Society, 1923) 406-407. This is an unpublished typescript.

Jipson's translation: "Free translation: Oliver Armel, a Frenchman, became a scout in the Black Hawk war. They sent him to Koshkonong (Called Mud Lake by the Indians). There he found many Winnebagoes living, who said: The Americans have seized our chiefs and are going to make war on us! The women and children were starving and were living on roots. Armel, whirling Thunder and White Crow told them not to be frightened, that the whitemen would not harm them unless they first harmed the white man.

Armel married a Winnebago woman called the Raven Woman, an orphan sometimes called hee-noo, meaning first born daughter."