Elk Clan Origin Myth

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

The Elk Clan (Hųwą Hik’ik’arajera) is a small Lower or Earth Moiety clan closely associated with the Deer Clan, with which it is said to have a special friendship relation.1 The Elk Clan was in charge of distributing fire within the village, on the hunt, and on the warpath. "It is said that the Elk Clan is the only people that can distribute the fire for the chiefs. And they should also be the ones to start the fires at camps when on the warpath."2 However, it was forbidden for them to hold fire towards anyone. They claim half of the fire and therefore half of the chieftainship.3 The Elk Clan functioned as ushers at councils.4

These are some of the names given to members of the Elk Clan:5

Hųwąšucga Red Elk (F)
Hųwąka Elk (F)
Hųwąnįka Little Elk (M)
Hųwąskaga White Elk (L)
Hųwąskawįga Female White Elk (F)
Kaxigisága He who Kills the Crow (L) [clan identity uncertain]
Rek’uhumaniwįga She who Walks with the Wind (R, F)
Rohąmaniwįga Many Walking (R, F)
Cáciruxéwįga She who Pursues the Wind (R, F)

Members of the Snake Clan bury an Elk clansmen when he dies, although occasionally the Waterspirit and Eagle Clans may perform this function. The faces of the dead were painted with white and blue dots on their cheeks, a pattern also used by the Deer Clan.6

BAE 37: 248
The Funereal Face Paint
of the Elk Clan

The following short version of the clan origin was obtained by Paul Radin from a member of the clan:


Version 1. Earthmaker thought to himself how he would like to see something animate in the world, so he created a man, and this man was good. Earthmaker thought the man ought to have a companion, so he made a woman. Then he wondered, How shall they know one another? So he caused an animal to emerge out of the water. Earthmaker had made a village in the west for the humans, and he asked them, "What would you like to live through?" And they replied, "Since elks are without sin, we would like to live through them." So Earthmaker created four elks and they thought that they were the only living things on earth. Earthmaker let the eldest of them know of the other clans. It was he who led them to Red Banks where they met the other clans, and there they became human and lived as Hocągara.7

Version 2, by Oliver LaMère. Originally the Hocągara lived in Spiritland somewhere in the west. Then Earthmaker announced to them: "My children, I have created an earth for you to inhabit. Since there must be some way for you to recognize one another there, you shall select an animal that you love best, one after which your clan shall be named and recognized. Some people thought that of all animals the elk was noted for its beauty, cleanliness, good habits, and even temperament, so they selected that animal and became the Elk Clan.8

Links: Earthmaker, Elk (II), The Creation Council.

Stories: about (the origins of) the Hocąk clans: Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Story of the Thunder Names, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Snake Clan Origins, Fish Clan Origins; alluding to the creation of man: The Creation of Man, The Creation of the World, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Spirit of Gambling, Wolves and Humans, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth; mentioning elks: The Animal who would Eat Men (v. 1), The Elk's Skull, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Deer Clan Origin Myth, The Creation Council, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Origin of the Hocąk Chief, Little Fox and the Ghost (v. 2), The Great Fish; See The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits; about the Creation Council: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Tobacco Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Origin of the Winnebago Chief, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Snake Clan Origins; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hocąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hocągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; set at Red Banks (Mógašúc): The Creation Council, Annihilation of the Hocągara II, The Great Lodge, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3, 5), Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2a, 3, 8, 11, 12), The Winnebago Fort, The Beginning of the Winnebago, Blue Bear, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Arrival Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 10), Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins (fr. 1), Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Šųgepaga, Gatschet's Hocank hit’e ("St. Peet," "Hocąk Origins"), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), The Seven Maidens, First Contact, Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath.

Themes: animals begin as humans, then turn into humans again when they establish a Hocąk clan: Wolves and Humans, Great Walker's Warpath; racing around (the edge of) the world: Grandfather's Two Families, Elk, Origin of the Hocąk Chief, Pigeon Clan Origins, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; 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), 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 Brown Squirrel (squirrel), 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 David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 9.

2 Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago I, #3: 94.

3 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 201.

4 Oliver LaMère, "The Clan Organization of the Winnebago," Publications of the Nebraska State Historical Society, 19 (1919): 90.

5 All names are taken from Radin (R) unless otherwise indicated, and the following sources as indicated:

(F) Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D. C.: 1876-1877) vol. 1, #1: p. 4, coll. 3-4.

(L) Nancy Oestreich Lurie, "A Check List of Treaty Signers by Clan Affiliation," Journal of the Wisconsin Indians Research Institute, 2, #1 (June, 1966): 50-73.

(M) Col. Thomas Loraine McKenney and James Hall, The Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs, ed.. Frederick Hodge and David Bushnell, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: John Grant, 1934 [1842]).

(R) Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 202.

6 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 201.

7 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 202.

8 LaMère, "The Clan Organization of the Winnebago," 87-88.