Fighting Retreat

by Jim Pine

Jim Pine

Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

(240) And again in the course of time there were men who lived there, that the men came to know of at night. "And men have come upon us. They will kill us." And so they were doing it. And now they would kill all of them. (241) "And as it is thus, let us flee. Thus, it alone would be best, I think." Thus, he accounted for that woman and so they hid all their good things in the brush, and so in the morning they fled.

Then in the center of a big plain there they caught up to them. And that man fought them. And then the first time he started for them, one man was killed. And he took his head and then when he caught up to his woman, he gave it to her. (242) "And wherever you die, there you may have this man's head with you." And also again he went back and once more he killed one of them. And so he took his head. When he returned, again he gave the woman the head. That many only did the woman have. And then the man fought them. And he said, "Don't go fast, as you might feel tired. I shall be behind you. Don't be frightened." Therefore, the woman took her time. (243) The brave man was not to be killed. The warrior caused the men to flee. And so all the men (of his village) were with him there. When he returned, he told of it. They were glad. And they all thought very highly of him, so it is said.

It is the story that has been heard. He said that my uncle told it. He heard it there. My uncle (Nųgaziga) said that (244) it happened there before he was born. So his uncle (hinugas) told him that. And so then he meant that this story (worak) was heard there. I don't know it first hand. I mean that the story is very old. In order that you may hear of it is the reason why I have told it. This much there is to tell.1

Commentary. "you may have this man's head with you" — what is meant is that when she departs for Spiritland, she will have this man's soul to accompany her as a guide on her journey. Here the word "head" (nasu) is used as a metaphor for the soul, just as it is in Homeric Greek.2 The belief is that the soul of the slain belong to the victor and must do him service for as long as he lives.

"brave man (wąkwašošewe)" — this word in Hocąk actually means "brave man," but answers to the words usually translated as "brave" in Algonquian languages. These expressions refer specifically to warriors and may be so translated.

"my uncle" — the hinųgas is either his father's brother or his mother's sister's husband. However, Miner says that a nųgazí is specifically the father's brother. By adding -ga to the end of this word, he treats the word for uncle as a proper name.

Links: Ghosts.

Stories: about famous Hocąk warriors and warleaders: How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Masaxe War (Hogimasąga), Wazųka, Great Walker's Warpath (Great Walker), Great Walker's Medicine (Great Walker, Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Šųgepaga (Dog Head), The Warbundle Maker (Dog Head), Black Otter’s Sacrifice to a Thunder, Black Otter's Warpath (Dog Head, Black Otter), The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara (Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Osage Massacre (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Fox-Hocąk War (Cap’ósgaga), The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, White Thunder's Warpath, Four Legs, The Man who Fought against Forty (Mącosepka), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, The Hills of La Crosse (Yellow Thunder), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Mitchell Red Cloud, jr. Wins the Medal of Honor (Mitchell Red Cloud, jr.), How Jarrot Got His Name, Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, They Owe a Bullet (Pawnee Shooter);.

Themes: a group of men leave one of their own comrades behind alone to fight against an overwhelming force of enemy warriors: The Dog that became a Panther, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier; a Hocąk warrior single handedly fights an overwhelming enemy force (taking at least one enemy head or scalp): The Warbundle Maker, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier (Arapaho), Little Priest's Game (Sioux), The Man who Fought against Forty (Dakota), Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath (Osage), The Osage Massacre (Osage), The Scalping Knife of Wakąšucka; head hunting: White Fisher, Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath, A Man's Revenge, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Young Man Gambles Often, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), The Dipper, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Porcupine and His Brothers, Turtle's Warparty, Ocean Duck, The Markings on the Moon, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Man with Two Heads, Brave Man, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Redhorn's Sons, The Children of the Sun, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Were-Grizzly, Winneconnee Origin Myth; a young warrior gives the head/scalp of a man he has killed in battle to someone else: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (warleader), White Fisher, (chief), The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion (warleader), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (oldest brother-in-law).


1 Jim Pine, [untitled,] in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Notebook 26, 240-244.

2 See Iliad 11.55, 15.39, 21.336, 23.94.