A Prophecy About the First School

by Stella (Blowsnake) Stacey, a.k.a. Mountain Wolf Woman
transcribed and translated by Sheila Shigley

Hocąk Interlinear Text

(00:09.5) The Prophet said, there where the people (Indians) gathered, right there at that spot where the very first time when they must have started to go (?), they were going to school. (00:22) They were going to school, and were going to learn to write, they intensely wanted to be literate, and here, ų́sge, they didn’t know English well, so there, the Prophet said, those Indians arriving in canoes, wherever they would be sitting, there they would come and do it [?]. (00:40) The man, they would come to him, come in canoes. (00:43.5) So there, one man [was telling] a story, a very big story he was making, and the Indians [were attentive ?]. (00:50) And there in that place, there they would come to them.1

Commentary. "Prophet" — the Hōcąk here is Žáwánų̀. This word comes from Šawáno, "Shawnee," who were famous among the Hōcągara for having produced the Shawnee Prophet, Tenskatawa. So the word for Shawnee came to mean "prophet" rather like the name "Cæsar" came to mean "emperor" (cæsar, czar, kaiser). However, it is highly unlikely that this prophet is Shawnee Prophet, since Tenskatawa was intensely opposed to any kind of interaction with the Big Knives (whites), and he prophesied a renaissance of native culture in sharp contradistinction to that of the white Americans. Nor does Žáwánų̀ refer here to the teacher, since he is in the penultimate sentence identified as merely "a man" (wą́giyą). Therefore, we do not know who this prophet was who prophesied that their children would one day attend an English language school. Nevertheless, Stella has found this of interest since his prediction eventually came true.

"Indians"the Hōcąk word for Indians is Wą́kšík, plural, Wą́kšígᵋra. Unfortunately, the word is ambiguous, meaning also, "male, man, person, people."

"when they must have started to go" — this is an uncertain reading.

"English"Mą́įxeit’era, likely from a radical contraction of Mą́įxete hoit’éra. Hoit’é-ra means, "the talk"; and Mą́įxete means, "Big Knife," the standard term for a white American. So she is literally saying, "they didn't know Big-Knife-talk well."

"story" — this is worak in Hōcąk. A worak is distinguished from a waiką, the latter being a religious story deemed to have actually taken place (usually in primordial times), whereas the worak is "just a story," and may even be fictional. So we may infer from the fact that the man is telling woragᵋra that he is not running a mission school.

"[were attentive ?]" — Stella seems to be saying, hąjąjrogųnįzere, an expression of uncertain meaning. However, cf. hajajéra, "that saw it". The context makes it clear that those auditing the man's woragᵋra were being attentive to what he was saying.

"there in that place"we are not told what this place is. Stella herself went to the reservation school in Tomah, first when she was 9 years old (1893).2 However, among the Wisconsin tribe, the schoolhouse built prior to 1878 by the Hōcągara themselves out of logs, was initiated not by the government, but by the people themselves. They then took it upon themselves to hire teachers.

... the Indians had seen the necessity of giving their children school opportunities; hence, of their own accord, several years before, they had built a little log cabin for school purposes. As the Indian settlement was poverty stricken and was forced to pay the teachers themselves, only the most incompetent could be secured for the small salary that was offered. Even so the teachers could not be paid promptly and, therefore, the school was open only very irregularly.3

Stella had lived in Black River Falls both in her childhood and in later years, and no doubt was well acquainted with the folk history of this school. Therefore, it seems probable that the legend of the prophet who conceived of the inevitability of an English language school would have arisen here, and Stella would have easily learned of it during her residency there.

Comparative Material. ...

Links: ...

Stories: about seers: The Seer, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, Witches, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, A Prophecy About the End Time, A Prophecy, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Claw Shooter, Waruką́ną, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Diving Contest.

Themes: ...


1 Reading by Sheila Shigley, from the audio tape in the American Philosophical Society: 10-04. Fraenkel, Gerd. Stacy, Stella. "Deeds of tribes whose youngsters go to school to get an education," recorded 12 July 1959, 1 .mp3; 00:00:09.5 - 00:00:51.8. Copy made by Gerd Fraenkel of an original tape held at the Archives of Languages of the World, Indiana University. This program comes from original tape 527.2. APS accession number 7249; APSdigrec_0955; Recording Number: 02; Program Number: 16.
2 Nancy O. Lurie (ed.), Mountain Wolf Woman, Sister of Crashing Thunder: The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961) 21.
3 Theodore P. Bolliger, The Wisconsin Winnebago Indians and the Mission of the Reformed Church (Cleveland, Ohio: Central Pub. House, 1922) 19.