Soldiers Catch Two Boys, a Black One and a White One

by Stella Stacy

Hocąk Interlinear Text

(00:16.1) Here again, the soldiers, at least, shared everything equally. In as much as they shared things equally, they seized two males there. (00:28.9) One was white, and a black one as well. (00:32.6) So this one, ų̄sge, the white one, was in such a way that he repeatedly had xop’ox. (00:40.2) So one of those guys, when he was that way, was not well, and then the one who was that way, they took medicine and rubbed it on him, so that when they treated him in this way, he would recover. (00:57.5) He would always come back well. That is exactly how he was treated. (01:0.5) That person, the white one, egų, he was always falling over. (01:04.7) And so when they did it to him, indeed he was made well.

(01:08.5) So he was made well, and so they turned over a gun to him, placing it before him. He fired it. (01:13.7) They took it [back], and [the young man] said, ", I went around to the neighbors, they will fight them, but you will leave me behind. (01:20.2) You will fight against your own," he told them, and "," they said. "We will do it," they said.1

Commentary. "the soldiers" — the Hōcąk word used here is mą́ną́pera, conventionally translated as "soldiers," but in Hōcąk society, they functioned basically as police. Nevertheless, when referring to Long Knife soldiers, the term consistently used is mą́ną́pe. These soldiers, we may infer, are white, as it would have been an international incident, and grounds for war, if the Hōcągara had abducted two U. S. citizens. So what we have in this story is an account of what is believed to have taken place in the U. S. Army.

"shared everything equally" — these two boys or young men, are visualized by the Hōcągara as being servants or slaves, but not of any particular soldier. Rather, they did jobs for the unit as a whole. This really describes a private, who is stuck with various forms of manual labor. No warrior in any Indian nation of this region would be charged with such duties (unless on the warpath), since such activities would be considered women's work and beneath the dignity of a warrior. If done by a male, it will have been a slave, a wanįhí or páni. These terms actually mean Pawnee, a tribe from whom its neighbors typically took slaves. The term páni is exactly parallel to the English "slave," a word originally denoting a Slav, from whom the Germans frequently took slaves.2

Wikipedia   Harper's Weekly, Aug. 29, 1863: 560
Caricature of a 1780 British Press Gang   A Draft Cartoon

"seized (yárukoz)" — impressment, the forceful seizing of men for military service, was a feature of the British military, and therefore perhaps known to their allies, the Hōcągara. However, it was illegal in the United States. The question arises, In what historical period did this incident occur? The provenance of these audio tapes complicates the issue:

During the mid-1920s, Milford G. Chandler, an engineer by trade and folklorist by avocation, recorded ninety cylinders of oral data. He focused primarily on tales from the War of 1812. His major informant was Oliver Lamere, a Winnebago man who collaborated with a number of field researchers, among them the anthropologist, Paul Radin.  ... Other cylinders are eloquent chronicles of inter-racial perplexities. Cylinder no. 1829 concerns two young boys, one black, the other white, who had lived long enough among the Indians to be trusted as carriers for their war party. When on a raid against the soldiers, the boys were captured by the U.S. Army. The white youth alone was drafted and was told "he now (had) to fight with his own people, i.e. the white army."3

The audio actually quotes the young man as telling the soldiers, Wárakárakizákjanen', "You will fight against your own," not the soldiers telling him that he would fight "with" (alongside) his own. It seems very unlikely that two boys would have been captured by a raiding party prior to the War of 1812. Where in the northern territories were there black slaves or even freedmen to be taken by a tribe so far to the west? By the time of Black Hawk, there was at least one black family living on the frontier, and in later times there were and still are black Hōcągara. However, prior to 1812, it would have been quite anomalous for a black boy to have found his way into what was then a western tribe. It seems more likely that this story has to do with a later period in which a draft was officially instituted by the government. A draft was initiated during the Civil War, and many men would be called up in Wisconsin and Minnesota. That the young man would describe their war as being a "fight against your own," obviously applies to the Civil War. This story is more likely a Hōcąk "take" on the draft based on their knowledge of nearby soldiers. To the Hōcągara, the Civil War draft of the non-Indian population may have seemed like impressment, and indeed, little different from slavery.

"males" — nowhere in Stella's retelling of this story does it say that these two people were hocįcį́nįgᵋra, "boys". This word is the diminutive of hocį́cį́, "young men." However, both terms are used to refer to both boys and young men, so that if the original story, here retold, had this word, it would still be ambiguous. Gerd Frankel, who organized and supervised these recordings, used the title given above, and was under the impression that the two individuals abducted into the Army were "boys". However, given the ambiguity of the Hōcąk term hocįcį́(nįk), it is impossible to be confident that they were "boys" in the conventional English sense of the term.

"a black one" — almost nothing is said of this person hereafter. In an Ante Bellum white society, as the Hōcągara may have easily learned, black servants fit more naturally into what the Hōcągara would view as slaves in their own society. They found it more anomalous that this condition befell a white person. However, it was hardly out of the question, as the Hōcągara and their neighbors all practiced slavery, almost always, as in the ancient West, by seizing (yárukoz) prisoners in battle.

"xop’ox" — this word, a hapaxlegomenon, probably means, "seizure." Hisgé is the attested word for an epileptic seizure, but xop’ox may have been an older term. It may be derived from xop-’ox, or xop-p’ox, the second terms of these compounds have unknown meanings. The word xop, which is appropriate in our present context, is well known. The word xop is found in xopini and waxopini, both meaning "spirit (deity)." Xop appears to be almost exactly the same as the ancient Germanic woð, a concept at the root of the name of their god Woðen. Xop is a kind of frenzy that takes over the consciousness of sapient beings, the apparent product of an influx of religious power beyond the measure of mortal control.4 It causes a kind of temporary insanity, but one whose chaos is channeled like a dry stream bed that receives a violent influx of waters, the flood itself being chaotic in its nature, but the channel forming a direction and purpose expressing the divine source whence it came. This immense, mind-seizing power, originates with the waxopini, and marks the essential divide that separates them from the limits of the impoverished human condition. Xop is discussed by Radin, where it

. . . seems to be associated, in the eyes of the Winnebago, with the intensely emotional aspects of religion, where self is completely forgotten. Those ceremonies, in which the performers work themselves into a frenzy of excitement and dance naked, are always referred to as xop.5

Elsewhere xop is rendered as "powers," but clearly it is a kind of supernatural power that completely takes over a person. This kind of frenzy is also expressed in the word xo, of which xop is apparently an expansion. The word xo means "wrong, crazy." Both xo and xop describe a state of possession. When xop passes on to a person to whom it is not native, they tend to go crazy (xo). Certainly, an epileptic seizure, in which the victim falls to the ground and quivers, is not distinguishable from possession by a Spirit (Xopini). A distinction between illnesses and possessions would have been considered a fine point. Both xo and xop describe a state of possession. We see this kind of frenzied possession at warbundle feasts where a holy person is called upon to recount his war exploits.

As they do this, some become crazed (rujánįgirega) by the Night Spirits. [Intense holiness] comes over them (Wakącą́kjį wa'ųgé). All their clothes would be cast off, it is said. All naked, without apparel, would the man dance around the lodge. ... Even if the kettle was boiling over the crazed ones (rujánįgiràjega) would stick their hand in it.6

"he would always come back well"Pı̨́ kirinąks’áže. This proves to be a clever choice of words. The disorder that the white boy suffers from is seen to be the "falling sickness" (epilepsy), as is more conclusively shown below. The word kiri generally means, "to return, to head back home." The suffix -nąk, "can be translated 'be in a neutral or sitting position'." (Helmbrecht-Lehmann) However, it has a meaning that is particularly suited to describe the falling sickness: "kiriną́k, to fall down on a spot, to land somewhere" (Helmbrecht-Lehmann); kirinąkše, "he landed" (LaMère translation), "to land upon" (Marino); and cf. kirinánañkše, "to fall here and there" (LaMère ?, translation); and kirináñgireže, "they fell" (LaMère ?, translation). The term therefore has the additional meaning of, "to land, to descend to the ground, to fall." This is what happens in epilepsy, the "falling sickness". However, even more striking is the fact that kiri can mean, "to jump from side to side, tremble, quiver" (Marino). Quivering or twitching of the muscles often manifests itself during an epileptic seizure. So the word kiri is an interesting choice in this context, as it denotes falling and quivering, both of which are associated with epilepsy.

The suffix -s’a is of great importance. "This form is used to signal that the action designated by the verb is repeated many times." (Helmbrecht-Lehmann) So his being pı̨́, "good, well," is not "once and for all," but a recurring process, which means that he would be made well only to repeatedly succumb to the illness and require repetitive cures. The "cures" of this less science enriched age were likely the ordinary recovery that occurs in the natural course of this disease. They may have thought that they had cured the seizure of the moment, but they had clearly not rooted out the fundamental disorder. Consequently, it would recur from time to time.

"always falling over"this makes it clear that the disorder from which he suffered involved falling down. In ancient times, in the Classical world, epilepsy was known as the "falling sickness." Julius Cæsar was said to have suffered from this.

"he fired it"in this highly condensed story, this sounds like the ordinary process of training new draftees, who are sent to the firing range to practice marksmanship.

"they will fight them"this may be understood to mean that after canvassing his neighbors, it is clear that they will honor the draft and fight the enemy.

"you will leave me behind" — since the "cure" for his seizures had to be applied repeatedly, his condition would reassert itself at unpredictable intervals. It's interesting that we have an episode in which he fires a gun, followed by a general consensus that he must be left behind. Loud noises can trigger epilepsy in some people: "Reflex epilepsy is the name of seizures which are triggered by the person’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli (something that stimulates the senses). The most common is photosensitive epilepsy, rarer triggers include noises or music."7 This story is obviously highly truncated, and contains no explanation of why they suddenly came to a consensus that he would not go off to war with them. The context suggests the obvious reason is that his epileptic condition clearly made him unsuitable for combat, and this may have made itself strikingly obvious if he had a reflex epilepsy to the discharge of a gun.

"you will fight against your own" — so he is telling his fellow white people here in the U.S. Army, that they are going to fight against their own people. This is consistent with the inferred draft theme, whose historical context can only be the Civil War, in this case, 1863-1865. This inference would seem to be confirmed by the statement that they were going to fight their own people. These people, of course, would have been the Confederates, who were also Long Knives.

Comparative Material. ...

Links: ...

Stories: mentioning the Big Knives (white Americans): The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, Brawl in Omro, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšucka, Little Priest's Game, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, A Prophecy, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, The First Fox and Sauk War, The War of Indian Tribes against White Soldiers, The Cosmic Ages of the Hocągara, Turtle and the Merchant, The Hocągara Migrate South, Neenah, Run for Your Life, The Glory of the Morning, First Contact, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Mighty Thunder, The Beginning of the Winnebago.

Themes: someone is abducted and led off into captivity: The Captive Boys, A Man's Revenge, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Lost Child, Wears White Feather on His Head, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Bladder and His Brothers, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Black Otter's Warpath, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Green Man, Brave Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Šųgepaga, The War of Indian Tribes against White Soldiers, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, Wolves and Humans, The Woman Who Became an Ant, Thunderbird and White Horse, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), The Boy who Flew, Testing the Slave.


1 Reading by Sheila Shigley, from audio tapes in the American Philosophical Society: 10-04. Fraenkel, Gerd. Stacy, Stella. "How soldiers caught a black and a white boy," Mss.Rec. 29, recorded 13 July 1959, 1 .mp3; 00:00:16.1 - 00:01:24.6. 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 528.1. APS accession number 7219; APSdigrec_2176; Recording Number: 02; Program Number: 28.
2 "ME. sklave, fr. OF. (= F.) esclave, fr. ML. Sclavus, Slavus, fr. MGk. Sklábos, sklábos, prop. 'a slave of Slav descent', back formation from MGk. Σκλαβενós, 'pertaining to the Slavs' fr. the n. oἱ Σκλαβενoι (pl.), 'the Slavs', which was formed—with inserted κ—fr. OSlav. Slovĕninŭ, 'Slav'. This sense development arose in the consequence of the wars waged by Otto the Great and his successors against the Slavs, a great number of whom they took took captive and sold into slavery. For sense development see OE. wealh, 'slave, serf', prop. 'foreigner, Briton, Welshman'." Dr. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Languge (Amsterdam, London, New York: Elsevier Publishing Co., 1971) 690a, s.v. "slave".
3 Carol F. Inman, "The M. G. Chandler Collection: A Case Study for Reappraisal of Archival Materials," Resound. A Quarterly of the Archives of Traditional Music, 2b-3a [2b, c].
4 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 234. Cf. the Osage xúbe, "holy, supernatural power," with the added meaning, "sanctity." Francis LaFlesche, A Dictionary of the Osage Language, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 109 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932) 221, s.v. xúbe.
5 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 234.
6 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 470-471.
7 > Epilepsy triggers and managing them > Physical triggers.