Warbundle Feast of the Thunderbird Clan, Version 3

narrated by a Member of the Thunderbird Clan

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Hocąk Syllabic Text with an Interlinear Translation

(1) When the feast is all prepared, the kettles as well, and when they also have prepared all of the buckskins, and once the kettles are put on to boil, then he gives a whoop: "Warbundle owners! Ye Children of the Warbundle! You who go forth to fill the lodge, I greet you! You are the ones who have not pondered the matter, but you have cared for us. To assemble in full in my lodge, that you have done for me. It is good. Our grandfathers, (2) the four brothers, were all brave men. The oldest one was called "Whirling Four."1 The second one was called "Seated Chief." The third one was called Wabanosega.2 The fourth they called "Kills within the Lodge." Kills within the Lodge in battle, if he was shot with a gun, he would be struck. So when they shot his protective vest blanket, when the bullets made it to his body, (3) when he untied the bullet-proof vest blanket, it would be full of bullets. So this one made a Warbundle. It enabled him to be good at war, and it was bound up with Life as well. He requested war from the beginning.

Every one of the Warbundle owners who are seated: if Our Grandfather brings himself up, I will be giving him tobacco there. Ye Spirits who are filling up the lodge of the main ceremony, we greet you! (4) is what I am saying. We greet you!" As he is giving a feast, he offers them all tobacco in each hand. Then by the edge of the fire they sat. He said to them, "Hąhó, here it is, here it is," he said, and the small amount of tobacco in his hand, he placed in the fire. "Hąhó, He who Stands in Our Midst, here is the tobacco. The tobacco is with you. You yourself have come to stand among your own, with Spirits, and when we came you encouraged us to believe that (5) if we put this on the top of his head, that you yourself, as even to me you had promised, would deliver the message. And the first request is that they (the enemy) will meet with the sharp edges of our weapons. If we are directed to one of the wars, may we not go thin. If they were to try to get men to fight, we must go on weapon-paths, our being in the midst of weapons. And all these bird skins that will be used in war that are to be lain in the center of the lodge, (6) we are going to adorn ourselves with one of them that also we may not go into danger, and that we be granted a very long life.

First, I pour this tobacco to you, Fire. Here it is. Here it is. Grandfather Earthmaker, I offer tobacco to you. You yourself made the tobacco, but unless of our own accord, you cannot take it away, they say. I offer tobacco to you. First request: I ask from you wars and life. (7) And we will cause to be heated for you the choicest parts of the white haired one, a male deer, and his bucksin to wear. Long moccasins, with tobacco, we extend to you. Hąhó, here it is.

Great Blackhawk, who is in charge of the Warbundle, I offer you tobacco. The first request: if we go on one of the roads to war, may we not go in vain. Given that just one man may be gotten, may he be siezed. We are going to tread upon weapon paths. (8) We offer you the kettle, the kettle of half a deer, the hide to wear, with one of the long moccasins. Here it is. The tobacco, here it is. To the Thunder Chief at the place of the setting sun, we offer you tobacco. And grandfather, you contributed your mental powers to his Warbundle, whatever you taught him and added, these we ask of you. And one of our own members, whom we fed like a child, we are offering to you together with tobacco. (9) Hąhó, here it is, the tobacco.

We offer tobacco in the east to Those Who Walk in Darkness. Grandfather Kills Within the Lodge (Ciwoit’éhiga), your mind you put into heart-binding with the Spirits, that in the course of time, may we take up and stand up against the weapons that we will be caused to meet. This we ask of you. The children are about to engage in war. May they be directed to wars in whatever way is similar to what we are doing. (10) We offer you the tobacco with what is a female deer, with hide for long moccasins. The kettle, hąhą́, here it is.

To the South, we offer tobacco to that part of your body that is good. Disease Giver, grandfather, when you two have made wars for us by effecting heart-binding with Spirits by means of your mental powers, that is what we are asking for. Grandfather himself said, he was blessed in the midde of the day, when the sun straightens out. (11) We offer you one of our members who has a headdress. And in conjunction with tobacco, we offer the kettle together with a long deerskin. Hąhó, here it is, the tobacco.

Grandfather Sun, we offer you tobacco. When you blessed grandfather Kills Within the Lodge, the heart-binding of the Spirits you effected with your mind, that do I ask of you. (12) I will stand among weaponry. May I take for myself those men for whom death has not been ordained. If we think something in our minds, you will hear it, as they say. We offer you tobacco, a deer kettle, and a buckskin for a long moccasin, grandfather.

Hąhą́, grandmother, the Moon, we offer you tobacco. (13) We desire war. 'Grandfather, put the powers of your mind to it,' she said to him. When you blessed Kills within the Lodge, when you gave him wars, if any were left over after they were given to him,3 these we ask of you. The tobacco along with the deer kettle, a long buckskin, we extend the kettle to you. Hąhą́, here it is. The tobacco, here it is.

Morning Star, grandfather with your mind you put into heart-binding with the Spirits, (14) their Spirits of the night, at midnight we offer you tobacco, that was not done exactly right, although we are lacking in all the essentials necessary for success, but if one of the Lights and Life suddenly encounters trouble, we are trying to keep our weapons at the ready. First here we ask of you that we may break off a bit of Life, the cause of light. We offer you the kettle, the tobacco, and a long deerskin. Grandfather, hąhó, here it is. (15) We make a tobacco-offering of the tobacco.

Grandmother, the Earth, here we desire war. My we bind ourselves with all good plants. Taking symbolic paint from your body, he would do pretty red, he would do blue, let it be that we could do it. We have boiled. We wish to get a hold of the good painting. The tobacco, corn, one of the boiled foods from the kettle, human tobacco we extend to you. (16) Hąhó, here it is. I offer tobacco to you.

Eagle Chief, grandfather, when you blessed Kills within the Lodge, when the heart-binding of the Spirits you effected with your mind, if it is good to make use of warfare, we are requesting it. Tonight, Spirit, I will try to have something heated for you. And we are offering to you, Red-Tailed Hawk, half the tobacco and kettle. This was all that was put in the kettle. (17) The attendants put it on. For those for whom no kettle had been placed, they will all be gathered together for tobacco." He stopped.

Then each of the others in the feast held tobacco in each hand, it landed from one hand held above the fire. On the opposite side they tossed it on the Warbundle. He said: "Warbundle owners, having stood by the Spirits, you who are going to fill the lodge, we greet you. (18) It seems that we are trying to boil water for the Spirits. And again to use the songs that they taught him (Kills within the Lodge), that's the way that we will try to be. You will be angered by poor tobacco we used, or we will kill your buttocks, or we have kept you hungry; but you are Warbundle owners, and you understand this ceremony, and it is good, and seated in a good place, (19) it is said that I will be able to obtain war and life. Your intention was for this purpose, and sedulously you intend to sit with us. It is good, isn't it? We will be trying speeches in this same way. As soon as the attendants get the contents of the kettles cooked, you will receive some. Thus it will be. To those who are at the place of the setting sun, the Thunders, we will be trying to sing those songs which are praiseworthy, the ones that they taught to our grandfather. (20) If they know them, they are going to be singing about four of them, and they are singing." They are using Completion Songs. Then they use the dance songs to finish. "Warbundle owners, I greet you. Speeches are the kind of thing that we are trying to do, and then when grandfather was blessed, when he burdened himself with thirst, he fasted and this one when he tried, then they placed it: (21) at noon in broad daylight, then he came across Disease Giver, as they call him, who blessed him with wars, and with one side of his body, he blessed him with a great amount of Light and Life (Hąbᵋra), this one and all his descendants on this earth which I shall roam, and when they learn of the tobacco and the kettles, he told that it was only to be passed down to mine. So this one alone manages the kettles. We offer dogs, down feathers, and the tobacco. We will use his songs. They are in a different language, (22) and we will be singing something important, but if he knows only one of the songs, we will not be tired out. They are telling us to cry when appealing for wars, in this I have done nothing to be ashamed of. Thus we are thinking, I'm saying. Warbundle owners, you who represent the Spirits, we greet you! (23) They are songs that we are doing, Completion Songs."

And again he made ready to dance. "Warbundle owners, we greet you! And after we have done the songs four times, the feast will occur. About the time that the food is requested, they will have it cooked. This is the way it will be: they will try to imitate another one. Then it is going to be this one little Thunderbird song. Then when he brought together this Warbundle and all these minds, there was singing. They arrived.

Notes to the Text

1 The text has Ciwoit’éhiga, which is the same as the fourth brother's name. Radin corrected this in his translation.
2 Radin has Wabanansaka, an untranslated name. The text reads w l no reAe K (Wabanosega).
3 "that is, all those blessings that death prevented him from using" (Radin).

Commentary. "Wabanosega" — Sheila Shigley (1 May 2023) observes: "w l no reAe K - this strikes me as the Potawatomi leader, Waubaunsee (Waabaanizii in Potawatomi), or someone named after him." The large Hōcąk village situated at Grand Rapids (Watertown) on the Rock River in Wisconsin (43.177816, -88.735959), had a Potawatomi village facing it on the opposite bank. Several songs in this rite are said to be in a wažįt’e, "different language," which may well have been Potawatomi.

"He who Stands in Our Midst" — a ritual name for fire. The fireplace is located in the center of the lodge.

"thin"hōsré, which literally means "thin" (Helmbrecht-Lehmann). Cf. hohōsré, "to be real thin, to be totally worn out". So the thinness to which this expression refers is that of something that has been worn thin. Therefore, the invocation asks that they do not lose their vitality (become worn out).

"we may not go into danger"in other words, the wearing of one of these bird skins will be apotropaic.

"we fed like a child" — this is a reference to dogs. Dogs were often treated with great affection and had the status of being members of the family circle. At dinner, for instance, a plate was set out for the dog in the family dining area.1 Dogs, because of the extent of their humanity, were often used where circumstances would otherwise demand a human sacrifice. The sacrificial dog can be given a message to give to the Spirit before he is offered up. The dog must be killed so that he does not cry out,2 so often hanging is used. The best offering is a white male dog.3

Peter Menaige (ca. 1850) remembers a dog sacrifice made by Pawnee Blanc (Pani Wasąníka):

... used at the Portage every year to prepare as a "Sacrifice" three or four dog pups, which he killed and painted about the head and neck either red, green, or white, and then tying tobacco to their heads and necks, he placed them at the foot of a certain tree in Interpreter Paquette's field.4

The speed, endurance, and voice of canines make them ideal messengers for those who can understand their language.

"Those Who Walk in Darkness" — these are the Nightspirits who arise in the east as the sun sets. There they walk across the sky sowing darkness as they go. They trek towards the setting sun in the west where they reach the abode of the Thunders, with whom they intermarry, as they too are Spirits of darkness, denizens of the caliginous sky.

"that part of your body that is good" — this is a reference to the chief Spirit of the south, Disease Giver. He has a bifurcated body, one side of which dispenses disease, and the other, health. Here an offering is being made specifically to just the good side of his bivalent body.

"when the sun straightens out" — the sun traverses the sky in an arc. Therefore, then it is high noon, the sun reaches its apex, going neither up nor down, and therefore is no longer in a curved path. Therefore, it has "straightened out." However, why does he mention this? When the sun is its highest in the sky, its declination is to the south, so it is that cardinal point that is indicated. "When it straightens out," is horocáje-gaja, "noon," and "south" is horocáje-regi, "where it straightens out." So horocáje is used as a pun to reference the South and its powers by making the blessing out to have taken place at noon.

"one of our members who has a headdress" — this probably refers to the deer, who is otherwise mentioned only with respect to buckskin. The deer's antlers would be its headdress.

"the Lights and Life"Hąbᵋra, which strictly means "the light(s)," is here used as a metaphor for life, which led Radin elsewhere to translate it in this context as "Light and Life".

"he would do pretty red, he would do blue" — red and blue are not random colors: red is the color of youth, and blue that of old age: young people dressed in red clothing, while old people dressed in blue. These are the A and Ω of colors.

"human tobacco"wą̄k tānį, a rare term, but found in Kingswan: wą̄ktānį (wnK t ni), "tobacco." This is probably meant to focus on the fact that it has been processed, instead of offering to Earth what she has produced alone herself. This also serves to explain the odd redundancy, inasmuch as "the tobacco" was mentioned at the begining of the same sentence.

The Red-Tailed Hawk   The Emblem of Disease Giver

"Red-Tailed Hawk" — this is Buteo jamaicensis. North of a latitude line drawn at Red Banks, this bird migrates during the winter to the north of Canada, but south of this line, the red tailed hawk is common in the winter.5 So in the Wazija (Hocąk territory), this hawk is not seen primarily as an exemplar of a migratory bird. One of their main food sources is snakes. Obviously, during the winter, snakes are not hunted by this raptor, since they have retreated below the earth to hibernate. Red-Tailed Hawk, as one of the major Spirits, is not well known.

"Disease Giver" — oddly enough, this is the second time that Disease Giver has been recognized. This adds something to the first story of Kills within the Lodge's blessing from this Spirit.

"down feathers" — this is mąšušugᵋra (m doAo doAo KL). Radin's translation has "red feathers," which would be mąšušujᵋra (m dAo dAotto L). This is not a translation, but a correction, as Disease Giver is typically given red feathers, red being his symbolic color. Given the similarity between the two terms for these kinds of feathers, the original transcription was probably in error.

"to imitate"horacgá, which in this context, in which the previous sentence has informed us that the food will be cooked, is a kind of pun, meaning both "to imitate, guess at," and "taste".

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Notes to the Commentary

1 Nancy Oestreich Lurie, "Dog Children among the Winnebago," Lore, 2, #2 (1952): 54-56; Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 403; Amelia L. Susman, Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society #21095, 1938-1939) Book 2: 2-3. Her informant was Sam Blowsnake.
2 Fanny D. Bergen, "Some Customs and Beliefs of the Winnebago Indians," The Journal of American Folk-Lore, 9 (1896): 53-54; Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 403.
3 Sam Blowsnake (ed. Paul Radin), Crashing Thunder. The Autobiography of an American Indian (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983 [1926]) 84.
4 Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D. C.: 1876-1877) vol. 1, #2,: p. 3, col. 1.
5 Samuel D. Robbins, Jr., Wisconsin Birdlife: Population and Distribution Past and Present (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991) 217-218.


Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, ca. 1912) Winnebago V, #20: 1-87. A translation is given in Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 486-499 [1923 ed.: 534-547].