Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

In former times the chief of the Lower Moiety was chosen from the Waterspirit Clan.1 All the names of individuals in the Waterspirit Clan are said to contain a syllable that connotes chieftainship.2 These are names given to people in the Waterspirit Clan:3

Cašjąga, Cašcąka Wave (F, L)
Hapáxkuziga [meaning unkown] (L)
Hé-adažąžąk'a Shining Horns (F, R)
Hejópga Four Horned (F, R)
Hežipga Short Horn
Henųpga Two Horns (F, R, cf. L)
Hep'įga Good Horn
Hep'į́wįga Handsome Horn Woman (F, R)
Hesacąk'a Five Horned
Hip'ahiga Sharp Tooth
Kenáxka Mud Turtle (F) [clan uncertain]
Késuckéka Red (Striped) Turtle (F) [clan uncertain]
Kecąk'a Turtle [clan uncertain]
Kewáxkuwįga Female Toad (F) [clan uncertain]
Mąk'ąožúga Planter of Medicines (F, R)
Mąkaxga Earth (L)
Mąk'ąhoją́pga He who Looks at Medicines (F, R)
Mąįsinip'įwįga Good Cold Spring Woman (F, R)
Mąžíwįga Yellow-Red Earth (iron deposits of springs) (F, R)
Mąnųp'ága Second Earth (the underworld where the Waterspirit dwells) (F, R)
Mocįwįga Noise Made in the Earth (F)
Ni-ašgácewįga She who Plays on the Water (F, R)
Ni-amániwįga She who Walks on the Water (F, R)
Ni-ąp'įwįga She who Makes Water Good (F, R)
Ni-ątágewįga Still Water Woman (F, R)
Nišánaga Stream (F, R)
Nijobega Four Streams
Nihúga He who Discharges Water (as from a spring) (F, R)
Ni-otąp(e)wįga She who Jumps into the Water (F, R)
Niwak'icąga Selects (?) Water
Puzákexátega Big Sand Bar (F) [clan uncertain]
Rabawįga Beaverskin Woman
Rabewįga, Ráp-hiwįga Beaver Woman (F, R)
Tecópewįga Four Lakes Woman (F)
Tošąnąkskága White Otter (F)
Tošanakxonunįka Little Otter (L)
Wajxetega Big Boat
Wakjéxišišik'a Bad Waterspirit (F, R)
Wakjéxišucga Red Waterspirit (L)
Wakjéxihųga Waterspirit Chief (F, R)
Wakjeximaniga Walking Waterspirit
Wakjexip'įga Good Waterspirit (F, R)
Wakjexisąwįga Pale Waterspirit Woman
Wákiaskága Round White Shell (F) [clan uncertain]
Wakcexíga Waterspirit (F)
Wakcéximániwįga Walking Waterspirit Woman (F)
Wakcéxicóga Blue (or Green) Waterspirit (F)
Wakcéxiwįga Waterspirit Woman (F)
Wasémak'ąwįga Medicine Paint (or Vermillion) Woman (F) (see Bear Clan name)
Wįcwákewįga Little Muskrat (F)

Water is the sacred possession of the Waterspirit Clan, and it is considered insulting for someone outside the clan to look into a water jar within one of their lodges. It is said that the function of the Waterspirit Clan was to protect the people's water supply.4 The clan was consulted on any matter pertaining to water, just as the Thunderbird Clan was consulted on matters pertaining to things of the air, and the Bear Clan to things of the earth.5 In the spring and fall they hold a Waterspirit Feast of cracked corn in which clan members are always the first to eat. When a clansman dies, a blue spot is put upon his forehead to identify him as a Waterspirit clansman, then members of the Thunderbird Clan bury his body.6

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

Only a short version of the origin story of this clan is generally known:

The first to arrive at Red Banks were the bird clans. They alighted upon an oak and thereupon became human. Then it was time for the Waterspirit Clan to be founded, and the waters of Within Lake (Te Rok) began to slowly swirl. As the water whirled a bit faster, all the bad things that live within the waters began to appear in the lake. As the churning became a whirlpool, red hot embers were ejected to the surface. Finally, there emerged a great white Waterspirit whose horns curled towards one another, and the waters were stilled. This Waterspirit transformed himself into a human being. All those gathered there said, "At last we have found the chief we have been waiting for. Now we can divide ourselves into groups." They all headed for the lodge of the Thunderbird Clan, and there in council they divided one another into clans and gave themselves names.7

Commentary. "Red Banks" — Red Banks is on Green Bay in Wisconsin.

"Within Lake (Te Rok)" — Within Lake just is Green Bay, since this bay is a lake within a lake (Lake Michigan).

"finally, there emerged" — the creative process of the Waterspirits is often the inverse of that of Earthmaker, proceeding from bottom to top, with rising fire rather than falling tears being the element intimately associated with the Waterspirit.

Links: Waterspirits, Thunderbirds, Traveler, Earthmaker, The Creation Council.

Stories: about the Waterspirit Clan: Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, The Ice Hole; 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, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, The Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Snake Clan Origins, Fish Clan Origins; about the Creation Council: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Tobacco Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Elk 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 the Thunderbird Clan: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, Origin of the Hocąk Chief, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, The Creation Council, Waruǧábᵉra, The Greedy Woman, Wolf Clan Origin Myth (v. 5), The Thunderbird; in which Waterspirits occur as characters: Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells, The Lost Child, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bluehorn's Nephews, Holy One and His Brother, The Seer, The Nannyberry Picker, The Creation of the World (vv. 1, 4), Šųgepaga, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, The Waterspirit of Lake Koshkonong, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Devil's Lake — How it Got its Name, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Waterspirit of Sugar Loaf Mounds, Lakes of the Wazija Origin Myth, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, The Diving Contest, The Lost Blanket, Redhorn's Sons, The Phantom Woman, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Great Walker's Warpath, White Thunder's Warpath, The Descent of the Drum, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2), The Two Children, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧábᵉra, Ocean Duck, The Twin Sisters, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The King Bird, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Heną́ga and Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, The Story of the Medicine Rite, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spiritual Descent of John Rave's Grandmother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Shaggy Man, The Woman who Married a Snake (?), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake; mentioning white Waterspirits: White Thunder's Warpath, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth;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, The Hocąk Arrival Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 10), Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins (fr. 1), Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), 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; set at Green Bay, "Within Lake" (Te Rok): Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3), Story of the Thunder Names, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 4), The Seven Maidens, Ioway & Missouria Origins, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Great Walker's Warpath, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I (v. 2), The Fox-Hocąk War (v. 2), The Creation Council, First Contact, Gatschet's Hocank hit’e; mentioning feasts: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (Chief Feast), The Creation Council (Eagle Feast), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (Eagle Feast), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (Mąką́wohą, Waną́cĕrehí), Bear Clan Origin Myth (Bear Feast), The Woman Who Fought the Bear (Bear Feast), Grandfather's Two Families (Bear Feast), Wolf Clan Origin Myth (Wolf Feast), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth (Buffalo Feast), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo Feast), Buffalo Dance Origin Myth (Buffalo Feast), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (Buffalo Feast), The Blessing of Šokeboka (Feast to the Buffalo Tail), Snake Clan Origins (Snake Feast), Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief (Snake Feast), Rattlesnake Ledge (Snake Feast), The Thunderbird (for the granting of a war weapon), Turtle's Warparty (War Weapons Feast, Warpath Feast), Porcupine and His Brothers (War Weapons Feast), Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega) (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), White Thunder's Warpath (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Fox-Hocąk War (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), Šųgepaga (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (Warbundle Feast, Warpath Feast), Black Otter's Warpath (Warpath Feast), Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (Warpath Feast), Kunu's Warpath (Warpath Feast), Trickster's Warpath (Warpath Feast), The Masaxe War (Warpath Feast), Redhorn's Sons (Warpath Feast, Fast-Breaking Feast), The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits (Fast-Breaking Feast), The Chief of the Heroka (Sick Offering Feast), The Dipper (Sick Offering Feast, Warclub Feast), The Four Slumbers Origin Myth (Four Slumbers Feast), The Journey to Spiritland (Four Slumbers Feast), The First Snakes (Snake Feast), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (unspecified), Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts (unnamed).

Themes: a particular clan was claimed to have been the last to arrive at the Creation Council: Snake Clan Origins, Wolf Clan Origin Myth.


1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 193-194.

2 Oliver LaMère, "Clan Organization of the Winnebago," Publications of the Nebraska State Historical Society, 19 (1919): 86-94 (92). Oliver LaMère was a member of the Bear Clan.

3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 194-195. All names were collected by Radin unless otherwise noted (as below).

(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.

4 David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 9.

5 LaMère, "Clan Organization of the Winnebago," 92.

6 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 193-194.

7 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 194-195.