Native American Legends
A Man's Revenge
A Winnebago (Hotcâk) Legend
When they told stories, people always said of what tribe they were.
That they said. They are Hotcâk and numbered only about a
thousand. They built a village. People were constantly on the go
and kept moving. In the early days, they ate a variety of meat.
They used to track after deer and buffalo. And in the winter they
used to move near to the lake. Before the winter was long underway,
he was living with an old man, his wife, his woman, and his son-in-law,
four of them alone in a lodge. The old man, as he was old, could
not go hunting, and he couldn't trap or hunt even small animals.
Consequently, his son-in-law had to provide for him by hunting.
And that old man used to give a feast. Thus it would be. And, "Daughter,"
he said, "every winter I used to feast. It is near time now,
and if my only son-in-law were to kill something for me, that is
what I would use in the feast." He knew of this. "Just
one deer would be good, but if that most excellent one could get
two for me, he would make me very happy," the old man said.
That man said to his wife, "Here it is not safe to move about
the land, and what he did, hanka-a (no way) would I do it. So tomorrow
take the children along with you and the material that you will
need for camping and go to the place where we do a lot of camping.
It would be enough if I got one on the hunt." The next morning
they went back, taking the children with them. As they went along
there was a good camping place there. There they stopped.
In the evening the woman tried to make a lodge. The man said, "I
will go quickly and hunt something while you are constructing the
lodge," he said. When he got there, there was his wife was
standing and looking around. And he started. He took his bow and
arrows, and after the woman had finished collecting wood, she went
to dip a pail in the water. She poured it in a kettle and placed
it on the fire so that it would be ready.
Already it was getting dark. The man packed a deer home. They skinned
it and cut it up and since they weren't going to eat all of it,
the woman placed it out to dry. And when the kettle was cooled,
they ate it. After they quit eating, they retired. The children
went quickly to sleep and the woman also, but the man was unable
to sleep. He was thinking as he lay there, what thing tomorrow would
be the foremost, he was thinking. "What would be the best thing
to kill to make my father-in-law's heart feel best?," he thought.
The next morning he awoke and ate. He said, "My wife, I think
much of you. As far as coming back, this situation that we've gotten
into is a bad thing. I always say, anytime wherever you are in trouble,
I will come. If something that is not good should happen, do not
leave the children," he said. The children, he kissed them,
and started out. He was the whole day long hunting. So he kept on
across the lake. A deer he killed, skinned, and went home packing
that on his back.
When he approached, he saw that the lodge poles were still straight
up. From the very first he knew what they had done. Thus they used
to do. "My wife, my children, they are dead, " he thought.
That one started back to the lodge. When he got there, he peeped
in. His own children, there they sat where they had placed them.
They had killed them. They placed the lips in a raised position,
that one's teeth shown. His heart ached much, nevertheless, he laughed
and [said], "Come children, we'll eat food, I am going to cook
for the last time." It was cooked. He cut a little piece of
meat for them. He pried open the mouth, and into the mouth he placed
a little piece of meat, and he ate, and he was talking to them.
"Children, you have made my heart ache. I will make enough
very good gifts to your limbs and in the earth I will place you,
and I will get back your mother, I say. Therefore, I myself could
do this warfare in this way. When I think of myself, I count myself
to be a little man. When your spirits go there, as a result of this
they will go very well," he told them.
And he painted himself. He did half of his body, and this side
he made dark. He got a lot done. He tightened the bowstring and
he straightened the arrow that he took with him, and he started
off. As he went along, that one got onto a trail, the war road.
That one looked for tracks. His wife's tracks came into view with
them. He knew that they had taken her prisoner. There he ran after
them in the form of a ghost. When he got nearer to them, he ran
ahead of them and there that one hid himself.
When the Sak'ina (Warbundle Bearer) came by, he whooped and knocked
him down. He cut it off at the neck and ran off. There he hid it
away and so he ran ahead of them. So now the next time the Warbundle
Bearer came along he whooped and knocked him down. So immediately
he broke the head off and again he ran away in order to hide away
the head there. And so he ran ahead of them.
There the third time the Warbundle Bearer came along. Then again
he whooped and broke it off at the neck and he ran away to hide
it there. And again he ran ahead of them there. And thus he did
the fourth time. Eight Warbundle Bearers he killed, and when the
sun appeared, here he took all the warclubs and those heads he had
and he came towards the camp. Where he camped, there he returned.
There he fixed the heads and he talked to the children: "The
many gifts to the children's limbs are certainly good enough --
that I did, but the sun came upon me," he said. "I did
not get your mother," he told them. And the man started back
the same way to his people.
When he got back near there, near the village, there he placed
the human heads in a row, and the warclubs, He knew how each one
was paired, placing one beside the other. And when it became night,
he came towards his father's camp. He got there late at night when
the fire was dying out. Where he used to sit, there at that place,
he very carefully sat down. That one's parents were asleep. He put
his hair in braids and the remainder he pinned under. He began to
sit down there in order to take refuge. The old man became awake.
That one glanced about. There a man, where his son used to sit,
was blackened, and he sat down. "My wife, there is a man where
our son used to sit, and since he is sitting where our son sat,
it seems like it must be him. I'll fix a little fire," he said.
The old man fixed the fire.
When it became light, they looked at the man that must be their
son and they knew who it was. And the old man said, "Djaha,
my son! what brings you here again?" he said. And the son said,
"It was a matter of war -- while I was out hunting they came
upon the lodge. In the evening when I came back, the lodge poles
were upright. When I came back, they had killed the children, and
'My wife, my son,' [I said]. My heart ached, and the children took
along very good food and I put them away somewhere. I told them
what I was going to do for them, and I went after them. Eight Warbundle
Bearers I killed. Our Grandfather appeared. I quit and I brought
them back to the lodge. And the children, thus I told for them something.
I made enough for their limbs. They will certainly travel well and
when I brought these heads home, here near the village, there in
a row I put only what warclub belonged to each. I placed them on
the roof," said the man's son.
The old man said, "Some further good you did for the children
and thus you have done very well for your people. You have brought
them very good heads, which will do for some great fun. They will
place you in front. Just this way I wanted you to be rich in everything,
this is why I used to say this to you when you were small. If only
you could pursue them very well, it would make my heart feel good.
I myself am saying, I will play with them myself," the old
man said. And [he said], "At first light the messenger of that
village will go around and announce what men had returned there."
When the brothers-in-law heard this, they immediately went there.
"We want to be the first to hit them, that way we will be genuine
brothers-in-law, that sort we seek to be," Kunu said.
The man told them, "Wherever the heads were, there they would
be the first to count coup," and he liked it very much. They
thanked their brother-in-law and they gathered together as many
men as could handle a warclub. They all started for those human
heads. When they found them, the man's brothers-in-law found them
first, so they were the first to visit them. As they kept coming,
they all gave a whoop. They all scrambled to hit them. Then they
took the "scalps," the human heads, along to the War Lodge.
When they brought them there, they meticulously began to do the
Scalp Dance. There the men were telling everything, the holy thing
he had done, they were telling. Finally, after a time, the man quit
And so he meticulously rubbed in charcoal and fasted. He said that
he was going for a full forty at one time. His brothers-in-law killed
a deer for him. He offered the heart and said, "You young men
here, I think that those who are in charge of war must also have
blessed me a little," he said, "my wife, it is that one
I'm going after. I know what I am going to try to do to that village,
so I have been doing this. I fasted, that is what I have been doing,
and I'm going to do as much as I can. Those who will follow me,
get ready to make yourselves a feast, and when you're through, tomorrow
when our Grandfather appears, all those who are going to march,
we will gather here near the brush over on the other side of this
hill from where we'll start," he told them.
They were all gathered there, all his brothers-in-law joined in.
They went forth for the whole day. Finally, early in the morning,
he arrived there where they marked out the camp horizontally. Through
the remainder of the whole morning, those warriors told stories
(woraks). This they were doing. That way they would not fall asleep
on the warpath. And the next morning the day came, and they went
back. This they did. "You young men, we are near the place
that we're going to," he said. "I'm going to scout with
you this night," he told these men. And he started forth.
He went swiftly and late that night he came to the village. He
was going to do the whole village. Wherever the chief's lodge where,
to that one he would repair, as his wife was there. Here he spoke
to her: "If you want to live, make for your brothers, as this
is the only fight that I'm going to do. I say it now as I have always
said it, how wherever it is that they would take you, I would come
after you. Let me tell you at that very time I came after you I
killed eight only out of the large number there were of them, but
it became day, so I did not take you away from them. I offered our
children's limbs enough very good things, and your brothers counted
coup well. And then I came after you, here I am, I have come. The
War Controllers (Wonághire Hiruk'óno) gave me this
whole village," he said. "In the morning when the sun
approaches his appearance, then we'll make for them. All of your
brothers came with me, so don't be afraid of them: go in the midst
of your brothers. You must say to them, "My brothers, I want
to live!" This you must say. And I'm going to tell them that
I knew the way that you'll be. Don't be afraid of the ghosts. If
you do what I say you won't die. If you do it and accomplish it,
there they will make you rich in everything," he said to her.
And he came forth to contend with them. He told the men how that
village was very good. They did not know anything about it. "We'll
do some good killing," he said. His wife would be with her
brothers, he told them. He had contacted the woman and how if she
did what he told her, he made it clear to them, that they would
not kill her. "I am going to take her back, so take her with
you," he said. "But these, I tell you, I'm going to fight,"
he said. And he said, "You, our young men, get yourselves ready.
It is early in the morning," he said. As soon as darkness stands,
when it gets light enough, well move around. I have been made rich
in everything. My very good men, we will try to do some killing,
but do not mutilate them any more than you have to, as they gave
all of them to me. It is a good thing to do," he said. "Our
grandfathers will like it," he said.
And towards morning as the sun arose back up, as the village was
in sight, he gave a whoop as he came on. And the woman very much
did she come. "Don't kill her, she's my wife," he said.
So they did not kill her. Then they made for the village to kill
and also to take prisoners and a little while later they made it
so. They counted many coup. They killed every single person in the
village. The young man was smart, but they tried to make fun of
them [his children]. They made the village invisible, killing everyone.
This is what they were saying. That one they meant. He fasted. He,
that man, they talked about whenever they used to tell stories.
That they will do as long as it will endure above, is what they
are saying. That holy (wak'âtcáñk) young man,
thus he did, is what they were saying. The old people when they
were telling woraks, that is what they were saying.
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