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The Shawnee Prophet - What he told the Hotc‚gara

A Winnebago (Hotcâk) Legend

When the Creator fashioned the Shawnee Prophet, he made him that he might accomplish a special mission on this earth. The Creator told him all that he was to do and achieve in life. When he was born, he was one of triplets. In his youth the Devil (Herecgúnina) came to him and told him many things and led him astray, even to the point that he came to forget what the Creator had told him. The Devil claimed that he would ascend to heaven and that no one could kill him. Then the Devil gave him a medicine belt of great mystery: when he cast it upon the ground, it would turn into a rattle snake that would shake its rattle as if to strike. Under the Devil's influence he had become a bad person, and much feared by everyone. Women were always in his company, not because they loved him, but because they feared not to do his bidding. He was immensely strong and drank to excess, and if anyone attacked him when he was drunk, he would find out who they were, and beat them severely. If they resisted, he would kill them. Thus he was feared by everyone. His brother, Haga, who was the third triplet, had a very narrow head, and people constantly teased him about it. One day he announced, "I have had enough of this, and will go home." Then he died.

One night when he was drunk, the Shawnee Prophet was jumped by a group of men and nearly killed. The next morning he asked his wife who they were, and when she told him, he said, "They shall hear of me this day!" Before taking revenge, he decided to bathe. While he was bathing, a man approached him and said, "I am sent to summon you, so let us go." The man took him to Spirit-land where he saw the Creator, who asked him, "My son, I had created you for a purpose, so how fares the mission given you?" He then remembered all the Creator had said to him, all that he had since forgotten. The Creator spoke: "Did I create you thus?" Whereupon the Creator showed him his own mouth which had become twisted out of shape. Then he showed him his ears which we so warped that he did not comprehend how he could hear anything through them. "Did I create you thus?" the Creator asked. Then the Creator pulled out his heart, which was furrowed and un smooth. "Did I create you thus?" the Creator again asked. Then the Creator showed him all his evil ways, and asked, "Is this what you were created to do? But you will do better this time."

When he returned to earth he gave up thoughts of revenge, and began to teach his great mystery. Yet no one believed him. So he called a great assembly and promised to speak the truth to them. Many scoffed and said he was becoming more and more insane. He fashioned a small, flat war club and brought this with him. Now his remaining brother [Tecumseh] was himself very holy, and could not be killed even with bullets. He told his brother not to speak, but he replied, "If you can pick up this miniature club, then I shall fall silent." His brother went to lift it, but could not budge it at all. Then he invited anyone to lift it, but no one there could make it move at all. When the people saw this, they believed him.

At this time the other tribes were having their night dances, so the Hotcâgara moved nearby. The word of the Shawnee Prophet reached many, for he said, "Let the people give up the customs they now have, and I shall give them new ones." So many threw away their war-bundles and tossed out their good medicine bundles, but he had meant that they should renounce their bad customs. So a war-leader named "Smoke Walker" decided to lead some of the young men over to the Prophet's camp to see him. Then an old man named "Dog Head," who was very wákâtcâk (holy), announced that he would come along; but the leader said, "Not so -- for we shall walk as the Thunders." "If you walk as the Thunderbirds, and I cannot keep up, then I shall turn back," the old man replied. Eleven men went with Smoke Walker. When they arrived, they found people from every nation except the Hotcâgara. When the Shawnee Prophet saw them, his heart was glad, and he said to them, "My dear younger brothers, I had hoped much to see you, although I do not speak Winnebago, so I may not be able to address you." Now the leader turned to Dog Head, who in his youth could speak the languages of all the neighboring nations, and asked him to translate. Dog Head said, "I can understand him, but I do not know whether I can speak to him." "Do your best," said the leader, "for anything is better than nothing." Then Dog Head spoke to the Prophet and said he thought that he might not be understood, but the Prophet understood him and they had a long conversation: "My dear younger brothers," said the Prophet, "we are not getting along in life as we should because we have not done the right thing." Then he told the Hotcâgara all that had happened to him and how the Creator had sent him to earth to accomplish a mission. Then he instructed the people to build a long ceremonial lodge. Some were chosen to go after bears, and each one he sent forth did not fail to come back with one. Thus they believed him, and knew him to be holy.

One day the look-outs informed the Prophet that the Long Knives were advancing upon them in force. Then the Prophet told them, "Listen carefully, and when they have fallen asleep, then we will take care of them." One of the Long Knives came into camp and asked them, "Where shall we camp?" and they told him that they could camp where they were. While the Long Knives slept that night, the united tribes fell upon them, firing a hail of musket balls. The Long Knives were so surprised that many fled into the night without their muskets. The commander [General William Henry Harrison] had the bugle sounded, and the Long Knives gathered back together. Then they counterattacked and many Indians fell there [at Tippecanoe]. The Hotcâk war-leader, Smoke Walker, was one of these. The warriors were scattered as to the winds, and none knew who had lived or who had perished.

Small Snake, the son of Smoke Walker, headed back home with a boat load of women under his care. The women suddenly expressed alarm when they saw a boat full of white people coming right towards them. Small Snake had only two musket balls left, but he stood to fire. At the last moment he held back, for he recognized them: unexpectedly, they were not Long Knives, but Good Spirit People (French). They greeted one another and the French gave him plenty of ammunition. Thus they got safely home.

Since the time of the Shawnee Prophet many prophets have risen up and passed away, yet they never spoke the truth as he had. They spoke that they might be praised, or only that they might be heard. He foresaw that a woman would prophecy, but that she should immediately be slain, for she foreshadowed the end of the world. He also said that a boy would rise as a prophet and that all should give him ear. The Peyote people believe that they have realized this prophesy. The Shawnee Prophet said many other things that have come to pass. He spoke the truth when he said that the Hotcâgara would be able to write their own tongue. He said that the time would come when trees would uproot and travel about the country -- thus it is when trees have been logged and put upon trains to the mill. All this he prophesied many generations ago, and he spoke the truth like no other that has come afterwards.

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