Native American Legends
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
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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