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The Lost Child

A Winnebago (Hotcâk) Legend

Once in the fall of the year, a Winnebago with his family camped there, near a spring which issues from the foot of the bluff, to have his winter hunt. While the man was out hunting, his wife would go and dig some of the Indian potatoes (wâkciktora) from the margin of the spring. She took along her little daughter, who was about four years of age, and having dug some of the roots, left the child to watch them, and went further to dig more. While away she heard the girl give one scream; but when she had hurried back no child was to be seen; nor would she find her with all the search and callings she made. When the man returned he endeavored to find her, but with no better success. The next fall, the man and family camped at the same place again. The woman had dreamt during the summer that the child would be returned to her. One day, a clear fine day, she took her axe, and went to the same place where she had lost the child.

She saw her there, and went up to her, but there was such an odor or scent from the child that it overcame the mother and she fainted. The child restored the mother, and then the mother picked the child up, and carried her to the lodge, where her husband was. The child observed that if the odor which she had, which arose from her association with the Wak'tcexi (Water Spirit) was disagreeable, she would go back.

She related that she had heard her mother and father crying for her the whole winter; that she could not come to them because she did not know the way; and besides, her new mother, the Wak'tcexiwîka, would not let her go; but as they had cried so much and made so much sacrifice to the Wak'tcexi, they had consented to send her back to live with her folks until they wanted her again. While with her new mother, she was well dressed and wore plenty of wampum (a child's and young Indian's supreme ambition).

When her new mother sent her back, she sent her with the same clothes she had on when she was taken; but had tied around her neck a small sea shell as a charm. The new mother told her that as long as she preserved that shell, she would want for nothing -- all her wishes should be gratified. So she stayed with her earthly parents, the strong Wak'tcexi's odor passing away.

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