Buffalo Clan Origin Myth

retold by Richard L. Dieterle


The Buffalo Clan is a member of the Lower or Earth Moiety. Because of their special relationship to the earth, they were the village criers, disseminating the decisions of the chief to the people.1 Every morning the public crier reported for his instructions from the chief.2 In villages, they had a special lodge located in the southeast. The Buffalo Clan had a friendship relationship with the Waterspirit Clan, and each clan buried the other's dead.3 The following are some of the names given to members of the Buffalo Clan:4 

Čanimániwįga She who Walks Ahead (R, F)
Če-hačowįga Blue Buffalo Hide Woman
Če-oskajiga Plays with the Buffalo (L)
Čedojenįka, Četocnįka Buffalo Yearling (R, F)
Čedonįka Young Buffalo Bull
Čega Buffalo
Čenįksiga Suckling Buffalo Calf (R, F)
Čep'aga Buffalo Head
Čep'anųpga Two Buffalo Heads (R, F)
Českága White Buffalo (L, F)
Čewįxetega Big Female Buffalo
Čečą(m)iwįga First She Buffalo (R, F)
Hehekmaniga (?) Shaggy Walker
Henųpga Two Horns (L) [clan uncertain]
Manok'azuhiga Kicking up the Earth
Moračéwįga She who Travels about the Land (F)
Móračega Travels the Land (R, F)
Mągiksunčga Shakes the Earth by Striking
Sįčserečka Long Tail (D)
Šoǧoknįka Little Hill (L)
Wirukánąga He who is in Control (R, F)
Wojįkwega [meaning unknown] (L)


Three clan songs are publicly known:

  Finally, hąhą́, you have cried. I heard you. Ai Ko Ai ℒ A A. ℒ xK ℒ n xKo n. Higųhira, hąhą́, raǧagera. Náxkųną.
  Finally, hąhą́, you have cried. I heard you. Ai Ko Ai ℒ A A. ℒ xK ℒ n xKo n. Higųhira, hąhą́, raǧagera. Náxkųną.
  Finally, hąhą́, you have cried. I heard you. Ai Ko Ai ℒ A A. ℒ xK ℒ n xKo n. Higųhira, hąhą́, raǧagera. Náxkųną.
  Finally, hąhą́, you have cried. I heard you. Ai Ko Ai ℒ A A. ℒ xK ℒ n xKo n. Higųhira, hąhą́, raǧagera. Náxkųną.
       
  This earth, hehé, you have made me hear, hohó. m ti nK ℒe Ae Ae n xKo ℒ no Ao Ao Mątinągre, hehé, náxkųrąno, hohó!
  Finally you have cried. Ai Ko Ai ℒ ℒ xK ℒ Higųhira, raǧagera.
  You have made me hear, ho! n xKo ℒ no Ao Náxkųrąno, ho!
  You have made me hear, ho! n xKo ℒ no Ao. Náxkųrąno, ho!
       
  This day, hehé, you have made me hear. Ab ti tt ne Ae Ae n xKo ℒ no Ao Ao Hąp tijąne, hehé, náxkųrąno, hohó!
  Finally you have cried, hąhą́! Ai Ko Ai ℒ. ℒ xK ℒ A A. Higųhira, raǧagera, hąhą́!
  You have made me hear, hohó! n xKo ℒ no Ao Ao Náxkųrąno, hohó!
  You have made me hear, ho!5 n xKo ℒ no Ao. Náxkųrąno, ho!6

(For other buffalo songs, see the Buffalo Dance Origin Myth.) Sound and the ear have to do with the four quarters which are particularly expressed in the Buffalo spirit because the land itself is a buffalo. This may help explain why the function of the Buffalo Clan is to be the village herald for the chief.

The Buffalo Feast is given by the clan twice a year: once in the spring, when the grasses are well developed, and again in midwinter when they say the spirits awaken to turn over in their sleep.7 Others say that a third feast is given in the fall. The feast is purely vegetarian, with special emphasis on maple sugar, s the Buffalo Spirits made it known that it is their favorite food. The host sends one of his relatives to notify the attendants and participants. The attendants build a long lodge, and in its center build an earth mound (mąwarup’uru), and set upon it the various instruments to be used in the Buffalo Dance. Kettles are put over the fire and the food boiled. Those giving the feast pour tobacco on the earth mound and ask for victory in war. Those who possess warbundles are seated and assume the role of various spirits. After describing the origin of the rites, the host sings the four songs of Hojánoka:

Let him walk in the road;
Let him walk in the road.

Walk by, Hojánoka;
Walk by, Hojánoka.

Say, 'Walk by Hojánoka'.

Hojánoka, go towards;
'It is coming, it is coming';
Say it to them, say it to them.

Then the host announces that the Dancing Songs will be sung. After the dance (which is described elsewhere) the rite concludes. The effect is to gain longer life from the blessings of the Buffalo Spirits.8


Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Version 1

by Charley White

 
    BAE 37: 248
  The Funereal Paint
of the Buffalo Clan

(91) At a place called "Bad Lake" (Te Šišik, Lake Michigan) were four Buffalo Spirits and the youngest one was clever. And they asked one another once, "What are [we] going to do?" And they began to exert their powers and knowledge and the youngest one got knowledge of the great clan gathering to be held, and they started out and appeared from the lake and they met the other clans at Red Banks. And the Elk was the usher at the long lodge and he placed the Buffaloes besides the Waterspirits. Therefore, they do not pass one another's words or requests. When they ask one another to do anything, the other never refuses. And at death, the Buffalo and Waterspirits bury one another. If a Buffalo clan[sman] should die, they would paint a rainbow on one side of his face and brow, thus [MS text has crude illustration]. And they would tell the deceased their origination story thus, addressing him by the relative term. For instance, if it were a son, he would say, "My son! Our (92) ancestors originated and appeared in Bad Lake and they originated from the youngest of four Buffalo Spirits which are there. And as you proceed to the Spiritland, you shall walk in holiness and no devils will cross your path and you shall walk with sharp teeth. And you should not worry over anything you left behind but you should watch ahead of you as you walk forth."9


Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Version 2

author unknown

Preliminary Remarks. (1) Now, those that originate from the buffaloes and the way they originated, they have heretofore told one another. This, whenever one asks about it, they would always tell him, but they would never tell him without some present. If they had a child that they loved very much, even he, they would not tell it to without gifts. They would not start in to tell him because they loved one. (2) One must really make a gift. When one makes a gift, then they would ask him what he would like to know or hear of, as this was not the only thing that they should make gifts to know. Then he would announce his desire to know whatever he wished and he would not be told in public, but alone. (3) Then later on he would anounce at a feast that he had told such a one about the origination and if anyone wished to know about life, after I am gone, you can ask him. This is the first thing that one should seek to know, is what they originate from. (4) "Father! This I give you: a full suit of clothes, I give you." "Ah, my son! What do you wish to hear?" "Father, what did we originate from?" "My son, you have done well, and my son, he who makes the most gifts, obtains life by it." "Well then father, you need not tell me now (5) but later when I have done enough in making gifts, then you may tell me." "My son, you have said well, as then you shall travel well in life." "Father, these also I give to you: some beads and a blanket." "Ah, my son, it is good, and my son, the things that I told you were true. (6) I did not say it because I coveted anything of yours, but it is really true as I have told you. Whoever does as you have, will obtain a good life for himself." "Again, father, I give you these as gifts: enough food for you." "Ah, my son, you have done very well, as life is holy; (7) and even if they loved one they would not tell him because it is holy." "Father, I give you this as a gift: a horse, as I desire to know what we originated from, father!" "Now then, my son, you have done well. This is what I meant is why I spoke. (8) Therefore, my son, you have done well. Come and sit down here. My son, listen very careful that you may tell a good story if ever anyone should ask you.

Origin Story. My son, we originated to humans from Bad Lake. From four Buffalo Spirits who are there. The youngest one was clever, and from him we originated. (9) They asked one another, "What are we to do?" and they began to exert their powers and the youngest one got knowledge that the gathering place was to be there. And they landed at the place called "Red Banks," it is said. And the Elk had charge of seating them. (10) Thus they originated, and then they counseled as to how they should travel through life, and in rotation as they came here. Thus, they would ask the follower to work and this they made sacred, they they would not fail to grant one another's requests. And if one should die, they would bury one another. (11) And the Waterspirit Clan and Buffalo Clan were to bury one another, and ask one another to work. If a member of a Buffalo Clan dies, they would say to him, "Today when you ceased to breathe, they were aware of it. Therefore your relatives, I greet you, here my brother's life has ended, (12) and for the last time, I will talk to him. And I will tell him the way he shall travel. Now, my brother! The place we originated was at a place called 'Bad Lake.' There are four buffaloes and from the youngest one we originated, and their lives were holy. Therefore, you shall walk as such, and a war club that you cannot miss anything with you shall carry. (13) And you shall walk with sharp teeth and it will be impossible for devils to cross back and forth ahead of you. And your sight shall be holy as you walk."

Duties of the Friendship Clan. Then he would paint his face. On the right side of his brow he would paint a rainbow with blue earth and red paint. Then he would sing for him, (14) saying thus:

Finally I have heard
This earth has heard.
This day has heard.

When he is through singing, then the member of the Waterspirit Clan would talk, (15) saying, "Now then, relatives, I greet you. When one of you passes away and you ask one to work, I would always do it with a willingness and if I do it with a belief that I would live some of the life that he had left behind, it would be even so. Therefore, I did it with that belief, (16) and furthermore, there shall [be] no bad animals to chase him, and it is said that one enlivens the soul of the dead. Therefore, thinking about these things, I do it that I may be strengthened by it. Therefore, I came forth willingly when I was asked to work and I have done it, and I did it thinking that no bad animals may abuse it." Then one of the callers would talk to them, saying, "Relatives, I greet you. (17) Today, one of your relatives have disappeared. You must keep strong hearts and don't cry, as the Creator above us created that we should disappear. If a piece of earth should cave in, it disappears, and if a rock crumbles off, it is its disappearing. Thus it is said." (18) Again, this is another information that one should seek, which should be the second one. And that is, What he should say when he would give a feast. Thus he should ask for, and he should boil food for the informant and there he would learn speeches and when one boils food, he should put on a kettle first for the Earthmaker, and ask him for life, and that they may be strong and (19) good by their fireplaces. And tobacco would be included with the kettle. As, although the Earthmaker made the tobacco, but he would not take it of his own accord. Not until it was extended to him, would he take it. Thus, he made the tobacco that they might ask life with it, and he would grant them their desires.10


Commentary. "Lake Michigan" — the name Te Šišik refers to Lake Michigan, but somehow Radin at the time got the idea that this Te Šišik is the Devils Lake of Sauk County, Wisconsin.11 However, in Hočąk this Devils Lake is Te Wakąčąk, "Holy Lake." Devil's Lake is strongly associated with Waterspirits, who were seen by the white settlers to be "devils," hence the English name for the lake. "Devils Lake" could then have been rendered back into Hočąk as Te Šišigera, "Lake of the Bad Ones." Such an odd feedback loop may account for the misidentification, as everywhere else the clans are said to have met at Red Banks which is on Green Bay, a bay of Lake Michigan.

"and at death the Buffalo and Waterspirits bury one another" — the Buffalo clansmen are servants of the Thunderbird chief, since they play a role as public criers in disseminating his edicts and announcements. Thus, the association of Buffalo and Waterspirits is at least partly an attraction of opposites, not only because of the opposition of Thunderbirds and Waterspirits, but because the Buffaloes are especially associated with land as opposed to the aqueous affinities of their friends. The buffalo more than any other animal, by their sheer numbers on the plains and their extensive range, seem to own the land itself. This is why the ground of earth is said to be a giant buffalo. The public crier, too, must cover all the ground in a wide range in order to disseminate his chief's message, so it is not surprising that he is chosen from the Buffalo Clan. The Waterspirit Clan is chief of the Lower Moiety, so by maintaining a friendship relation with them, they bridge the gap between the two moieties, and between those clans whose origins are from the most polar opposite beings. In the same way, the land, with which the Buffaloes have an identity, is intermediate between the supraterrestrial realm of the Bird Clans and the subterranean and subaquatic realms of the Lower Moiety clans. So friendship with the Waterspirit Clan is necessitated by the role of the Buffalo Clan as go-betweens.

"a rainbow with blue earth and red paint" — this is a different rainbow from that painted on a Thunderbird clansman. The latter is red, yellow, and black (from top to bottom). The Thunders are associated with fire and lightning (red and yellow), but also with the dark sky, represented by the color black. Their opposites, the Waterspirits, have blue as their emblematic color, representing both water and the blue sky. The Buffalo Clan combines the color of fire with that of water, uniting in their own existence the potentially waring extremes of the Thunders and the Waterspirits. The rainbow is a thing of the heavens and of water that connects two places on earth by an archway into the sky. This spanning of the Upper and Lower worlds is a symbolic spanning of the two moieties, which the Buffalo Clan seeks to bridge and unite.


Links: Buffalo Spirits, Waterspirits, Elk (II), The Creation Council, Devil's Lake, Earthmaker.


Stories: mentioning the Buffalo Clan: Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth; about (the origins of) the Hočąk clans: Hočąk 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, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Bear 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, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Origin of the Winnebago Chief, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Snake Clan Origins; about the Waterspirit Clan: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, The Ice Hole; about buffaloes and Buffalo Spirits: Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, White Fisher, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Bluehorn's Nephews, Redhorn's Father, The Woman who became an Ant, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Buffalo's Walk, Trickster's Buffalo Hunt, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Creation of the World (v. 3), The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Red Feather, Wazųka, Holy One and His Brother, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse; mentioning elks: Elk Clan Origin Myth, The Animal who would Eat Men (v. 1), The Elk's Skull, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Deer Clan Origin Myth, The Creation Council, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, Little Fox and the Ghost (v. 2), The Great Fish; See The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits; mentioning teeth: The Animal who would Eat Men, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Two Boys, The Birth of the Twins, The Twins Disobey Their Father, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Dipper, Wolves and Humans, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Children of the Sun, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, Partridge's Older Brother, The Brown Squirrel, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Shakes the Messenger, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, White Wolf; set at Red Banks (Mógašúč): The Creation Council, Annihilation of the Hočągara 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, Blue Bear, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk 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), Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Šųgepaga, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e ("St. Peet," "Hočąk Origins"), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), The Seven Maidens, First Contact, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath;set at Lake Michigan (Te Šišik): The Hočąk Arrival Myth, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 3), Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," Gatschet's Hočank hit’e ("Hočąk Origins"); mentioning the Buffalo Dance: Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Little Priest's Game; mentioning sacred (artificial) mounds: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 1), The First Fox and Sauk War, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 12), Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), Little Priest’s Game, The Story of How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, The Resurrection of the Chief’s Daughter, Bird Clan Origin Myth; mentioning feasts: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (Chief Feast), The Creation Council (Eagle Feast), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (Eagle Feast), Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth (Waterspirit Feast), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (Mąką́wohą, Waną́čĕrehí), 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), 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 Čap’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-Hočąk War (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), Šųgepaga (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (Warbundle Feast, 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: the youngest offspring is superior: The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Young Man Gambles Often, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Twins Cycle, The Two Boys, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Children of the Sun, The Creation of the World (v. 12), The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Sun and the Big Eater, Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 4, 7), Snake Clan Origins, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, Snake Clan Origins, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth.


Songs. Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 2), Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 3), Buffalo Dance Songs, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Returning, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Starting Out, Clan Song, Bear Clan, Song of the Youngest, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, The Four Songs of Hojanoka, Clan Songs—Deer Clan, Clan Songs—Wolf Clan, Clan Songs—Wonáǧire Wąkšik Clan, The Crawfish's Song, Duck Song, Farewell Songs, The Four Services Songs, Grandfather Sparrow's Rain Songs, Grizzly Bear Songs, Hare's Song to Grasshopper, Hare's Song to the Wągepanįgera, Hare's Song to Wildcat, Hawk's Song, Heroka Songs, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Little Fox's Death Song, Little Fox's Death Song (for the Warpath), Little Fox's Tail Song, Love Song I (female), Love Song II (female), Love Song III (female), The Mouse Song, Nightspirit Songs, The Quail's Song, Redman's Song, Slow Song of the Heroka, Soldier Dance Songs, Song for Calling the Buffalo, Song from the Water, Song from the Water (King Bird), The Song of Bluehorn's Sister, Hočąk Text — The Song of Sun Caught in a Net, The Song of the Boy Transformed into a Robin, Song of the Frog to Hare, Song of the Thunder Nestlings, The Song of Trickster's Baby, Song to Earthmaker, The Song to the Elephant, The Sun's Song to Hare, Three Warrior Songs, Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 1), Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 2), Turtle's Four Death Dance Songs, Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 1), Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 2), Twins, Ghost's Song (The Two Brothers), Twins, the Songs of Ghost and Flesh, Twins, Song of the Father-in-Law, Victory Song, Wailing Song, Warrior Song about Mąčosepka, What a Turtle Sang in His Sleep, Wolf-Teasing Song of the Deer Spirits. Songs in the McKern collection: Waking Songs (27, 55, 56, 57, 58) War Song: The Black Grizzly (312), War Song: Dream Song (312), War Song: White Cloud (313), James’ Horse (313), Little Priest Songs (309), Little Priest's Song (316), Chipmunk Game Song (73), Patriotic Songs from World War I (105, 106, 175), Grave Site Song: "Coming Down the Path" (45), Songs of the Stick Ceremony (53).


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 195.

2 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 162.

3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 195.

4 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 198. All names were collected by Radin unless otherwise noted (as below).

(D) J. O. Dorsey (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, 1893) 4800 Dorsey Papers: Winnebago 3.3.2.

(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.

(R) Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 198.

5 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 197.

6 The Hočąk text comes from Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago I, #3: 93.

7 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 299; Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago I, #3: 94.

8 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 296-298.

9 Radin, Winnebago I, #3: 92-93. Published in Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 197.

10 Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, Sept. 30, 1911) Winnebago IV, #3: 1-19.

11 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 197 nt 23.