Dream Sacrifices

by Peter Menaige and Thomas Foster

Peter Menaige

(3 Col. 1) It is within my knowledge (continued Menaige) that an old Winnebago Indian, usually called PAWNEE BLANC, or the WHITE PAWNEE, but by the Indians Pänë Wäsa̬nëk´ä, that is, “Pawnee-a-little-whitish,” who was the Chief Little Hill's father's brother, or his “Little Father,” used at the Portage every year to prepare as a "Sacrifice" three or four dog pups, which he killed and painted about the head and neck either red, green, or white, and then tying tobacco to their heads and necks, he placed them at the foot of a certain tree in Interpreter Paquette's field.

[The Chief Little Hill told me, (T. F.) when I was at the Nebraska Winnebago Agency in Nov. 1872, that it was a colt that Pawnee Blanc sacrificed, that he put eagle feathers on its head, and tobacco and red feathers on its legs; and that he varied the color of the colt each year—that it was the Grizzly-Bear “Sacrifice;” that he had been told in a dream to do it; and that he was afterward killed in a whiskey brawl by a white man at the Portage in 1837. He attributed his fate to some delinuency or omission in the manner and f{orm} of his dream-commanded “Sacrifice!”]

Commentary. "Pänë Wäsa̬nëk´ä" — transliterated as Pani Wasąníka, for Pani Wasą̄nįka, from Pani, "Pawnee, slave"; wa-, "thing, someone"; są̄, "pale, whitish, white"; nįk, "a little"; and -ka, a definite article suffix used in personal names. His name is variously rendered as Pania Blanc, Pawnee, Paneewasaka, "Pony Blaw," Vane Blanc, and "White Pawnee." He was the son of White Crow. After recounting how the nephew of Four Legs was quite the dandy, Mrs. Kinzie tells us,

This devotion to dress and appearance seemed not altogether out of place in a youthful dandy; but we had likewise an old one of the same stamp. Pawnee Blanc, or the White Pawnee, surpassed his younger competitor, if possible, in attention to his personal attractions. Upon the present occasion he appeared in all his finery, and went through the customary salutations with an air of solemn dignity, then walked, as did the others, into the parlor (for I had received them in the hall), where they all seated themselves upon the floor. ... (83) Pawnee was among the happy number remembered in the distribution; so, donning at once his new costume, and tying a few additional bunches of gay-colored ribbons to a long spear, that was always his baton of ceremony, he came at once, followed by an admiring train, chiefly of women, to pay me a visit of state. The solemn gravity of his countenance, as he motioned away those who would approach too near and finger his newly-received finery — the dignity with which he strutted along, edging this way and that to avoid any possible contact from homely, every-day wardrobes — augured well for a continuance of propriety and self-respect, and a due consideration of the good opinion of all around.1

Moses Pauquette says,

White Pawnee (Pania Blanc), a son of the one-eyed chief White Crow, accompanied my father [Peter Pauquette] as guide during the Black Hawk war. He died in 1837, in a drunken fracas with a white man named Abraham Wood. The affair took place in a whiskey shop near where the Carpenter house was afterwards located, — the neighborhood of the Wisconsin-river end of the old transportation route at the Portage. The Pawnee was buried in a large conical mound some five or six feet high, at what is now the city end of the Wisconsin-river bridge — just across the river from where our house was afterwards located. These ancient earthworks were frequently selected as burial places by the Indians, because of their prominence in the landscape."2

"a whiskey brawl" — Pawnee Blanc was killed by an early settler of the Baraboo region named "Abraham Wood," probably in the spring of 1839.3 Wood ran a "grog shop," and Pawnee Blanc, unable to purchase any liquor, attempted to gain some at knife point, whereupon Wood struck him in the head with a stick, killing him. He narrowly escaped lynching by the Indians gathered outside. In Green Bay, however, no indictment was returned against him.4

Portage, Wisconsin

"the Portage" — now the city of Portage, Wisconsin. To the Hocągara it was Wawá’ą, essentially of the same meaning. (Kinzie, Jipson, Miner) With respect to Europeans, the place was first used as a portage by the explorers Marquette and Joliet on June 14, 1673. To the French, it became known simply as le portage. A trading post was set up in 1792, after which a thriving business was conducted porting boats of any size over the mud flats using teams of oxen. In 1824, the American Fur Company hired the Hocąk translator, Pierre Pauquette, who was fluent in Hocąk, French, and English, to run its operations there. On the Fox River side of the portage, the government built Fort Winnebago in 1828.5 In 1834-1835, it was White Ox's village (see the map).

"dog pups" — dogs were treated almost as if they were human, with places set for them during meals, for instance.6 So the dog sacrifice amounted to a substitute for a human sacrifice. It was also believed that dogs could understand human language, so often a message to the Spirit to whom the sacrifice was addressed would be whispered in the dog's ear. See, "Wolf and Dog Spirits."

Charles Deas     R. A. Lewis   Joel Emmons Whitney (1822-1886)
Šoǧogᵋnįka (Little Hill)   Šoǧogᵋnįka, 1860   Šoǧogᵋnįka, before 1881

"Chief Little Hill" — this is Šoǧogᵋnįka. His name is listed among those of the Buffalo Clan, so he may have been a chief of that clan. Hexom says of him, "Other Winnebago chiefs known to have been in the county were ... Little Hill (Sho-gee-nik-ka) who, at Long Prairie, became head spokesman for the chiefs."7

"T. F." — for Thomas Foster (see Source).

Notes to the Commentary

1 For more on Pania Blanc, see the Commentary to Juliette Kinzie's Wau Bun.
2 Moses Paquette, "The Wisconsin Winnebagoes," Wisconsin Historical Collections, XII (1892): 399-433[431].
3 Milo M. Quaife, "The First Settler of Baraboo," The Wisconsin Magazine of History, 1 (1917): 319-321 [321].
4 de la Ronde, "Personal Narrative," VII.360. Moses Paquette, "The Wisconsin Winnebago," Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, XII (1892): 399-433 [429].
5 from the official City of Portage website (> History), viewed 7/27/09.
6 Nancy Oestreich Lurie, "Dog Children among the Winnebago," Lore, 2, #2 (1952): 54-56; Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 403; Amelia L. Susman, Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society #21095, 1938-1939) Book 2: 2-3. Her informant was Sam Blowsnake.
7 Charles Philip Hexom, Indian History of Winneshiek County (Decorah, Iowa: A. K. Bailey and Son, Inc., 1913) 48.


Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D. C.: 1876-1877) vol. 1, #2, p. 3, col. 1.