The Masaxe War

narrated by John Hazen Hill (Xetenišaraga)

John Hazen Hill

(1) When the people were living at Four Lakes (Te Jobeja), a party of Sioux went to visit there, and just then one of the brave men [of the Hočągara] was about to go on the warpath. A certain tribe called Masaxe [Fox] was the one they were going for. The Masaxes were a large tribe. So they asked their Sioux friends to go with them, as those people were enemies of the Sioux and had always fought against one another. So they were going to go with the Hočągara, and they said that they would kill off all of the Masaxe tribe. So therefore, all the men that were able to go on the warpath were going to go.

(2) Then the warleader told some of the young men to go hunting, and they brought back the kind of game that he wanted. So he had a feast. When they were through feasting, then he told them how they would fare on the path and where they were going. And in the morning, they would place their first war camp below the village, he told them. Therefore, all the people that were able to do anything should gather there, he told them. So that day they made great preparations and as soon as it was daylight, they gathered at the place that he told them, (3) and there came some other people. So they looked at them and they were Ojibwe and also a crowd of Potawatomies. When they arrived, they said to the warleader, "Our holy men told us to come, therefore, we have come. Hagimasanga is about to arise upon a certain people who killed our chiefs when they went there for peace; but instead of smoking their pipe, they killed them, and as he is going for these people, we were told to come. Therefore, we have come," they said.

So then they started, a big warparty of them started out. (4) The tribe called "Masaxe" had their village where La Crosse (Hinųgas) now is. Therefore, it was four days travel. They traveled on until they got near, then Hogimasanga said, "Young men, I was made to swallow this whole village, therefore we shall not let any escape, and we shall rush upon the whole village. So do your mightiest," he said to them. He told them this in the evening where they were camped for the night, and therefore they rushed upon the village at daybreak. They fought much all day. In the evening they had killed off the people of the village. There only, as long as the Indians have fought, (5) there only did they ever end a tribe. And this was the first time that a tribe was ended. But it was their own fault, it is said. They went to make peace with them so their chiefs were sent with tobacco to make peace, but they did not smoke their pipes, but killed them all instead. The chiefs killed were Hočąk, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Sioux. They were beginning to get mixed with them, but they did wrong. Therefore, this was their punishment, they say. As Earthmaker caused the ones in charge of war (Wonaǧire Hirukanara) to think thus, that is why this happened to them. (6) Therefore, any Indian that carries tobacco should have it smoked for him, as Earthmaker caused them to have it. Therefore, it is really holy (wakanjank), it is said. Thus, a large tribe ended themselves as they disregarded a sacred ritual.

The one called Hogimasanga was a half-Sioux Hočąk. He was a great man, and the Hočągara benefited by him. He was one of the originators of warbundles (waruxab), and his warbundle is now held by his grandson, Horuxjihirega (Eagle Looks At), and every winter he (7) gives a feast in its behalf, it is said. Thus the warbundles are kept. Therefore, what the Indians have done up to this time are all being told, and the woraks told are all true, as the Indians lived by them. The white people do the rituals well. Therefore they attain a full life. This is all that I am able to tell.1

Commentary. "Masaxe" — Who are the Masaxes (Masxes, Masxhes, etc.)? The name sounds something like "Mascoutins," but it is in fact a corruption of "Mesquakies," a name for the Fox nation, whom the French tried to wipe out in a series of proxy wars in the Eighteenth Century. The same story, with very many changes in detail, is told of the Fox War of 1730 in The Fox-Hočąk War.

Links: Earthmaker, Tobacco.

Stories: about the (post-Columbian) history of the Hočągara: The Cosmic Ages of the Hočągara, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Annihilation of the Hočągara II, First Contact, Origin of the Decorah Family, The Glory of the Morning, The First Fox and Sauk War, The Fox-Hočąk War, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Black Otter's Warpath, Great Walker's Medicine, Great Walker's Warpath, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Spanish Fight, The Man who Fought against Forty, The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, They Owe a Bullet, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Origin of the Hočąk Name for "Chicago"; about famous Hočąk warriors and warleaders: How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Wazųka, Great Walker's Warpath (Great Walker), Great Walker's Medicine (Great Walker, Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Šųgepaga (Dog Head), The Warbundle Maker (Dog Head), Black Otter's Warpath (Dog Head, Black Otter), The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara (Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath (Big Thunder, Čap’ósgaga), The Osage Massacre (Big Thunder, Čap’ósgaga), The Fox-Hočąk War (Čap’ósgaga), The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, White Thunder's Warpath, Four Legs, The Man who Fought against Forty (Mąčosepka), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, The Hills of La Crosse (Yellow Thunder), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Fighting Retreat, Mitchell Red Cloud, jr. Wins the Medal of Honor (Mitchell Red Cloud, jr.), How Jarrot Got His Name, Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, They Owe a Bullet (Pawnee Shooter); mentioning the Fox (Mesquaki): The First Fox and Sauk War, The Fox-Hočąk War, The Mesquaki Magician, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, Little Priest's Game, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e (Extracts ...), Introduction; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; mentioning Warbundles: Waruǧábᵉra (Thunderbird), The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Thunderbird), The Warbundle of the Eight Generations (Thunderbird), Wanihéga Becomes a Sak’į (Thunderbird), Šųgepaga (Eagle), The Warbundle Maker (Eagle), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (Bear), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo), Paint Medicine Origin Myth (Hit’énųk’e Paint), The Blessing of Kerexųsaka (Sauk), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store (Potawatomi), A Man's Revenge (enemy); mentioning the Sioux (Šąhą): The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," Little Priest's Game, Berdache Origin Myth, Great Walker's Warpath, Potato Magic, White Flower, The Man who Fought against Forty, First Contact (vv. 2-3), The Omahas who turned into Snakes, The Love Blessing, Run for Your Life, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšučka, Introduction; mentioning the Ojibwe (Chippewa, Ojibway): White Fisher, White Thunder's Warpath, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches The Two Children, The Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The First Fox and Sauk War, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, First Contact (vv. 2-3), Introduction; mentioning the Potawatomi: Fourth Universe, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), The Annihilation of the Hočągara II, First Contact (v. 2), Little Priest's Game, Xųnųnį́ka, Introduction; mentioning tobacco: Tobacco Origin Myth, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth (v 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Grandmother's Gifts, The Thunderbird, First Contact, Peace of Mind Regained, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Dipper, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Stench-Earth Medicine 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), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth (Buffalo 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), Black Otter's Warpath (Warpath Feast), Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (Warpath Feast), Kunu's Warpath (Warpath Feast), Trickster's Warpath (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); set around the Four Lakes (Te Jopera): The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, The Sky Man; mentioning La Crosse, Wisconsin (Hinųguás): Bluehorn's Nephews, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe (v. 2).

Themes: failure to observe ritual practice or taboo has fatal consequences: The Osage Massacre, Sunset Point; a war escalates when villagers massacre the foreign chiefs sent to them as emissaries to smoke for peace: The Fox-Hočąk War, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2); spirits bless someone with the right to kill a man ("give him a man"): White Thunder's Warpath, Šųgepaga, A Man's Revenge, Great Walker's Warpath, Little Fox and the Ghost, Thunderbird and White Horse.


1 John Hazen, The Winnebago-Sioux War against the Masxhes, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, #66 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, < 1909) Story 3: 1-7.