Migistéga's Death, Version 1

by John Fireman

(51) He [Migistéga] was a bad man and was finally killed. He was one who drank a great deal and every time he drank, he made his canine protrude as in the previous story. He was also a murderer. He was stabbed again and again but he could always heal himself and for that reason he wasn't afraid of killing anyone. The friends of those whom he had killed were continually seeking revenge so they finally got him real drunk and tied him up and cut his stomach (53) open and took a bean-stick and ran it up this wound to his heart and kept doing this till they tore his heart to shreds.1

Version 2

from the collection of W. C. McKern

Original manuscript page: | 301 |

(301) When Migistéga had served his purpose, he told the people, "Now kill me, or I will do you great harm. For I will kill many of you if you do not kill me now. You will find me hard to kill. Thrust a stick through my heart and bury my feet deep. Then I shall not bother you in this generation." So they did. When they tried to kill him, two great fangs came out of his upper jaw.2

Commentary. "the previous story" — for this incident, see Migistéga’s Magic.

"cut his stomach" — this explains his name. There are two versions of his name, Mijistéga and Migistéga. In both of these versions, the last syllable, -ga, is a definite article used almost exclusively for names. The first syllable of both is mi, which means, "stomach"; the penultimate syllable in both is te, which means, "to chop" and "there, this." The word gis means, "to be round, circular, full"; whereas the word jis means, "to be inadequate, lacking; to fall short (to be in excess ?)." So Migistéga would mean, "Chopped Out His Full Stomach"; whereas Mijistéga seems to mean, "Lacking a Stomach There." Both names apparently refer to the character of his death as related in this story.

"bury my feet deep" — this seems to mean that they should bury him standing up.

Links: Witches.

Stories: mentioning Migistéga (Mijistéga): Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Mijistéga and the Sauks; mentioning witches or warlocks: The Witch Men's Desert, The Thunder Charm, The Wild Rose, The Seer, Turtle and the Witches, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Claw Shooter, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Mijistéga and the Sauks, The Mesquaki Magician, The Tap the Head Medicine, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, The Magical Powers of Lincoln's Grandfather, The Hills of La Crosse, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara (v. 2), Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Potato Magic, Young Rogue's Magic; mentioning drunkeness: The Drunkard's Self-Reflections, Chief Wave and the Big Drunk, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Chief Wave Tries to Take the Whiskey, The Brawl in Omro, Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, Version 1, Little Fox and the Ghost, Version 1, The Spanish Fight, Snowshoe Strings.

Themes: a witch is attacked while he is drunk: Migistéga's Death (v. 1); a being is vulnerable in a highly unusual way: River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, Snowshoe Strings, The Green Man, Partridge's Older Brother, The Dipper, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension.


1 "End of Megistega's Life" in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3881 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1908) Winnebago I, #7a: 51-53.

2 W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) 301.