The Nannyberry Picker (Wuwukihíga)

translated by Richard L. Dieterle

Hočąk Syllabic Text with an English Translation


(1) There, at the fork of a river, stood many nannyberry bushes. A little boy was going about there. He was naked. He was going around completely naked, seemingly not knowing what to do. He came up to one of the nannyberry trees there. He took a little from one of the nannyberries, and (2) ate it, and liked it very much. There he ate a great many of them. Also he picked some, and he put some in a little pile there. He would always be there. He never left the place. Every day he would be looking for nannyberries. Also he stored some of them in a particular place. (3) Finally, he had quite a bit of it. And then he put them in a hollow log there. He preserved them.

Then one day, unexpectedly, a little girl came to see him. The little girl was someone who could speak plainly, as she was a little older. (4) The little girl said, "Waną́ my little brother, here the little one is," this one said. The little boy repeated what she had said, "Waną́ my little brother, here he goes by foot," this one said. Then the little girl said, "You yourself are my younger brother," she said. Then he also said, "You yourself are my younger brother," he said. He was mocking her. He had never known such a thing, (5) and he said it because he had not known speech. Then she said to him again, "My little brother, are you hungry?" she said, but again he mocked her, "My little brother, are you hungry?" he said. Then the little girl did this: she built a fire. (6) He was afraid, as she had built a fire. Then the little girl boiled something, as they say that she had a little pack. So she opened her pack there, and took from it beans without backs, and she boiled them. She had a little kettle as well as a pack. After she had cooled it, she dished it into a little dish, (7) and placed it before him. She cooled it and said, "Hąhą́, my little brother, you must eat," she said. Again he mocked her, "My little brother, you must eat," he said. And again she did this: she took one of the beans, put it in her mouth, and ate it. This was to show him. (8) He collected some stones, and came back with small ones. There he put them. They were as big as them. Then again the little girl did this: she took one of the stones and put it in her mouth and caused it to rattle against her teeth. (9) Then she took one of the beans and ate it. The little boy did this: he put one of the beans in his mouth. Korá, then he seemed to open his eyes. He put another in his mouth. Then she taught him to use a spoon. And then he used the spoon. Thus, he did a lot of bean eating. (10) Then he repented that they had eaten it all up. Then he did this: he got up with his dish in hand, and he went to the hollow log and reached in and put some nannyberries in the dish. He came back there and placed it before the little girl. (11) She, in turn, was not familiar with that food. Therefore, she was kind of backward. Therefore, he did the same to her as she had to him. Thus he taught her. Finally, the girl tasted one of them. It was so delicious that she filled herself completely. She was very delighted. She ate it up. (12) He gave her all of it, and yet every time the girl spoke, he would always mock her.

Then she did this: she cut some lodge poles, and she made a lodge. She made a new reed lodge. There they lived. And the little girl would always do this: she would look after the products of the earth, and they would live on that.

NAA INV 00215700  
Children by a Hočąk Reed Mat Lodge  

(13) And finally, when the little boy was grown up, she made a little arrow for him. Then she taught him how to shoot arrows. He learned how to shoot. He would always be shooting arrows inside the lodge. Finally, he went outside. They say that they fasted. And finally, he used an arrow to kill a little sparrow. (14) The girl was very thankful. She cooked it, and ate it. As it went along, he kept getting better and better. Finally, at last, he killed a young deer. He killed deer, bears, elk, and buffaloes. (15) He killed all of these. He nearly killed everything. Finally, at last, the boy had become great.

One day the girl said, "My dear younger brother, I am thinking of something," she said. "About now you should marry a woman, as I have always admired women who have sisters-in-law," she said. (16) Then the young man said, "My dear older sister, I understand this desire of yours, but where are there any people that I might marry?" he said. The young woman again said, "My dear younger brothers, there are many people. Over here there is also a village, (17) from there I wish this particular daughter of one of the chiefs, that is why I am saying this. This one is pretty. She is the one whom I wish to have as a sister-in-law." "Well sister, it was nice to be alone with your older brother, and it seemed nice, but if this is what you think, as you have said, then it is for the best," he said. Then the woman thanked him. (18) "My dear younger brother, you may go in the morning. I will get things ready for you," she said. Then she made him a quiver out of white marten fur, and he wore otter fur on his head. He had a red blanket, and he wore bearskin moccasins. A black fur he wore on his feet. (19) And he painted his face, using light brown paint on the lower part, and on top he applied just the least bit of mud. Then the young woman said, "My little brother, as you go to the village, as you get there, at the end, on the outskirts of the village, you will come to an oval lodge. (20) There you must enter. The old woman there is your aunt. When you get there, she will recognize you. And there the princess comes to pack wood. The princess with her friends came there every evening to pack wood for our little aunt. They will all be there," she said to him.

(21) So in the morning he started out. Sure enough, as she had said, there it was an oval lodge at the outskirts. He went and peeped inside. She said, "Why, nephew, don't you come in instead of peeping. Come on in," she said, so he went in. (22) "Nephew, I thought you would come, so I am boiling for you," she said. Then she dished out for him what was in the kettle. So he ate and then finished. Then she said, "My nephew, stand up, as they come in and out of here all the time. Let me spread out a little something for you," she said, (23) so he stood up. And the old woman did this: she spread out a black rug there. Then soon after, they put wood down outside in the woodpile. And they were laughing. They said to one another, "It's for nothing that she carries wood like a daughter-in-law," they said, and they would laugh. (24) Then one of them peeped in, and the young man saw her. And unexpectedly, there was a very handsome man sitting there. She gave a little laugh, then disappeared back. Then they asked why she had uttered that. Then she said, "I didn't really mean anything by it," she said. (25) Then again another one did it. Again, she gave a little laugh and drew back. Once more they asked her, but she would not tell. Then the princess, the fourth one, went in. And she went in there, and she went and sat by the fire log, but feeling embarrassed, she went back out. (26) Then they went home.

When they got back, they told about it. And they were gambling. Turtle had joined them there. The woman came and told them, and Turtle overheard her. So Turtle said, "Hąhą́, korá, I am quitting. (27) Today is the day my friend said he was coming. I hope that perhaps he will have arrived, I'm thinking. That is why I had quit," he said. Then they told him, "Turtle, someone has come," they said. He said, "?" He said, "My friend wears a cap of otter skin, and he also usually has a quiver of white marten skin," he said. (28) Then they told the women, and they said it was him. So they told him about him. Turtle said, "Hąhó," he said. When he was winning, then he had placed it in the middle. "You womanly men, take back what remains," and (29) he shoved back what he had brought with him, putting that in the middle, and then stood up and went home.

And he went by where he lived. "Old woman, try to cook a little something as it is said that my friend has come," he said. The woman said, "Waną́, is my brother-in-law here?" she said. (30) Then he went there. He went to the old woman's lodge and entered. "Hohó my friend, you have arrived! I had expected you yesterday." "Hąhą’ą," he said. Then, unexpectedly, someone came and peeped in. Unexpectedly, it was a little boy, (31) and he was very poor. He owned nothing at all. He was an orphan, and when he peeped in, Wuwukihíga said, "Hąhó my friend, come in," he said. He went in. Then Turtle said, (32) "Koté, my friend, perhaps by now one of the little things has been cooked by the old woman, so let's go back there," he said. They both said, "Hąhó," and went over. Then Wuwukihíga said, "Friend, go ahead and go there, but I'm going to wait until later while my friend takes a bath. (33) Then we will come when he is done," he said. "Hąhó," he said. And there stood a spring, and when they got there, "Hąhą́, my friend, four times you will dive in here. On each of these four times, you will come up from beneath only when you are on the verge of drowning," he said. (34) Then he entered in and laid there. He did it that way. While his friend was a handsome man, after he had dived four times, he himself was even more so. And now they were very much alike. Then they came back to his aunt. "Auntie, give my friend some clothes to wear," he said, and (35) of whatever clothes she sent, she handed over those that were just like his own. These he put on, and they went over there to their friends.

There they arrived. "Hąhó, my friends, come around to the back and sit down," he said. There they sat down and immediately they were served something. (36) There they did a lot of eating. They had deer loin flavored with beaver tail. And right away for Turtle it was for women, that is what he had come for in the first place. He knew this, so he was talking about picking up girls, talking about the princesses. "My friends, the princesses are being courted intensely. (37) They don't pay any attention to them. I don't know how I should proceed to outdo the others, but they say that only I can get in so much as a whisper," Turtle said. And he said, "My friends, I am just fooling around when I do this. This is because I have grown used to an old woman. (38) Besides, she takes good care of me, and that is why I told them that I was just fooling around. If you say anything to one of them, they will not hesitate on my account," he was saying. Then he said, "Let's go now, as they go to sleep very early in the moon," he said. "Hąhó," they said, so they went.

And sure enough, the fire was burning low, when they got there. (39) "Hąhó, my friends, go on in," he said, but they replied, "You are acquainted with them. First you go, then when you get back, we'll go," they told him. And he said, "Hąhó, let it be as you say." And they laid upon platforms. The reason that they sat on platforms is that they lived in a bark lodge. (40) Then he came up very near to meet her, and said, "Princess, my friend the traveling man ..." he said, and started to laugh. Perhaps she put up with listening to him because she thought there would be something from the man whom she liked. (41) Finally, she said that she was believing that what he was saying was something that he was going to tell her about him, so she shoved him over. The man fell off the platform. He went out laughing hysterically. He said, "My friends, I fell off the platform. The reason for this is because of how much laughter I uttered. (42) I fell off by accident. I laid by the princess just a little over the edge of the platform, but when she tickled me, I jumped up, and getting hung up rolling over, she caught me by my sides, and because she tickled me, I jumped up and fell off," he said. Then his friends got up and left. (43) When they arrived there, they were holding lights. Since they were recognized, they started to blow them out themselves. Then Wuwukihíga laid down with the princess, and his friend laid down with one of the princess' friends. Then at daylight, they came home with them to their aunt there. (44) When they had gotten back there, unexpectedly, there were two beds that had been made for them. There they lay, and she covered them in bear skin robes. And in the morning, their aunt seemed to have an endless store of goods. There she placed before them a great many for each of them. (45) Still, from where she sat, and from the back of the lodge, she took them. Then the women also came there bearing all that they had.

And then the two friends went hunting. They went hunting and came back driving a four-cornered herd of buffalo, and driving them to the place where they pack wood, they killed them. (46) Then they cut out just the tongues, and the fat parts of the buffalo intestines, only one of that kind, full, they packed home. The set them down at the chief's lodge. Then they came back to their aunt's place again. Then their wives went to tell them where they had done it. (47) Then they went and told the crier, and the criers went all over the village. "The sons-in-law said that as they have killed a four-cornered herd of buffalo at the place where they pack wood, everyone who is good to pack some, is requested to pack some for themselves," they said. (48) Thus, there were many uttering thanks. They diligently attended to the buffalo there. Everyone who was able to pack anything, packed a lot of buffalo for themselves. Then the two friends were called to the chief, so they went there and stayed. There they used deerskin. And every time they went hunting, they would always do the same. (49) Cutting off one of the herds, they would swing back and drive them to where they pack wood, and would kill them.

Then in the course of time, each woman had a child. And when they had grown up a bit, they went home. Then when they were near home, the women sat down there, and the two of them went on alone, he and his friend. (50) His sister was overjoyed. And then he said, "My dear older sister, Kunúga is over here sleeping," he said. "Waną́," she said, and went over there. Unexpectedly, she arrived where her sisters-in-law were, and the women thought themselves to be beautiful women, but now they considered themselves old women by comparison. (51) She was truly a beautiful woman. Indeed, her body shined from money metal. Then, carrying one in each of her arms, she came home. Then there she gave her sisters-in-law a great many gifts. She caused dry goods to be stacked up high among them there. And there they stayed for some time. (52) Then, finally, they came home to their village, and they all came. They all came to the village. "The sons-in-law have brought back their sister with them," they said. She was truly a beautiful woman. (53) The young men swallowed their spit, as it made their mouths watery. And one of the chiefs had a son, and they gave him their sister. And then they themselves also became chiefs.

A Waterspirit

They said that by means of a formal request, they had obtained the right for the two friends to come home with their wives, (54) but their children, in any case, were to be left behind when they departed. They had brought both their children. They were truly mischievous. And their sister said that she was also coming home. And they came away. The sister's husband did not come away with her. (55) They came away, leaving behind their brother-in-law. And they went home to the Waterspirits, as from the Waterspirits they had come. The reason that Wuwukihíga, and his sister with him, had come to the surface of the earth was to fast. (56) They had come from a Waterspirit village, and their parents were chiefs there. All the men and their women with them returned, but without the children. And the brother-in-law, the chief's son, was not like anything. (57) Then he could go, they said to him, once he had died, then at last he could go, they said to him. Yet still he was not like anything. He would go out into the wilderness and weep. Also he became thin. He would not eat, that is why he became very thin. (58) Then the young boys said, "Koté, let's take our uncle home," they said. "Let's take him home there to our aunt," they said. Then they said to him, "We will go and take you to auntie there," they told him. "Alright, if it is possible to go there, it will be good, my nephews," he said.

(59) So they set off taking him with them. Finally, they arrived. In the Waterspirits' village, they went to where the chief's lodge was. "Hąhó, our sons have come," said their fathers. Unexpectedly, they had come with their uncle. And when he went in, there his wife sat, and he himself approached her. (60) He sat down there. The Waterspirits were surprised at his great herd of humans. "My children, they do not do this. You humans were not created thus," they said. (61) "We are going back again. As we came to just bring uncle over here, that is why we came. Uncle was very lonesome, that's why we brought him over here. We are going back again," they said. (62) And again, the fathers who still did the talking, said, "But we already told your uncle that he could come, but not as one who is in the flesh, and it would be for the best if he did not come, that is why we are saying this. It cannot be done this way," they said. And again the little boys said to them, "How is it that our uncle alone cannot remain here, but our mothers are the only ones who can? (63) If that's the case, perhaps our mothers shouldn't stay here either," they said. "They should be aware that they have enough things, his wife may also wish for him as well," they said. (64) Then it was seen that their father's parents stood up for them and said, "My sons, my grandsons speak the truth. Your older sister is not like she used to be. I know that this is the cause of it, but she dreads to say anything on your account," they said. (65) "They're saying, what is the harm if they came bringing their uncle with them? It is alright," they said.

Then the boys would play there with the Waterspirit boys. On day they returned packing one each of them. (66) They said that they had killed bears. They had shot them over there. Their parents were very much taken aback by them. The old man brought them back to life, and sent them home with tobacco. Yet they did it again. Four times they would do it. Then they came back here to the humans again. They came away from there, leaving their uncle behind. (67) Once they got back there, they benefited them greatly. It was said that there in the village, there was not a thing that they could not accomplish.

Thus far, it is ended.1

  The Nannyberry Tree (Viburnum lentago)

Commentary. "nannyberry (wuwu)" — the translation has "mulberries" (Morus sp.), but this is contradicted by three other sources that identify the wuwu as the nannyberry (Viburnum lentago).2 Of the fruit, Thoreau says, "The Viburnum lentago fruit is quite sweet and reminds me of dates in their somewhat mealy pulp. It has large, flat black seeds, somewhat like watermelon seeds but no so long."3 The berries are an important food for birds.4 However, it is the bark of both the nannyberry and the black haw that is of interest in a story such as this one which focuses on Waterspirits. The inner bark, taken low to the ground,5 and was scraped into boiling water to make a diuretic tea,6 that is, a drink that induces the flow of urine.7 Because it contains valeric acid, it has a decidedly bitter taste.8 In Madison, Wisconsin, V. lentago was known as the "tea plant."9

"not knowing what to do" — when spirits become human, they sometimes skip infancy and assume the human condition at some point in later ontogeny. The boy seemed disoriented because he came into existence without human parents. Spirits, however, learn very quickly.

"repeated" — in what follows, the boy becomes an echo of his sister. She is trying to enlighten him, and imitation is the foundation of learning. Thus, the light of learning that she is transmitting is reflected by the boy. In nature, there are really few mirrors. Sometimes obsidian, which is not especially common, can function as a dark mirror, but the best mirror is the surface of still water. It is thus in the intrinsic nature of Waterspirits to be reflective. This reflection is not the real thing, but a mocking mirage of what it reflects. Hence the boy is said to mock (hokirá) his sister by reflecting her words in his own speech.

"afraid" — inasmuch as Waterspirits are in essence the element of water, given that fire is antithetical to that element, the Waterspirit most especially would fear it.

"beans without backs (hųnį́k huxa-čųšguni)" — the bean that meets this description is the Amphicarpaea bracteata, formerly known as the Falcata comosa, which goes by the popular names "ground bean," and "hog peanut." This bean is normally called honįk-boije, and would be the same as the hónik-mojára, "ground beans." 10

  The Ground Bean9.0.0

Falcata grows in dense masses of vines over other vegetation in some places, using such vegetation to climb up into the air and light. It has two kinds of branches, the upper, climbing branches, and the basal, prostrate branches which creep along the ground in the shade of the upper growth. These two kinds of branches on the same plant produce two kinds of flowers, from which result two forms of fruits. ... The basal branches, in conformity with their position prostrate on the surface of the ground in the shade of the upper growth are leafless and colorless. Also in conformity with their position away from possible insect visitors their flowers are not petaliferous, but cleistogamous. This self-pollinated flower produces a pod which at once pushes itself into the soft leafmold and loose soil and there develops its single large bean. This ground bean is about the size of the common lima bean, but not so flat. It is of uneven form but thicker, while not so long as the lima bean.11

The way that the hųnį́k-boije vine extends along the ground and pushes into the soil may account for the boije element in its name. It seems that boije can be analyzed as bo-hoije, where hoijé means, "steps, to step in," and bo- means "to do with great force." Hoijé hi means, "to take a step snare, to rope, to lasso." This last is relevant since the branches which extend outward on the ground look like white strings, the whole mat resembling a snare, the pods of which force themselves into the soil where they generate their beans. The underground bean fits the nature of the Waterspirits, who themselves tunnel under the earth.

However, there may be more to it than that. The reader may have noticed the alternance, hųnįk-honįk, which reflects the normal confusion of the sounds /u/ and /o/ in Siouan languages. Hųnį́k is more precise, coming from hu, meaning "stalk" or "trunk," and nįk, "little"; the bean being a plant with a small trunk, an apt description of most vines. The word for bean has a homonym in honįkrá (Helmbrecht-Lehmann), honįgrá (Miner), which is the same as honįgᵋrá, "beans." The other sense of honįgᵋrá is "descendants, offspring." In this context, this homonymy fits in nicely with rejų́, "descendant, root." This expresses the same idea that lies behind the English "descendant," that is, descent, a downward motion. These concepts are consonant with "putting down roots." As subsequent actions show, it is the intention of the sister to induce Wuwukihíga to put down roots and to have offspring. They, of course, internalize the beans without backs, which befits their Waterspirit nature. However, this plant is symbolic of the society into which they are to integrate. This is a culture with two moieties that intermarry with one another: the Upper and Lower. So too is the ground bean: it's a plant that propagates both from above and from below. The ground bean is a plant that unites two propagating parts on opposite parts of the plant into a single whole. In the Waterspirit Spirit World, marriage is not by moiety, but intraspecific. So they foreshadow reproduction in this dual-world society by eating plant seeds that resemble gonads. The further symbolic role of this plant will be discussed below.

"open his eyes" — here we have a reasonably explicit identification of light with enlightenment. He opens his eyes and "sees the light."

"reed" — this is the wiči, a wetland grass (rushes, reeds, and cattails) used to make mats that covered a lodge. It is obviously appropriate for Waterspirits to build their home out of aquatic plants.

"they say that they fasted" — in most stories, the way in which an incarnated spirit can be recognized is precisely because he does not have to fast. Therefore, it is quite unusual for both these arrivals from the spirits to take up the technique of fasting. This is a "technique" because it is a way of inducing blessing to devolve upon the faster. The faster's deprivation moves the spirits to pity him, and their empathy causes them to bestow blessings in order to stop their suffering. Since most reincarnated spirits already have supernatural powers, it is unnecessary for them to receive blessings from other spirits in order to realize their ends. This is probably why the raconteur added the expression, "they say," to convey an element of skepticism. This serves to reinforce the oddity of their fasting. For more on the theme of fasting, see below.

"to kill a little sparrow" — that the boy kills a bird first with his bow and arrow reflects the state of war that obtains between the Thunderbirds and the Waterspirits. In the world of birds, the sparrow stands in opposition to the crane. Wears White Feather, Chief of the White Cranes, wears a coat of sparrows. This symbolizes the fact that sparrows will mob cranes. Cranes in their turn will, it was once observed, eat a sparrow.12 Cranes, being water birds, have some affinity to Waterspirits as co-denizens of the same cosmic plane. Cranes were believed to attack the Nightspirits, the stars being explained in this account as the perforations of the sharp peck of the crane upon the face of the Nightspirits. The stars, as spiritual products and counterparts of the cranes, flying through the night across the sky in opposition to the darkness, also serves to pit cranes against the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds, who inhabit the dark clouds, marry the women of the Nightspirits, whose darkness is akin to their own. The Thunderbirds, therefore, are in opposition to the white cranes, and because this is so, it aligns the latter all the more forcefully with the chief enemies of the Thunders, the Waterspirits. Therefore, given these alignments, the Waterspirits are also in opposition to the sparrow.

"bearskin moccasins" — the Bear Clan is a complement to the Waterspirit Clan. They are generally acknowledged as the leaders of the Earth division of the Lower Moiety, and are in charge of all things pertaining to the ground, including treaties involving land claims. The Waterspirit Clan is often said to be the chief clan of the whole Lower Moiety. In the origin stories of the Bear Clan, it is said that the first bears to leave their Spiritland on the other side of the Ocean Sea, did so by walking in water. Therefore, it is appropriate for a Waterspirit in human form to clad his feet with the fur of those who can walk on his element.

"light brown" — the color xi (ǧi) is identified as "light brown" by Lipkind, Miner, and Helmbrecht-Lehmann. In addition the latter says that it means, "to be light colored, to be hazy, to be translucent, to be brownish (rather like tan), to be tan colored." However, the translator, Oliver LaMère, apparently took this to be a mistake by the narrator, and rendered the word into English as "blue." This is because blue tto (čo) is the special color of Waterspirits, reflected in the fact that members of the Waterspirit Clan paint blue marks on the faces of their dead. Blue, of course, represents the color of water. This is at least partly why Wuwukihíga, who is later identified as the Waterspirit Traveler, would paint his face blue when he went courting. As to the rationale for light brown, I was as puzzled as LaMère. However, when we reflect upon the fact that the inner bark of the nannyberry tree is dried and ground into a brown powder which is drunk as a kind of tea, we have an obvious explanation.13 This tea is, as already mentioned, diuretic: it induces the flow of "water," and is therefore particularly in accord with the fundamental nature of the Waterspirit.

"at the end, on the outskirts of the village" — the extreme end of the village is the worst possible situation, since it readily exposes the occupants to the depredations of enemy marauders. The chief, by contrast, is placed in the center of the village. Therefore, people at the physical extreme of the village are also at its social extreme.

"I thought you would come" — people who are reincarnated spirits usually possess the power of foreknowledge.

"Turtle" — the inventor of warfare, who might otherwise be expected to appear in the context of war, but here shows up for another reason. As a turtle, he is the most aquatic of the major spirits, and appears here as the chief ally of Traveler, who is incarnate here as Wuwukihíga.

"aunt" — this is the hičųwi, the father’s sister. Clan affiliation is patrilineal, so her birth clan is going to be the same as that of the young man, Wuwukihíga. She must be the sister of the Chief of the Waterspirits, who is in reality the Otherworld father of Wuwukihíga.

"brother-in-law" — the term in Hočąk is hišik’e, which means, "husband of a sister; husband of a paternal sister; or husband of a daughter of a brother" (Radin), although according to Helmbrecht-Lehmann, it is more restricted today to "husband of father's sister, husband of brother's daughter." The story makes it clear that Turtle's wife is Traveler's sister-in-law. It is not likely that Turtle is Traveler's brother, as that would make Turtle a Waterspirit and born of Waterspirit parentage, when in fact he was directly created by Earthmaker. It could mean that as water creatures both are metaphorically brothers, although it could be that the princess is the daughter of Turtle's wife's brother, and she is anticipating the outcome of his courtship.

"orphan" — the peculiar "birth" of some spirits makes them most similar to orphans without living relatives or property, hence the friendship of Wuwukihíga with the poor orphan boy. Wuwukihíga is the famous Waterspirit Traveler, who transformed himself into human form apparently in order to augment his power by receiving blessings obtainable only through fasting. However, as we later learn, the orphan himself originated from the Waterspirit Spirit village.

"that kind" — that is, they cut out the tongues and stuffed them into a fat segment of intestine, and packing them in this way, they took them back to the village. Normally, in a community hunt, the intestines would be processed by old women. The tongues were considered an especial delicacy, and to suggest that they could stuff an entire segment of intestine with them implies that they killed a large herd of buffalo. The stuffing of the tongues into the hollow intestines replicates the earlier incident in which Wuwukihíga stored his nannyberries inside a hollow log. The tongues, of course, since they are associated with saliva (’i-nį́ , "mouth water" in Hočąk), are an anatomical part paired with water, and therefore the governors of water, the Waterspirits. Astronomically speaking, the tongues have another Waterspirit association: as light is often represented as sound in Hočąk symbolism, the tongues can also stand for the light of the stars. The buffalo, in astronomy, represent the stars, a vast heard that traverse the expansive plain that is the inner dome of the sky. As creatures of the night, they are in opposition to the Waterspirits, who are associated with the sun and the blue sky, in opposition to the Thunderbirds and their dark clouds. So the two incarnate Waterspirit friends naturally kill the herd of the buffalo-stars as does the sun when it rises in the east and extinguishes their light (= life). This is a four-cornered herd, since the dome of the sky extends to the four quarters of space.

"the reason that they sat on platforms is that they lived in a bark lodge" — these are Thunderbird women, so they have the associations proper to Thunderbirds. Trees are what the Thunders strike the most with their lightning weapons, and in so doing, they are said to "eat" what they strike. Trees, being a kind of food for the Thunderbirds, are therefore associated with them. Trees also extend into the upper world, and therefore become associated with the Upper Moiety and the creatures, organic and supernatural, who belong by nature to this higher realm. Therefore, it is not surprising that the human Thunderbird Clan women make their lodges out of bark, in contradistinction to the Waterspirit reed lodge made by Wuwukihiga's sister. Being of the upper world, it is natural for them to rest upon platforms, which situate them above the earth as is appropriate to their ultimate provenance.

"she covered them in bear skin robes" — the Hočągara do not have a formal wedding rite. For all practical purposes, if a man has sexual intercourse with a woman, he has married her. In a story, the nuptials that seal the marriage are symbolized by a relative of the older generation throwing a cover over the couple when they first lay down together.

"to the chief" — this was for son-in-law service. When a young man married, he would move in with his wife's family and hunt for them. It was a way of compensating them for the loss of a female worker. When a child was born, the new family would then move to where the man lived. Marriage was always between people of opposite moieties, and the chief belonged to the Upper Moiety, usually the Thunderbird Clan. The two friends, therefore, belonged to the Lower Moiety, as we could infer from the fact that they were in reality Waterspirits, and therefore patrons of the Lower Moiety Waterspirit Clan.

"they used deerskin" — coming after a mass slaughter of buffalo, a reference to deerskin may seem cryptic. It is an oblique way of referring to a feast in which sacrifices are made to the Spirits. White deerskins were inscribed with the emblem of a particular Spirit or class of Spirits, then passed upward through the smoke hole of the lodge. The Spirits would then receive a spiritual counterpart to the offering.

"each woman had a child" — these two children have at least a superficial resemblance to the Hero Twins, Ghost and Flesh. They prove to be immensely powerful, even to the point of being able to travel to the Spirit World at will, and to do as they please there. However, the Twins are half brothers, whereas the two children of the Waterspirit friends have no blood relationship. Oddly enough, they both refer to Wuwukihíga's sister's husband as "uncle" (hitek). Nevertheless, unlike the Twins, the idea that one is dominant over the other is never developed in this version of the story. This asymmetrical relationship is rather more obvious between the two fathers, Wuwukihíga and his orphan friend. It is Wuwukihíga himself who most recalls Ghost. Like the dominant Twin, he is strongly associated with water and with wildness, seemingly having neither father nor mother, and running about the wilderness unclothed. Ghost discovers his brother just as Wuwukihíga discovers his sister. She raises him on ground beans, recalling Ghost's taunt to Flesh:

Hure! hure-é-é! hure! hure-é-é!
But I have a tree stump for a grandmother,
I eat only ground beans.
But you have a father,
and eat only flesh;
Hure-é-é! hure! hure-é-é! hure! hure-é-é!

A hollow stump is a "grandmother" to Ghost, and Wuwukihíga stores his wuwu berries, a special Waterspirit food, in a hollow log. His introduction to society consists of eating the very food that marks Ghost as a wild spirit. One of the particularly singular features of the ground bean, or bean without a back, is that they are hoarded by various species of mice and voles. The mouse, as I have shown elsewhere, is strongly associated with the wild Twin. This is made explicit in Flesh's counter-taunt to Ghost:

You only have a timbermouse for a grandmother,
and you only eat ground beans;
Huré, huré,
Ha-a, ha-a!

The bean mouse is the inverse of the common mouse: it stores food in a larder which is raided by humans.14 The mouse is a transverser of boundaries, in particular that of the wild and the domestic. In this respect, he is like Ghost, in that the soul crosses over the boundary between nature and the wild, and the Flesh, which is found in the human world of the domestic and tame. Ghost, as a wild being of nature, is strongly associated with water. This is because water is "wild" in having no natural boundary to its nature, which is fluid and inherently unconstrained. Therefore, the Waterspirit, which is the underlying nature of water, must also be of this fluid, unrestrained, undefined nature. This is why Wuwukihíga so much resembles Ghost.

"shined" — this attribute expresses her Waterspirit nature, as bodies of water have a sheen under sunlight. Money metal, which was minted typically with the image of the current President of the United States on its obverse, superseded the old Mississippian style gorgets made of shell. Normally, chiefs wore such medallions, so her possession of a money necklace also suggests that she belongs to a chiefly family, and that the Waterspirits on this earth also hold a position of rule over the Lower Moiety.

"watery" — we would say today that they drooled over her. This is just the effect one might expect from a Waterspirit woman.

"by means of a formal request, they had obtained the right" — this is a single word, hagú. This word is defined by Helmbrecht-Lehmann as, "to get, to obtain, to fetch, to retrieve, to obtain on request (from an uncle) according to tribal custom, to ask for and get from maternal uncle". They requested this favor presumably through fasting. This was a very great blessing, considering that their wives, being princesses, were of the Thunderbird Clan, and the Thunderbirds are the mortal enemies of the Waterspirits. Only by becoming human and gaining the powers of those who fast, could Traveler (as Wuwukihíga) obtain a wife of Thunderbird affinities.

"chiefs" — the Waterspirit Clan is often said to be the chiefs of the Lower Moiety. Since cross-moiety marriage is an imperative, it is appropriate for their sister, who is of the Waterspirit Clan, to marry a tribal chief, since that office is held by someone from the Thunderbird Clan, the chief of the Upper Moiety. This becomes ironic at a theological level, since the supernatural Thunderbirds and Waterspirits fight each other unremittingly.

"the sister's husband did not come away with her" — keeping in mind that he was a chief, the fact that he is of Thunderbird patronage or descent would make him unacceptable in a Waterspirit Spiritland.

"fast" — as we noted above, it was very unusual for reincarnated spirits to fast, since they possessed strong supernatural capabilities in their own right.

"[he] was not like anything" — this Hočąk expression, hįké wažą žésgenįže, means that he was beside himself. In other words, his state of mind could not be compared to anything.

"their father's parents" — this is Wuwukihíga's (Traveler's) parents, the Chief of the Waterspirits and his wife.

"bear" — often great spirits will kill a formidable opponent as if it were a game animal, and then characterize it as a lesser and harmless species. The Thunderbirds refer to deer as "grasshoppers," for instance. In this context, however, we should recognize that like Thunderbirds, Waterspirits come in many varieties. One of these is the Bear Waterspirit. The allusion may therefore suggest to the mind of the listener that the children who were killed were Bear Waterspirits. In which case, they would have indeed been formidable opponents.

Links: Waterspirits, Bluehorn, Traveler.

Stories: in which Waterspirits occur as characters: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells, The Lost Child, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bluehorn's Nephews, Holy One and His Brother, The Seer, The Creation of the World (vv. 1, 4), Šųgepaga, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, The Waterspirit of Lake Koshkonong, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Devil's Lake — How it Got its Name, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Waterspirit of Sugar Loaf Mounds, Lakes of the Wazija Origin Myth, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, The Diving Contest, The Lost Blanket, Redhorn's Sons, The Phantom Woman, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Great Walker's Warpath, White Thunder's Warpath, The Descent of the Drum, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2), The Two Children, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧábᵉra, Ocean Duck, The Twin Sisters, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The King Bird, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Heną́ga and Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, The Story of the Medicine Rite, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spiritual Descent of John Rave's Grandmother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Shaggy Man, The Woman who Married a Snake (?), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake; about Bear Waterspirits: The Shaggy Man, Snowshoe Strings; featuring Turtle as a character: The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Turtle's Warparty, Turtle and the Giant, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Turtle and the Merchant, Redhorn's Father, Redhorn's Sons, Turtle and the Witches, The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Trickster Soils the Princess, Morning Star and His Friend, Grandfather's Two Families, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Kunu's Warpath, Redhorn Contests the Giants, Redhorn and His Brothers Marry, The Skunk Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Porcupine and His Brothers, The Creation of Man, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee, The Chief of the Heroka, The Spirit of Gambling, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Markings on the Moon (v. 2), The Green Man, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way; featuring Turtle's Wife as a character: Turtle and the Merchant, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Trickster Soils the Princess, Redhorn's Father; featuring Traveler as a character: Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Lost Blanket; mentioning springs: Trail Spring, Vita Spring, Merrill Springs, Big Spring and White Clay Spring, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Bear Clan Origin Myth, vv. 6, 8, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Bluehorn's Nephews, Blue Mounds, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Lost Child, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Wild Rose, The Omahas who turned into Snakes, The Two Brothers, Snowshoe Strings, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, The Two Boys, Waruǧábᵉra, Wazųka, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Turtle and the Witches.

The episode of Turtle's courtship is essentially identical with that of Trickster Soils the Princess and The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee.

Themes: a brother and sister live alone together: The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Green Man; a man is transformed when he dives into the water from a particular place: Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Woman who Married a Snake, The Diving Contest; hunters kill so much game that they can only pack the tongues: Redhorn's Father, The Roaster, The Twins Visit Their Father's Village, Grandfather's Two Families; hunters kill an entire four cornered herd of buffalo: The Roaster, The Twins Visit Their Father's Village; hunters kill an entire herd of animals: Redhorn's Father, The Roaster, The Twins Visit Their Father's Village, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Snowshoe Strings, Morning Star and His Friend, The Two Boys; boys playing with spirit children, killing them, and having the spirit chief revive them: The Shaggy Man; a spirit comes into existence as a fully mature human being but in a state of total amnesia: Morning Star and His Friend, Wears White Feather on His Head, Little Human Head; description of a courtship outfit: The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, Redhorn's Father, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster Soils the Princess, The Dipper; red as a symbolic color: The Journey to Spiritland (hill, willows, reeds, smoke, stones, haze), The Gottschall Head (mouth), The Chief of the Heroka (clouds, side of Forked Man), The Red Man (face, sky, body, hill), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (neck, nose, painted stone), Redhorn's Father (leggings, stone sphere, hair), The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father (hair, body paint, arrows), Wears White Feather on His Head (man), The Birth of the Twins (turkey bladder headdresses), The Two Boys (elk bladder headdresses), Trickster and the Mothers (sky), Rich Man, Boy, and Horse (sky), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo Spirit), Bluehorn Rescues His Sister (buffalo head), Wazųka (buffalo head headdress), The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (horn), The Brown Squirrel (protruding horn), Bear Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Deer Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (stick at grave), Pigeon Clan Origins (Thunderbird lightning), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks (eyes), Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (scalp, woman's hair), The Race for the Chief's Daughter (hair), The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy (hair), Redhorn Contests the Giants (hair), Redhorn's Sons (hair), The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle (hair), A Wife for Knowledge (hair), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (hair), The Hočągara Contest the Giants (hair of Giantess), A Man and His Three Dogs (wolf hair), The Red Feather (plumage), The Man who was Blessed by the Sun (body of Sun), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (body of the Warrior Clan Chief), Red Bear, Eagle Clan Origin Myth (eagle), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (Waterspirit armpits), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Waterspirits), The Roaster (body paint), The Man who Defied Disease Giver (red spot on forehead), The Wild Rose (rose), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (warclub), Įčorúšika and His Brothers (ax & packing strap), Hare Kills Flint (flint), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head (edges of flint knives), The Seduction of Redhorn's Son (cloth), Yųgiwi (blanket); (three or) four young women, one of whom is a princess, encounter a suitor while they are bringing wood to an old woman's lodge: Redhorn's Father, Morning Star and His Friend, Trickster Soils the Princess, The Two Boys, The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee; Turtle interrupts his gambling game to go meet friends he says that he was expecting yesterday: Redhorn's Father, Trickster Soils the Princess, Morning Star and His Friend; in human form, Waterspirit women are extraordinarily beautiful: The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Phantom Woman, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2); Turtle courts a chief's daughter with his friend, but is rebuffed by being pushed off her platform bed: Trickster Soils the Princess, The Father of the Twins Attempts to Flee; marriage to a yųgiwi (princess): Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Big Stone, Partridge's Older Brother, Redhorn's Sons, The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, The Roaster, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, The Two Boys, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Shaggy Man, The Thunderbird, The Red Feather, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Birth of the Twins (v. 3), Trickster Visits His Family, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, Redhorn's Father, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Morning Star and His Friend, Thunderbird and White Horse, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Shakes the Earth, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga; an orphan rises from obscurity to become chief: The Red Man, Partridge's Older Brother, The Red Feather, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Roaster, The Chief of the Heroka; a human lives with Waterspirits: The Nannyberry Picker, The King Bird, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Phantom WomanThe King Bird, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Phantom Woman.

Genealogy: Traveler Genealogy.


1 Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago V, #16: 1-67 (syllabic text); with an English translation in Paul Radin, "Wuwukihiga," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Notebook 45: 1-67.

2 Capt. Don Saunders, When the Moon is a Silver Canoe. Legends of the Wisconsin Dells (Wisconsin Dells, Wisc.: Don Saunders, 1947) 74. Jipson identifies it with the related black haw, Viburnum prunifolium. Its range, however, does not extend into Wisconsin. Norton William Jipson, Story of the Winnebagoes (Chicago: The Chicago Historical Society, 1923) 308, s.v. "haw (black)"; 393, s.v. wu-wu. Gilmore identifies Viburnum lentago as black haw and nannyberry indifferently. Melvin Randolph Gilmore, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, Thirty-Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1911-12 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1919) 87. Also identifying wuwu as the nannyberry is Natalie Davis, Ho-Chunk Plants: Indigenous Plants of Winnebago Reservation, Nebraska (Winnebago, Nebraska: Little Priest College, 2010) 81, s.v. Viburnum lentago, Nannyberry.

3 Henry David Thoreau, Bradley P. Dean, Wild Fruits: Thoreau's Rediscovered Last Manuscript (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001) 145 (October 13, 1860).

4 R. A. Johnson, "The Fall Food Habits of the Ruffed Grouse in the Syracuse Area of New York," The Auk, 45, #3 (July, 1928): 330-333 [331-332]. M. C. Witmer and P. J. Van Soest, "Contrasting Digestive Strategies of Fruit-Eating Birds," Functional Ecology, 12, #5 (Oct., 1998): 728-741 [737]. A. Marguerite Baumgartner, "Food and Feeding Habits of the Tree Sparrow," The Wilson Bulletin, 49, #2 (June, 1937): 65-80 [67-68].

5 Huron H. Smith, "Ethnobotany of the Ojibwe Indians," Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, 4, #3 (May 2, 1932): 327-525 [361].

6 Katie Letcher Lyle, The Wild Berry Book: Romance, Recipes & Remedies (Chanhassen: Northword Press, 1994) 66.

7 Alice Henkel, American Medicinal Barks (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1909) 49. It is described as being a "urinary aid" among the Chippewa (Ojibwe) in Daniel E. Moerman, Native American Medicinal Plants: an Ethnobotanical Dictionary (Portland, Oregon: Timber PressMay 18, 2009) 509; James A. Duke, (Boston: Quarterman Publications, 1986) 166; James E. Meeker, Joan E. Elias, John A. Heim, Plants used by the Great Lakes Ojibwa (Odanah, Wisconsin: Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, 1993) 267. Davis, Ho-Chunk Plants, 81, s.v. Viburnum lentago, Nannyberry.

8 Joseph Price Remington, The Practice of Pharmacy (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1917) 1186.

9 Fanny D. Bergen, "Popular American Plant-Names. IV. Ranunculaceæ," The Journal of American Folklore, 9, #34. (July - Sept., 1896) 179-193 [190, s.v. Viburnum lentago].

10 Davis, Ho-Chunk Plants, 12, s.v. Amphicarpaea bracteata, falcata comosa, Ground Bean, American Hog Peanut.

11 Gilmore, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, Plate 16.

12 Melvin R. Gilmore, "Food Stored by the Bean Mouse," Journal of Mammalogy, 1, #3 (May, 1920): 157. See also, Gilmore, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, 60-61.

13 Howard Saunders, An Illustrated Manual of British Birds (London: Gurney, 1899) 522.

14 Remington, The Practice of Pharmacy, 1186.

15 Vernon Bailey, "Identity of the Bean Mouse of Lewis and Clark," Journal of Mammalogy, 1 (1920): 70-72. Vernon Bailey, A Biological Survey of North Dakota. I. Physiograpy and Life Zones. II. The Mammals," North American Fauna (1926): 49. O A, Stevens, "The Leguminous Plants of North Dakota," North Dakota Agricultural Experimental Station, Bimonthly Bulletin, 2, #2 (1939): 8-11. Edward Harrison Graham, "Legumes for Erosion Control and Wildlife," Miscellaneous Publications, 412 (Washington: United States Dept. of Agriculture, 1941) 29.