Sand Pillow

Francis R. Perry
retold by Richard L. Dieterle

Near the town of Winnebago Mission in Wisconsin is a small Hocąk settlement known as "Sand Pillow." This is the story behind its name.

Once the Tomah Band ran across the Black River Band while they were on a hunting expedition. That night they made camp, and the Tomah men put up tents with all their accouterments and settled down for a good night's sleep. The Black River band was not quite so well supplied. Each member of that band laid down wrapped in a blanket, and scooped up some sand to use as a pillow.

Later the Black River men had learned that the Tomah people had joked about them, saying, "They are so poor that they use sand for pillows." The former chafed at the insult.

Sometime afterwards, near Winnebago Mission there was to be a new housing project and a contest was undertaken to give it a name. These units were a great improvement over tents, so a member of the Black River Band, Melinda Walker Greengrass, submitted the winning entry worth $25, a name rich in retributive irony. That name was "Sand Pillow."1

Commentary. "Tomah Band" — this was also known as the "Blue Wing Band." Another informant says that it was really the Nebraska Band that had come up for a visit. These events transpired, he said, ca. 1912.

Links: The Wazija.

Stories: about the founding of a village: The Chief of the Heroka (Nįžįra ǧaǧará), River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake (Old River Bottom), Manawa Village Origin Myth (Manawa), Winneconnee Origin Myth (Winneconnee).

Themes: ...


1 In a letter from Francis Perry to V. J. Vogel (Sept. 29, 1986), quoted in Virgil J. Vogel, Indian Names on Wisconsin’s Map (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991) 99 and 256-257 nt 46. His informants were Melinda Walker Greengrass and Bernard Eagle.