White Thunder's Warpath

by John Hazen Hill (Xetenišaraga, "Wren")


John Hazen Hill

"When the Hočągara lived on the banks of the Great Lake (Lake Winnebago) they had a chief named White Thunder. He had fasted there four years and the spirit who was in charge of the lake blessed him with a warpath in which he was to kill two people.

So he got ready to go on the warpath and he took with him as many young men a he could find that had not had anything to do with women. He sent these boys out to hunt for him, and they brought him the animals he wanted, for he was going to give a Winter Feast. As soon as the animals were brought in they were prepared by the attendants and put into kettles. When all was in readiness, messengers were sent out to inform the people and to invite them to attend the feast. All the men who could possibly attend were invited. It was a large feast, as the chief of the village was giving it. Besides this, he had fasted for four years. The people were very glad that he was going on the warpath. When all the plates were filled he rose and told them that he was going on the warpath, in what direction he was going, and how many people he would take along.

As soon as the sisters of the young men had made moccasins and everything else was in readiness, they started out for the place where they were to pitch camp. It was a very large warparty. When they got to the lake they got into boats. Finally, when evening was near, they pitched their camp and slept. At daybreak they started again. All day they traveled and toward evening they pitched camp and slept. Four days they traveled. On the fourth day they offered tobacco to their leader. He took the tobacco and rising, poured it on the ground as an offering to his grandfathers. Then he told them what he was going for and the young men were very glad.

The Chippewa [Anishinaabeg] were a great people who possessed two holy (wákąčąk) men who were possessed of great knowledge. These two, however, were the ones whom the leader had obtained as a blessing (to kill). He had fasted very long and those in charge of wars had blessed him with two holy persons. These Chippewas were holy but they were not aware of their fate. Then the leader appointed his scouts and also four fleet runners. They got to the village without anyone noticing them and soon they returned. They reported that the people of the village which they were to attack were absolutely unaware of the presence of a warparty. All night long they were busy getting ready, and early in the morning they intended rushing the enemy. Then the leader said, "Young men, one Chippewa will be braver than the others. That one belongs to me. We will kill him. The other is an old woman whom we are to capture. These two are the only holy people that they have and we are going to take them with us. You must therefore be very cautious in your acts."

As soon as day began to break, the men took their paint from their warbundles and painted themselves. When they were ready they packed up their warbundles again and rushed upon the enemy, giving a war whoop at the same time. A man came running toward them instantly. He was a fearful looking person (so the Chippewa thought). Then they rushed through the village and killed the holy man and many besides, although the leader had forbidden them to kill anyone except that one man. Just then the old woman was brought to him bound. She kept on talking and was very brave for she would not give up even at the point of death. Then they put her in a canoe and went across the water.

As they were crossing, the old woman got up and began to sing about a Waterspirit in that lake. When she was finished, White Thunder also got up and sang about the same Waterspirit. When he was through the woman was thrown into the water and sacrificed, making a great deal of noise as she went. Then the water became very rough, but White Thunder sang again and left the water. The spirit living in those waters had blessed both people; but he had blessed White Thunder more. The woman was very clever, but nonetheless, she was sacrificed. It is said that a white Waterspirit living in those waters had blessed them.

White Thunder had once had a brother who had been killed by the Chippewa. It was for that reason that he had fasted for four years. It was the two people that were of the greatest benefit to the Chippewa who were killed in revenge. Nearly all the people in the village were also killed. If anyone, therefore, readily humbles himself and fasts much, he will be blessed with great powers. Some men for that reason almost kill themselves by fasting, so the old people say. White Thunder had been given a great blessing for he really kept his mind concentrated when he was fasting. So in the olden times people encouraged one another to fast. White Thunder fasted well, and was therefore blessed with a good warpath. His desire was fulfilled. His brother had been killed by the Chippewa and his heart had been made sad. So he fasted and killed two Chippewa. That is what the Hočągara used to do in the beginning, it is said. And it was thus that a man would be able to make a name for himself, we are told.1


Commentary. This story answers an interesting question for us. Suppose that someone has been blessed by a spirit to be invulnerable to attack, and another person is blessed by the same spirit to succeed in an attack, how are these conflicts resolved? In this case, the man offered his prisoner, who had been blessed by the white Waterspirt, to that very spirit, trumping the old woman's standing. By offering the superlative sacrifice, a human being, White Thunder has made a sacrifice that cannot be matched by his foes. Therefore, he will recieve the greater blessing.


Links: Introduction, Waterspirits, Lake Winnebago.


Stories: about famous Hočąk warriors and warleaders: How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Masaxe War (Hogimasąga), 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), 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, 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, They Owe a Bullet (Pawnee Shooter); 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 Nannyberry Picker, 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, 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, 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, Waruǧápara, 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, 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; mentioning white Waterspirits: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth; mentioning the Anishinaabeg (Chippewa, Ojibway): White Fisher, Great Walker and the Anishinaabe Witches, The Masaxe War, 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 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), 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), Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (Warpath Feast), Kunu's Warpath (Warpath Feast), Trickster's Warpath (Warpath Feast), The Masaxe War (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 at Lake Winnebago (Te Xete): Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The First Fox and Sauk War, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 2), The Great Fish, The Wild Rose, The Two Boys, Great Walker's Warpath, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Fox-Hočąk War, Holy Song, First Contact (v. 2), The Two Children (?).


Themes: a person who fasts receives blessings from the spirits: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Redhorn's Sons, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Seer, Maize Comes to the Hočągara, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Thunderbird, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, Great Walker's MedicineŠųgepaga, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, Heną́ga and Star Girl, A Man's Revenge, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Man who Defied Disease Giver, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Diving Contest, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Holy Song, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Completion Song Origin, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, Sunset Point, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights; spirits bless someone with the right to kill a man ("give him a man"): Šųgepaga, A Man's Revenge, Great Walker's Warpath, The Masaxe War, Little Fox and the Ghost, Thunderbird and White Horse; a warparty gives its leader tobacco so that he might reveal to them what victories the spirits have placed in his hands: The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Šųgepaga, Great Walker's Warpath, The Dogs of the Chief's Son; a warleader is given two very holy men by the spirits, and in spite of their powers, these men have no idea that they are being approached by a warparty: The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons; scouts spy on the enemy (from a hill) without being seen: The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Moiety Origin Myth, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Worúxega; using body paint stored in a warbundle: Waruǧápara, The Red Man, Paint Medicine Origin Myth; descriptions of human warfare: Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The Warbundle Maker, The First Fox and Sauk War, Great Walker's Medicine, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Wazųka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, The Fox-Hočąk War, Great Walker's Warpath, White Fisher, The Lame Friend, The Osage Massacre, A Man's Revenge, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, They Owe a Bullet, The Spanish Fight, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), Tobacco Man and Married Man; something is of a (symbolic) pure white color: White Bear, Deer Spirits, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), White Flower, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Fleetfooted Man, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Worúxega, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket (white spirits), Skunk Origin Myth, He Who Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Messengers of Hare, The Brown Squirrel, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Bladder and His Brothers, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Dipper, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Creation of the World (v. 12), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Descent of the Drum, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5), The Diving Contest, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Grandmother's Gifts, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Completion Song Origin, North Shakes His Gourd, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Peace of Mind Regained; someone is offered to a Waterspirit: The Shaggy Man, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, Waruǧápara, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Seer.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, How White Thunder Killed Two Chippewas, Notebooks, Winnebago IV, #7, Freeman #3860 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Story 7g: 159-161.