Ho-Chunk Oral Tradition

Origin Story

In the beginning, Earthmaker sat in space and there was nothing around him. He became conscious and realized there was nothing there. He wondered what he should do, and he began to cry. Tears flowed from his eyes and fell down below him. He looked down and saw something bright: it was his tears which had fallen and formed the oceans, lakes, and streams. Earthmaker thought some more. He realized that if he thought of something, it would simply appear. He thought of light and it became light. Then he wished for the earth, and the earth came into existence. Earthmaker looked at the earth and thought it was fine, but it was not quiet and steady; it moved like waves on the ocean. Then he made the trees, but they did not make the earth steady. Then he made grass and rocks and stones and they helped to steady and quiet the earth, but it wasn't really steady yet. So then he made the four directions and the four winds and he placed one at each corner of the earth to hold it down and steady it. But still the earth was not quite steady. He then made four large snake-beings and threw them down to the earth, and they fell through the earth to the place underneath. Then the earth was steady and quiet.

The earth and the trees were all formed, but Earthmaker thought of something else He took a piece of clay and shaped it so it looked just like him. He talked to the small form, but it did not answer because he had not given it a mind. He talked to it again, and again it did not answer, and he realized that he had not given it a tongue. He made a tongue for it but still it could not talk. He gave it a soul and breathed into its mouth and it answered him.

Earthmaker was proud of this being made in his own likeness, and he made three more of them, and made them powerful so they could watch over the earth. He made these beings the chiefs of the Thunderbirds. And then he thought he should populate the world with other beings, and he made four more beings and they were four brothers. He showed them the earth and told them that they would be living there. Before they left, he gave them a plant, saying, "This is important. I cannot grow this myself, but you can, and if you offer me some I will accept it and give you what you ask." The plant he gave them was tobacco. At the same time, he also gave them fire so they could live on the earth.

The four chiefs of the Thunderbirds brought the four brothers to earth and set them down at a place called Red Banks near Green Bay. The first thing they did on earth was to start their fire.

Earthmaker realized that he had not made anything for them to eat, so he made animals and gave them bows and arrows to hunt with. They soon came back to camp with some deer they had killed, and to show their thanks to Earthmaker, they took some of the meat and fat and threw them into the fire so Earthmaker could smell their offering to him through the smoke.

Other people were also on the earth and came to visit the four brothers, who were of the Thunder Clan. The War Clan people came from the west, and were followed by the Deer Clan, then the Snake Clan, the Elk Clan, the Bear Clan, and the Fish Clan. The Water Spirit Clan and all the other clans also came and joined them. They all made a feast and offered some of the meat and some tobacco to Earthmaker. The four brothers showed all of the other clans how to make and use fire. The last clan to join them was the dog or wolf, which came sniffing around camp and eating the cast off deer bones. They took it into their homes and made it one of their clans. From that point forward, the people of the different clans began to marry one another. To prevent them from marrying their own relatives, the people of the upper clans married the people of the lower clans.

One day, the oldest Thunder Clan brother lay down and did not breathe and grew cold. No one knew what was the matter. For four days he lay there, and no one knew what to do. They mourned his passing by fasting and blackening their faces with ashes and charcoal. They built and made a platform and laid him on it. It was snowing and the three remaining brothers traveled to the east to ask the wind spirit there what to do. He did not know what to do, and suggested they seek out the spirit of the north wind. They traveled to the north, where that spirit kept the north corner of the world tied down. The north wind did not know what to do and directed them to seek out the west wind. Again, the west wind did not know what to do, and recommended that they ask the south wind. When they reached the lodge of the south wind, they entered, and all of the winds were sitting around the fire. They asked the west wind what had happened to their brother and what they should do, and all of the wind spirits answered. They explained about death, and that the souls of the deceased would live in a village in the west especially for them. The eldest brother of the Thunder Clan would be the chief of this village because he was the first to die.

The three brothers thanked the spirits and traveled home. There they dressed their brother in his best clothes and buried him facing the west to speed him on his journey. They also food and tobacco on his journey to the west to offer to any which might hinder his way. Thus the world was created and the Ho-Chunk took their place in it.

(Adapted from Paul Radin, 1990, The Winnebago Tribe, Lincoln: University of Nebraska.)

The Origin of the Wolf Clan

The ancestors of the Wolf clan were all wolves. Long ago, the Wolf people had no clothing and did not know how to use fire. At the time of creation, Earthmaker made four brothers: Green Wolf, Black Wolf, White Wolf, and Gray Wolf, and these four were the ancestors of the Wolf clan. At that time, these four kinds of wolves lived on the earth's surface, but after a while, all but the Gray Wolf went to live in one of the realms below the earth's surface. They only appear above ground on rare occasions.

After a while, the Gray Wolves became Indians, and they were the ancestors of the Wolf Clan. This mythical ancestry can be seen in the names given to boys in Wolf Clan families among the Ho-Chunk. The first born son is named "Clear Blue Sky" meaning "day" after the first mythical Wolf brother. The second son is called "Black Wolf" after the second wolf brother, and the name refers to night. The third son was named "White Wolf" and the fourth "Gray Fur."

(Adapted from J. Owen Dorsey, 1889, "Winnebago Folk-lore Notes," Journal of American Folk-lore 2[5]:140.)

The Origin of Corn

At the beginning of time, there was no corn. From one of the two breasts of Mother Earth, a plant grew: it was the corn plant with its ears of corn. From the other breast grew the tobacco plant used by Indian people as a sacred offering.

The Ho-Chunk raised a great deal of corn and had a number of different varieties: yellow corn, red corn, sweet corn, white flint corn, and blue flint corn. There were more than 50 ways to prepare the corn for eating.

(Adapted from Dorothy Moulding Brown, 1940, "Wisconsin Indian Corn Origin Myths," Wisconsin Archeologist 21[1]:19-27.)

How a Bear Blessed a Man

One band of Ho-Chunks used to give a feast to the bears. A bear had blessed one of their members with long life and success in war. It was a spirit bear that blessed him. The man was fasting and the spirit bear came to him and said, "Human, I bless you. In war, you will do well and be able to kill the enemy." This is what the man dreamed and he was happy. Then the spirit bear said, "Human, I said that I blessed you and I meant it. Earthmaker created me and gave me a great deal of power. Earthmaker has granted you a certain number of years of life, and I bless you with these also. I also offer you the blessing of my body: Whenever you are hungry and want to kill a bear, offer some tobacco to me. If you do that and go hunting, you will be successful. I am the chief of the bears and I have never blessed a human being before, but I bless you and your descendants. To continue this blessing, you and your descendants should hold feasts in my honor and offer me food and tobacco and I will bless them with long lives and success in war."

(Adapted from Paul Radin, 1990, The Winnebago Tribe, Lincoln: University of Nebraska.)

The Wild Rose

A long time ago, a large gray wolf was hanging around a Ho-Chunk village. The men tried to catch it using traps and bow and arrow, but they could never catch the wolf.

Hitcoga's mother began to think that her daughter went to the spring more times than was actually needed. So Hitcoga's father, the Witch Man, followed her and hid nearby. He saw her come from the forest with the wolf by her side. The wolf was talking to her. When they reached a gap in the trees, the wolf took off his fur coat. Hitcoga's father saw that he was a man, and he was dressed in white deerskin decorated with shells.

The Wolf Man took Hitcoga by the hand and led her to where her father was hiding and said, "My people live far away on the shores of a great lake. I want your daughter for my wife." The Wolf Man led Hitcoga away with him.

Hitcoga and the Wolf Man traveled a long way and finally came to the land of the Wolf People, the home of her husband. The Wolf People did not like Hitcoga; they played tricks on her and gossiped about her, but she didn't care because she and her husband loved each other and had a good life.

Some years later, a great sickness came to the Wolf People, and Hitcoga's husband was one of the first to die. Without him, she was sad and lonely with her husband's people. The sickness spread and the Wolf People began to say that she was the cause of it; they said she was evil and that she must die to save the remaining Wolf People.

Hitcoga certainly didn't want to die, she just wanted to get back to her own people. Then she remembered a small white bag her husband had given her which she wore at her belt. He had said, "The bag is full of sharp pointed sticks. When you are in great trouble, just throw them all around you."

So Hitcoga was prepared when the Wolf Men came after her. She ran and threw out some of the sticks. As the sticks hit the ground, they grew up into thick hedges of wild roses, which allowed her to get ahead of the Wolf Men. She ran toward the land of her people at the end of Lake Winnebago, with the Wolf People in pursuit. When they got too close, she threw more sticks and they grew into wild roses that held back the Wolf People. The hedges were thick and full of thorns.

She ran and ran, scattering the sticks. Finally only one stick was left. She cried out to the Creator to help her. The Great answered, "Take the thorn and prick your skin; let one drop of blood fall into the white skin bag." She did this and suddenly the bag was refilled with sticks. Since she had more sticks for protection, she made it safely to her home on the shore of Lake Winnebago.

The roses still grow in long hedges, and are pink like the color of a drop of blood on white skin. All of them grew from the thorns which were thrown by Hitcoga, the daughter of the Witch Man, as she made her way back to the Ho-Chunk people.

(Adapted from Niles Behncke, 1939, "Winnebagoland Legends," Wisconsin Archeologist 20[2]:31-34.)

The Warrior of High Cliff

At the end of Lake Winnebago, there are high limestone cliffs, and at the top of these cliffs stands an old weather-worn cedar tree. One day, a Ho-Chunk warrior lay in the shelter of the cliffs in a bark lodge. He dreamed of the warriors who had died in battle there and were buried on the hillside above him. A storm approached, and an eagle sat in the branches of the old cedar, adding his screams to the sound of the storm.

As the warrior dreamed, the Eagle -- the God of Thunder -- came to him a with a message from the departed warriors: "Come to us and tell us about what has happened to our families and to our people since we passed on."

Unable to sleep, the warrior got up and walked out into the storm. He heard the eagle calling, and he crossed the beach and launched his canoe and paddled along the shore. All around him, the storm was crashing and he knew the departed warriors were meeting; the lightning was the flash of their tomahawks as they danced around the campfire. He steered for a while, then suddenly his long strokes took him quickly toward the center of lake where he had seen the lightning enter the water. From what he had been told, he knew that where the lightning entered the water was the gateway to the meeting place of the departed.

He paddled on and on, listening for the sound of voices. As the storm raged stronger around him, he called on the Great Spirit for strength and to help him guide the canoe. He offered wampum beads, arrows, and eagle feathers to the God of the Storm and threw them into the water.

With one final flash of lightning, it became quiet. The water grew calm and he heard the voices of the departed warriors. They asked him questions about their families, about the harvest, and about how the people's hunting had gone. He answered all these questions and more. In payment for this news, the departed warriors told him where to find rich rice beds and sources of flint and pipestone, and where the deer and beaver wintered. They knew that their people needed this information to live well and be happy.

In the morning, the storm had passed and the sky was clear. The women went with their baskets to gather berries, the old men sat in front of their wigwams in the sun, the young men went out to fish and hunt. As the children played on the beach, an overturned canoe drifted to the shore. The people passed the word that the young warrior had joined his brothers in the land of the departed. He did not return to his people and failed to carry the message which would have brought them better things.

(Adapted from Niles Behncke, 1939, "Winnebagoland Legends," Wisconsin Archeologist 20[2]:31-34.)

The Fox and the Grease Kettle

The animals held a council to determine who should carry the most fat on their bodies. In the center of the council lodge sat a large kettle of grease or fat, which was to be divided up among them. Suddenly, the crafty Fox jumped into it and came out very fat. The Bear, who was the leader of the council, told all the other animals to quickly catch the Fox and hold him. They caught him and all the fat was squeezed out of him except a little above his front legs. Because of his tricks, he was cast out of the council.

Then, all of the other animals took their turn in entering the grease kettle and each came out with the proper amount of fat on their bodies. That is why the fox is never fat.

(Adapted from John Blackhawk, 1928, "Thunder Mountain Legend," Wisconsin Archeologist 7[4]:230.)

The King Bird

The King Bird is the chief of the lower birds -- those birds who live nearer the earth. Once, there was a Ho-Chunk village, and the chief of that village had two sons and a daughter. At one point, the elder son disgraced himself. The chief was upset and ashamed, and sewed his son into a bearskin and threw him into the Wisconsin River. As he drifted in the river and sank, a Water Spirit rescued him and adopted him.

The village broke camp and moved away, but the chief's younger son stayed behind under a protruding bank of the river after everyone had gone. The bank caved in on him, but he managed to free himself and walk back to the village. When he got there, all of his people had gone away and he did not know where to follow them.

The King Bird had taken over the area of the abandoned village. He turned himself into an old woman and was building a lodge out of material left from the old lodges. When the young man returned, the King Bird in his disguise as an old woman greeted the young man by calling him grandson. They stayed and lived together in the old village.

When the young man grew older, the grandmother told him to fast. He did so, and was blessed with the knowledge of hearing and understanding the language of the spirits. One day, he heard the spirits say that there was to be a great council of all the spirits. He asked his grandmother if he could go, but she said no. He kept asking her, but she never gave her permission.

One day, he heard the spirits talking about a contest for the chieftainship of all the spirits. As he was crossing a stream by walking on a log, he heard someone sing, "Pull me out and you may be the chief." The song was repeated four times. He hurried home and asked his grandmother to make him a fish net. She made one out of basswood fiber, but it was not strong enough. Then she made one out of nettle fiber, but that was also too weak. She kept on trying one thing and another until finally they had a net that was strong enough.

Then they went to the river and fished out the thing which had been singing there and it was the young man's elder brother, who had been adopted by the Water Spirit and turned into a fish from his waist down. Since he was part fish, the older brother kept asking them to throw him back into the river. They kept giving him water but he continued to ask him to throw him back in the river. Instead, they carried him back to their lodge, but he died before they got back.

The old woman and the young man had prepared a sweat bath lodge to heal the elder brother. The stone was heated and ready, so they put his body into the lodge anyway and gave him a sweat bath, which brought him back to life. The elder brother then was blessed with power to hunt and kill all kinds of game. He kept his promise to the young man and made him chief of all the spirits. When he became chief, he immediately turned into a King Bird.

(Adapted from Oliver Lemere, 1922, "Winnebago Legends," Wisconsin Archeologist 1[2]:66-68.)

The Dogs of the Chief's Son

Once, a Ho-Chunk chief had one son who had two dogs. One was a black dog and the other was spotted black and white. One day, the chief's son went hunting. His father advised him not to take his wife. "If anything happens to you, don't come home without her," the chief said, "for then the people would despise you." But the chief's son took his wife and the two dogs with him.

They came to the hunting place and set up a lodge there. It was the fall of the year. Although the man hunted constantly, he had no success. There came a light snowfall. "Now the hunting ought to be good," the man thought. But there was no sign of any game. Everyday he hunted all day long, but got nothing. The supply of food was getting very low.

The chief's son loved his two dogs very much. He awoke in the middle of the night. There was a noise; it was someone talking. He had never heard those voices before. Then, he realized that the two dogs were talking together. He could understand every word they said. Black-dog was older and larger than Spotted-dog. Black-dog said, "Younger brother, I have failed to help find any game. You are younger than I am. Why don't you try to find something? Our brother the chief's son needs help."

Spotted-dog said, "Oh, I could find something if I wanted to for his sake, but our sister-in-law, his wife, treats me badly. I am sorry, but I don't feel like helping. She treats me like a dog!" Then Black-dog said, "You are always thinking of yourself. How about our older brother? He's always treated us very well. We should scare up some game so they won't go hungry."

"Well," said Spotted-dog, "I could do that easily if he would give me the rest of the food they have, but I'm hungry myself. I can't hunt without food."

The man awoke at daylight. He roused his wife and told her to prepare what remained of their food supply. She did as she was told. When it was cooked, the man told her to put it in a bowl. She did this and brought it to him. Then he cooled the food, stirring it with a spoon, after which he gave it to the two dogs. Then the man spoke to the dogs. He said, "Brothers, since you have lived with me I have always treated you right. I have taken good care of you and brought you up to be my companions. The food we had is all gone and I am giving the last of it to you now. I won't eat a bite of it. I wish that you would go and find some more food, so that we can eat again. I am hungry now." Then he gave the food to the dogs and they ate it all.

After eating, the dogs left the lodge. Immediately, Spotted-dog ran away. Soon they heard him barking a short distance from the camp. The man had hunted at that spot many times and caught nothing. This time, however, he saw that Spotted-dog had found a very large bear. They killed the bear right in his nest, but the bear was so large that they could not pull him out. The man called his wife to help and they got the bear out. It was still early in the morning, so she cooked some bear meat for their breakfast. The dogs also were fed again. After that they hunted again. Spotted-dog located another bear and the chief's son killed a deer. From that time on, they found plenty of game and dried it on a rack for safe keeping.

Once again, the chief's son awoke in the middle of the night. Again, he heard the dogs talking together. Black-dog spoke to his younger brother. "There is a fire coming this way,'' he said, but he was really talking about an enemy. "You can run faster than I can, younger brother. You should go spy on them."

"All right, I can do that," said Spotted-dog, "but I would like to have something to eat before I go." So the man got up and built a fire. Then, he told his wife to prepare some food. When it was ready, he gave the food to the dogs.

After eating, Spotted-dog started out. He traveled for four nights and then came upon the enemy. He heard the leader say that they were going after a man, his wife, and two dogs.

The dog hurried back to the chief's son. Using his spirit power, he was able to make the journey more quickly, and arrived home just before daylight. He told the man that the enemy was four days distant. "They are coming after us," he said. The chief's son then said to Spotted-dog, "Take the news back to the village." Spotted-dog said, "All right, but first give me something to eat." So the man fed him again.

The village was also a  four days' journey away. Spotted-dog arrived there one morning. The people knew that the chief's son had two dogs. They were alarmed to see only one dog return. They thought that all had been killed but this dog.

Spotted-dog entered the chief's lodge. He licked the chief's hands and whined. The chief could not understand what the dog was trying to say. The chief sent for an old woman who was blessed by the spirit of a dog and who was able to converse with dogs. She talked with Spotted-dog and said to him, "Your people are anxious to know why you returned home all alone. Have your brothers and sisters been killed by an enemy?" Spotted-dog said, "I have been trying to tell them but they do not understand me. Stranger enemies are coming. I was sent here to get you to come and help my brothers. They are waiting there for the enemy to come. Give me something to eat and I shall return to help them. Follow my tracks and you will be guided to the place where they are."

The chief sent two town criers to tell all the people. They made preparations and started right away. Each man took extra moccasins with him. Spotted-dog finished eating and started on his return journey. He arrived there that same day. Since they lacked his spirit power, the war party arrived two days later. Spotted-dog spied on the enemy to find out just where they were. Black-dog said, "Our enemy's dream will not come true. I have more power than they have."

When the reinforcements arrived, they were given plenty of food from the hunter's supplies. Then they prepared to fight. There was snow on the ground. Spotted-dog said that the enemy would come the next morning. A great number of the enemy were approaching, so the people set a trap for them and hid on either side of the approach to the camp. The dogs were to give the signal to start fighting because the enemy would pay no attention to the dogs. As soon as all the enemy came within the wings of the trap, the dogs cried four times as instructed. Then those lying in wait started to shoot. The enemy knew then that they were trapped. They were tired from their long journey. Those attacking them had had plenty of food and rest and were fresh for the battle. That is why they killed the enemy easily.

Then the victors started for home. They carried with them all the meat supplies and the scalps of the enemy. From that time on the two dogs were very useful. Black-dog used to know when an enemy was coming and Spotted-dog acted as a spy. He was also clever at hunting.

When Black-dog grew very old, he said to Spotted-dog, "Brother, I am going to leave you. I urge you to remain with our brother, the chief's son, and to help him as long as you live. When you, too, are ready to go, you must come to the place where I will dwell." Black-dog was actually the wolf spirit.

(Adapted from Will C. McKern, 1932, "Winnebago Dog Myths," Year Book of the Public Museum of Milwaukee X:317-22.)

The Dog That Became a Panther

There once was a young man who was a chief's son. He took no interest in hunting and wars. He preferred to go about visiting with the people. His dog was small and light-colored. The man was never known to mistreat his dog.

Some young men planned to go hunting for deer. They thought that they would like to take along the chief's son even though he was never interested in hunting. They thought he would be useful as a camp tender. So they invited him to come along. He accepted their invitation. They hunted for several days.

One day, they discovered men's tracks near the camp. These they observed while returning from hunting. Some said, "Let us return to the village without going back to the camp to get the chief's son. Some enemy awaits us there. If they kill the chief's son, that is only one lost. Let the rest of us escape." So they returned home without telling the chief's son about the strange tracks.

The chief's son was left alone with his dog. He waited for the hunters until it was very late, but they did not come. Then the dog spoke. The chief's son thought that it was strange that a dog should talk. He could understand perfectly every thing that the dog said. He told the chief's son what had taken place and all that had been said by the hunters. "Do not worry, my brother," said the dog, "they won't kill us. You don't need to fight and I'll watch over you tonight. Go right to sleep."

But the young man was afraid to sleep. The dog kept going out and coming in again. "It is nearly dawn now," he said. "Don't go outside when you hear their war whoop. Stay in the lodge. I am going out to fight them. But remember, whatever you do, don't look at me."

Soon after that the dog went out and the fight began. The dog came into the lodge from time to time during the battle. The fight was still raging at midday. Once in a while the chief's son heard a war whoop outside. He wondered about that. He thought it would be fun to look and see what was happening, but the dog had told him not to look at him while he was fighting. Nevertheless the chief's son peeked out the door of the lodge. That was when the dog gave a yelp and ran from the enemy. He came running into the lodge. There was an arrow through his fore paw, which had only happened because the young man had disobeyed the dog's instructions not to look at him. He told the man to pull the arrow out. Then the dog said, "That settles it -- now I'm going to finish them. If you want to join in the fight, just follow me. No harm will come to you."

The chief's son decided to help in the fight. So he left the lodge. The dog was there fighting. He was ferocious and looked like an angry panther. He threw himself at the enemy with increasing rage. The man took his place in the fight beside the panther. Then the panther said, "It is good of you to help me out. We'll soon finish these fellows." Before long, they had killed them all.

Then the panther said, "Now we call return home. We shall take all these scalps with us. Those who returned to the village have reported that we were both killed." So they took the scalps and journeyed homeward. The dog remained in the form of a panther.

Finally they came to the village. Everyone was astonished to see them. The hunters who had returned without them were shamed by their parents, who told them what a great wrong they had done. They had been afraid to fight and had deserted the chief's son. Then they had lied by saying that he was dead.

The panther now told the chief's son, "It is not proper for me to live with you now. I will stay here in the woods. I will know if any of the enemy are coming and always be on hand to help you." After that, the panther would always report to the chief's son the approach of an enemy party. Then the chief's son would go out to engage them in battle. All of the people looked up to him as a brave warrior. And whenever he wished to hunt deer, the panther would join him and together they would kill great quantities of game. Thus, he gained the reputation of a great hunter.

"Now the time has come for me to leave," said the panther, "but whenever you wish to see me and talk with me, I shall meet you at a certain place. There I shall be with you." That is the agreement they made. Then the panther went away, and the people of the village saw him no more.

(Adapted from Will C. McKern, 1932, "Winnebago Dog Myths," Year Book of the Public Museum of Milwaukee X:317-22.)

The Orphan Boy Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds

There once was an orphan boy and his grandmother who lived in a small Ho-Chunk village. The boy had a friend of about the same age. One day, they went out to get hickory wood to make arrows for shooting birds. When these arrows were done, the orphan boy went out hunting hawks and captured a young pigeon-hawk. He took it home and made it into a pet.

One day, he made a small bundle of tobacco and tied it around the hawk's neck. The hawk flew off and returned after a while but without the tobacco bundle. The boy tied another bundle around its neck and the bird flew off, returning again without the bundle. This happened again and again.

The hawk grew to full size, and again the boy again tied a bundle of tobacco around its neck. He thanked the hawk for staying with him so long but explained that now that the bird was fully grown, it could do whatever it wished. The hawk flew away and never returned.

Some time later, the orphan boy and his friend went out to collect dogwood to make pointed arrows. They were searching through some thick brush and accidentally got separated as a storm was coming up. The bad thunder spirits picked up the orphan boy and carried him to their home. His friend looked and looked for him, but finally gave up and went home. Day after day, the friend returned to the same spot to look for the orphan boy, whom he missed very much.

When the bad thunder spirits reached their home with the boy, they put him on the floor and tied his wrists and ankles to stakes. They did not feed him, because they would only eat people who had empty stomachs, and they were waiting until his stomach was empty. They watched him carefully to prevent his escape.

Of course the bad thunder spirits were pleased with their captive, and bragged to everyone about what they had done. The little Pigeon-Hawk that had been the boy's pet heard about it and went to see what everyone was talking about. He recognized the boy who had given him so much tobacco and had taken care of him for so long. Pigeon-Hawk killed some pigeons and roasted them. Hiding the meat under his wings, he went to see the orphan boy. When the bad thunder spirits weren't looking, he dropped some meat in the boy's mouth. He did this for several days, until the bad thunders realized what must be going on. The next time Pigeon-Hawk came, the bad thunders tried to push him out of the door. He stumbled and let himself fall into the fire to be burned, crying out loudly. He then went to his brother, Big Black Hawk, who was the chief of the Thunderbirds. His big brother asked him what the matter was, and little Pigeon-Hawk told him the story of his friend held captive by the bad thunders and about to be eaten by them.

Big Black Hawk was angry with the bad thunders and went to the place where they were holding the boy captive. He told them that they were wrong in bringing this boy up there to be eaten, but he had not said anything. However, since they had also hurt little Pigeon-Hawk, he could no longer let it go. He released the orphan boy and took him away. Little Pigeon-Hawk brought him pigeons, roasted them, and fed him and nursed him back to health because he was almost starved. The boy got strong again and made a bow and arrows and went hunting with little Pigeon-Hawk and lived with him.

After a while, Big Black Hawk told his younger brother that he would have to return his human friend to the earth. Big Black Hawk thanked the boy for staying with them, and gave him a war club to use as a model in making one for himself. Pigeon-Hawk took the boy back to earth and the boy sat down and made a club and gave the original back to Pigeon-Hawk to carry back to his big brother.

The next evening, the orphan boy's friend came to the place where he had disappeared and was surprised to find him there. The orphan boy told his friend to go home and gather the young unmarried people and build a lodge and scent it with white cedar leaves. His friend did as he was told, and the orphan joined them and told the young people to go hunting so they could have a feast. They did as they were told, and soon returned with a large buck. The orphan told them to invite as many people as they wished to the feast. When they all were assembled in the lodge, the orphan told them of his time in the land of the Thunderbirds. They planned a feast for the next day and he told them to go out and get two deer. The next day he again told them of his adventures. On the fourth day, he told them to get four big bears. He and his friend planned to travel around the country, and he told the young men they could come along if they wanted.

They all understood that he meant that he was preparing to go to war, and many joined him. They traveled until noon and the orphan told some of the other young men to go hunting. After supper, he told his companions that he was going to attack a certain camp. The spirit birds and other animals were directing him, so he knew he could find the camp he was looking for.

When all was ready, they started out and found the camp and killed all the people they found there. They kept on going, killing more and more people. After they had attacked the fourth camp, the orphan boy had had enough, and he told his friends that he was going to stop. From that point forward, they would go to war only to attack an enemy or in revenge for the death of one of their own.

(Adapted from Paul Radin, 1909, "Winnebago Tales," Journal of American Folk-Lore 22[85]:288-313.)