by Robert Lincoln
retold by Richard L. Dieterle
When the Hočągara first came into being they were wákąčąk and possessed of powers like those of the spirits. Among their number they had four who were particularly holy. One of these could fly like a bird for four days journey from the village; the second could scent anything within four days journey; the third could converse with the trees, who told him many things; and the fourth was a man who could change himself at will into a buffalo. From the powers of the first three, who could see, hear, or scent the approach of enemies, the village was always safe from surprise attack. The fourth became a buffalo whenever he became angry, making him a great bulwark and power in battle, which spread fear into the enemies of the Hočągara. Thus the Hočągara did whatever they liked, and if they were not attacked themselves, they would bring war to their enemies.
One day the buffalo man got a feeling that he always had just before they were going to fight, so he told the other three of his premonition. The flying man went out to scout the enemy, but he returned without seeing anyone. The man who could scent tried his utmost to pick up their scent, but he could detect nothing. Then the third man talked to the trees, but they could tell him nothing. Even though they had all been very thorough, still the buffalo man said that he could sense that enemies were coming upon them. So the bird man took off on a flight as far as four days journey from the village, yet he could see nothing of them. On his way back, in a little valley not too far from the village, he saw a pile of rocks that he had never seen before. When he returned he reported this fact to the villagers, but they saw no significance in it. Nevertheless, the buffalo man reiterated that he still felt the way he did when he was about to enter battle. They were all convinced that his premonitions were empty, so they told him to stop worrying and go to sleep.
The buffalo man stayed awake all night, and just as he had predicted, by the next morning the enemy had completely surrounded the whole village. They were in fact the rocks that the flying man had noticed. When the man who could fly saw this, he rushed at the enemy, but he was killed. His name was “Short Wing.” Now the man who could scent had always been invulnerable to weapons, so he did not hesitate to rush upon the enemy, but even he too was killed. His name was “White Dog.” Then the man who could talk with the trees rushed at the enemy, but even he was killed by them. This man was called “Buffalo.” Finally, only the buffalo man was left of these four great warriors. His name was “Long Wing.” Long Wing did not hesitate to rush upon the enemy, and he killed their four most holy warriors. When the enemy saw this, they all shouted, Gu! This is the sacred syllable, and no one could continue a fight once it had been uttered. Thus the battle came to an end.
The people were grief stricken at the loss of such great men. Not long afterwards, some men from a neighboring tribe came for a visit. They went to the lodge of the chief, where Long Wing lived. However, the other villagers met in a council and decided that they could avenge their losses by putting these visitors to death with scalding water. When they brought forward the boiling water, they asked their chief to step outside, and as soon as he did so, they firmly shut the lodge in. The chief told them that they should not do such a thing in his lodge, but they were determined to go ahead in spite of all his remonstrances. They opened up the top of the gabled lodge and poured boiling water upon the heads of the visitors. This killed all of them save for two. These got out through the roof. One jumped from one roof to another until he reached the end of the village. The other turned into a turkey and flew away, but somebody noticed the shell necklace that had twisted around so that it was facing backwards, so they threw a stone hammer at him and he was killed.
The chief told the people that they had not done right, as they had killed someone in the chief’s lodge. So from that time on, the dwelling was made into a warriors lodge. That night an owl perched on top of this lodge and hooted, “From this day forth, many ills will come upon the Hočągara!” The people said, “What has befallen us?” And the chief interpreted the augury and told them that it foretold the decline of the Hočąk power. Not long thereafter, the people fell ill with a strange plague that turned their bodies yellow and left many dead.