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Thursday, 27 November 2014

How Wisakatchekwa Got Into Some Trouble

Hi, dear friends and followers, thank you for dropping by. Today we visit the Illini people.

The Illini was quite a force in the territory of Illinois.  The map might not accurately show boundaries of any tribes in any given place because Native Americans had no borders or boundaries but it does show the degree of influence held by the Illini.

This was not a single tribe or people but was instead a confederation of peoples that included the Kaskaskia, the Cahokia, the Peoria, the Tamaroa, Moingwena, Michigamea, Albiui, Amonokoa, Chepoussa, Chinkoa, Coiracoentanon, Espeminkia, Maroa, Matchinkoa, Michibousa, Negawichi, and Tapouara.  At the time of European contact in the 17th century, they were believed to number over 10,000 people. They occupied a broad inverted triangle from modern-day Iowa to near the shores of Lake Michigan in modern Chicago, south to modern Arkansas.  By the mid-18th century, only five principal tribes remained—the Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Peoria, and Tamaroa.

Wisakatchekwa (Wisaka) is the benevolent culture hero of the prairie Algonquian tribes (sometimes referred to as a "transformer" by folklorists.)  His name is spelled so many different ways partially because these tribes speak several different languages, and partially because they were originally unwritten (so English speakers just spelled it however it sounded to them at the time).

Wisaka is a trickster character whose adventures are often humorous.  Unlike Plains Indian tricksters, Wisaka is usually portrayed as a good friend of humankind, not a dangerous or destructive being.

The details of Wisaka's life vary somewhat from community to community. Most often he is said to have been directly created by the Great Spirit.  (Some Kickapoo communities in Mexico identify Wisaka as the son of the Great Spirit, though this may be an influence from Christianity.)  In other traditions, Wisaka is born of a virgin mother and raised by his Grandmother Earth.  In some stories Wisaka is said to have created the first humans out of mud, while in others, the Great Spirit created people modelled on Wisaka, who then became their Elder Brother.  In many tribal traditions, Wisaka has a younger brother named Chibiabos or Yapata, who was killed by water spirits and became the ruler of the dead.

How Wisakatchekwa Got Into Some Trouble

Two old blind men lived together and had plenty of game. They were far off by themselves, they had no cook, not anything. They did their own cooking. They had a guide rope to the river where they got their water.

This Wisakatchekwa was traveling through the country by himself and ran onto these old people. And he asked them if they wouldn't let him stay with them, that he might do the cooking.  So the old men told him he might stay, and he stayed there quite awhile.

He asked them how they got their game, them being blind and never anyone close, but the old men never told him how they got it. He finally got tired of staying with them.  Then he told them, "I guess I'll travel on," and the old people told him, "You may go."  And when he left, he changed the guide rope to go to the steep bank. 

So after he was gone, one of the old men told the other, "I believe I'll go and get a bucket of water."  And he went and never came back for a long time.  Finally, the other fellow was uneasy.  He went out.  He fell into the river like the other.  And they had hard work to get out.  And they said, "That's some of our crazy grandson's doings."

By that time, Wisakatchekwa was far out of the country.  The old men said to one another, "We can draw him back by smoking a pipe."  So they filled a pipe and began making long draws of smoke.  And that drew Wisakatchekwa back to the house.

 When he got close to the house, how was he going to get along with them, and what were they going to do with him?

He found that the door was wide open.  He walked in quietly, and finally the old men said, "I believe our grandson is in the house."  Then one said to the other, "I believe I can smell our grandson."  And the other said, "Suppose we cause the door to be closed?"  And the door was closed so that Wisakatchekwa could not open it himself. 

 Then each got a spear and tried to spear Wisakatchekwa; they kept going around inside the house.  Finally, they could hear him.  They got him worn out.  Finally they could hit pretty close to him, and he began to get scared, as he could not get out.  Finally he made himself known to them.  And the old men asked him why he changed the guide rope to the water.  And he told them he changed that for himself and that he forgot to put the guide rope where it belonged when he left.  So he begged them not to kill him, that he would do anything in the world for them.  Then the old men let him go. He stayed with them a while longer.

One day while he was out hunting, the old men talked to themselves about it, how they could get rid of him.  Finally one of them proposed how to get rid of him.  So when he came back, the old men told him they could get along without him if he was of a mind to travel. 

The old man told him how they got so much game.  He said, "I will tell you how we get this game, and you can do the same.  You can go to some big lake.  There you will find all kinds of fowls and so on.  You must prepare a lot of string to tie from your waist to each bird.  Then you dive into one end of the lake. Dive from one bird to another.  Tie them by their feet.  Then, when you get as many as you want, you come up in the middle of the lake.  And you tell them, "You birds cannot always live in that lake."

Wisakatchekwa did just what the old man had told him. When he attached himself to the birds with the string, they began to fly.  But instead of holding them down as the old man told him, they raised him out of the water.   He had so many birds of all kinds.  They carried him so many days.  He wondered how he ever could get down.  He had nothing to cut the strings with.  Finally he asked for the strings to be all broken, and the strings were all broken from the birds.

Then he came down.  He was up high when he was coming down.  He lit his pipe and smoked several times, and he could finally see the earth.  He began to wonder where he was going to fall, in deep water or in a deep hollow full of leaves.  Instead, he fell into a hollow tree, and he was in there several days and could not get out.

 Finally some people camped close by. Women were out hunting for dry wood.  They saw a big tree.  They imagined it was hollow.  They went there and began to pound on it, and they could hear something run up and down in the hollow tree.  They thought it might be a bear, and they cut a little hole, and sure enough they could see some black hair.  It was Wisakatchekwa's [body] hair. 

 Then the women went back to the camp and told the men that they thought they had found a bear in a hollow tree.  Then the men went out to prepare to kill the bear.  They cut the tree down, and before that tree began to fall,  Wisakatchekwa began to be frightened.   He began to talk to them, and when they cut the tree down, then he came out.  That was the only way he had a chance to get out.

(As told by George Washington Finley to Truman Michelson, 1916; after Knoepfle 1993. George Washington Finley (1858-1932) was the last full-blooded Piankashaw Indian. He was raised as a Peoria and was one of the last speakers of the Peoria language.)  

Thank you again for dropping by and taking a few minutes to read this Native American legend.  I would appreciate knowing what your thoughts are on it  Thank you and have a wonderful Thursday!

ڰۣIn Loving Light from the Fairy Ladyڰۣ

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