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Deer Clan Origin

Winnebago Legend

The Deer Clan (Tca Hik'ik'áradjera) is a small clan of the Lower or Earth Moiety that is strongly allied to the Elk Clan, with whom they have a friendship relation. It is said that "the Deer clan's responsibilities concerned the environment and weather." [1] Deer clansmen participate in the spiritual nature of the deer. Since the four limbs of the deer have a mystical unity with the cardinal points, if a Deer clansmen moves his limbs suddenly, he may cause a human being to die. Weeping loudly can have the same effect as well as summoning forth gale force winds. For similar reasons, they must be careful not to sing the clan song too loudly. [2] It goes like this:

I use the cries of the four directions,
I use the cries of the four directions;
I use the cries of the four directions,
I use the cries of the four directions.

Version 1: This is the life of the Deer Clan. The black deer and the elk with him, where the center of the earth is, there they appeared. And they went to the east side. There they were going. Then the black deer said, "My dear younger brother, I am heavy in flesh. Go on alone -- here is where I will remain," he said. He did not go there. And he went back to the center of the earth whence they started. He came back. (2) Again they asked him four times. Again, indeed, they did it. There the black deer recognized the money necklace. So the Deer Clan was beaten. So he called himself "Black Deer

Chief." And going back, they went again. Likewise, he recognized the money necklace himself. They went around the earth. And again under the black deer they went east. The big one went first. As they went, this one wondered where they started from. (3)


Again they came back there. "My brother, you yourself try to do something," he said. So Hena (the second born) he went first himself. They set out. Again they went. They came back there. "My brother, you yourself try to do something," he said. And so Haga went first. They had come back again. And they told Naghíga to go first. He suddenly came to the fore. When he hit the right side of his horn on the earth, there he made an herb appear. When he did it, the flower was very white. (4)


Again when he struck the earth with the left side horn, he generated a tree there.

And the stem of the herb is meant for eating, for that he made it. And again they ate the fruit of the tree. There they ate from the top of the tree. And so they said that they would call the name of one of the women by the name "She who Eats from the Top of the Tree." And when they went walking they made the earth tremble, it is said. They went to the east side. And so they said that they would name a man "Shakes the Earth," they said. (5) And if there were some brothers, they would call the smallest, "Walking Leader," they would call him. And again among the women one came to be called, "She who Comes Back." Again the men would call him, "He who Comes Back."

In the beginning, they went back there again. This is the reason on account of which they say that whatever movements they did, from these they got their names. The names for however they lived, they called themselves by the name. And they lived in control of the cardinal winds. And so if on a very nice day a voice should be heard, (6) the day would be transformed into a bad day. Again, it being a bad day, hearing the voice will transform into a very nice day. And so the Deer Clan people have control over the day. And so they call themselves with the name, "They Play with the Wind," they would call them. Also they say, "Going with the Wind Woman," they say. Where deer would situate themselves as they go, going with the wind, they would situate themselves, and so they say that.

Not anywhere on the earth did they miss. (7) There they came home. The big one collapsed. And they said, "What has happened?" they said. Then Henu said, "My younger brother, not at anytime did he say something." Then he said, "I don't know a thing." Nańghi alone spoke and said, "My dear older brothers, our older brother has died. Thus did Earthmaker do it that way."

And he talked to the dead one, saying to him, "In the first place, my older brother, the Creator made for you, this first one, a place of safety. That he did. (8) You have not obtained a large portion of life. You made those of us above the ground poor. And what I am going to ask you is this: that you'll leave behind the life that you missed above ground, that we ask of you. With that life, let us live. What you have left off, that is what I mean. And this is the second request: the wars which you did not handle, all the honors that you would have earned, here above ground we will handle. (9)

O elder brother, I ask of you what you have done. And the third request is this: all the food that you missed with your mouth, all the tree fruit, all the sweet food there is that you would have eaten, these that you missed and left behind when you went, again these we wish to get a hold of. These that you missed when you went, I ask for. These things we will be using. And this is the fourth request, o elder brother: all the good things that people wear, everything that you put in the back of the lodge, (10) these you should not touch, as we who are left behind on earth will be using them." He asked that he do it. "And wherever you are going, there the really good things we who are left behind on earth request that we may take hold of; for this we are petitioning for ourselves." And he took red paint and said, "My brother, I am going to paint you. They will recognize you at home, for this is the way we are. Hereafter, all those men who are to live after, (11) they also will all be doing like this. The story (worak) will be that he did the painting in just this way," he said. And he blackened his forehead with charcoal, and they streaked the corners of his eyes with red, and the chin and front of the throat he made red. And they dug a grave. There they buried him. And he prepared a song. He finished singing and they buried him.

And they traveled around the earth. (12) And where the clans gathered, there they came. They were people. And so they called them the "Deer Clan." Their own life they lived the way deer did. Where they started from, thus were the names of the Deer Clan. How they derived those names was from whatever habits the deer have. Again, what you see in them, it is in this way that they have their names. They say the name "White Hair." Also they say "Fast One." It is said that deer have short white hair. Again it is said because they are fast. (13) They say "Shy One." It is said that deer are shy. They also say, "Pronged Horn." It is said that the horns are pronged. Dog names, that kind they are. And so it is said that this is the way of the Deer Clan.  When they said it, in this way so they lived at Red Bank on Within Lake (Green Bay). There the clans gathered together, there were all the different clans, there where they first began. This is the end. [5]

Version 2. When the earth was new just one deer emerged from it, but he returned below in search of a companion. Thus there are two names in the Deer Clan, "He Who Appears First," and "He Who Returns." When the deer came to earth they encountered the first fireplace, but it only contained smoldering embers. So they blew upon it until it blazed. Thus the Deer Clan, it is said, has a partial chieftainship. The first to appear on earth wore the chief's medallion. [6]

[1] David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 9.
[2] Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,
1990 [1923]) 198.
[3] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 201; and "Deer Clan Origin Myth," in Paul Radin, [unpublished] Winnebago Notebooks, Winnebago III, #19a, Freeman number 3899 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) 1-13.
[4] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 198.
[5] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 199-201. "Deer Clan Origin Myth," 1-13.
[6] Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 201.

Submitted by Blue Panther Keeper of Stories