Manataka American Indian Council






Traditional Stories





Bird Origin Myth
by Thomas Foster



The first birds created by Earthmaker were the Thunders, who can make themselves invisible. As the Thunderbirds traversed the heavens, they would occasionally lose a feather. From such feathers, the visible birds sprang into existence. From the largest quill feathers of the Thunders there came into being the race of eagles; from other large feathers came the race of hawks and their kind; from the small feathers came such birds as partridges; from the down feathers came the small birds like robins and pigeons; and from the mere fuzz of down feathers emerged the very smallest of birds, such as sparrows and hummingbirds. All birds, therefore, are descended from the Thunders.

Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D.C.: 1876-1877) vol. 1; #1, p. 4, coll. 1, 4.

From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories


Black and White Moons
Oliver LaMère and Harold B. Shinn


In the time of beginnings, the good spirits and the evil spirits met in council to determine how the world should be divided between them. First they took up the question of how many moons there should be from one winter to the next. Wild Turkey (Zizikega) strutted before them and spread his tail feathers, declaring, "Let a year be as many moons a there are spots on my tail." But the council of spirits voted this down, as there were far too many spots on his tail. Partridge also suggested that there should be as many moons in a year as there were spots on his tail, but the spirits felt that it was also too long a time. Then Chipmunk (Hetcgenîka) scampered up throwing its tail over its head as chipmunks always do, and said, "Let a year be as many moons are there are black and white stripes down my back."

The counselors thought well of this suggestion, and allowed that the six black stripes would be the summer moons, and the six white stripes would be the moons of winter.

The evil spirits are greedy, however. They always wish for darkness, so when they saw the bright white disc of the moon and how it lit up the world, they began to eat the Night Luminary away until nothing was left of it. But Earthmaker was not content to see his creation consumed, leaving a dark world as a cover for evil, so he recreated the moon a little each night until at the end of fourteen nights it was full again. Then Earthmaker rested. While the Creator took leave, the evil spirits again gnawed away at the moon until it was completely consumed. And so it continues, with Earthmaker ever renewing the moon and his enemies forever eating it away.

Oliver LaMère and Harold B. Shinn, Winnebago Stories (New York, Chicago: Rand, McNally and Co., 1928) 91-99. Informant: Oliver LaMère of the Bear Clan.

From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories


Brave Man Gambles

by Frank Ewing

There was a village there and in it lived a rich man with his wife and little boy. And the man died. That woman's very fine boy grew older, but he could not work. Then the mother's brother worked there. They took care of chickens. And he gambled. Again chickens and pigs [he drove] towards the players, and he gambled. Again he arrived back at the lodge, and there at the lodge he slumped down. And Brave Man (or Warrior) [said], "Hure, we'll eat."


Four times the others did not do it with Brave Man and he became angry and knocked them down. The fourth time then [he said], "Huré-e!" and sat down and played cards. Brave Man was being cheated. He had five coins left.

He went to the other village. There again Brave Man stayed with the evil ones. Again he was whipped badly. Now Brave Man went home. He did not do the mission that he (Earthmaker) gave him. Before he became a ghost, the woman he crossed over to would touch him. And so Old Woman made a ghost. Having set out a large loaf of bread and two plovers there, she cracked (the skull of) Brave Man with her hands. He cried out. She sent him off as a ghost. He slumped down in the seat. And so then the woman took it. And they had an old man for Chief of Entering the Earth (Mâkewehûka). Then Brave Man was very quiet. If the bad spirits came again, he, Brave Man, the son of Earthmaker, would come again too. Therefore, he said that the coat of the Black Robes (Christians) should not be ended, they say. The Son of God was to have a religious movement. The son would preach, they say. Still at this time he was made the spirit that is over the United States. And thus what I tell ends.

Narrated by Frank Ewing, translated by Richard L. Dieterle from Paul Radin, Notebooks, Winnebago III, #19, Freeman Number 3899 [1254] (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1909?) Story 19c (1), 4-8.

From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories