Wakjakaga's River Race

Wakjakaga's River Race

A Poem by Rick Puetter
"

Self-deceit even brings down the gods--Intellectual honesty, my father's most ardent lesson

"
 
 
Photograph by Ian Britton.  Made available through www.freefoto.com and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.  The photo is available at http://www.freefoto.com/images/1221/06/1221_06_10_prev.jpg.
 
 
Wakjakaga’s River Race
 
                           I 
 
Come my children, gather ‘round me!
Hear the story I shall tell you!
Calm your laughter and your playing.
Sit you quiet and contently.
Hear the loon call and the night birds.
Hear the distant tom-tom beating.
Hear the echo of the Old Ones
And their bold tales worth repeating.
 
                           II                    
 
Now as night falls, see our lodge fire.
Bright with sparks, the fire is dancing.
Listen now and learn a lesson.
Listen well to hear completely!
Hear a story of the woodlands,
Of the mountains and the plainslands,
As the tom-tom beats intently
And the heart repeats so gently.
 
                           III                  
 
Hear how Trickster, Wakjakaga,
Called by Ponca Ishtinike,
Ichto-mi his name Dakotan,
He the schemer, He the Spider,
He the sly Mink, the Coyote,
How His own lies cursed His being,
He nąčgéstak, now heart-flattened,
Why in grief He cries forever.
 
 
                           IV                 
 
Be this story long remembered,
In the lodge tales of our people!
Be these cautions well regarded,
That we not befall the same fate.
Listen now and learn how His fate,
By His own hand, it was crafted!
Self-deceit alone destroyed Him,
Sealed His doom and killed his love mate.
 
                   ***          ***
 
                           V                    
 
From Mą’ųna, the Earthmaker,
Sprung his first son, Wakjakaga.
Kúnu, First-Born, Hočąk call him.
It was He that pushed the pathways
Of Wakčéxi, Waterspirits,
Deep below ground, deep He pushed them!
He then ate the Evil Spirits,
And to Heaven He ascended.
 
                           VI                 
 
But before Trickster ascended,
Long before, when Earth first started,
After Man was first created,
Spirit Father charged His First-Born:
“Go to Earth, now, and protect Man
From Bad Spirits and Earth’s creatures.
Now I charge You to protect Him,
Man, most weak of all creation.”
 
                           VII               
 
But these duties were not for Him,
For no stomach had He for them.
He as worthless as an infant,
Crawling ‘bout the floor on all fours.
Foolish, foolish Wakjakaga,
Now a trickster, now a schemer!
How can You at last befriend Man
As Mą’ųna, Father, wishes?
 
                      ***          ***
 
                           VIII             
 
On a bright day, late in summer,
Kúnu walked down to the River.
There he sat long, lost in daydream,
Dreaming midst the buzz of insects.
Then He heard the distant laughter,
Distant at the edge of hearing.
Walking from a forest clearing,
Came six lovely maidens laughing.
 
                           IX                  
 
How his heart rose when he saw them,
Bathing in the river waters,
All as pretty as a moonbeam,
These must be the fair Moon’s daughters.
Then a seventh, she appeared then,
At the clearing by the water,
And her beauty stole His heartbeat,
Stole His eyes from all the others.
 
                           X                    
 
Wakjakaga rose with courage
Walked He tall and made His way, then,
Toward the seven, toward the maiden,
Toward the one that stirred His spirit.
“Wakirihókere, Spider,
I do call You and Your magics.
Spin a web to catch me that one!”
Chanted First-Born, now the bold one.
 
                           XI                  
 
Then the maidens in the water
They did spy Him, they did see Him,
And now frightened, left the water;
Lost in fear, they all departed.
Now that only left the seventh.
She just stood there, faintly trembling.
Something held her, something stopped her,
She with fear shook, yet not moving.
 
                           XII               
 
Now did Wakjakaga face her.
Now did Wakjakaga touch her,
She still trembling, she still fearful.
Now the First-born drew her to Him.
Kúnu now did still her shaking.
Kúnu now did reassure her,
Stopped her shaking with His strong arms,
Stopped her fearing with His soft words.
 
                           XIII             
 
Now the First-Born spoke in this way,
“In My dreams, there I have seen you!
I have heard your gentle laughter.
You are like sunbeams on water,
Always dancing, always cheerful.
You’re as happy as friend Otter,
Rascal Tošónogèga.
Now I choose you, sunlight’s daughter!”
 
                           XIV             
 
And with Spider’s magic working,
She did love Him, She did hold Him.
And He called her name Haxįho,
She the Sunflower! How he loved her!
And the mated pair was happy,
All that summer, in the woodlands.
And the happy pair shared secrets
Under starlight on cool evenings.
 
                           XV               
 
And the days passed to September,
Moon Elk Whistling, Moon Elk Calling.
Now it was the end of Summer,
Well past August, Moon Corn Popping.
Then did First-Born go out boasting,
By the River, He was walking.
“My canoeing is the fastest!
None can beat my čųčewewač.”
 
                           XVI             
 
Blackbirds now called, “Wakjakaga!
The čočąna called in this way,
“Is it true, oh Brother Kúnu,
On the River none can beat You?”
Now the bear called, “Wakjakaga!
The hakáka, spoke, he, thusly,
“Is it true my friend, oh First-Born,
On the Rapids none can best You?”
 
                           XVII          
 
Most annoyed, spoke Wakjakaga,
“It is true. Yes, on the waters
My čųčewewač is fastest,
Even faster than Wakčéxi!
Yes, indeed, I am the fastest,
Faster even than the Fishes.
So I challenge! I do now say,
There is no one who can best Me.”
 
                           XVIII        
 
Now arose the Great White Sturgeon,
Chief of Fishes, taking Man-form.
The White Sturgeon, Nahųskaga,
To the First-Born, He spoke thusly,
“I accept, most boastful Kúnu,
I accept your challenge gladly,
Soon you’ll sleep with all My Fishes
With the Ho you’ll drown so sadly.”
 
                           XIX             
 
Now this angered Wakjakaga,
And he stood there, stood there fuming.
Then he lifted up his visage,
Stood there boldly, stood there firmly.
Then the First-Born He spoke thusly,
“I will bet You, River Spirit,
My čųčewewač is fastest.
I will best You on the Rapids!”
 
                           XX               
 
The Great Sturgeon, Nahųskaga,
Hid His smile, then, held his laughter,
For among all River Spirits,
He was thought as being fastest.
He then answered Kúnu this way,
“You are brash and bold, oh Kúnu!
If you think You’re River Master
Bet, You, something You hold dearly!”
 
                           XXI             
 
“I will bet You, this, My war club,”
Said the First-Born, boasted Kúnu.
“That will not do,” said the Great Fish,
“We’ll bet treasures, treasures only.
If You dare, now, bet Haxįho.
Bind her firmly, bind her tightly.
Take her with You on the big race.
With Your skill there’d be no danger.”
 
                           XXII           
 
Then smiled Sturgeon, Nahųskaga,
He a sly one, like Coyote.
Wakjakaga paused, then answered,
“I will do this; there’s no danger!
I shall best You, River Spirit!"
Then the Sturgeon, the Great White Fish,
He did ask Him, He asked Kúnu,
“And when You win, what will You take?”
 
                           XXIII        
 
“I need nothing,” boasted Kúnu,
“I need nothing You can give Me!
All I want is for Your Fishes,
All to see You lose this big race.”
Then the warriors, they departed.
One went this way, One went that way.
Kúnu turned, He, toward the forest.
Great Fish turned, He, to His Fishes.
 
                           XXIV        
 
Wakjakaga, He was angered.
Anger gripped Him; anger shook Him.
He’d defeat the River Spirit
In his faithful čųčewewač.
But if he failed, which couldn’t happen,
He would call His Spirit Father.
He would help Him win the big race.
He can’t fail, that wouldn’t happen!
 
                           XXV          
 
Wakjakaga, He was thinking
Plans now filled Him; ideas moved Him.
He’d defeat the Great White Sturgeon
In his nimble čųčewewač.
Yet if He failed, which wouldn’t happen,
He would call His woodland brothers.
They would help Him win the big race.
He wouldn’t fail, that couldn’t happen!
 
                           XXVI        
 
And if this failed, He’d call the Fishes
He had been their brother always!
He’d defeat Great Nahųskaga,
In his birchbark čųčewewač.
For if all failed, which couldn’t happen,
He would call on his Fish brothers.
They would help Him win the big race.
He couldn’t fail, that just can’t happen!
 
                           XXVII      
 
Calls, He, then, into the Forest,
“Forest brothers, I beseech you,
Listen to Me, I do need you,
Need your aid to best the Great Fish!”
From the quiet of the Forest
Came the sound of creatures talking,
Called the creatures to each other,
Talking to their woodland brothers.
 
                           XXVIII  
 
Then appeared from out ‘ the forest,
Cunning Čašįk, He the sly Mink.
Rising up upon His hind legs
Spoke the sly Mink, He, in this way
“I will help you, Wakjakaga!
We will beat Great Nahųskaga
In your trusty čųčewewač.
And the First-Born, He did thank Him.
 
                           XXIX        
 
Now, there came then from the woodlands
Wakirihókere, Spider.
She the spinner, She the binder,
Treacherous, Her pathways always!
“I will help you, Wakjakaga!
We’ll defeat brave Nahųskaga;
I will help You pass these waters!”
Wakjakaga, He did thank Her.
 
                           XXX           
 
Finally came then, deep from wood glens,
Came now wily Čarakuga,
He the stealthy, He the sly Fox,
He a trickster, as they all were.
“I will help you, Wakjakaga!
We’ll defeat the Great White Sturgeon;
I will help You to defeat Him.”
And high Kúnu, He did thank Him.
 
                           XXXI        
 
Now the next step, how to bind her?
How would He bind fair Haxįho?
How to do it, do it slyly,
Take her in His čųčewewač?
Stealth it must have, must be gentle!
He’ll not harm her, she’ll not suffer.
Come she must, as there’s no danger.
He must vanquish the Great White Fish.
 
                           XXXII      
 
Then He called again to Spider
“Use your magics, in sleep bind her!”
And friend Spider nodded gladly,
She’d send sleep to bind Haxįho.
It was night now, far from morning.
They would sleep now, then near dawning,
They would capture fair Haxįho,
And then take her to the River.
 
                           XXXIII    
 
Now near sunrise, Wakjakaga,
He stood thinking; He stood doubting.
Should he bind the fair Haxįho?
Take her full bound to the River?
Then a hawk call ends his thinking,
Wakes Him to the tasks before Him.
Yes, He’d bind her; there’s no danger.
He must best the River Spirit!
 
                           XXXIV  
 
Creeps, He, now into to His long lodge
Hears ‘ breath of Haxįho sleeping
With his palm placed over her eyes
Close, they, with deep sleep of dreaming.
Wakjakaga stills her spirit,
Wakjakaga slows her breathing
With the magic of sly Spider
Wakjakaga tightly binds her.
 
                           XXXV      
 
Waits White Sturgeon at the River.
It is past the time appointed.
“Wakjakaga, You are quite late!
Doubt, You, now Your reckless challenge?”
First-Born fumed now, fire his eyes held,
He defiant, now so angry.
Bore He bound up fair Haxįho.
Close behind Him were His three aids.
 
                           XXXVI  
 
Gently putting down Haxįho,
Cuddled in canoe, He placed her,
First-born turned to face the Great Fish,
First-Born, spoke to Him then this way,
“I have come here for this challenge.
Doubt, You, not My deep commitment.
I shall show You I am better!
I shall best You, Nahųskaga.”
 
                           XXXVII                     
 
Nahųskaga, now near laughing,
“First-Born, I just can’t believe You!
Will You not give up this folly?
Forget pride and save Your love mate!”
Wakjakaga, now was fuming!
He could not believe that Great Fish,
That He feared not He’d be losing,
Losing face with all of His Fish.
 
                           XXXVIII                   
 
Finally, the big race started.
Great White Sturgeon, He surged forward,
Wakjakaga right behind Him,
Pushing on the River Spirit.
Through the hours, First-Born tired.
He could not keep up the fast pace.
Wakjakaga, are You slowing?”
Called back smiling Nahųskaga.
 
                           XXXIX    
 
Now the waters picked up their pace.
Here the rapids, grew, they, treacherous.
Nahųskaga, He smiled wider,
Calling back in this way, taunting,
Wakjakaga, You are tired!
Make Your way unto the shoreline.
There’s no way that You can best Me,
But at least You’ll save Your love mate!”
 
                           XL                
 
Then at last called Wakjakaga,
To His Father, the Earthmaker,
“Dearest Father, see My plight here,
Give Me strength to win this big race.”
But from Heaven came no answer.
Heard, He, only rush of River.
From the sky came only silence.
He alone must win this big race.
 
                           XLI              
 
Then He called unto His boat mates,
Čašįk, Wakirihókere,
Čarakuga, paddle with Me,
For no strength have I left in Me.
His companions stared back blankly.
Shirked, they, back and hid their faces.
It was clear they would not help Him.
He alone must win the big race.
 
                           XLII            
 
Then He called unto the Fishes,
“My Ho brothers help and push Me!
I have always been your brother
And I’ve loved you beyond others!”
But the Fishes did not answer.
Heard, He, only rush of River!
From the waters only silence.
He alone must win this big race.
 
                           XLIII         
 
Then the River and its waters
They tossed Kúnu’s čųčewewač,
Tossed it this way, tossed it that way,
Surged it forward, then pushed backward!
In the air flew Wakjakaga.
In the air flew fair Haxįho.
In the air flew his companions,
Fell, they, in the raging waters.
 
                           XLIV         
 
Then He cried out, Wakjakaga.
He must save his love, Haxįho.
But with arms tired, He can’t save her;
He was helpless on the River.
And defenseless, fair Haxįho,
Precious Sunflower, she did sink down,
Sink into the raging River,
She was pulled down to the Great Fish.
 
                           XLV           
 
Then the waters pushed the First-Born,
Pushed the First-Born and the others.
And the Ho, the Fish, did help them
Reach the safety of the shoreline.
And there limply they did crawl up,
Wakjakaga and his brothers.
Coughing water with exhaustion
Wakjakaga, He stood up.
 
                           XLVI         
 
Now with wails, cries Wakjakaga
And the shakes of grief run through Him!
Now with tears does Wakjakaga,
Filled with anger, curse His own fate.
Now with war club strikes, He, downward,
Breaks in shards His čųčewewač.
Into pieces His canoe breaks,
And His soul is rent by heartache.
 
                           XLVII       
 
Now kneels Kúnu, stooped with grieving,
Slumps He more, His spirit broken!
Falls He now beside the River,
With its lapping waves that touch Him.
He is broken, filled with heaving.
Quiet tears, they now fall from Him.
Nevermore ‘ her love caress Him!
Nevermore ‘ her laughter bless Him!
 
                           XLVIII    
 
To His knees, then, Trickster rises,
Then He stands and looks, He, skyward.
“Spirit Father, why forsake Me?
Why forsake Me when I sought you?”
Answers then the Spirit Father,
Wakjakaga, You do know this!
I do not in Man-things meddle.
That was why to Earth I sent You!”
 
                           XLIX         
 
He then turns unto His boat mates,
Sitting cold beside the water,
Čašįk, Wakirihókere,
Čarakuga, why not aid Me?”
Then together they did tell Him,
“First-Born, please, you know our Natures!
We are schemers, we are tricksters.
We came for the glory only!”
 
                           L                     
 
Kúnu turns, then, to the waters
To the Fish, the Ho, He calls then,
“My friend Fishes, why not help Me?
I have been Your brother always!”
Then the Ho call back in this way,
“Please, Kúnu, we couldn’t help you,
For it was our Chief You challenged
And traversed Wakčéxi pathways.”
 
                           LI                   
 
Then the Spirit of the water,
The White Sturgeon, Nahųskaga,
Rose to speak with Wakjakaga,
And that Spirit spoke in this way,
Wakjakaga, hear my laughter!
You are foolish, not a sly one.
Like Hot’ųga, You rush forward
And endanger Your beloved one!”
 
                           LII                
 
“Please, Great Spirit,” pleaded First-born,
“Please return her, my Haxįho,
For My Heart, here, breaks without her!”
Then did smile the Great White Sturgeon,
“Oh no, First-Born, I will keep her.
She is mine. I won her fairly.
If she pleases I will bed her,
And if not, then I shall eat her!”
 
                           LIII              
 
Now enraged did Wakjakaga,
In His wrath, He raised His war club.
With great speed brought, He, the blow down,
He smote Nahųskaga’s forehead!
Reeling back, then, Nahųskaga,
With great wails, now, turns and stumbles.
Twitching now beside the River,
Great White Sturgeon breathes his last breath.
 
                           LIV              
 
Now the Ho, the Fish, call to Him,
Wakjakaga, drowned is Your love!
For without our Chief’s protection,
Choked by water, she is undone!”
Anger wells in Wakjakaga,
Then the First-Born swore in this way,
“Now I war with all Wakčéxi!
I’ll push down their water pathways!”
 
                           LV                
 
In the North, Wakčéxi pathways
Deep in Earth does Kúnu push them.
South and West, He does there likewise,
At the last he seeks the East Wind.
There at Sunrise, stands the First-Born,
Red with rage, flushed, filled with anger.
Lifting high his war club, He cries,
“By My oath, this war I now end!”
 
                           LVI              
 
And with grim determination
Kúnu pushed down the last pathways
Of Wakčéxi deep below Him,
Deep below the homes of all Men.
And as war cries thundered from Him,
First-Born stooped and grabbed the Whirlpools,
And He shook them and He flung them;
Nevermore, now, shall they drown Men.
 
                           LVII           
 
Now with Anger He was finished.
Now with Vengeance He was done!
Now his Rage was much diminished,
But His Grieving just begun.
“Oh, Haxįho,” cries the First-Born,
“With My Pride and Lies I lost you.
Life's delight, I loved you always,
You, who were My only sunlight!”
 
                           LVIII         
 
Then with quiet voice, Mą’ųna,
Calls, He, down to calm His First Son,
“Listen to me, Wakjakaga,
Now all Men will praise and love You,
For at last You’ve done my bidding.
Weakest Man, You have protected,
Banished Evil Waterspirits;
Now Your work on Earth is finished!”
 
                           LIX              
 
Thus, Great Spirit, the Earthmaker
Called, He, home sad Wakjakaga.
And while saddened, perhaps wiser,
Wakjakaga sits in Heaven.
Through His tears He seeks the reason.
Through His tears He wonders why,
Why he lost His love Haxįho,
Why through lies He let her die.
 
                      ***          ***
 
                           LX                
 
Children have you listened to me,
Heard the tale of Wakjakaga?
Have you seen how Wakjakaga,
Came, He, to His doom through lying?
Have you seen how Kúnu, Trickster,
He, the First-Born of Mą’ųna,
Knew grief by Haxįho dying,
How forever He is crying?
 
                           LXI              
 
Be this story long remembered,
In the lodge tales of our people!
Be these cautions well regarded,
That we not befall the same fate.
You have heard, now, just how His fate,
By His own hand, it was crafted!
Self-deceit alone destroyed Him,
Sealed His doom and killed His love mate.
 
                           LXII            
 
All to sleep, now, gentle children,
For the lodge fire now is dying.
Hear the tom-tom gently beating,
Hear your heartbeat’s deep repeating.
Rest and fear no Waterspirits
For the First-Born, He has killed them!
Pushed their pathways deep below us,
So that nothing now can harm us.
 
                           LXIII         
 
Praises be to the Great Spirit,
And his First-Born, Wakjakaga!
He beat back the Waterspirits,
So their Evils won’t defeat us!
And while sad, fierce Wakjakaga,
Sits in Heaven, at the Right Hand
Of Mą’ųna, the Earthmaker
Wakjakaga, You have freed us!

 

 
 
 
©2009, Richard Puetter
All rights reserved
 
 
 
Notes:
 
The present poem is about the Hočąk (pronounced Ho-chuck), or Winnebago, Indian character Wakjakaga, the Trickster, the first born son of Earthmaker, the Great Spirit or Má una. The Trickster character runs deep throughout American Indian culture, be it southern, northern, eastern, or western Indians. The Trickster character is a schemer and usually a bit deceitful. So he is the perfect foil for the theme of the poem, i.e., the tragic ends that arise from self-deceit. While it could be argued that pride was a major factor in Wakjakaga’s self-destructive path in the poem, the damage caused by his pride alone would have been limited without his ability to lie to himself about the certainty of winning the river race. It could also be argued that without his self-deceit, he wouldn’t have had such an inflated opinion of himself, which would also tame his pride. In any event, my purpose is to use this story as a parable for Man’s endeavors and a caution against intellectual dishonesty.
 
This poem loosely weaves together (with some of my own fictional contributions) several of the different stories about Wakjakaga. If the reader has any interest in pursuing a study of the stories of Wakjakaga (or any of the many Winnebago legends) there is an absolutely wonderful website that will tell you a lot about Hočąk language and stories. This website can be found at:
 
http://www.hotcakencyclopedia.com/.
 
Otherwise I think the poem is self-explanatory. In the narrative style of the poem all of the Hočąk names are repeated in English somewhere in the poem with the single exception of “Hot’ųga” which is a “kamakazee”, meaning literally “He who throws away his life”.
 
I want to give a special thanks to Dr. Dieterle, the person who maintains the hotcakencyclopedia website, for a critical reading of my poem and pointing out a number of corrections to my use of the Hočąk language and some cultural problems with earlier versions of this piece. I have corrected most of these issues, but for poetic reasons I have not changed the words Haxįho, Čašįk, and Wakirihókere, which should be more properly Haxįhoga, Čašįka, and Wakirihókerega, repectively. As explained to me by Dr. Dieterle, the "-ka/-ga" suffix indicates a personal name. So leaving these suffixes off is like leaving off Mr. or Mrs., which is done in our American culture sometimes just as it is occasionally, I am told, in the Hočąk culture.
 
Good reading, and I hope you enjoy the poem.
 
                            ― Rick 
 
 

 


© 2016 Rick Puetter



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Wow this poem was huge. I liked that you broke into sections for the reader. The story is very interesting and points out a good life lesson about the danger of pride. The main character ends up losing everthing due to his pride. How sad the things we do sometimes to enhance our image. It seems we are often too willing to sacrifice that which is priceless for fleeting glory only to discover that it is useless. Then we have neither our priceless treasure or the glory. How many families are torn apart because of the ambitions of one or both members of the marriage seek worldy goods and stature. Alas our nation can learn a great deal from this poem. I am sorry but I do not reallyhave any suggestions for this poem. I enjoyed reading it and appreciate the creativity that went into crafting it. Thank you for including the background information of the mythology as well! God bless!

Posted 8 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Your poem! 22 pages long in all! Oh! Well, good story, I shall shorten the contest so you may win soon.

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Wow! Another epic. It's another great, and expansive work. Very much worth the read. It does get to be a little hard on the eyes to read so much copy onscreen in one go. I'd recommend breaking it into sections and making separate, linked postings to each section. The whole poem in one posting was daunting, to say the least.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

MomzillaNC

3 Years Ago

I reread this and applied the "Song of Haiawatha" drum beat rhythm to it, as you directed. It really.. read more
I like this, but I feel maybe it is a bit wordy and long. It disengages the reader. It feels almost more like a short story than a poem. You have great images and I love the use of the other language in there, is it Dakatan? I'm from Montana myself. There is a strong native american community here with a lot of different tribes. Too many to name. Anyway. Good work! It's from your heart, I can tell.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I greatly enjoyed this poem/mythology story. Wow, what an amazing talent! I mean it, this story is the best modern written "epic" poem I have read in a long, long time. And, this comes from someone who read the classical poets all the time.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

My that was quite a read. It is very well written and I enjoyed it. IT is a little long winded for my tastes, but there is nothing wrong with its length. So long as your work comes from your heart there will never be anything wrong with it.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

My thoughts are posted throught you work.


Wakjakaga’s River Race

I

Come my children, gather ‘round me!
Hear the story I shall tell you!
Calm your laughter and your playing.
Sit you quiet and contently.
Hear the loon call and the night birds.
Hear the distant tom-tom beating.
Hear the echo of the Old Ones
And their bold tales worth repeating.

II

Now as night falls, see our lodge fire.
Bright with sparks, the fire is dancing.
Listen now and learn a lesson.
Listen well to hear completely!
Hear a story of the woodlands,
Of the mountains and the plainslands,
As the tom-tom beats intently
And the heart repeats so gently.

This was a good start, as it is how we are supposed to respect our elders, the tellers of Deep Time!
III

Hear how Trickster, Wakjakaga,
Called by Ponca Ishtinike,
Ichto-mi his name Dakotan,
He the schemer, He the Spider,
He the sly Mink, the Coyote,
How His own lies cursed His being,
He nąčgéstak, now heart-flattened,
Why in grief He cries forever.

A good description with many First Nations peoples concerning their view of this concept.


IV

Be this story long remembered,
In the lodge tales of our people!
Be these cautions well regarded,
That we not befall the same fate.
Listen now and learn how His fate,
By His own hand, it was crafted!
Self-deceit alone destroyed Him,
Sealed His doom and killed his love mate.

*** ***

V

From Mą’ųna, the Earthmaker,
Sprung his first son, Wakjakaga.
Kúnu, First-Born, Hočąk call him.
It was He that pushed the pathways
Of Wakčéxi, Waterspirits,
Deep below ground, deep He pushed them!
He then ate the Evil Spirits,
And to Heaven He ascended.

VI

But before Trickster ascended,
Long before, when Earth first started,
After Man was first created,
Spirit Father charged His First-Born:
“Go to Earth, now, and protect Man
From Bad Spirits and Earth’s creatures.
Now I charge You to protect Him,
Man, most weak of all creation.”

So far your story line is following the line of many traditional stories, good start.

VII

But these duties were not for Him,
For no stomach had He for them.
He as worthless as an infant,
Crawling ‘bout the floor on all fours.
Foolish, foolish Wakjakaga,
Now a trickster, now a schemer!
How can You at last befriend Man
As Mą’ųna, Father, wishes?

*** ***

VIII

On a bright day, late in summer,
Kúnu walked down to the River.
There he sat long, lost in daydream,
Dreaming midst the buzz of insects.
Then He heard the distant laughter,
Distant at the edge of hearing.
Walking from a forest clearing,
Came six lovely maidens laughing.

IX

How his heart rose when he saw them,
Bathing in the river waters,
All as pretty as a moonbeam,
These must be the fair Moon’s daughters.
Then a seventh, she appeared then,
At the clearing by the water,
And her beauty stole His heartbeat,
Stole His eyes from all the others.

So far you have painter a visual seen in many such stories, well done.

X

Wakjakaga rose with courage
Walked He tall and made His way, then,
Toward the seven, toward the maiden,
Toward the one that stirred His spirit.
“Wakirihókere, Spider,
I do call You and Your magics.
Spin a web to catch me that one!”
Chanted First-Born, now the bold one.

XI

Then the maidens in the water
They did spy Him, they did see Him,
And now frightened, left the water;
Lost in fear, they all departed.
Now that only left the seventh.
She just stood there, faintly trembling.
Something held her, something stopped her,
She with fear shook, yet not moving.

XII

Now did Wakjakaga face her.
Now did Wakjakaga touch her,
She still trembling, she still fearful.
Now the First-born drew her to Him.
Kúnu now did still her shaking.
Kúnu now did reassure her,
Stopped her shaking with His strong arms,
Stopped her fearing with His soft words.

XIII

Now the First-Born spoke in this way,
“In My dreams, there I have seen you!
I have heard your gentle laughter.
You are like sunbeams on water,
Always dancing, always cheerful.
You’re as happy as friend Otter,
Rascal Tošónogèga.
Now I choose you, sunlight’s daughter!”

I liked that tied it in with Otter.

XIV

And with Spider’s magic working,
She did love Him, She did hold Him.
And He called her name Haxįho,
She the Sunflower! How he loved her!
And the mated pair was happy,
All that summer, in the woodlands.
And the happy pair shared secrets
Under starlight on cool evenings.

XV

And the days passed to September,
Moon Elk Whistling, Moon Elk Calling.
Now it was the end of Summer,
Well past August, Moon Corn Popping.
Then did First-Born go out boasting,
By the River, He was walking.
“My canoeing is the fastest!
None can beat my čųčewewač.”

Though I now these moons by different names, this brought depth to your story as it placed it in time.

XVI

Blackbirds now called, “Wakjakaga!”
The čočąna called in this way,
“Is it true, oh Brother Kúnu,
On the River none can beat You?”
Now the bear called, “Wakjakaga!”
The hakáka, spoke, he, thusly,
“Is it true my friend, oh First-Born,
On the Rapids none can best You?”

XVII

Most annoyed, spoke Wakjakaga,
“It is true. Yes, on the waters
My čųčewewač is fastest,
Even faster than Wakčéxi!
Yes, indeed, I am the fastest,
Faster even than the Fishes.
So I challenge! I do now say,
There is no one who can best Me.”

Reminded me of the saying before the fall, pride rules the heart. A life lesson taught to the young before the elder.

XVIII

Now arose the Great White Sturgeon,
Chief of Fishes, taking Man-form.
The White Sturgeon, Nahųskaga,
To the First-Born, He spoke thusly,
“I accept, most boastful Kúnu,
I accept your challenge gladly,
Soon you’ll sleep with all My Fishes
With the Ho you’ll drown so sadly.”

XIX

Now this angered Wakjakaga,
And he stood there, stood there fuming.
Then he lifted up his visage,
Stood there boldly, stood there firmly.
Then the First-Born He spoke thusly,
“I will bet You, River Spirit,
My čųčewewač is fastest.
I will best You on the Rapids!”

Never wise to challenge the river spirit. First born suffers from self-deceit. He blind to this!

XX

The Great Sturgeon, Nahųskaga,
Hid His smile, then, held his laughter,
For among all River Spirits,
He was thought as being fastest.
He then answered Kúnu this way,
“You are brash and bold, oh Kúnu!
If you think You’re River Master
Bet, You, something You hold dearly!”

XXI

“I will bet You, this, My war club,”
Said the First-Born, boasted Kúnu.
“That will not do,” said the Great Fish,
“We’ll bet treasures, treasures only.
If You dare, now, bet Haxįho.
Bind her firmly, bind her tightly.
Take her with You on the big race.
With Your skill there’d be no danger.”

The snare is set!

XXII

Then smiled Sturgeon, Nahųskaga,
He a sly one, like Coyote.
Wakjakaga paused, then answered,
“I will do this; there’s no danger!
I shall best You, River Spirit!"
Then the Sturgeon, the Great White Fish,
He did asked Him, He asked Kúnu,
“And when You win, what will You take?”

XXIII

“I need nothing,” boasted Kúnu,
“I need nothing You can give Me!
All I want is for Your Fishes,
All to see You lose this big race.”
Then the warriors, they departed.
One went this way, One went that way.
Kúnu turned, He, toward the forest.
Great Fish turned, He, to His Fishes.

XXIV

Wakjakaga, He was angered.
Anger gripped Him; anger shook Him.
He’d defeat the River Spirit
In his faithful čųčewewač.
But if he failed, which couldn’t happen,
He would call His Spirit Father.
He would help Him win the big race.
He can’t fail, that wouldn’t happen!

XXV

Wakjakaga, He was thinking
Plans now filled Him; ideas moved Him.
He’d defeat the Great White Sturgeon
In his nimble čųčewewač.
Yet if He failed, which wouldn’t happen,
He would call His woodland brothers.
They would help Him win the big race.
He wouldn’t fail, that couldn’t happen!

XXVI

And if this failed, He’d call the Fishes
He had been their brother always!
He’d defeat Great Nahųskaga,
In his birchbark čųčewewač.
For if all failed, which couldn’t happen,
He would call on his Fish brothers.
They would help Him win the big race.
He couldn’t fail, that just can’t happen!

A thought provoking truth, these friends were not his malik’s. Those with pride issues rarely have true malik’s!

XXVII

Calls, He, then, into the Forest,
“Forest brothers, I beseech you,
Listen to Me, I do need you,
Need your aid to best the Great Fish!”
From the quiet of the Forest
Came the sound of creatures talking,
Called the creatures to each other,
Talking to their woodland brothers.

XXVIII

Then appeared from out ‘ the forest,
Cunning Čašįk, He the sly Mink.
Rising up upon His hind legs
Spoke the sly Mink, He, in this way
“I will help you, Wakjakaga!
We will beat Great Nahųskaga
In your trusty čųčewewač.”
And the First-Born, He did thank Him.

XXIX

Now, there came then from the woodlands
Wakirihókere, Spider.
She the spinner, She the binder,
Treacherous, Her pathways always!
“I will help you, Wakjakaga!
We’ll defeat brave Nahųskaga;
I will help You pass these waters!”
Wakjakaga, He did thank Her.

XXX

Finally came then, deep from wood glens,
Came now wily Čarakuga,
He the stealthy, He the sly Fox,
He a trickster, as they all were.
“I will help you, Wakjakaga!
We’ll defeat the Great White Sturgeon;
I will help You to defeat Him.”
And high Kúnu, He did thank Him.

The deceiver is deceived.

XXXI

Now the next step, how to bind her?
How would He bind fair Haxįho?
How to do it, do it slyly,
Take her in His čųčewewač?
Stealth it must have, must be gentle!
He’ll not harm her, she’ll not suffer.
Come she must, as there’s no danger.
He must vanquish the Great White Fish.

More deception, not something to tied pneuma’s should do.

XXXII

Then He called again to Spider
“Use your magics, in sleep bind her!”
And friend Spider nodded gladly,
She’d send sleep to bind Haxįho.
It was night now, far from morning.
They would sleep now, then near dawning,
They would capture fair Haxįho,
And then take her to the River.

XXXIII

Now near sunrise, Wakjakaga,
He stood thinking; He stood doubting.
Should he bind the fair Haxįho?
Take her full bound to the River?
Then a hawk call ends his thinking,
Wakes Him to the tasks before Him.
Yes, He’d bind her; there’s no danger.
He must best the River Spirit!

XXXIV

Creeps, He, now into to His long lodge
Hears ‘ breath of Haxįho sleeping
With his palm placed over her eyes
Close, they, with deep sleep of dreaming.
Wakjakaga stills her spirit,
Wakjakaga slows her breathing
With the magic of sly Spider
Wakjakaga tightly binds her.

XXXV

Waits White Sturgeon at the River.
It is past the time appointed.
“Wakjakaga, You are quite late!
Doubt, You, now Your reckless challenge?”
First-Born fumed now, fire his eyes held,
He defiant, now so angry.
Bore He bound up fair Haxįho.
Close behind Him were His three aids.

A good lesson, anger blinds, hampers, and ones looses their spirit tie.

XXXVI

Gently putting down Haxįho,
Cuddled in canoe, He placed her,
First-born turned to face the Great Fish,
First-Born, spoke to Him then this way,
“I have come here for this challenge.
Doubt, You, not My deep commitment.
I shall show You I am better!
I shall best You, Nahųskaga.”

XXXVII

Nahųskaga, now near laughing,
“First-Born, I just can’t believe You!
Will You not give up this folly?
Forget pride and save Your love mate!”
Wakjakaga, now was fuming!
He could not believe that Great Fish,
That He feared not He’d be losing,
Losing face with all of His Fish.

Excellent, he is given an out but his prides will de his unwinding.

XXXVIII

Finally, the big race started.
Great White Sturgeon, He surged forward,
Wakjakaga right behind Him,
Pushing on the River Spirit.
Through the hours, First-Born tired.
He could not keep up the fast pace.
“Wakjakaga, are You slowing?”
Called back smiling Nahųskaga.

XXXIX

Now the waters picked up their pace.
Here the rapids, grew, they, treacherous.
Nahųskaga, He smiled wider,
Calling back in this way, taunting,
“Wakjakaga, You are tired!
Make Your way unto the shoreline.
There’s no way that You can best Me,
But at least You’ll save Your love mate!”

Another chance given to humble oneself.

XL

Then at last called Wakjakaga,
To His Father, the Earthmaker,
“Dearest Father, see My plight here,
Give Me strength to win this big race.”
But from Heaven came no answer.
Heard, He, only rush of River.
From the sky came only silence.
He alone must win this big race.

XLI

Then He called unto His boat mates,
“Čašįk, Wakirihókere,
Čarakuga, paddle with Me,
For no strength have I left in Me.
His companions stared back blankly.
Shirked, they, back and hid their faces.
It was clear they would not help Him.
He alone must win the big race.

XLII

Then He called unto the Fishes,
“My Ho brothers help and push Me!
I have always been your brother
And I’ve loved you beyond others!”
But the Fishes did not answer.
Heard, He, only rush of River!
From the waters only silence.
He alone must win this big race.

XLIII

Then the River and its waters
They tossed Kúnu’s čųčewewač,
Tossed it this way, tossed it that way,
Surged it forward, then pushed backward!
In the air flew Wakjakaga.
In the air flew fair Haxįho.
In the air flew his companions,
Fell, they, in the raging waters.

XLIV

Then He cried out, Wakjakaga.
He must save his love, Haxįho.
But with arms tired, He can’t save her;
He was helpless on the River.
And defenseless, fair Haxįho,
Precious Sunflower, she did sink down,
Sink into the raging River,
She was pulled down to the Great Fish.

XLV

Then the waters pushed the First-Born,
Pushed the First-Born and the others.
And the Ho, the Fish, did help them
Reach the safety of the shoreline.
And there limply they did crawl up,
Wakjakaga and his brothers.
Coughing water with exhaustion
Wakjakaga, He stood up.

A clear picture of a foreseen end in defeat.

XLVI

Now with wails, cries Wakjakaga
And the shakes of grief run through Him!
Now with tears does Wakjakaga,
Filled with anger, curse His own fate.
Now with war club strikes, He, downward,
Breaks in shards His čųčewewač.
Into pieces His canoe breaks,
And His soul is rent by heartache.

XLVII

Now kneels Kúnu, stooped with grieving,
Slumps He more, His spirit broken!
Falls He now beside the River,
With its lapping waves that touch Him.
He is broken, filled with heaving.
Quiet tears, they now fall from Him.
Nevermore ‘ her love caress Him!
Nevermore ‘ her laughter bless Him!

XLVIII

To His knees, then, Trickster rises,
Then He stands and looks, He, skyward.
“Spirit Father, why forsake Me?
Why forsake Me when I sought you?”
Answers then the Spirit Father,
“Wakjakaga, You do know this!
I do not in Man-things meddle.
That was why to Earth I sent You!”

XLIX

He then turns unto His boat mates,
Sitting cold beside the water,
“Čašįk, Wakirihókere,
Čarakuga, why not aid Me?”
Then together they did tell Him,
“First-Born, please, you know our Natures!
We are schemers, we are tricksters.
We came for the glory only!”

L

Kúnu turns, then, to the waters
To the Fish, the Ho, He calls then,
“My friend Fishes, why not help Me?
I have been Your brother always!”
Then the Ho call back in this way,
“Please, Kúnu, we couldn’t help you,
For it was our Chief You challenged
And traversed Wakčéxi pathways.”

LI

Then the Spirit of the water,
The White Sturgeon, Nahųskaga,
Rose to speak with Wakjakaga,
And that Spirit spoke in this way,
“Wakjakaga, hear my laughter!
You are foolish, not a sly one.
Like Hot’ųga, You rush forward
And endanger Your beloved one!”

LII

“Please, Great Spirit,” pleaded First-born,
“Please return her, my Haxįho,
For My Heart, here, breaks without her!”
Then did smile the Great White Sturgeon,
“Oh no, First-Born, I will keep her.
She is mine. I won her fairly.
If she pleases I will bed her,
And if not, then I shall eat her!”

LIII

Now enraged did Wakjakaga,
In His wrath, He raised His war club.
With great speed brought, He, the blow down,
He smote Nahųskaga’s forehead!
Reeling back, then, Nahųskaga,
With great wails, now, turns and stumbles.
Twitching now beside the River,
Great White Sturgeon breathes his last breath.

Both now suffer from being over come by pride. It brings great loss.

LIV

Now the Ho, the Fish, call to Him,
“Wakjakaga, drowned is Your love!
For without our Chief’s protection,
Choked by water, she is undone!”
Anger wells in Wakjakaga,
Then the First-Born swore in this way,
“Now I war with all Wakčéxi!
I’ll push down their water pathways!”

Anger run rampant destroys even more, I think those listing would clearly see this picture.

LV

In the North, Wakčéxi pathways
Deep in Earth does Kúnu push them.
South and West, He does there likewise,
At the last he seeks the East Wind.
There at Sunrise, stands the First-Born,
Red with rage, flushed, filled with anger.
Lifting high his war club, He cries,
“By My oath, this war I now end!”

LVI

And with grim determination
Kúnu pushed down the last pathways
Of Wakčéxi deep below Him,
Deep below the homes of all Men.
And as war cries thundered from Him,
First-Born stooped and grabbed the Whirlpools,
And He shook them and He flung them;
Nevermore, now, shall they drown Men.

LVII

Now with Anger He was finished.
Now with Vengeance He was done!
Now his Rage was much diminished,
But His Grieving just begun.
“Oh, Haxįho,” cries the First-Born,
“With My Pride and Lies I lost you.
Life's delight, I loved you always,
You, who were My only sunlight!”
He has learned some from this life lesson.

LVIII

Then with quiet voice, Mą’ųna,
Calls, He, down to calm His First Son,
“Listen to me, Wakjakaga,
Now all Men will praise and love You,
For at last You’ve done my bidding.
Weakest Man, You have protected,
Banished Evil Waterspirits;
Now Your work on Earth is finished!”

LIX

Thus, Great Spirit, the Earthmaker
Called, He, home sad Wakjakaga.
And while saddened, perhaps wiser,
Wakjakaga sits in Heaven.
Through His tears He seeks the reason.
Through His tears He wonders why,
Why he lost His love Haxįho,
Why through lies He let her die.

*** ***

LX

Children have you listened to me,
Heard the tale of Wakjakaga?
Have you seen how Wakjakaga,
Came, He, to His doom through lying?
Have you seen how Kúnu, Trickster,
He, the First-Born of Mą’ųna,
Knew grief by Haxįho dying,
How forever He is crying?

LXI

Be this story long remembered,
In the lodge tales of our people!
Be these cautions well regarded,
That we not befall the same fate.
You have heard, now, just how His fate,
By His own hand, it was crafted!
Self-deceit alone destroyed Him,
Sealed His doom and killed His love mate.

LXII

All to sleep, now, gentle children,
For the lodge fire now is dying.
Hear the tom-tom gently beating,
Hear your heartbeat’s deep repeating.
Rest and fear no Waterspirits
For the First-Born, He has killed them!
Pushed their pathways deep below us,
So that nothing now can harm us.

LXIII

Praises be to the Great Spirit,
And his First-Born, Wakjakaga!
He beat back the Waterspirits,
So their Evils won’t defeat us!
And while sad, fierce Wakjakaga,
Sits in Heaven, at the Right Hand
Of Mą’ųna, the Earthmaker
Wakjakaga, You have freed us!




©2009, Richard Puetter
All rights reserved



Notes:

The present poem is about the Hočąk (pronounced Ho-chuck), or Winnebago, Indian character Wakjakaga, the Trickster, the first born son of Earthmaker, the Great Spirit or Má una. The Trickster character runs deep throughout American Indian culture, be it southern, northern, eastern, or western Indians. The Trickster character is a schemer and usually a bit deceitful. So he is the perfect foil for the theme of the poem, i.e., the tragic ends that arise from self-deceit. While it could be argued that pride was a major factor in Wakjakaga’s self-destructive path in the poem, the damage caused by his pride alone would have been limited without his ability to lie to himself about the certainty of winning the river race. It could also be argued that without his self-deceit, he wouldn’t have had such an inflated opinion of himself, which would also tame his pride. In any event, my purpose is to use this story as a parable for Man’s endeavors and a caution against intellectual dishonesty.

This poem loosely weaves together (with some of my own fictional contributions) several of the different stories about Wakjakaga. If the reader has any interest in pursuing a study of the stories of Wakjakaga (or any of the many Winnebago legends) there is an absolutely wonderful website that will tell you a lot about Hočąk language and stories. This website can be found at:

http://www.hotcakencyclopedia.com/.

Otherwise I think the poem is self-explanatory. In the narrative style of the poem all of the Hočąk names are repeated in English somewhere in the poem with the single exception of “Hot’ųga” which is a “kamakazee”, meaning literally “He who throws away his life”.

I want to give a special thanks to Dr. Dieterle, the person who maintains the hotcakencyclopedia website, for a critical reading of my poem and pointing out a number of corrections to my use of the Hočąk language and some cultural problems with earlier versions of this piece. I have corrected most of these issues, but for poetic reasons I have not changed the words Haxįho, Čašįk, and Wakirihókere, which should be more properly Haxįhoga, Čašįka, and Wakirihókerega, repectively. As explained to me by Dr. Dieterle, the "-ka/-ga" suffix indicates a personal name. So leaving these suffixes off is like leaving off Mr. or Mrs., which is done in our American culture sometimes just as it is occasionally, I am told, in the Hočąk culture.

Good reading, and I hope you enjoy the poem.

― Rick





© 2013 Rick Puetter

My Dearest Writing Friend,
I could of expected if I’d closed my eyes while listening to this story and then reopened them to find either Chief Yellow Lark, Handsome Lake, or Black Elk speaking, and sharing this story based in the truth of Way Back Time. Very well done.

Blessings, Laughing-Bear


Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

A wonderful tale that you penned with that imaginative and mighty pen of yours. A great romp through the hills and valleys of your imagination. One good write my friend.

Thank you for submitting this to my contest!


Helena

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I have read this over and over and over and over again and I can feel the emotions and the passion that flows through out this wonderful write.... left me intrigued wanting to know more about this river the culture and it's people. The way your words pan out amazed me on two levels. The in-depth knowledge you have written about this culture is outstanding but the whole structure and words and their meanings overwhelm me the most.

Thank you dear poet.....


Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

These old stories make their way into our psyches for a reason- at their heart, they unveil to us what it is to be limited, and human. How many modern men have sacrificed their mates' well-being in pursuit of glory and fame? How many have fallen to pride and false alliances? I read and listen to these tales, spellbound, because their power is not even so much as the insight into the lives of those who came before, but because they have unique insight into our present way of being. Excellent rendition, my friend. Thanks for being patient with me on my reviews. Just getting back into it now.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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14035 Views
48 Reviews
Shelved in 6 Libraries
Added on June 5, 2009
Last Updated on December 22, 2016
Tags: myth, gods, spirits, American Indian, love, loss, pride, self-deceit, legend

Author

Rick Puetter
Rick Puetter

San Diego, CA



About
So what's the most important thing to say about myself? I guess the overarching aspect of my personality is that I am a scientist, an astrophysicist to be precise. Not that I am touting science.. more..

Writing
Time Time

A Poem by Rick Puetter





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