- The Song of Hiawatha (Notes) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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The Song of Hiawatha

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This Indian Edda--if I may so call it--is founded on a tradition 
prevalent among the North American Indians, of a personage of 
miraculous birth, who was sent among them to clear their rivers, 
forests, and fishing-grounds, and to teach them the arts of
He was known among different tribes by the several names of 
Michabou, Chiabo, Manabozo, Tarenyawagon, and Hiawatha.  Mr. 
Schoolcraft gives an account of him in his Algic Researches, Vol.
p. 134; and in his History, Condition, and Prospects of the
Tribes of the United States, Part III. p. 314, may be found the 
Iroquois form of the tradition, derived from the verbal
of an Onondaga chief.

Into this old tradition I have woven other curious Indian
drawn chiefly from the various and valuable writings of Mr. 
Schoolcraft, to whom the literary world is greatly indebted for
indefatigable zeal in rescuing from oblivion so much of the 
legendary lore of the Indians.

The scene of the poem is among the Ojibways on the southern shore
Lake Superior, in the region between the Pictured Rocks and the 
Grand Sable.


Adjidau'mo, the red squirrel.
Ahdeek', the reindeer.
Ahkose'win, fever.
Ahmeek', the beaver.
Algon'quin, Ojibway.
Annemee'kee, the thunder.
Apuk'wa. a bulrush.
Baim-wa'wa, the sound of the thunder.
Bemah'gut, the grapevine.
Be'na, the pheasant.
Big-Sea-Water, Lake Superior.
Bukada'win, famine.
Chemaun', a birch canoe.
Chetowaik', the plover.
Chibia'bos, a musician; friend of Hiawatha; ruler in the Land of 
Dahin'da, the bull frog.
Dush-kwo-ne'she or Kwo-ne'she, the dragon fly.
Esa, shame upon you.
Ewa-yea', lullaby.
Ghee'zis, the sun.
Gitche Gu'mee, The Big-Sea-Water, Lake Superior.
Gitche Man'ito, the Great Spirit, the Master of Life.
Gushkewau', the darkness.
Hiawa'tha, the Wise Man, the Teacher, son of Mudjekeewis, the
Wind and Wenonah, daughter of Nokomis.
Ia'goo, a great boaster and story-teller.
Inin'ewug, men, or pawns in the Game of the Bowl.
Ishkoodah', fire, a comet.
Jee'bi, a ghost, a spirit.
Joss'akeed, a prophet.
Kabibonok'ka, the North-Wind.
Kagh, the hedge-hog.
Ka'go, do not.
Kahgahgee', the raven.
Kaw, no.
Kaween', no indeed.
Kayoshk', the sea-gull.
Kee'go, a fish.
Keeway'din, the Northwest wind, the Home-wind.
Kena'beek, a serpent.
Keneu', the great war-eagle.
Keno'zha, the pickerel.
Ko'ko-ko'ho, the owl.
Kuntasoo', the Game of Plum-stones.
Kwa'sind, the Strong Man.
Kwo-ne'she, or Dush-kwo-ne'she, the dragon-fly.
Mahnahbe'zee, the swan.
Mahng, the loon.
Mahn-go-tay'see, loon-hearted, brave.
Mahnomo'nee, wild rice.
Ma'ma, the woodpecker.
Maskeno'zha, the pike.
Me'da, a medicine-man.
Meenah'ga, the blueberry.
Megissog'won, the great Pearl-Feather, a magician, and the Manito
Meshinau'wa, a pipe-bearer.
Minjekah'wun, Hiawatha's mittens.
Minneha'ha, Laughing Water; wife of Hiawatha; a water-fall in a 
stream running into the Mississippi between Fort Snelling and the
     Falls of St. Anthony.
Minne-wa'wa, a pleasant sound, as of the wind in the trees.
Mishe-Mo'kwa, the Great Bear.
Mishe-Nah'ma, the Great Sturgeon.
Miskodeed', the Spring-Beauty, the Claytonia Virginica.
Monda'min, Indian corn.
Moon of Bright Nights, April.
Moon of Leaves, May.
Moon of Strawberries, June.
Moon of the Falling Leaves, September.
Moon of Snow-shoes, November.
Mudjekee'wis, the West-Wind; father of Hiawatha.
Mudway-aush'ka, sound of waves on a shore.
Mushkoda'sa, the grouse.
Nah'ma, the sturgeon.
Nah'ma-wusk, spearmint.
Na'gow Wudj'oo, the Sand Dunes of Lake Superior.
Nee-ba-naw'-baigs, water-spirits.
Nenemoo'sha, sweetheart.
Nepah'win, sleep.
Noko'mis, a grandmother, mother of Wenonah.
No'sa, my father.
Nush'ka, look! look!
Odah'min, the strawberry.
Okahah'wis, the fresh-water herring.
Ome'me, the pigeon.
Ona'gon, a bowl.
Onaway', awake.
Ope'chee, the robin.
Osse'o, Son of the Evening Star.
Owais'sa, the bluebird.
Oweenee', wife of Osseo.
Ozawa'beek, a round piece of brass or copper in the Game of the
Pah-puk-kee'na, the grasshopper.
Pau'guk, death.
Pau-Puk-Kee'wis, the handsome Yenadizze, the son of Storm Fool.
Pauwa'ting, Saut Sainte Marie.
Pe'boan, Winter.
Pem'ican, meat of the deer or buffalo dried and pounded.
Pezhekee', the bison.
Pishnekuh', the brant.
Pone'mah, hereafter.
Pugasaing', Game of the Bowl.
Puggawau'gun, a war-club.
Puk-Wudj'ies, little wild men of the woods; pygmies.
Sah-sah-je'wun, rapids.
Sah'wa, the perch.
Segwun', Spring.
Sha'da, the pelican.
Shahbo'min, the gooseberry.
Shah-shah, long ago.
Shaugoda'ya, a coward.
Shawgashee', the craw-fish.
Shawonda'see, the South-Wind.
Shaw-shaw, the swallow.
Shesh'ebwug, ducks; pieces in the Game of the Bowl.
Shin'gebis, the diver, or grebe.
Showain' neme'shin, pity me.
Shuh-shuh'gah, the blue heron.
Soan-ge-ta'ha, strong-hearted.
Subbeka'she, the spider.
Sugge'me, the mosquito.
To'tem, family coat-of-arms.
Ugh, yes.
Ugudwash', the sun-fish.
Unktahee', the God of Water.
Wabas'so, the rabbit, the North.
Wabe'no, a magician, a juggler.
Wabe'no-wusk, yarrow.
Wa'bun, the East-Wind.
Wa'bun An'nung, the Star of the East, the Morning Star.
Wahono'win, a cry of lamentation.
Wah-wah-tay'see, the fire-fly.
Wam'pum, beads of shell.
Waubewy'on, a white skin wrapper.
Wa'wa, the wild goose.
Waw'beek, a rock.
Waw-be-wa'wa, the white goose.
Wawonais'sa, the whippoorwill.
Way-muk-kwa'na, the caterpillar.
Wen'digoes, giants.
Weno'nah, Hiawatha's mother, daughter of Nokomis.
Yenadiz'ze, an idler and gambler; an Indian dandy.

In the Vale of Tawasentha. 
This valley, now called Norman's Kill; is in Albany County, New 

On the Mountains of the Prairie.
Mr. Catlin, in his Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and

Condition of the North American Indians, Vol. II p. 160, gives an

interesting account of the Coteau des Prairies, and the Red Pipe-
stone Quarry.  He says:--

"Here (according to their traditions) happened the mysterious
of the red pipe, which has blown its fumes of peace and war to
remotest corners of the continent; which has visited every
and passed through its reddened stem the irrevocable oath of war
desolation.  And here, also, the peace-breathing calumet was
and fringed with the eagle's quills, which has shed its thrilling

fumes over the land, and soothed the fury of the relentless

"The Great Spirit at an ancient period here called the Indian 
nations together, and, standing on the precipice of the red pipe-
stone rock, broke from its wall a piece, and made a huge pipe by 
turning it in his hand, which he smoked over them, and to the
the South, the East, and the West, and told them that this stone
red,--that it was their flesh,--that they must use it for their 
pipes of peace,--that it belonged to them all, and that the
and scalping-knife must not be raised on its ground.  At the last

whiff of his pipe his head went into a great cloud, and the whole

surface of the rock for several miles was melted and glazed; two 
great ovens were opened beneath, and two women (guardian spirits
the place) entered them in a blaze of fire; and they are heard
yet (Tso-mec-cos-tee aud Tso-me-cos-te-won-dee), answering to the

invocations of the high-priests or medicine-men, who consult them

when they are visitors to this sacred place."

Hark you, Bear! you are a coward. 
This anecdote is from Heckewelder.  In his account of the Indian 
Nations, he describes an Indian hunter as addressing a bear in 
nearly these words.  "I was present," he says, "at the delivery
this curious invective; when the hunter had despatched the bear,
asked him how he thought that poor animal could understand what
said to it.  'O,' said he in answer, 'the bear understood me very

well; did you not observe how ashamed he looked while I was 
upbraiding him?"'--Transactions of the American Philosophical 
Society, Vol. I. p. 240.

Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee! 
Heckewelder, in a letter published in the Transactions of the 
American Philosophical Society, Vol. IV. p. 260, speaks of this 
tradition as prevalent among the Mohicans and Delawares.

"Their reports," he says, "run thus: that among all animals that
been formerly in this country, this was the most ferocious; that
was much larger than the largest of the common bears, and
long-bodied; all over (except a spot of hair on its back of a
color) naked. . . . .

"The history of this animal used to be a subject of conversation 
among the Indians, especially when in the woods a hunting.  I
also heard them say to their children when crying: 'Hush! the
bear will hear you, be upon you, and devour you,'"

Where the Falls of Minnehaha, etc. 
"The scenery about Fort Snelling is rich in beauty.  The Falls of

St. Anthony are familiar to travellers, and to readers of Indian 
sketches.  Between the fort and these falls are the 'Little
forty feet in height, on a stream that empties into the
The Indians called them Mine-hah-hah, or 'laughing waters.'" --
EASTMAN'S Dacotah, or Legends of the Sioux, Introd., p. ii.

Sand Hills of the Nagow Wudjoo. 
A description of the Grand Sable, or great sand-dunes of Lake 
Superior, is given in Foster and Whitney's Report on the Geology
the Lake Superior Land District, Part II. p. 131.

"The Grand Sable possesses a scenic interest little inferior to
of the Pictured Rocks.  The explorer passes abruptly from a coast
consolidated sand to one of loose materials; and although in the
case the cliffs are less precipitous, yet in the other they
attain a 
higher altitude.  He sees before him a long reach of coast, 
resembling a vast sand-bank, more than three hundred and fifty
in height, without a trace of vegetation.  Ascending to the top, 
rounded hillocks of blown sand are observed, with occasional
of trees standing out like oases in the desert."

Onaway! Awake, beloved! 
The original of this song may be found in Littell's Living Age,
XXV. p. 45.

On the Red Swan floating, flying.
The fanciful tradition of the Red Swan may be found in
Algic Researches, Vol. II. p. 9.  Three brothers were hunting on
wager to see who would bring home the first game.

"They were to shoot no other animal," so the legend says, "but
as each was in the habit of killing.  They set out different
Odjibwa, the youngest, had not gone far before he saw a bear, an 
animal he was not to kill, by the agreement.  He followed him
and drove an arrow through him, which brought him to the ground. 

Although contrary to the bet, he immediately commenced skinning
when suddenly something red tinged all the air around him.  He 
rubbed his eyes, thinking he was perhaps deceived; but without 
effect, for the red hue continued.  At length he heard a strange 
noise at a distance.  It first appeared like a human voice, but 
after following the sound for some distance, he reached the
of a lake, and soon saw the object he was looking for.  At a 
distance out in the lake sat a most beautiful Red Swan, whose 
plumage glittered in the sun, and who would now and then make the

same noise he had heard.  He was within long bow-shot, and,
the arrow from the bowstring up to his ear, took deliberate aim
shot.  The arrow took no effect; and he shot and shot again till
quiver was empty.  Still the swan remained, moving round and
stretching its long neck and dipping its bill into the water, as
heedless of the arrows shot at it.  Odjibwa ran home, and got all

his own and his brother's arrows and shot them all away.  He then

stood and gazed at the beautiful bird.  While standing, he 
remembered his brother's saying that in their deceased father's 
medicine-sack were three magic arrows.  Off he started, his
to kill the swan overcoming all scruples.  At any other time, he 
would have deemed it sacrilege to open his father's
but now he hastily seized the three arrows and ran back, leaving
other contents of the sack scattered over the lodge.  The swan
still there.  He shot the first arrow with great precision, and
very near to it.  The second came still closer; as he took the
arrow, he felt his arm firmer, and, drawing it up with vigor, saw
pass through the neck of the swan a little above the breast. 
it did not prevent the bird from flying off, which it did,
at first slowly, flapping its wings and rising gradually into the

airs and teen flying off toward the sinking of the sun." -- pp.

When I think of my beloved.
The original of this song may be found in Oneota, p. 15. 

Sing the mysteries of Mondamin.
The Indians hold the maize, or Indian corn, in great veneration. 

"They esteem it so important and divine a grain," says
"that their story-tellers invented various tales, in which this
is symbolized under the form of a special gift from the Great 
Spirit.  The Odjibwa-Algonquins, who call it Mon-da-min, that is,

the Spirit's grain or berry, have a pretty story of this kind, in

which the stalk in full tassel is represented as descending from
sky, under the guise of a handsome youth, in answer to the
of a young man at his fast of virility, or coming to manhood.

"It is well known that corn-planting and corn-gathering, at least

among all the still uncolonized tribes, are left entirely to the 
females and children, and a few superannuated old men.  It is not

generally known, perhaps, that this labor is not compulsory, and 
that it is assumed by the females as a just equivalent, in their 
view, for the onerous and continuous labor of the other sex, in 
providing meats, and skins for clothing, by the chase, and in 
defending their villages against their enemies, and keeping 
intruders off their territories.  A good Indian housewife deems
a part of her prerogative, and prides herself to have a store of 
corn to exercise her hospitality, or duly honor her husband's 
hospitality, in the entertainment of the lodge guests." --
p. 82. 

Thus the fields shall be more fruitful.
"A singular proof of this belief, in both sexes, of the
influence of the steps of a woman on the vegetable and in sect 
creation, is found in an ancient custom, which was related to me,

respecting corn-planting.  It was the practice of the hunter's
when the field of corn had been planted, to choose the first dark
overclouded evening to perform a secret circuit, sans
around the field.  For this purpose she slipped out of the lodge
the evening, unobserved, to some obscure nook, where she
disrobed.  Then, taking her matchecota, or principal garment, in
hand, she dragged it around the field.  This was thought to
insure a 
prolific crop, and to prevent the assaults of insects and worms
the grain.  It was supposed they could not creep over the charmed

line." -- Oneota, p. 83.

With his prisoner-string he bound him.
"These cords," says Mr. Tanner "are made of the bark of the elm-
tree, by boiling and then immersing it in cold water. . . .  The 
leader of a war party commonly carries several fastened about his

waist, and if, in the course of the fight, any one of his young
take a prisoner, it is his duty to bring him immediately to the 
chief, to be tied, and the latter is responsible for his safe 
keeping." -- Narrative of Captivity and Adventures, p. 412. 

Wagemin, the thief of cornfields,
  Paimosaid, who steals the maize-ear.

"If one of the young female huskers finds a red ear of corn, it
typical of a brave admirer, and is regarded as a fitting present
some young warrior.  But if the ear be crooked, and tapering to a

point, no matter what color, the whole circle is set in a roar,
wa-ge-min is the word shouted aloud.  It is the symbol of a thief
the cornfield.  It is considered as the image of an old man
as he enters the lot.  Had the chisel of Praxiteles been employed
produce this image, it could not more vividly bring to the minds
the merry group the idea of a pilferer of their favorite
mondamin. . 
. .

"The literal meaning of the term is, a mass, or crooked ear of 
grain; but the ear of corn so called is a conventional type of a 
little old man pilfering ears of corn in a cornfield.  It is in
manner that a single word or term, in these curious languages, 
becomes the fruitful parent of many ideas.  And we can thus
why it is that the word wagemin is alone competent to excite 
merriment in the husking circle.

"This term is taken as the basis of the cereal chorus, or corn
as sung by the Northern Algonquin tribes.  It is coupled with the

phrase Paimosaid,--a permutative form of the Indian substantive, 
made from the verb pim-o-sa, to walk.  Its literal meaning is, he

who walks, or the walker; but the ideas conveyed by it are, he
walks by night to pilfer corn.  It offers, therefore, a kind of 
parallelism in expression to the preceding term." -- Oneota, p.

Pugasaing, with thirteen pieces.
This Game of the Bowl is the principal game of hazard among the 
Northern tribes of Indians.  Mr. Schoolcraft gives a particular 
account of it in Oneota, p. 85.  "This game," he says, "is very 
fascinating to some portions of the Indians.  They stake at it
ornaments, weapons, clothing, canoes, horses, everything in fact 
they possess; and have been known, it is said, to set up their
and children and even to forfeit their own liberty.  Of such 
desperate stakes I have seen no examples, nor do I think the game

itself in common use.  It is rather confined to certain persons,
hold the relative rank of gamblers in Indian society,--men who
not noted as hunters or warriors, or steady providers for their 
families.  Among these are persons who bear the term of
wug, that is, wanderers about the country, braggadocios, or fops.

It can hardly be classed with the popular games of amusement, by 
which skill and dexterity are acquired.  I have generally found
chiefs and graver men of the tribes, who encouraged the young men
play ball, and are sure to be present at the customary sports, to

witness, and sanction, and applaud them, speak lightly and 
disparagingly of this game of hazard.  Yet it cannot be denied
some of the chiefs, distinguished in war and the chase, at the
can be referred to as lending their example to its fascinating 

See also his history, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian
Part II, p. 72. 

To the Pictured Rocks of sandstone. 
The reader will find a long description of the Pictured Rocks in 
Foster and Whitney's Report on the Geology of the Lake Superior
District, Part II. p. 124.  From this I make the following

"The Pictured Rocks may be described, in general terms, as a
of sandstone bluffs extending along the shore of Lake Superior
about five miles, and rising, in most places, vertically from the

water, without any beach at the base, to a height varying from
to nearly two hundred feet.  Were they simply a line of cliffs,
might not, so far as relates to height or extent, be worthy of a 
rank among great natural curiosities, although such an assemblage
rocky strata, washed by the waves of the great lake, would not, 
under any circumstances, be destitute of grandeur.  To the
coasting along their base in his frail canoe, they would, at all 
times, be an object of dread; the recoil of the surf, the
coast, affording, for miles, no place of refuge,--the lowering
the rising wind,--all these would excite his apprehension, and 
induce him to ply a vigorous oar until the dreaded wall was
But in the Pictured Rocks there are two features which
to the scenery a wonderful and almost unique character.  These
first, the curious manner in which the cliffs have been excavated

and worn away by the action of the lake, which, for centuries,
dashed an ocean-like surf against their base; and, second, the 
equally curious manner in which large portions of the surface
been colored by bands of brilliant hues.

"It is from the latter circumstance that the name, by which these

cliffs are known to the American traveller, is derived; while
applied to them by the French voyageurs ('Les Portails') is
from the former, and by far the most striking peculiarity.

"The term Pictured Rocks has been in use for a great length of
but when it was first applied, we have been unable to discover. 
would seem that the first travellers were more impressed with the

novel and striking distribution of colors on the surface than
the astonishing variety of form into which the cliffs themselves 
have been worn. . . .

"Our voyageurs had many legends to relate of the pranks of the 
Menni-bojou in these caverns, and, in answer to our inquiries, 
seemed disposed to fabricate stories, without end, of the 
achievements of this Indian deity." 

Toward the Sun his hands were lifted.
In this manner, and with such salutations, was Father Marquette 
received by the Illinois.  See his Voyages et Decouvertes,
Section V. 

Terms Defined

Referenced Works