April 18, 2005

Mountain Wolf Woman (Kéhachiwinga), Winnebago (1884-1960)


Kéhachiwinga, “Wolf’s Mountain Home Maker,” was a Winnebago woman who was the subject of a remarkable autobiography account written down by Nancy Lurie, in 1958, and subsequently published in book form as Mountain Wolf Woman, Sister of Crashing Thunder: The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian – a notable contribution to the literature of culture change and personality.

Kéhachiwinga was selected by Dr. Lurie, in part, because her brother Hágaga had been interviewed by Paul Radin, and that account was published in an equally well-received book, Crashing Thunder. The comparison and contrast between the two provided a valuable insight into the life of one Indian family.
Kéhachiwingwa had a life which was typical in many ways of Indian women at the turn of the century. She was born into the Thunder clan in April 1884 at East Fork River, Wisconsin, the daughter of Charles Blowsnake and Lucy Goodvillage, both full-blooded Winnebago.

Kehachiwingwa was forced by her strong-willed brothers to marry a man for whom she did not care, and later, when she left him, was forced into yet another marriage.

Kéhachiwingwa had a total of 11 children, three of whom died. At the time of her interview, she had 39 grandchildren and 11 great-greatgrandchildren.

Kéhachiwingwa was a conventional Christian for a time in her youth, but subsequently joined the Peyote religion, staying with this group for the rest of her life. Wherever she traveled in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, there were meetings of the members of this society, which found its adherents among many strata of Indian culture.

Peyote is a hallucinogenic cactus plant (Lophophora williamsii) that only grows in Texas and Mexico, which brought intense religious and mystical experiences to those who consumed the small “button.” It has since become better known as the sacrament used by members of the Native American Church.

Mountain Wolf Woman’s account provided many White Americans with their first understanding and insight into this religious practice, as well as the life of a contemporary Indian woman. It was ‘the record of a great old lady recalling a memorable life,” commented the Chicago Sun Times. And it was indeed just that. Mountain Wolf Woman lived to enjoy her fame, succumbing to pneumonia a the age of 76, in Black River Falls, Wisconsin on November 9, 1960.

Native American Women
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