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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 10:

Winnebago Festivities

-As transcribed from pages 204 - 205


The festivities among the Dakotas and Winnebagoes consist of dancing, singing, feasting and speech-making, and are held several times a year.

The peace jubilee, or autumn festival, is celebrated by the Winnebagoes after the cranberry season is over, usually some time in October.  This jubilee includes the "medicine" or "magic" dance.  Invitations are sent out four days before the dance, and an immense tepee is erected on the ground where the celebration is to be held.  This structure is about 110 feet long and 12 feet wide, and is covered with boughs and canvas.  The invited guests are each supposed to make a present of four blankets to the person getting up the entertainment.  On the evening of the pow-wow the Indians assemble, and after building large fires, start the celebration with a chant.  Then the young squaws and bucks begin the dance, and the tum-tum is kept going continuously, all night long.  As the enthusiasm kindles, the older Indians join in, and finally the children.  The surging mass of dusty humanity grows hilarious, and shouts and songs ring through the air while the tum-tum beats its savage music until the very lodge poles seem to dance.  In the glare of the great fire, the scene grows weird, and the forms look more hideous, the faces grow inhuman and shrieks stab the night air.  The demons of the night, as it were, are turned loose, and in their frenzy slaughter the peaceful harmonies that brood in the darkness over the streams and forests.  A feast is prepared and when the guests are hungry and wary of the dance they assemble in circles and enjoy the soup and meat that is place in big bowls before them.  Day dawns, but the dance goes on, and the feasting continues, and not until another night does the ceremony end.

One of the Indians is made a medicine man during the jubilee.  The secret work of conferring the degree on the candidate has been handed down through the ages.  After being initiated, the candidate makes a speech, and thereafter is a full-fledged member of the secret society.

When the entertainment breaks up, the person makes each guest a present of a blanket, and keeps the rest for himself.

The buffalo dance is the source of a great deal of amusement among the Winnebago Indians.  The place is chosen and the tepee is erected and covered the same as in the medicine dance.  Each one who participates is dressed to imitate a buffalo and then they gather on the grounds, build fires and wait for the herd to make its appearance.

A bowl is put in a hole in the ground and filled with maple sugar and syrup.  The old buffalo leader comes out and is followed by the herd, consisting of calves and young and full grown bisons.  The tum-tum begins and the dance is on.  Around the maple sugar bowl they swarm and shout and sing and bellow.  The old buffalo leader stoops down and sticks his head in the bowl and eats - then he gives way and the rest follow - they keep on dancing and eating until the sugar is all gone.  Then the great fun begins.  The old buffalo must hook the bowl out of the ground without using his hands.  If he is unable to do this he is the laughing stock of the whole crowd the rest of the night, but he generally manages to hook the bowl out after a great deal of hard work on his part and a continuous roar of laughing and shouting from the participants and assembled guests.  When his task is accomplished all join in a feast and then smoke, and lie around until morning.




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