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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 5:


-As transcribed from pages 41 - 43

The Winnebago were an outlying tribe of the Siouan family, believed by some writers to be an older branch than the Dakota themselves. They were visited at Green Bay by Jean Nicolet 2 as early as 1634.3 He knew them as the Men of the Sea or the Men of the Salt Water, from the aboriginal name, Ouinipegou, which appears in the modern name of Winnebago. Literally the word ouinipeg meant "ill-smelling or dirty water," and the early French called the Winnebago Puants, or "Stinkards."4  In early fur-trading days Winnebago were ranging as far westward as the Mississippi River.5

For some two centuries thereafter central Wisconsin continued to be their home. The treaty of Prairie du Chien, signed August 19, 1825, by the Chippewa, Sauk and Fox, Menominee, Iowa, Sioux, Winnebago, and a portion of the Ottawa, Chippewa and Potawatomi living on the Illinois, fixed various boundaries.6 The eastern line of the Sioux territory was to commence on the Mississippi opposite the mouth of the "Ioway" River, run back two or three miles to the bluffs, and follow the tops of the bluffs to the mouth of Black River, and thence to a point a short distance southwest of Eau Claire on the Chippewa River, "half a day's journey below the falls."7

The Winnebago territory lay east of the Sioux. In defining a part of their western territory, the Winnebagoes claimed from the mouth of the Black River, up that stream to a point due west of the source of the left fork of the Wisconsin. Thus a part of Trempealeau County was neutral territory between the Winnebago and Sioux.

By the Treaties of Butte des Morts on Fox River, August 11, 1827; of Green Bay, August 25, 1828, and of Prairie du Chien, August 1, 1829, the boundaries of the Winnebago were gradually curtailed, and on September 15, 1832, at Ft. Armstrong, Rock Island, Illinois, they agreed to relinquish their claim to all land south and east of the Wisconsin and Fox Rivers, and to remove to the "neutral ground" a tract lying west of the Mississippi in northeastern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota. By the treaty of Washington D. C., November 1, 1837, they relinquished all their land east of the Mississippi. Subsequently, by treaty of October 13, 1846, they agreed to cede the tract assigned them in 1832, and to accept in return a tract north of the Minnesota and west of the Mississippi. The larger part of the tribe was removed to Long Prairie, in the central part of Minnesota, in 1848, and small bands were moved from time to time in the years immediately following.8 In 1855 the Winnebago agency was transferred, under the terms of the treaty signed February 27, and proclaimed March 23, to Blue Earth County, near Mankato, Minnesota, but the Sioux Massacre caused the whites to be apprehensive of the peaceful Winnebago, so (under an Act of Congress approved February 21, 1863) they were removed to Crow Creek, on the Missouri River, in North Dakota. In 1865 they agreed to move to a tract in Nebraska purchased from the Omaha Indians. The removal of the Winnebago to this Nebraska tract, known as the Black Bird Reservation, was accomplished in 1866. There a part of the tribe is still located.

But the Winnebago have never been satisfied with any territory but the lands of central Wisconsin. Only a portion moved to the Turkey River country, in northeastern Iowa, under the agreement of 1832. The removal to Long Prairie, in Minnesota, in 1848 was accomplished under duress and with the aid of soldiers. In fact, upon reaching Winona, the Winnebago expressed their determination to go no further, and bloodshed was narrowly avoided. Before the trouble was ended many had slipped away and found their way back to their homes in Wisconsin. Others went to southeastern Nebraska and joined the Ottawa. The Indians. who were taken to Long Prairie soon drifted southward in Minnesota or back to Wisconsin. Later others came back to Wisconsin from Blue Earth and from North Dakota. During the Minnesota Massacre of 1862 it was difficult for the citizens and volunteer soldiers to distinguish between a Dakota and a Winnebago Indian, so that many Winnebago who were absolutely innocent were shot without mercy. The Winnebago were, therefore, in danger from both the whites and the Dakota Indians, and many turned their faces toward the peaceful land of Wisconsin, and soon joined their friends on the old camping grounds.

No sooner was the removal to the Black Bird Reservation accomplished in 1866, than others of the Winnebago took the trail that led to the old familiar haunts among the pine forests. Within two years, a large part of the tribe was back again in Wisconsin.

Soon a new movement was on foot to compel them to return to Nebraska, and by a display of military force, hundreds were again removed to that region in the winter of 1873-74. During the troubles attending the forced removal, no less than 56 Indians were arrested in Trempealeau County.9

Taken to far-away Nebraska, the people of the unfortunate race still longed for their native woods and streams, and their thoughts wandered over the old hunting grounds and berry fields of Wisconsin. In the pine woods were the graves of their dead, which made the soil more sacred in
their minds, and there were the camping grounds where all of their festivities were held, and they hungered for the scenes and associations of the olden days.

The homeward trail was soon thronged with the returning stragglers, and within a year, half of the tribe were back. This time Fate was kinder to them, for in 1875 the government gave them the homestead right, which enabled them to gain a home of their own by building houses and doing a certain amount of improving on their land. The larger part of the Winnebago are now scattered through a territory in the Black River Valley and to the westward.

The land they live on will probably never be of any particular benefit to them; it is sandy, poor soil, among the scrub oaks and jack pines. Some little corn is raised, as well as potatoes, and a few of the Indians raise chickens.

During the blueberry season the Indians pick berries and sell them, and during the cranberry season they find employment, and go in bands to the marshes, where they camp until the crop is gathered.

Thus live the descendants of a race which once had at its command the unmeasured sweeps of nature, and the boundless wealth of forest and plain, lake and river.

Resources for the above information:

2 - Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed. French Regeme in Wisconsin (Extract from Jesuit Relations, Cleveland issue, XXXIII, 275-279); Wis. Hist. Colls., XVI, 1-2. Also see: Ibid, 4 (Extract from La Potherie's Histoire de l' Amerique, printed at Paris in 1722 and again in 1753). Also: Consul W. Butterfield, History of the Discovery of the Northwest by Jean Nicolet (Cincinnati, 1881). Also: Henrie Juan, Jean Nicolet (Translated from the French by Grace Clark), Wis. Hist. ColIs., XI, 1-22. For bibliography see: Butterfield, Ibid., 23-25. An excellent summary of the subject, together with the extract from the Jesuit Relations, XXXIII, 275-279, just mentioned, is found: L. P. Kellogg, Early Narratives of the Northwest (New York, 1917), 11-16.

3 - Thwaites, editorial note, Jouan, Nicolet, Wis. Hist. Colls., XI, 1-2.

4 - Juan, Nicolet, Ibid., 13, note.

5 - Thwaites, The French Regeme in Wisconsin, Part 2, Wis. Hist. Colls., XVII, 207.
6 - Richard Peters, ed., Treaties Between the United States and the Indian Tribes, U. S.
Statutes at Large (Boston, 1861), VII, 272. See same volume for all Indian treaties from 1778 to 1842.

7 - Chas. C. Royce, Indian Land Cessions, 18th Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, 1899), II, 710-712. See same volume for all Indian Land Cessions.

8 - Return I. Holcombe, Minnesota in Three Centuries (New York, 1908), II, 207-218. Also: L. H. Bunnell, Winona and Its Environs (Winona, 1897), 337-341. Also: Maj. J. E. Fletcher, Report, Ex. Doc., No. 1, Second Session, Thirtieth Congress. Also: Eben D. Pierce, Recollections of Antoine Grignon, Wis. Hist. Soc., Proceedings, 1913, 118-119.

9 - Thwaites, The Wisconsin Winnebago, Wis; Hist. Colls., XII, 414. (The entire article, -399-433,- is a most excellent history of the Winnebagoes in Wisconsin since 1828.)

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