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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 5:


-As transcribed from pages 43 - 45

Aside from the wandering Indian bands which pitched their camp in Trempealeau County from the days of Perrot, three bands seem to have made their home in the locality at various times before the coming of the settlers, the Winnebago bands of Red Bird and Decorah, and the Medawakanton Dakota band of Wabasha. Since the coming of the settlers there have been scattering encampments.

The chiefs of the Wabash a dynasty early became familiar with Trempealeau Mountain and Trempealeau Prairie, and Wabasha II maintained the home of the tribe here for several years. Wabasha I was probably born about 1720.14 His name is variously rendered - Ouabashas, Wapasha, Wapahasha and Wah-pah-hah-sha - and means red leaf, red cap, or red war banner. He was of mixed Sioux and Algonquian blood, his father having been a Dakota chief and his mother a Chippewa princess.15 He was head chief of all the Medawakanton Dakota, his own immediate band probably embodying the ancient Mantanton. The band was known to the Dakota themselves as the Ona-pe-ton or Falling Leaf Band. He appears to have moved his village from the Mille Lacs region in Minnesota, first to the lower valley of the Rum River and subsequently to the mouth of the Minnesota, both in the same State. Later he established himself and his band at the present site of Winona.16  At Winona (Ke-ox-ah) the headquarters of the band seem to have been maintained until the treaty of 1851, though for many decades, apparently until after the time of Pike in 1805, the band had a village on the Upper Iowa River. Wabasha I was greatly honored by the British, made a number of trips to Montreal, received the confirmation of the authorities to his title as head chief of all the Medawakanton, was a general in the British army in the Revolutionary War, and led his troops in the British campaign against the Americans at St. Louis, St. Genevieve, Missouri, and elsewhere. In his old age he was exiled by jealous relatives from his chieftainship and from the Winona village, and probably died in Houston County, Minnesota, about 1806. Wabasha II succeeded him as chief, and reigned until his death in 1836. He is the La Feuille, The Leaf, who came in contact with all the early American explorers beginning with Pike in 1805. He sided with the British in the War of 1812. When Long came up the river in 1817, Wabasha was firmly established at Winona. But a short time before the Black Hawk War, the village was moved to Trempealeau Prairie as a precaution against the raids made by the Sauk of Iowa.17 The band continued, however, to hold its celebrations and dances at Ke-ox-ah (Winona). Wabasha II took part in the Black Hawk War of 1832, and assisted in exterminating many of the Sauk and Foxes as they were fleeing across the Mississippi River into Iowa after their defeat at the mouth of Bad Axe River. He died of smallpox at the age of about 63, in 1836. The scourge had swept his band, and the whole village was reduced to a few teepes. Wabasha II was highly praised by all the whites with whom he came in contact. In person he was of low stature, and his face was disfigured by having lost one eye. In character he was wise, prudent and brave, a friend of the whites, and what was unusual in those days, absolutely abstemious in his habits, and an earnest advocate of temperance.

He was succeeded by, Wabasha III, who after the treaty of 1837 maintained his home and his tribe in Winona until the settlers arrived in 1851.18 Then he moved across the river into Wisconsin, and spent some time in this vicinity before locating in the western part of Minnesota. Wabasha III led his warriors in the Dakota outbreak of 1862, although he was opposed to it, and was one of the first to make proposals of peace to the whites, even while his nation was still in arms. After the Massacre he was removed to Missouri and finally to Santee, Nebraska, where he died April 23, 1876, a solitary, broken man, who had inherited the chieftainship of an empire, and had watched his people dwindle before the onrushing wave of a race that had defrauded him of his possessions.

Resources for the above information:

14 - For the story of the Wabasha dynasty, see: Winchell, Aborigines of Minnesota, 540-558. Also: F. Curtiss-Wedge, History of Winona County (Chicago, 1913), I, 18-31. Also; Bunnell, Winona and Its Environs, 151-154. Also: Hodge, Handbook of American Indians, II, 911.

15 - Henry R. Schoolcraft, The American Indian, History, Conditions and Prospects (Rochester, 1851), 137.
16 - For Indian myth concerning the removal of the band to this region, see: Bunnen, Winona and Its Environs, 111-117.

17 - Ibid., 209.

18 - Curtiss-Wedge, History of Winona County, 117, 123-124, 127-128.


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