Winnebago Indian Tribe or Ho-Chunk in Wisconsin

Tribal Dance

Source

The Ho-Chunk are better known as the Winnebago Indians. Although, according to the New World Encyclopedia, Ho-Chunk is the more accurate English name from the original native name which meant “big fish people,” probably referring to the Sturgeon which was once an abundant fish in Lake Winnebago. The name Winnebago was given them by some Algonquian tribes and meant something like “people of the stagnant water,” The French name was Puans which came out as “Stinkards” when translated to English. According to Wikipedia the Algonquin words don’t have the negative overtones the other names seem to have. The names used seem to refer to the places of origin, not the places they lived. This was probably Green Bay. They now live primarily in Wisconsin as the Ho-Chunk Sovereign Nation. They farmed corn, hunted and fished. They also believed in spiritual beings and had a reverence for nature. Some of their rituals were dedicated to war and they were dangerous enemies. In 1827 they were participants in the Winnebago War and in 1832, the Blackhawk War.

Ho-Chunk History

French explorer Jean Nicolet was the first white man to contact them in 1634. At that time they were in the area around Green bay, Wisconsin beyond what is now called Lake Winnebago to the Wisconsin River and the Rock River in Illinois. Although they grew some corn well as hunted, fished, harvested wild rice, and gather maple sugar. Their oral traditions don’t indicate any homeland except Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. These traditions show a large and dominant group in Wisconsin before Nicolet’s visit. Their language is Siouan, their culture more like the Algonquin.

Ethnologists, according to Wikipedia, think the Winnebago and other Siouan peoples originated on the east coast of North America. H.R. Holand thinks they originated in Mexico where they had contact with Spanish people and learned about horses. On the other hand, they could have had contact with the Spanish on the Gulf of Mexico. Current Ho-Chunk assert their people have always lived in present day north central United States.

Winnebago Wigwam
Winnebago Wigwam | Source

Written history of the Ho-Chunk people begins with the records that came from the reports of Jean Nicolet, according to The New World encyclopedia. He was the first white person to make contact with the people in 1634.The Ho-Chunk, at that time were in the area around what is now Green Bay, Wisconsin and going beyond Lake Winnebago to the Wisconsin River and to the Rock River in Illinois. The use of a Siouan language would suggest contact or common origin with other groups using the language, Ho-Chunk oral history makes no mention of any other homeland than parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota.

Oral History

Some elders suggest their pre-history may be connected to the mound builders of the region. According to oral history in the mid-1500s the influx of Ojibwa peoples in the northern part of the their range caused some shift to the south, friction with the Illinois and a division of the people as the Chiwere group, which includes the Iowa, Missouri, Ponca, and Oto tribes moved west due to the difficulties of the range supporting the large population.

Approximately 5,000 Ho-Chunk warriors entertained Nicolet. He estimated from these numbers that the total population in 1634 was 8,000 to 20,000. By the 1650’s the French trappers and traders returned but little is written. However, we do know that the population was drastically reduced, possibly as low as 500 people. As a result of the reduced population the Algonquin tribe was able to move in as they escaped from problems caused by the Iroquois in the Beaver wars.

Three causes have been given for the decline in the Ho-Chunk population:

1. Hundreds of warriors were lost in a storm on a lake, possibly Lake Michigan, during a military effort. Others say it was on Lake Michigan after turning back an attack by the Potawatomi from the area now known as Door County, Wisconsin. The numbers vary but another reason given was 500 were lost on Lake Winnebago in a storm during a failed campaign against the Fox, another says it was the Sauk.

2. As mentioned in the New world Encyclopedia, R. David Edmunds expressed the idea that the loss would not be enough to cause the near decimation of an entire people, aAnd thinks other causes must have added to it. Disease was probably an added factor.

3. The Illinois, who were a traditional enemy of the Winnebago, came to offer help to the Winnebago who were suffering from famine.”…however the Winnebago repaid the kindness by adding their beneficiaries to their diet,“ from Wikipedia. The resulting retaliation nearly wiped out the Ho-Chunk.

According to New World Encyclopedia the Ho-Chunk population now is about 12,000.

Some significant leaders of the Winnebago were:

· Glory of the Morning, the first woman described in the written history of Wisconsin, according to New World encyclopedia. In 1727 she became the Ho-Chunk chief in 1727 at the age of 18 years. She married a French fur trader in 1728. While she was chief the Ho-chunk and their French trading partners were having conflict with the Fox tribe. Under Glory in the Morning’s leadership the Ho-chunk joined with the French to fight the Fox during the 1730s and 1740s.

· Red Bird was a war chief of the Ho-chunk who was born in 1788.His name was derived from the two preserved red birds he wore as badges on his shoulder. As the leader of the tribe against the United States in the Winnebago War he was captured and died in prison in 1828.

· Yellow Thunder was also born in 1724.According to some historians; he and his fellow chiefs were persuaded to sign lands over to the whites without realizing what they were doing. After signing the land over, they were given eight months to leave. Yellow thunder along with other chiefs went to Washington, DC in 1837, but President Jackson wouldn’t meet with them. Yellow Thunder refused to leave the land, but in 1840 troops came to force them to. The soldiers chained him but he was released. The chief, realizing resistance would bring retaliation against his people, he agreed to cooperate.

Two Ho-chunk/Winnebago tribe’ s are recolonized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian affairs as of 2003. They are the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska.

Ho-Chunk Nation

This tribe, which was previously known as the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe, is headquartered at Black River Falls, Wisconsin. As of 2001 there were 6,159 tribe members. They own 4,602 acres across parts of twelve counties in Wisconsin and one county in Minnesota. They operate six casinos in Wisconsin, according to Wikipedia.

Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

The tribe has reservations in northeastern Nebraska and western Iowa. There are about 2,588 persons living on these lands as recorded in the 2000 census.

The Ho-Chunk Indians have been generally known as the Winnebago, but Ho-Chunk is the name preferred by them. They have been located primarily in Wisconsin and nearby states, especially near the Green Bay area near Lake Michigan. A Northern Wisconsin Lake is named Lake Winnebago and is in Winnebago County, Wisconsin. The tribes were first contacted by Jean Nicolet. In1634 the tribe was almost wiped out when their population was reduced to about 500 in the 1650s.Today,the tribes have a larger population and have established several casinos in Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Sources:

Wikipedia article on Winnebago

New World Encyclopedia

Copyright 2012 Don Hoglund

Green Bay, WI

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Comments 14 comments

Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 4 years ago from United States

Dahoglund, whenever I visit your hubs, I learn something entirely new. My knowledge of the Winnebago tribe or Ho Chunk only extended to the casino I visited on a few occasions.

Now I have a better knowledge of their history. I thank you.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting Dexter.Some hubs like this one are my attempt to learn about the state I live in. Years ago I worked in Winnebago county Iowa, which is only significant because a company there made a fortune making RV's. In Wisconsin is another which has a Lake Winnebago. Winnebago county. I didn't put it together with the Ho-Chunk until I went to a lecture at the library about Indians and found out they were the same tribe.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

I knew of the Winnebago tribe, Don, but the Ho-Chunk name is news to me. Whatever the tribe, Indians were treated so poorly by our government for so many years, it is good to know that the standard of living has improved immensely for members of the tribes who have casinos on their reservation lands

Thanks for a fascinating look at these two Indian nations.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

drjb, thanks for commenting. I never realized that Indian tribes often have one name they are known by the rest of us and other names they call themselves. The Ho-Chunk are not well known because they were not in the mainstream of the Westward movement. We often went from Black River Falls, WI to where we live in Wisconsin Rapids going through the Ho-Chunk reservation and past one of the casinoes. I didn't have a clue as to who they were at the time.


QudsiaP1 profile image

QudsiaP1 4 years ago

I knew nothing of this tribe before and now I have learned something new, thank you. :)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Even though Winnebabago motor homes (named for Winnebago County, Iowa) are well known the tribe being based mostly near in the uppeer mid-west is not so well known. Thanks for commenting.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Another great, informative hub. The public generally hears only about tribes that are popular in modern films (i.e. the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota) and very little about the other tribes whose cultures are just as interesting and beautiful. Some actually have success stories to share, which is always good to highlight. The Ho-Chunk have much to be proud of and I'm happy to see them get this recognition. Good job!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for the comments. Since I have lived in this general area for a long time and decided to share something of our heritage.


rjsadowski profile image

rjsadowski 4 years ago

A lot of good information. Growing up near Wausau, WI, I had previosly heard of the Winnebago Indians. Then I left the state for about 45 years and when I moved back to Milwaukee I heard about the Ho-Cunk Indian casinos. I never connected the two until now. Good Hub.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

risadowski, I was not aware of the Winnebago and the Ho-Chunk be ing the same until I went to a lecture about Indians. I was getting confused by the names the speaker kept using so I asked him about them. It turns out that many tribes that we know by one name are known by other names among themselves..

Thanks for commenting.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

Great information on the Ho Chunk. We have Potawatomi in Crandon and Ojibwe in Lac du Flambeau near us. Enjoyed your hub and voted uP!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Moonlake, thanks for commenting. Glad you enjoyed the hub.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

dahoglund,

This is some great history! When a person hears Ho Chunk, most think of the casino north of Madison. Voted up and sharing.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Paul,

I only became aware of the fact that some tribes that we know by one name, the Indians have their own names for when I attended a lecture on the subject.. Thanks for the comment

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