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Winnebago Indian History
Source: Decorah Republican Dec. 24, 1896 P 3 C 3

 

this page was last updated on Tuesday, 25 August 2020


THE WINNEBAGOES.
[Winnebagoes sp(?) throughout article]

The Algona Upper De Moines is devoting some attention to pioneer reminiscences. Its last number gives an historical review of the Winnebago Indians, who were connected with the Kossuth region by reason of making Clear Lake a hunting, trapping and fishing ground. The article has local interest by reason of its references to Waukon-Decorah. So much will be of interest to our readers:—

The Winnebagoes were unknown to Iowa until 1832, when by treaty they agreed to occupy the “neutral ground’ for their future home. From time immemorial they had centered about Winnebago lake in Wisconsin. But the advancing white tide overwhelmed them. By 1828 they were all but a few stragglers west of the Mississippi. The Sioux regarded giving them the neutral ground as a violation of their rights, and the government was compelled to erect a fort in Winneshiek county, Fort Atkinson, to protect the Winnebagoes, who now centered in that county. Here they got $10,000 a year for surrendering their Wisconsin lands. Only straggling bands ventured, west over their reservation for hunting and fishing, and when they did often met the fate that the Clear Lake band did in 1854

During the years in Iowa the Winnebagoes had two chiefs of renown Winneshiek and Decorah or Waukon-Decorah. known to the whites as “one eyed Decorie. ” Winneshiek was a great Indian. Judge Murdock, father of Rev. Marian Murdock late of Humboldt, knew him and often heard him speak., He was impressed with his ability and oratorical genius. His face would light up with the fires of excitement: tone and gesture would add to the force of his words: and the effect on his hearers was thrilling and powerful.

The Winnebagoes were not legally long in Iowa. In 1848 they were removed to Minnesota, by a treaty signed two years previously. In 1855 they were given a new Minnesota reservation, on the Blue Earth river In what is now Blue Earth county, the second county north from Kossuth. The bands which came south into the old hunting grounds, later, came without warrant, as a rule, but sometimes protected by their agents. After the Sioux massacre of 1852 they were again removed, this time west of the Missouri, “dumped.” as the missionary said, "in the desert 100 miles above Fort Randall." At present the small remnant of the tribe has a reservation in Nebraska.

The receipt of the S10,000 annuity while in Iowa did not improve the moral or physical condition of the Winnebagoes. Shaw in his history of Winneshiek county says: “The Winnebagoes were not brave and chivalrous, but vindictive and treacherous. Instead of facing a foe and braving danger they would stealthily steal upon him and in an unguarded moment wreak their vengeance. But these are not the worst features in this tribe, They possessed vices of the meaner and more degraded nature. They united the art of stealing to that of lying. Anything on which they could lay their pilfering fingers they appropriated to their own use. Their pilfering propensities were proverbial."

Whiskey had done its work for a tribe of naturally brave and warlike men. The white man brought a higher civilization and whiskey. When Rev. David Lowrey came in 1832 to Prairie du Chien to begin a life work among the Winnebagoes as missionary, old Waukon said to him at the council of chiefs he called together: “The Winnebagoes are asleep, and it will be wrong to wake them; they are red men, and all the white man’s soap and water cannot make them white." But when one Jones in 1840 opened a trading post at Monona, and Thorn one near by, which they themselves named "Sodom” and "Gomorrah", the Indian succumbed. The first Indian murder in Iowa by a Winnebago was committed by a young boy who found his father frozen to death. Tho old man had been kicked out of "Sodom” on a bitter night after he had traded everything he had, even to his blanket, for whiskey. The boy went to the saloon and shot, Into the crowd, killing unfortunately an unoffending bystander.

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