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Religion of the Winnebago

The fundamental religious concept of the Indian is the belief in the existence of magic power in animate and inanimate objects. This gave rise to their idea that there are men who possess supernatural power. This magic power is called Man’una (Earth-maker)1 by the Winnebagoes, and corresponds to the Gitchi Manito of the Central Algonquian tribes, and Wakanda2 of the Siouan tribes. As a verb, “wakanda” signifies “to reckon as holy or sacred, to worship;” the noun is “wakan” and means “a spirit, something consecrated.” “Wakan,” as an adjective, is defined as “spiritual, sacred, consecrated, wonderful, incomprehensible, mysterious.” “Wakan” and various other forms of that word are of common occurrence in the Winnebago language. The Winnebago mythology consists of large cycles relating to the five personages, Trickster, Bladder, Turtle, He-who-wears-heads-as-earrings, and the Hare. Other deities known to them are Disease-giver, Sun, Moon, Morning Star, the Spirits of the Night, One-horn, the Earth, and the Water. The Indian had no understanding of a single, all-powerful deity, the “Great Spirit,” till the Europeans, often unconsciously, informed him of their own belief. He believed in a multitude of spirits that were the source of good or bad fortune, and whom he feared to offend.3 He seems to have had no conception of a future punishment. The mortuary rites of the Winnebagoes, and other tribes, testify to the fact that they believed in a life after death; but as to the nature of “the happy land of the west” their ideas were vague. The Winnebagoes had two important tribal ceremonies, the Mankani or Medicine Dance, and the Wagigo, or Winter Feast. The Medicine...

Winneshiek County Iowa Reminiscences

When the first home seekers came to Winneshiek county the remains of several Winnebago Indian villages were still in existence. Numerous Indian trails were in evidence in nearly all parts of the county, many of which led to the site of the present city of Decorah. In “Reminiscences of Springfield Township1 ” Hon. A.  Jacobson states : “The Indians who had inhabited this portion of the country where we settled were removed by government troops two years previous to our arrival. They had evidently intended to return at some future time as they had made large cellar-like holes in the ground in which were deposited all kinds of goods ed with the bark of trees. Such things as corn, feathers, axes, and kettles were in good preservation when exhumed by the new settlers. “Quite large parties of Indians traversed the country, but they had their homes in the territory of Minnesota and did not molest us in the least. There were no settlements northwest of us the first year, hence being on the frontier we often felt un-easy, having heard that some traders sold them whiskey. “Indian trails, well marked, crossed the country in various directions, and with little deviation continued to be the roads of early settlers, until the fencing in of the fields pushed the roads into the worst places:” Alonzo Bradish, who came to Decorah in 1852, says2 “One of their trails followed the east bend of Pleasant Hill and left off at a point about where the Catholic church now stands on East Broadway. This trail was well marked by frequent travel, and in places...

Removal of the Winnebagoes from Iowa

October 13, 1846, the Winnebagoes ceded “all claim to land,” and especially their rights on the Neutral Ground, and were given a tract of land selected by the chiefs at Long Prairie, Minn. The Indians were not satisfied with the location, and most of them remained scattered throughout the country. Mr. Henry M. Rice secured the contract to remove these to Minnesota, and employed Moses Paquette, Antoine Grignon,and others to assist him. Antoine Grignon, who is now eighty-four years old and a resident of Wisconsin, says, “I went to school four years with Moses Paquette; he was a Winnebago mixed blood. I have no Indian name, but am part Sioux and Winnebago. I helped locate camps for H. M. Rice, along theriver, and we gathered the Indians together in La Crosse, took them by steamboat to St. Paul, then overland by wagon to Long Prairie, Minn. I remained at Long Prairie until 1854. They disliked very much to leave Iowa. They were removed in wagons, being guarded by dragoons from Fort Atkinson.” The names of the twenty-four Indian signers of the Treaty of Washington, negotiated with the Winnebago Indians October 13, 1846, are as follows: Hoong-ho-no-kaw Is-jaw-go-bo-kaw Co-no-ha-ta-kaw Naw-hoo-skaw-kaw Shoong-skaw-kaw Kooz-a-ray-kaw Waw-ma-noo-ka-kaw Ha-naw-hoong-per-kaw Waw-roo-jaw-hee-kaw Baptist-Lasalica Waw-kon-chaw-per-kaw Kaw-how-ah-kaw Hakh-ee-nee-kaw Waw-kon-chaw-ho-no-kaw Maw-pee-ko-shay-naw-zhee-kaw Wo-gie-qua-kaw Waw-kon-chaw-she-spick-kaw Chas-chun-kaw Naw-hey-tree-kaw Ah-hoo-zheb-kaw Maw-nee-ho-no-nic Maw-ho-kee-wee-kaw Sho-go-nee-kaw Watch-ha-ta-kaw, (by Henry M. Rice, his delegate.) Mr. Lamere has translated most of the above, names; the translations are as follows: Hoong-ho-no-kaw, or Little Chief (also called Little Priest); he was a member of the Wolf clan. Co-no-ha-ta-kaw;–“Co-no” is the name of all the first born male children of the Winnebagoes...

Barracks at Fort Atkinson

The main barracks consisted of the commissioned officer;’ quarters, built of stone, the non-commissioned officers’ quarters. built of logs hewn flat, one soldiers’ quarters (including hospital rooms), built of stone, and another soldiers’ quarters (including church and school rooms), built of flat hewn logs. The soldiers’ quarters were 250 feet long. These four main buildings enclosed a parade- and drill-ground (with a flag-staff at one end), and in turn were enclosed by a stockade twelve feet high and made out of logs hewn flat and set on end in a narrow trench. The top of the stockade consisted of spikes driven into the sharpened ends of the logs. Port holes were cut at about every four feet. In two corners of the stockade were located cannon-houses; and in the other two corners, the Quartermasters, store house (adjoined by the Sutler’s store) and the magazine, or powder-house. The guard-house was near the Sutler’s store, and a sentinel’s beat was constructed near the powder-house. The platform of the sentinel’s beat was about three feet below the top of one side of the stockade and extended nearly its whole length. At one end, by the magazine house, was constructed a small shelter for the protection of the sentinel during inclement weather. The outer walls of the (quartermaster’s store extended somewhat outside the stockade. Alexander states1 : “The material of which it was built was prepared at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, Wis., and the cost of making a wagon-road, the same ever since known as the Old Military road, and transporting the material to its destination, brought the cost of building the...

Manners and Customs of the Winnebago Indians

The Winnebagoes are distinctly a timber people, and always confined themselves to the larger streams. In early days their wearing apparel consisted commonly of a breechclout, moccasins, leggings, and robes of dressed skins. The advent among them of the whites enabled them to add blankets, cloths, and ornaments to their scanty wardrobes. Jonathan Emerson Fletcher, the Indian agent at the Turkey river, furnished Mr. Henry R. Schoolcraft, LL. D., at one time Indian agent for Wisconsin Territory and author of “Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States,” a description of the costume of the Winnebagoes, from which the following is condensed1 : “White blankets are preferred in winter, and colored in the summer. Red is a favorite color among the young, and green with the aged. Calico shirts, cloth leggings, and buckskin moccasins are worn by both sexes. In addition to the above articles, the women wear a broadcloth petticoat, or mantelet, suspended from the hips and extending below the knee. “Wampum, ear-bobs, rings, bracelets, and bells are the most common ornaments worn by them. Head-dresses ornamented with eagle’s feathers are worn by the warriors on public occasions. The chiefs wear nothing peculiar to designate their office, except it be medals received from the President of the United States. “Some of the young men and women paint their blankets with a variety of colors and figures. A large majority of the young and middle-aged of both sexes paint their faces when they dress for a dance. “Old and young women divide their hair from the forehead to the...

Waukon Decorah Exhumed

When the remains were first exhumed in 1859, the skull had black hair; this assertion is corroborated in a statement made by R. F. Gibson, January 27, 1913, to the writer of this article. Mr. Gibson was one of a committee of three appointed to take charge of the remains. Waukon Decorah was at this time living in Minnesota with his people; this fact has been established beyond question. It is stated in Alexander’s history that even prominent participants in the first exhumation of the alleged remains of Decorah were confused with doubts, by rumors, current at the time, to the effect that Decorah was still living. He died at the Blue Earth agency, southern Minnesota, in 1868, and was buried there. Mr. Lamere says, “He was about ninety-three years old when he died, and it is said that his hair was as white as it could be.” This is practically conclusive proof that the death of Waukon Decorah did not occur here, and that his remains are not buried in the Court House Square. Little Decorah was the oldest son of Old Gray-headed Decorah. His Winnebago name is given as “Maw-hee-coo-shaynaw-zhe-kaw,” which Mr. Kingsley interprets as “The pillar that reaches the clouds.” The following treaties were signed by Little Decorah: November 1, 1837, Washington, D. C., as “Ma-hee-koo-shay-nuz-he-kah, (Young Decori) ;” October 13,1846, Washington, as “Maw-hee-ko-shay-naw-zhee-kaw;” February 27, 1855, Washington, as “Maw-he-coo-shaw-naw-zhe-kaw, “one that Stands and Reaches the Skies, or Little Decorie ;” April 15, 1859, Washington, as “Little De Corrie;” March 1, 1865, Washington, as “Little Dacoria.” It is probable that “Little Decorah” is simply another term...

Fort Atkinson

In 1840 the Winnebago Indians were removed to their new home on the Neutral Ground. In order to protect them from the incursions of their neighbors, among whom were the Sauk and Fox tribes, as well as from intrusions of the whites, and in turn to prevent them from trespassing beyond the limits of the reservation, soldiers were stationed among them. A detachment of the 5th Infantry (Company F) under command of Captain Isaac Lynde left Fort Crawford, with a complement of eighty-two officers and enlisted men, and went into camp, May 31, 1840, in the neighborhood of Spring creek (now known as Goddard’s creek) on the Turkey river. The camp was named “Camp Atkinson” in honor of Brigadier General Henry Atkinson, U. S. Army, the Department Commander who was so prominent in military operations in the upper Mississippi valley. Barrack and quarters sufficient to accommodate one company were erected, and in March, 1841, the Secretary of War ordered that the station be known as Fort Atkinson. Rumors of the warlike attitude of a portion of the Sauk and Fox Indians, who, it was believed, intended sending out a party against the peaceable Winnebagoes, caused Governor Dodge of Wisconsin, in a letter dated January 23, 1847, and directed to the Commissioner of Indian affairs, to urge strongly that, in addition to the garrison there at that time, a mounted force be stationed at Fort Atkinson. The following is an extract from Governor Dodge’s letter: “In compliance with the instructions of your Department the Agency and School have been removed to the new site on Turkey river with about l00...

More Decorah Family Members

It was while Major Zachary Taylor was located at Prairie du Chien that he received from Old Gray-headed Decorah a peace pipe now in the State Historical Museum at Madison, Wis. This calumet is a fine specimen, the head is of catlinite inlaid with lead polished to look like silver. The stem, or wooden handle, is about three feet long, rather rudely carved. Mrs. J. H. Kinzie described1 him as “The most noble, dignified, and venerable of his own or indeed of any other tribe. His fine Roman countenance, rendered still more striking by his bald head, with one solitary tuft of long silvery hair neatly tied and falling back on his shoulders; his perfectly neat, appropriate dress, almost without ornament, and his courteous manner, never laid aside, under any circumstances, all combined to give him the highest place in the consideration of all who knew him.” Mrs. Kinzie further states:2 “The noble Old Day-kau-ray came one day from the Barribault to apprise us of the state of his village. More than forty of his people, he said, had now been for many days without food, save bark and roots. My husband accompanied him to the commanding officer to tell his story, and ascertain if any amount of food could be obtained from that quarter. The result was the promise of a small allowance of flour, sufficient to alleviate the cravings of his own family. When this was explained to the chief he turned away. ‘No,’ he said, “if his people could not be relieved, he and his family would starve with them,” and he refused for those nearest...

Decorah Family Line

In 1832, One-eyed Decorah married two wives and went to live on the Black river, Wis. He had at least one son, Spoon Decorah. Chas. H. Saunders says. “One-eyed Decorah has one daughter, Mrs. Hester Lowery, still living in Wisconsin. Her Indian name is No-jin-win-ka. She is between eighty-five and ninety years old.” One-eyed Decorah was living in Iowa between I840 and 1848, as Moses Paquette, who went to the Presbyterian school at the Turkey river, says that he saw him while was at school, and Decorah was then an old man. Big Canoe disliked to leave their Iowa reservation. Geo. W. Kingsley says: “One-eyed Decorah or Big Canoe, after being driver around by the United States Government from the Turkey river reservation, Iowa, to Long Prairie in northern Minnesota then back to Blue Earth, southern Minnesota, his family brought the old chief back to his native home and stamping grounds in Wisconsin. He requested his children not to bury him, but instead, to place him on top of the round in a sitting position, and so it was done.” He lived for a number of years with his tribe on Decorah’s Prairie, Wis., which is named after him; there is also a bluff called Decorah’s Peak back from the Prairie which was also named after him. George Gale states: “The One-eyed De Carry, who is now [about 1864] about ninety years old, had his cheedah (or wigwam) and family during the summer of 1862 two miles west of Galesville, Wis., and a part of the summer of 1863 he was near New Lisbon.” On both of these occasions...

Genealogy and History of the Decorah Family

Hopokoekau, or “Glory of the Morning,” also known as the Queen of the Winnebagoes, was the mother of a celebrated line of chiefs, all of whom, well known to border history, bore in some form the name Decorah. Her Indian name is also given as Wa-ho-po-e-kau. She was the daughter of one of the principal Winnebago chiefs. There is no record of the date of her birth or death. She became the wife of Sabrevoir De Carrie, who probably came to Wisconsin with the French army, in which he was an officer, in 1728. He resigned his commission in 1729, and became a fur-trader among the Winnebagoes, subsequently marrying “Glory of the Morning.” He was adopted into her clan and highly honored. After seven or eight years, during which time two sons and a daughter were born to him, he left her, taking with him the daughter. The (,queen refused to go with her husband, and remained in her home with her two sons. “The result is to-day that one-half or two-thirds of the Winnebago tribe have more or less of the Decorah blood in their veins.”1 Through the intervening generations there has been no other mixture of Caucasian blood, so that the Decorahs of to-day are probably as nearly full-bloods as any Indians in any part of the country. De Carrie returned to Canada, re-entered the army, and was killed at Ste Foye in the spring of 1760. The daughter whom he took with him, became the wife of a trader, Constant Kerigoufili, whose son, Sieur Laurent Fily (so-called), died about 1846. Captain Jonathan Carver, who visited the...
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