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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 Queen in 1766, states that she received him graciously, and luxuriously entertained him during the four days he remained in her village, which “contained fifty houses.” Her two sons, “Being the descendants of a chief on the mother’s side, when they arrived at manhood, assumed the dignity of their rank by inheritance. They were generally good Indians and frequently urged their claims to the friendship of the whites, by saying they were themselves half white.”
Choukeka Dekaury, or Spoon Decorah, sometimes called the Ladle, was the eldest son of Sabrevoir De Carrie and Hopokoekau. The name is also rendered Chau-ka-ka and Chou-ga-rah. After having been made chief he became the leader of attacks on the Chippewas during a war between them and the Winnebagoes, but he maintained friendly relations with the whites. He was the ancestor of the Portage branch of the family. It was principally through his influence that the treaty of June 3, 1816, at St. Louis, Mo., was brought about.
His wife, Flight of Geese, was a daughter of Nawkaw (known also as Carrymaunee and Walking Turtle), whose management of tribal affairs was decidedly peaceful. According to La Ronde, Choukeka’s death occurred in 1816, when he was “quite aged.” He left six sons and five daughters.
The sons were:
- Konokah, or Old Gray-headed Decorah
- Augah, or the Black Decorah, named by La Ronde, Ruch-ka-scha-ka, or White Pigeon
- Anaugah, or the Raisin Decorah, named by La Ronde, Chou-me-ne-ka-ka
- Nah-ha-sauch-e-ka, or Rascal Decorah
- Wau-kon-ga-ka, or the Thunder Hearer
- Ong-skaka, or White Wolf, who died young.
Three of the daughters married Indians. One married a trapper named Dennis De Riviere and later married Perische Grignon. The other married Jean Lecuyer.
Cyrus Thomas2 makes the statement that, “From Choukeka’s daughters who married white men are descended several well known families of Wisconsin and Minnesota.”
Chah-post-kaw-kaw, or the Buzzard Decorah, was the second son of De Carrie and “Glory of the Morning.” He settled at La Crosse in 1787, with a band of Winnebagoes, and was soon after killed there.
He had two sons:
- Big Canoe, or One-eyed Decorah.
- Wakun-ha-ga, or Snake Skin, known as Waukon Decorah.
Old Gray-Headed Decorah, called by the whites Konakah (eldest) Decorah, often mentioned as Old Dekaury, was the eldest son and successor of Choukeka Dekaury. His common Indian name was Schachipkaka, or The War Eagle. The signature “De-ca-ri” attached to the treaty of Prairie des Chiens (as the word is frequently spelled in early documents), Michigan Territory, August 19, 1825, is probably that of Old Dekaury. He signed the treaty of Prairie du Chien, Michigan Territory, August 1, 1829, as “Hee-tsha-wau-sharp-skawkau, or White War Eagle. “Among those representing the Fort Winnebago deputation at the treaty of Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, Ill., September 15, 1832, he signed as “Hee-tshah-wau:aip-skaw-skaw, or White War Eagle, De-kau-ray, sr.”
Old Decorah was born in 1747, and died at Peten well, the high rock on the Wisconsin river, April 20, 1836, about ninety years old. Old De-kau-ry’s town contained over l00 lodges, and was the largest of the Winnebago villages. Before he died he called a Catholic priest, who baptized him the day of his death.
Before his father’s death, in 1816, Old Gray-headed Decorah had joined a band of Winnebagoes who took part, August 2, 1813, in the attack led by General Proctor, with 500 regulars and 800 Indians, on Fort Stephenson on lower Sandusky river, Ohio, which was so gallantly defended by Major George Croghan with a force of 150 Americans and only one cannon. He also fought with Proctor and Tecumseh, a celebrated Shawnee chief, at the battle of the Thames, Canada, where a great part of the British army was either slain or captured by the American forces under General Wm. H. Harrison, October 5, 1813, and where Tecumseh was shot. Old Decorah was held as a hostage for the delivery of Red Bird, a war chief, during the so called Winnebago War. Old Decorah gave assurance to General Atkinson, during this war, of the peaceable intentions of the Winnebagoes.