Historical evidence reveals the fact that at one time the northern part of Winneshiek county formed a small part of the vast hunting grounds of the Sioux Indians, and that the southern portion was given over to the Sauk and Foxe. In a council held at Prairie du Chien, August 19, 1825, a boundary line was established between the Sioux, on the north, and the Sauk and Foxe, on the south. The principal object of this treaty was to make peace between these contending tribes as to the limits of their respective hunting grounds in Iowa.
This boundary line began at the month of the Upper Iowa river and followed the stream, which traverses Winneshiek county, to its source. In order to decrease still further the encounters between the Sauks and Foxes, on the one hand, and the Sioux, on the other, the United States secured, at a council held at Prairie du Chien July 15, 183o, a strip of territory twenty miles wide on each side of the boundary line already established and extending from the Mississippi to the east fork of the Des Moines. This strip, forty miles in width, was termed the “Neutral Ground.” The tribes on either side were to hunt and fish on it unmolested, a privilege they ceased to enjoy when this territory was ceded to the Winnebagoes. In this way the tract of land now known as Winneshiek county became a part of the Neutral Ground.
September 15, 1832, the Winnebagoes ceded to the United States their lands south of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers, east of the Mississippi. The government on its part, by this treaty granted to the Winnebagoes “to be held as other Indian lands are held, that part of the tract of country on the west side of the Mississippi river known as the Neutral Ground, embraced within the following limits.” The boundaries specified confined the Winnebagoes to that portion of the Neutral Ground extending forty miles west of the Mississippi. By the terms of this treaty they were to be paid $10,000 annually for twenty-seven years, beginning in September, 1833.
November 1, 1837, a treaty was concluded with the Winnebagoes at Washington, by the provisions of which they ceded to the United States the remainder of their lands on the east side and certain interests on the west side of the Mississippi river, and agreed to remove to a portion of the Neutral Ground in Northeastern Iowa, set aside for them in the previous treaty of September 15, 1832. This treaty of 1837 was loudly proclaimed by the tribe to be a fraud. It was stated that the delegation which visited Washington in that year had no authority to execute such an instrument. Chiefs, also, who were of this party all made the same declaration.
The first attempt to remove the Winnebagoes was made in 1840, when a considerable number were induced to move to the Turkey river. That year a portion of the Fifth and Eighth regiments of U. S. infantry came to Portage, Wis., to conduct their removal. Antoine Grignon and others were connected with this force as interpreters.
Two large boats were provided to transport the Indians down the Wisconsin river to Prairie du Chien. Captain Sumner, who later was a commanding officer at Fort Atkinson, secured 250 Winnebagoes in southern Wisconsin. These were also taken to Prairie du Chien. They first disliked the idea of going on to the Neutral Ground, because on the south were the Sauk and Foxe, and on the north were the Sioux, and with these tribes they were not on friendly terms.
Considerable resentment was felt by the Sauk and Foxe towards the Winnebagoes for having delivered Black Hawk over to the whites, although previous to this occasion the Winnebagoes had been in intimate relationship with these tribes. However, they soon grew to love the Iowa reservation.