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 for Decorah, Junior.

This chief established a village on the Iowa river (Upper Iowa) in 1840, and it is thought that he was about forty years old while here. Antoine Grignon, who was acquainted with him, says, “Little Decorah spent very little time in Iowa-but lived mostly in the region of Portage, Wis.” He belonged to the Mississippi river bands of Indians. Waukon Decorah and Little Decorah had separate camps on the Upper Iowa river.

Little Decorah was of medium height, five feet, eight or ten inches, and was chunky and fleshy. It is said that he was slow of action and speech, but possessed a mild and kind disposition and was very sensible. He belonged to the Cloud clan. Little Decorah died near Tomah, Wis., April 1, 1887, about l00 years old.

Spoon Decorah was a son of Old Gray-headed Decorah. (It will be remembered that Old Decorah had a brother Choukeka, also called Spoon Decorah). Spoon Decorah was born at his father’s village near the mouth of the Baraboo river, Wisconsin. In March, 1887, Dr. Reuben G. Thwaites had an interview with him. He was then “living with his aged squaw,” whose name, it is said, was Gray Eagle-eye. “His progeny, reaching to the fourth generation, were clustered about the patriarchal lodge in family wigwams.” He could only converse in his native tongue. He related, “In 1840, we were all moved to the Turkey river [Iowa]; but in the spring our party went to Iowa [Upper] river, where Little Decorah had a village. We went down soon afterwards to the Turkey river to get our ammunition, but for some reason-perhaps because we had moved to Iowa river without the consent of the agent-we couldn’t get any.” 1 He then went back to Wisconsin, where he died October 13, 1889, in a cranberry marsh, near Necedah. It is said that he was about eighty-four years old when he died. 1

Spoon Decorah, a cousin of the Spoon Decorah interviewed by Dr. Thwaites in 1887, was a son of One-eyed Decorah. In regard to him we have no further information.

Angel De Cora known in private life as Mrs. William Deitz is the daughter of a descendant of the hereditary chief of the Winnebagoes. The name “Angel” came about through an accident; its bearer was carried, while a baby, to a young kinswoman, who, being asked to choose a “Christian name,” opened a Bible at random, and the first word which caught her eye was “angel.” Her Indian name, which means “Queen of the Clouds,” identifies her with the Thunder-bird clan. Angel De Cora Deitz states: “Wakan [Waukon Decorah] was a generation or two before Maw-he-coo-shave-nave-zhe-ka [Little Decorah]. The latter was my grandfather.”

Her education began, while very young, when she was carried off to Hampton, Va. A strange white man appeared on the reservation and asked her, through an interpreter, if she would like to ride on a steam car; with six other children she decided to try it, and when the ride was ended she found herself in Hampton. “Three years later, when I returned to my mother,” says Angel De Coral, 2 “she told me that for months she wept and mourned for me. My father and the old chief and his wife had died, and with them the old Indian life was gone.” She then returned to Hampton, where, through the efforts of a kind family who gave her employment, she was enabled to work her way through a local preparatory school for girls, and later the art department of Smith College, Northampton, Mass. 2

Her husband’s name is Wicarhpi Isnala, or Lone Star; he is one-quarter Sioux and the rest German. Both are now teaching art at the Carlisle Indian School, her husband, having also studied art and become an artist of some note. Angel De Cora has been under the art instruction of such men as Howard Pyle, Frank Brown, Joseph De Camp, and Edmund Tarbell. She has won distinction in her work. In 19o4 her husband, Lone Star, supervised the interior and mural decorations of the Indian exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. It was while in St. Louis that he became acquainted with Angel De Cora. 3

Roger C. Mackenstadt, whose boyhood was spent in the city of Decorah, where his parents still reside, says, “Our best policeman, and one of my intimate friends, was Peter Decora, a grandson of Chief Wakan Decorah. In the whole tribe I would say that fifty are named Decora. They drop the H. There are several Waukons, about ten, and twenty Winneshieks. The Winneshieks and Waukons are all Wisconsin Winnebagoes and about half of the Decoras are Wisconsin.” Mr. Mackenstadt having received a promotion, is now stationed at the Uintah and Ouray Agency, Utah.Citations:

  1. Wisconsin Historical Collections.[][]
  2. The Literary Digest, January 27, 1912, pg. 161.[][]
  3. From an article in the Literary Digest, January 27, 1912, pg. 161[]


History, Winnebago,

Hexom, Charles Philip. Indian History of Winneshiek County. Decorah: A. K. Bailey & Don, Inc. 1913.

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