We-no-shee-kah and his Band

Waa-Kaun-See-Kas (The Rattlesnake or Waukon-Decorah)

Kingsley says: “We-no-shee-kah and his band after being moved about from one reservation to another were finally removed from Blue Earth, Minnesota, to Usher’s Landing, or Fort Thompson, S. D. Here a part of the band starved to death and others died of exposure. He took the remnant of his band and started down the Missouri river in canoes, in hopes of going to St. Louis, and hence up the Mississippi to his native haunts in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota; but the old chief got as far down as St. Joseph, Mo., and there winter overtook him and his little band. The old chief took sick and died very suddenly.” At this time the old chief evidently was on the Kansas side of the Missouri, as Mr. Lamere says: “He died in Kansas, or just across the southern line of Nebraska among the Iowa Indians.” One wife and the family came through the next summer. Little Winneshiek, a son of the old chief, says: “My father traveled extensively in the interest of the tribe, he with other chiefs were in Washington on two occasions for the purpose of ceding large areas of land at each time to the Federal Government;” he further says: “Your county was named in honor of my father, Chief Winneshiek, who was considered the head of the Winnebago tribe at the time they were occupying the Turkey river district in Iowa. Ours was the family to which Geo. Kingsley referred to as moving to Wisconsin after my father’s death.”

No one knows who gave the county its name; this, like certain other things concerning the earliest history of the county, has apparently never been recorded. At an old settlers’ meeting held in Decorah, July 4, 1876, Mr. A. K. Bailey delivered an address in which it was strongly intimated that this might have been the work of Hon. Eliphalet Price. Alexander accepted this as good enough history and gives it as such in his history of the county. However, Mr. A. K. Bailey corrects this by a later article 1 in which he states: “The very recent discovery that the county was named legally (February 27, 1847], and its boundaries described, more than four years before the organizing act (1851] ] was passed (which has until now [1903] been considered as the beginning of county existence), makes this credit to Mr. Price improbable.”

Young Winneshiek, or Winneshiek the Younger, so-called in history, was a younger brother of old chief Winneshiek, or Coming Thunder. It is stated 2 that he was a son of the old chief, but this is an error and does not refer to his son Little Winneshiek who says, “Young Winneshiek was named Ah-hoo-sheeb-gah, or Short Wing, by his fellow tribesmen; he was a younger brother of my father and did not participate in the Sauk and Fox war [1832] .” It is said 3 that during the so-called Winnebago war, in 1827, Young Winneshiek was held as a hostage by Colonel Dodge for the good behavior of the tribe. This statement is made by several historians 4 in which connection they also mention him as taking part in the Black Hawk war, 1832; Mr. Clay’s narrative refers to chief Winneshiek, an older brother of Young Winneshiek. Little Winneshiek’s statement (as given above) confirms Mr. Clay’s narration. It is stated in Alexander’s history that Winneshiek was a noted orator. Obviously, this refers to Young Winneshiek, for in the Report of the Indian agent for 1840, 5 there is a speech made by Young Winneshiek, in which he refers to himself as “a boy,” protesting against the removal to Iowa. Kingsley testifies that old chief Winneshiek (Coming Thunder) was “no orator.”

No-Gin-Kah (Striking Tree or Little Winneshick)
No-Gin-Kah (Striking Tree or Little Winneshick)

Antoine Grignon says, “Young Winneshiek was a bright young man. He died rather young, at Black River Falls, Wis.” When the Winnebagoes were being removed from Blue Earth, the chiefs Decorah and Winneshiek (evidently One-eyed Dcorah and Young Winnshiek) fled with their families and other members of the tribe to Wisconsin. Young Winneshiek had a village on the Black River and died there in May; 1887. No-gin-kah (meaning, Striking Tree and Younger Winneshiek) is the youngest son of Chief Winneshiek, or Coming Thunder. He is seventy years old and is still living in Wisconsin. He is more commonly known as Little Winneshiek. Nogin-kah says, “John Winneshiek and I are the only sons of Chief Winneshiek living and his other descendants produced by our deceased brothers and sisters diverge into a very large family.” He further states that, “The medals issued to Winnebago chiefs by the United States Government are lost, the one described by Geo. W. Kingsley was lost by one of my elder brothers. I have only one medal in my possession, on which is engraved King George the 3d and Latin inscriptions [this medal, (with the exception of a slight variation in size) conforms to a description of the one issued by the British military authorities in 1778].”

John Winneshiek’s Indian name is Ko-sho-gi-way-ka, meaning “One that goes low;” he is seventy-eight years old.

Old chief Winneshiek’s Indian name is given by some historians 6 as Wa-kun-cha-koo-kah, but this is evidently an error. Wa-kun-cha-koo-kah 7 is the Indian name of chief Yellow Thunder, who migrated with his tribe to Iowa. Yellow Thunder did not remain long at the Turkey river, for within a year he and his wife (known in history as “the Washington woman”) 8 returned to Wisconsin; here he entered a tract of forty acres as a homestead on the west side of the Wisconsin river. He died in February, 1874. Yellow Thunder was greatly respected by his people, and was an able counselors in their public affairs.

Other Winnebago chiefs known to have been in the county were Whirling Thunder (Wau-kaun-ween-kaw), Little Hill (Shogee-nik-ka) who, at Long Prairie, became head spokesman for the chiefs; Big Bear, and Kayrah-mau-nee, a son of Carryanaunee (or Nawkaw).Citations:

  1. From a paper prepared by A. K. Bailey, for deposit in the corner stone of the new Court House, and republished in the Illustrated Historical Atlas of Winneshiek County,” Sec. II, pg. 3.[]
  2. Wisconsin Historical Collections, 2 -331.[]
  3. Wisconsin Historical Collections, 2; 331.[]
  4. Fulton, Gue, and Sabin; the latter two, it seems, have taken their accounts from Fulton. They were probably under wrong impressions in reference to ” Young Winneshiek” as their statements (according to historical data) seem to apply to more than one person.[]
  5. Wisconsin Historical collections.[]
  6. Fulton, ” Red Men of Iowa;” Gue, ” History of Iowa,” Vol. 1; Sabin, ” The ‘Making of Iowa.”[]
  7. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 30, pt. 2, pg. 996. 50 Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 150.[]
  8. Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, pg. 150.[]

History, Winnebago,

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

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