Linguistically the Winnebago Indians are closely related to the ŧΩiwe’re on the one side and to the Mandan on the other. They were first mentioned in the Jesuit Relation of 1636, though the earliest known use of the name Winnebago occurs in the Relation of 1640; Nicollet found them on Green bay in 1639. According to Shea, the Winnebago were almost annihilated by the Illinois (Algonquian) tribe in early days, and the historical group was made up of the survivors of the early battles. Chauvignerie placed the Winnebago on Lake Superior in 1736, and Jefferys referred to them and the Sac as living near the head of Green bay in 1761; Carver mentions a Winnebago village on a small island near the eastern end of Winnebago lake in 1778. Pike enumerated seven Winnebago villages existing in 1811; and in 1822 the population of the tribe was estimated at 5,800 (including 900 warriors) in the country about Winnebago lake and extending thence southwestward to the Mississippi. By treaties in 1825 and 1832 they ceded their lands south of Wisconsin and Fox rivers for a reservation on the Mississippi above the Oneota; one of their villages in 1832 was at Prairie la Grosse. They suffered several visitations of smallpox; the third, which occurred in 1836, carried off more than a quarter of the tribe. A part of the people long remained widely distributed over their old country east of the Mississippi and along that river in Iowa and Minnesota; in 1840 most of the tribe removed to the neutral ground in the then territory of Iowa; in 1846 they surrendered their reservation for another above the Minnesota, and in 1856 they were removed to Blue Earth, Minnesota. Here they were mastering agriculture, when the Sioux War broke out and the settlers demanded their removal. Those who had taken up farms, thereby abandoning tribal rights, were allowed to remain, but the others were transferred to Crow creek, on Missouri river, whence they soon escaped. Their privations and sufferings were terrible; out of 2,000 taken to Crow Creek only 1,200 reached the Omaha Reservation, whither most of them fled. They were assigned a new reservation on the Omaha lands, where they now remain, occupying lands allotted in severalty. In 1890 there were 1,215 Winnebago on the reservation, but nearly an equal number were scattered over Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan, where they now live chiefly by agriculture, with a strong predilection for hunting.

For Further Study

If you would like to study more about the Winnebago Indians you should visit our main Winnebago Tribe page.

Siouan, Sioux War,

Omaha Reservation,

McGee, W. J. The Siouan Indians. Published in the Fifteenth Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1893 – 1894. Washington. 1897.

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