Winnebago Indians

Winnebago. Signifying in the Fox and the Sauk languages “people of the filthy water,” for which reason they were sometimes known to the French as Puants and to the English as Stinkards. Also called:

  • Aweatsiwaenhronon, a form of the Huron name (see below).
  • Banabeouiks, a shortened form of Winnebago.
  • Bay Indians, so called by Lapham, Blossom, and Dousman (1870).
  • Hati’hshi’rû’nû, Huron name, meaning “afraid of sticking in the mire.”
  • Hotanka, Dakota name.
  • Hotcangara, own name, signifying “(people of the) big or real speech,” but, through a confusion of words, often misinterpreted “fish eaters.”
  • Nipegon, so called by Long (in James (1823).

Winnebago Connections. The Winnebago belong to the Siouan linguistic family, and to a subdivision comprising also the group called by J. O. Dorsey (1897) Chiwere, which includes also the Iowa, Oto, and Missouri.

Winnebago Location. The most ancient known habitat of this tribe was on the south side of Green Bay extending inland as far as Lake Winnebago. (See also Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.)

Winnebago Villages

Those that are known by name are:

  • Prairie la Crosse, in southeastern Wisconsin.
  • Sarrochau, on the site of Taycheeday, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin.
  • Spotted Arm’s Village, near Exeter, Green County, Wisconsin.
  • Village du Puant, on Wildcat Creek about a mile above its junction with the Wabash, above Lafayette, in Tippecanoe County, Indiana.
  • Wuckan, on Lake Poygan, Winnebago County, Wisconsin.
  • Yellow Thunder, at Yellow Banks, Green Lake County, Wisconsin.

Winnebago History. The Winnebago were occupants of the territory above mentioned from the earliest times of which we have any record. During the eighteenth century they spread up Fox River and still later extended their villages to Wisconsin and Rock Rivers. It is reported that they were nearly destroyed by the Illinois some time before 1671 but, if so, they soon recovered entirely from this shock. They managed to remain on better terms with the surrounding tribes than most of their neighbors. By treaties made in 1825 and 1832 they ceded all of their lands south of Wisconsin and Fox Rivers to the United States Government in return for a reservation on the west side of the Mississippi above upper Iowa River. In 1836 they suffered severely from the smallpox. In 1837 they relinquished the title to their old country east of the Mississippi, and in 1840 they removed to the Neutral Ground in the territory of Iowa. Many, however, remained in their old lands. In 1846 the rest surrendered their reservation for one in Minnesota north of Minnesota River, and in 1848 removed to Long Prairie Reservation, bounded by Crow Wing, Watab, Mississippi, and Long Prairie Reservations, Minn. In 1853 they removed to Crow River and in 1856 to Blue Earth, Minn., where they remained until the Dakota outbreak of 1862, when the Whites in the section demanded their removal. In consequence they were taken to Crow Creek Reservation, S. Dak., but suffered so much from sickness, and in other ways, that they escaped to the Omaha for protection. There a new reservation was assigned to them on the Omaha lands, where they have since been allotted land in severalty. Some however, remained in Minnesota when the tribe was removed from that state and a larger number did not leave Wisconsin.

Winnebago Population. Mooney (1928) estimates that there were 3,800 individuals belonging to the Winnebago tribe in 1650. The following figures have been given from time to time: In 1806, 1,750; in 1820, 5,800; in 1837 and 1843, 4,500; in 1867, 1,750 in Nebraska and 700 in Wisconsin. In 1876 there were 1,463 on the Nebraska Reservation and 860 in Wisconsin, but 204 of the latter removed to Nebraska in 1877. In 1886 there were 1,222 in Nebraska and 930 in Wisconsin. In 1910 the United States Indian Office gave 1,063 in Nebraska and 1,270 in Wisconsin, but the United States Census of the same date gave a total Winnebago population of 1,820, of whom 1,007 were in Nebraska, 735 in Wisconsin, and the remainder scattered among 10 other States. In 1923 the Report of the United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs gave 1,096 in Nebraska. In 1930 the figure was 1,446, of whom 937 were in Wisconsin and 423 in Nebraska. In 1937 the United States Indian Office reported 1,456 in Wisconsin, and 1,212 in Nebraska: total, 2,668.

Connection in which the Winnebago have become noted. The Winnebago tribe is noted for the unique position it occupied, as a Siouan tribe surrounded by Algonquian peoples, probably having been left behind in the general Siouan movement west, and its reputation as one of the mother tribes of the Siouan stock. Its name is perpetuated in that of Winnebago Lake; Wis.; the names of counties in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin; and places in Winnebago County, Ill.; Faribault County, Minn.; Winnebago County, Wis.; and Thurston County, Nebr.

Siouan, Winnebago,

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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