Wisconsin State History

"An Illustrated History of the State of Wisconsin..." By Charles Richard Tuttle; Publ. 1875;
Transcribed and donated by Andrea Stawski Pack.


It is not our intention, in this chapter, to write any extensive notice touching the manners and customs of the native tribes of Wisconsin: such would be foreign to the scope of this volume. Nevertheless, a list of the tribal names of the Indians who inhabited the Territory, together with a few hints as to their location and successive removals, will be expedient. In this, as in some of the succeeding chapters, our remarks will be statistical rather than descriptive.

We may, with good results, give a list of the different names by which the Indian tribes of Wisconsin have been known:

Ainoves = Iowas.
Assistaeronons = Mascontins.
Ayauways = Iowas.
Bay Indians = Winnebagoes.
Bevau-acs = Sioux.
Bewauacs = Sioux.
Chippewas = Sauteurs = Ojibbeways.
Courterrielles = Ottawas.
Cynagos = Sinagoux.
Dacotahs = Sioux.
Folles Avoines= Menomonees.
Foxes = Reynard = Outagamies.
Gens de Feu = Mascontins.
Howahs = The Sioux name for Iowas.
Hotauke = Sioux name for Winnebagoes.
Hurons = Wyandotts.
Isle aux Noix = Illinois.
Mascontins = Gens de Feu.
Musquakies = Outagamies = Foxes.
Nadowessi = Sioux, their Chippewa name.
Ojibbeways = Chippewas.
Ontehibouse = Chippewas.
Osaukies = Sauks = Sacs.
Othun-gu-rahs = Winnebagoes in their own language.
Outagamies = Foxes.
Puans or Puants = Winnebagoes of Green Bay.
Reynards = Foxes.
Sakis - Sauks.
Sauters = Chippewas.
Tawas = Ottawas.
Wyandotts = Ilurons.

By reference to the above list, the reader will be enabled to trace the connection between some of the half meaningless Indian names used, and the nations or tribes to which they belong. We can only mention, however, the names of those tribes, or families, over again, giving the dates at which they occupied certain lands.

In the early part of the last century, says Dr. Lapham, the Chippewas numbered about one hundred and fifty warriors at Chegoimegon Point, Lake Superior; the Menomonees, at the north of Lake Michigan, one hundred and sixty; the Sioux, at the head of lake Superior, three hundred; the Pottawattomies, at the outlet of Green Bay, twenty; the Sauks, at the head of Green Bay, one hundred and fifty; the Foxes, on the river that still bears their name, one hundred; the Kickapoos, about eighty; and the Mascontins, about sixty men capable of bearing arms. The whole Indian population within the district under consideration was then estimated at about fifteen thousand souls.

Three tribes are known to have, at one time, resided at or near Milwaukee; viz., the Menomonees, the Pottawattomies, and the Ottawas. The first-named occupied the lake-shore to the northward; the second and last, the country to the southward. The Ottawas were residing near where Milwaukee now stands as early as 1762.

When Jonathan Carver made his journey through Wisconsin, he found the Menomonees occupying the western border of Green Bay; the Winnebagoes, on the Upper Fox River; the Sauks and Foxes, on the Wisconsin; and the Mascontins were believed to have possession of the southern and interior portions of the State. "Were we able," says Dr. Lapham, "to trace accurately the history of the Indian nations, we should find, upon a small scale, a counterpart of the written history of the Caucasian race. One, by fortunate location, good government, and peaceful habits, becomes prosperous, and therefore ambitious: without international law, and with no respect for the rights of others, they crowd upon and soon displace their less fortunate neighbors. These are hence compelled to encroach upon the hunting-grounds of other tribes; and in this way the map of North America, like that of Europe, required adjustment from time to time. Thus the names of places, of rivers and lakes, handed down to us, may be those given by tribes long since driven from their vicinity; and we may, perhaps, understand why, in all the modern Indian languages, we can find no explanation of the origin of the name of our State. They must be names applied by some tribe now extinct, or to be found in some far distant country."

The Indian tribes of Wisconsin may be classed under two great national names; but it must be remembered that the tribes we have named as residing within the boundaries of the State constituted but a small fraction of these nations. These nations are the Algonquins, or Algonkins, and the Dacotas.

In 1821, and even later, Wisconsin, and a portion of Illinois, were inhabited, for the most part, only by Indians. "On the occasion of a treaty held at Chicago in 1821, they assembled from all quarters to the number of three thousand souls. Straggling parties were seen everywhere, proceeding to the appointed place, usually on horseback, and decorated, according to the Indian taste, with medals, silver bands, and feathers." Schoolcraft tells us, that " the gaudy and showy dresses of these troops of Indians, with the jingling caused by the striking of their ornaments, and their spirited manner of riding, created a scene as novel as it was interesting. Proceeding from all parts of a very extensive circle of country, like rays converging to a focus, the nearer we approached the more compact and concentrated the body became; and we found our cavalcade rapidly augmented, and consequently the dust, confusion, and noise increased at every by-path which intercepted our way."

But we have no space for the long and interesting chapters that might be compiled on the manners and customs of the Wisconsin Indians, and must, therefore, confine ourselves to a brief mention of the important events in the history of the several tribes, their migrations, and their final disappearance. For our materials in this particular, we are indebted to a pamphlet edited by I. A. Lapham, Levi Blossom, and George G. Dousman, now among the Collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Indeed, we shall take the liberty of quoting from said pamphlet, as the following paragraphs cannot easily be improved upon, for the purposes which they will serve in this chapter.

''The Mascontins, as before remarked, early disappeared. Their record is fully made up; their decline and fall is complete: but what has become of them - whether removed to some distant part of the country, amalgamated with some other tribe, or destroyed by poverty and disease-we are not permitted to know. Alas! the destiny of the Mascontin is the destiny of the red man.

"The Kickapoos were removed at an early date, west of the Mississippi River; and their name does not appear among those tribes that disposed of their lauds to our government.

The Sauks and Foxes appear at one time to have joined the Sioux in their effort to maintain a footing upon the east bank of the Mississippi, against the Chippewas. In 1703 they were upon the Upper Wisconsin, occupying the country from Green Bay to Lac de Flambeau, and even to Lake Superior and Upper Mississippi, giving their name (Sauk) to a river and rapids in Minnesota. From this position, which they occupied but a short time, they were driven back by the Chippewas, under the leadership of their famous chief, Wah-boo-jeog (Whits Fisher), who died at Chegoimegon in 1793. The decisive battle was fought at the Falls of the St. Croix. They were thus forced to the Lower Rock River, beyond our border; and they do not appear as claiming any share of Wisconsin in the general apportionment among the Indian tribes at Prairie du Chien, in 1825.

"The Winnebagoes are supposed to be an offshoot of the great Sioux nation: they have figured largely in the Indian history of Wisconsin. They were but a small tribe when first encountered by the French on the shores of Green Bay, and named by them Pnans (Stinks), on account of their filthy habits. They afterwards became a very bold and warlike tribe. They joined Pontiac in his effort to eradicate British rule in the North-west, in 1703, and afterwards fought with the British against us (the Americans) in 1812. In 1837 they sold their lands in Wisconsin to the government, and were removed, in the spring of 1849, to their ' reservation ' at the West, where it is supposed they are to remain permanently.

"The Sioux struggled manfully for their ancient hunting-grounds on the St. Croix River, and only relinquished them in 1837 to the United States Government by treaty. The Chippewas on the north, and the Winnebagoes on the south, had already crowded them into a very narrow space along the east bank of the Mississippi, between Prairie du Chien and Lake St. Croix. It is supposed that they extended much farther eastward, along the southern borders of Lake Superior, whence they were driven by the Chippewas, who were themselves crowded by other still more eastern tribes. Their very name, in the language of the Chippewas (Nada wessy), signifies an enemy; and these two tribes, like British and French, were always at war.
"The Chippewas have persistently maintained their position on the south shore of Lake Superior, stretching, in 1832, to the head waters of Chippewa and Wisconsin Rivers. At this time they numbered 2,820.
"Among them were thirty-five trading-posts, visited annually by traders licensed under the Act of Congress of May 20, 1824. The Chippewas sold their land to the government in 1837 and 1842, except a small reservation near the mouth of Bad River, on Lake Superior, which is still occupied by them, though the great body of the tribe have been removed to Minnesota.
"From the Report of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs from 1856, we learn that the Chippewas of Lake Superior, including the band on Bad River, in the northern part of Wisconsin, have been furnished with a liberal supply of farming-implements, carpenter's tools, household furniture, and cooking-utensils; and every Indian having a house, and residing in it, has been supplied with a good cooking-stove and the usual cooking utensils, a table, a bureau, chairs, bedstead, looking-glass, and many small articles for household use. The effect of this policy is quite perceptible and salutary, and has stimulated many to erect, and provide for erecting, new houses at Bad River and several other places. This is evidently a move in the right direction, and one that might have been adopted with advantage at an earlier date.

"The Menomouees, or Wild Rice Eaters, appeal to have been a quiet, peace-loving people, usually ranked above the average of Indian tribes in personal appearance and intellectual qualities. For a long time the Milwaukee River was the boundary separating them from the Pottawattomies at the south. Tomah appears to have been, in former times, a good and great chief among them, advising always against war and all other kinds of wickedness. He has been very properly remembered in the name of one of our flourishing towns.

"In 1848 the Menomonees ceded their entire country in this State to the General Government, and were to be removed to Minnesota; but, the district assigned them not being found suitable to their wants, they were, with the consent of the Wisconsin legislature, allowed to remain upon a small reservation (276,480 acres) on the Wolf River. In 1852 they were removed to this reservation, which it is expected will remain their permanent home so long as they shall maintain their organization as a distinct tribe.

"In August, 1853, Oshkosh, the renowned chief of this tribe, whose name is very properly perpetuated in the beautiful city on the shores of Lake Winnebago, represented to the government that his tribe, had never been so poor and destitute of provisions, having fallen almost to a condition of starvation. About half of the tribe were devoted to agriculture: the remainder still adhered to the roving life of the hunter. The government aid extended to this tribe as a compensation for their lands appears to have been administered with very little care and judgment. Mrs. Dousman and her daughter resided upon the reserve; the latter as a teacher, occupying temporary buildings, entirely unfit for the purposes for which they were used.

"The Pottawattomies were one of the largest and most powerful of the Indian tribes. They were represented, in 1821, as thinly scattered in tents over a very great extent of country, stretching, on the south, along both sides of the Illinois River, on the western shore of Lake Michigan, to the Menomonees of Millewacky, and to the Winnebagoes of Green Bay;' on the east, beyond the St. Joseph to the headwaters of the Maumee and the Wabash; and towards the west their territories extended to Rock River, and to the lands of the Sauks and Foxes on the Mississippi. At the treaty held in Chicago in 1833, they relinquished to the government all their lands in this State south and west of the Milwaukee River, which then became public land, and was open for settlement and improvement by white people.

"In 1853 the remnant still remaining of this once powerful tribe were removed to their ' permanent homes ' west of the Upper Mississippi.

"The Ottawas appear to have been intimately associated with the Pottawattomies: they joined in relinquishing the lauds south and west of Milwaukee. Their proper home seems to have been upon the east of Lake Michigan. On Charlevoix' map, the Chippewas are set down as Ottawas.

"The Brothertowns were removed to the east bank of Lake Winnebago from the State of New York. They have relinquished their tribal organization, and have been adopted with full privileges, as citizens of the United States.

"The Stockbridges were also removed to the east banks of Lake Winnebago, from the State of New York. They were but few in number, had made some considerable advance in civilization, the arts, & c.; and in 1850, after some difficulties with the government, they were induced to remove to a tract of land adjoining the Menomonee reservation on Wolf River.

"The Oneidas, a mere remnant of a once important tribe, were removed to a reservation near Green Bay, from the State of New York. They still retain their Indian organization and government distinct from that of the State; have made considerable advances in the right direction. Their patches of cultivated land have become farms; their log-huts have been replaced by good substantial buildings; and they have blacksmiths, carpenters, & c., from among their own people.

"It seems proper here, to say a few words of the action of our National and State Government with reference to the Indian. Before the law, an Indian is regarded as an alien, and treated as such. Indians not taxed are not enumerated, and included as a part of the population, as a basis of representation in the Congress of the United States.

"The celebrated ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States north-west of the Ohio River, adopted in Congress in July, 1787, provided, that 'the utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians: their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and in their property rights, and liberty, they never shall be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars, authorized by Congress. But laws founded in justice and humanity shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship among them.'

"This eminently just and humane policy has ever been held in view by our government; and, had the Indian department been a little more fortunate in preventing individuals from committing some of the most flagrant wrongs to these ' nations,' all would have been well, and the Indians of today would not have been the degraded beings we now, unhappily, see about us.

"By the statute law of the Territory of Wisconsin of 1839, it was made a punishable offence to furnish spirituous liquors to the Indians. As a sample of local legislation so common in this State, we may cite the law of January, 1840, in which it was gravely enacted that it should be unlawful to keep within five miles of the mouth of Wolf River, in Brown County, any intoxicating liquors for the purpose of supplying the Indians. To show that our law-makers were entirely in earnest in the matter, it was further enacted, for years afterwards, that the offender might be indicted and it was made the imperative duty of the courts to give the matter especially in charge of the grand jury. Still, Indians would get drunk; the temptation of white men to sell whiskey to them being too strong to be thus easily overcome.

"The constitution of the State of Wisconsin, adopted in 1818, recognized the rights of Indians who had once been declared by law of Congress to be citizens of the United States, and of civilized Indians not members of any tribe or 'nation,' to vote at all elections. The property of Indians was exempted from taxation and they were allowed the privilege of suing and being sued, with the same judicial rights as other inhabitants."

We are not prepared to follow the gentlemen named in our quotation, through their criticism of the United States Government in its relations with the Indian tribes. It is certain, that if the government could have had any valuable precedents, either in history or in contemporary governments, from which a wiser policy than that pursued might have been drawn, the results would have been more salutary to the interests of the natives, as well as a lighter burden upon national blood and treasure. That the Indians as nations have been shamefully treated is an unwelcome truth. The solemn engagements into which they have entered with their Great Father have, for the most part, received greater respect and compliance from the Indians, who were generally forced to make them, than from the government, which, in nearly every case, dictated its own terms. And yet, after all, it seems to have been within the scope of a divine providence that the aborigines of North America should vanish before civilization. Nor does the writer believe that any policy of the United States Government, no matter how deeply fraught with forces calculated to foster and perpetuate this dying race, could have saved them from the extermination which they have already suffered. It is, however, a stigma upon our national honor, that the decline and rapid disappearance of the natives is so heavily freighted with unnecessary cruelty.

We may properly close this chapter with the following list of Indian treaties, all of which have to do, either directly or indirectly, with the relinquishment of the territory now included within the boundaries of the State of Wisconsin.

We are indebted to the Collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society for this list.

1804. Nov. 3, at St. Louis, between Gov. William H. Harrison, and the Sauks and Foxes, at which Southern Wisconsin was purchased.
1816. May 18, at St. Louis, confirming that of Nov. 3, 1804, with a portion of the Winnebago tribe, residing on the Wisconsin River.
1816. Aug. 24, at St. Louis, with Ottawas, Chippewas, and Pottawattomies residing on the Illinois and Milwaukee Rivers & c. Lands relinquished to the Indians, except nine miles square, at Prairie du Chien.
1817. March 30, at St. Louis, with the Menomonees. A treaty of peace, friendship, &c.
1821.Tthe Oneida and Stockbridge Indians settled near Green Bay.
1822. Sept. 3, at Fort Armstrong, with the Sauk and Fox tribes.
1825, Aug. 1 and 19, at Prairie du Chien, with Sioux and Chippewas, Sauks and Foxes, Winnebagoes, Ottawas, Pottawattomies, & c. Boundary between Sioux and Chippewas agreed upon also between the Chippewas, and between the Winnebagoes and other tribes.
1826. Aug. 5, at Fond du Lac, with the Chippewas, who assent to the boundaries agreed upon at Prairie du Chien.
1827. Aug. 11, at Butte des Morts, with the Menomonees,. in which they relinquish their right to a tract of land near Green Bay.
1828. at Green Bay. Purchase of the lead-mine region.
1829. July 29, at Prairie, with the Winnebagoes. Purchase of the lead-mine region confirmed.
1831. Feb. 8, at Washington, with the Menomonees, who ceded to the United States all their lands east of the Milwaukee River, Lake Winnebago, and Green Bay.
1832. Oct. 27, with the Menomonees. Lands purchased for the New York Indians.
1833. Sept. 26, at Chicago. Lands south and west of the Milwaukee River purchased of the Chippewas, Pottawattomies, and Ottawas.
1836. Sept. 3, at Green Bay, with the Menomonees. Lands purchased west of Green Bay, and a strip on the Upper Wisconsin River.
1837. July 29, at Fort Snelling, by Gov. Dodge, with the Chippewas. Lands south of the divide between the waters of Lake Superior and those of the Mississippi ceded to the government.
1837. Sept. 29, with the Sioux. Lands east of the Mississippi ceded to the government.
1837. Nov. 1, with the Winnebagoes, who ceded all their lands east of the Mississippi River to the government.
1842. Oct. 4, at La Pointe, with the Chippewas. Lands ceded, & c.
1848. Oct. 18, with the Menomonees, who ceded all their lands in Wisconsin.
1848. Nov. 24, with the Stockbridges; purchase of their reservation on the east shore of Lake Winnebago.

"An Illustrated History of the State of Wisconsin..." By Charles Richard Tuttle; Publ. 1875;
Transcribed and donated by Andrea Stawski Pack.


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