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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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A portrait of the Winnebago spokesman who visited Washington, D.C. in 1828 to meet President John Quincy Adams

WINNEBAGO. A Siouan tribe that referred to itself as Hotcangara, "people of the real speech." The name Winnebago, a word meaning "people of the dirty water" who were known to the French as the Puants or Stinkards. (1)

The Winnebago cooperated with Julien DUBUQUE and allowed his miners to explore areas west of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER in search of LEAD as early as 1805. Americans, fearing that the Winnebago would join the British during the War of 1812, constructed a fort in 1813 near present day Bellevue, Iowa, in an attempt to coerce them into remaining loyal.

In 1830 a band of Winnebago and DAKOTA ambushed a party of SAUK AND FOX on their way to a peace conference at Prairie du Chien. Among the Fox killed was PIA-NO-SKY. One year later the Winnebago were allies of the Sauk and Fox in the BLACK HAWK WAR. In defeat they were punished by being forced to cede all lands south and east of the Wisconsin River and accept lands in the Neutral Ground created by the Treaty of 1830 as part of the Indian Removal Policy.

The Neutral Ground was meant to keep the Sauk and Fox apart from the DAKOTA. Positioned between such hostile tribes, difficulties were bound to arise. In 1840 the Sauk and Winnebago agreed to hunt on the same ground just west of Dubuque. Argument arose and the Sauk and Fox, led by Stabbing Chief, attacked the Winnebago and killed between 43 and 50. The Sauk and Fox suffered two deaths. (2)

The Winnebago tribe was subdivided into two divisions. The "wangeregi," or war division, had four clans. The "manegi," or earth division, had eight. Children inherited the clan of their fathers. Each clan constructed small effigy mounds representing the animal that stood for its group.

The Winnebago economy included fishing, hunting and farming. Communal buffalo hunts were conducted on the prairies; forest animals were hunted with bows and arrows, traps and later guns.

The Winnebago expanded into southwestern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois by the early 19th century. By 1837 most had been forced to cede their lands east of the Mississippi River and were living in Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota.

In 1874 the Dubuque Herald reported that a group of "greasy, disappointed, duped Winnebago" were camped "south of Ryan's smokehouse." They are been persuaded to leave their homes for a reservation in Nebraska and were now returning to their homeland. (3) The Herald ran the following article on August 7th:

              Some fifty Indians, big and little, at the breast and on
              the back, went up the river road by freight train yesterday.
              Their appearance on the platform for an hour or more 
              chewing, spitting, smoking, nursing and shooting pennies
              was a novel and rather interesting sight. Civilization
              looked on savage life in a most uncivil manner. There was no
              poetry but great poverty. Poor Lo! (4)

Those who returned to Wisconsin received forty-acre homesteads.

In June 1877, the Dubuque Herald that a group of Winnebago had returned to Iowa and were camping in a grove near EAGLE POINT. (5)



1. Kellogg, Louise Phelps, "The Story of Wisconsin 1634-1848" The Wisconsin Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 4 (June, 1919), p. 417

2. "Indian Difficulty," The North American. February 19, 1840, p. 2. Online: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86086342/1840-02-19/ed-1/seq-2/#date1=1836&index=18&rows=20&words=Dubuque&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1840&proxtext=dubuque+&y=8&x=24&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1

3. "Lo, the Poor Indian is Here," Dubuque Herald, August 5, 1874, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18740805&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, August 7, 1874, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18740807&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, June 6, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770606&printsec=frontpage&hl=en