Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ment "all their lands east of the Mississippi." Not an acre was reserved. And the Indians agreed that within eight months from that date, they would move west of the "great river," they being alloted territory a part of which was in the present Winneshiek County. This arrangement, however, was not fully carried out. In 1842 there were only 756 at the then Turkey River, Iowa Settlement, their new home, with as many in Wisconsin and small bands elsewhere. All had become lawless and roving. Some removed from Wisconsin in 1848, while a party to the number of eight hundred left that State as late as 1873 for Nebraska, long after the Iowa portion of the tribe had preceeded them to their western home. Their Nebraska reservation is north of and adjacent to the Omahas, containing over one hundred thousand acres. However, since their first removal, they have several times changed their homes, and scattering bands have wandered back and forth between Wisconsin and Nebraska. The total number is now estimated at less than twenty-five hundred.

The following brief paragraphs in reference to the Winnebagoes, and removals of portions of the tribe, is taken from a sketch of the "Explorers and Pioneers of Minnesota," by Rev. Edward D. Neil:

“The Ho-Tchun-Graws, or Winnebagoes, belong to the Dakatah family of aborigines. Champlain, although he never visited them, mentions them. Nicollet, who had been in his employ, visited Green Bay about the year 1635, and an early relation mentions that he saw the Ouinipegos, a people called so because they came from a distant sea, which some French writer erroneously called Puants."

Another writer, speaking of these people, says:

"These people are called 'Les Puants,' not because of any bad . odor peculiar to them, but because they claim to have come from the shores of a far distant lake, toward the north, whose waters are salt. They call themselves the people de l'eau puants' of the putrid or bad water."

"By the treaty of 1837 they were removed to Iowa, and by another treaty in October, 1846, they came to Minnesota in 1848, to the country between the Long Prairie and Crow Wing River. The agency was located on the Long Prairie River, forty miles from the Mississippi, and in 1849 the tribe numbered about five hundred souls.

"In February, 1855, another treaty was made with them, and that spring they removed to lands on the Blue Earth River. Owing to the panic caused by the outbreak of the Sioux in 1862, Congress, by a special act, without consulting them, in 1863 removed them from their fields in Minnesota to the Missouri River, and in the words of the missionary, 'they were, like the Sioux, dumped in the desert, one hundred miles above Fort Randall.'”

IN WINNESHIEK COUNTY. The eastern line of the Iowa reservation to which the Winnebagoes were removed from Wisconsin, and which embraced Winneshiek County, was about twenty miles west of the Mississippi river. Their roving and unsettled condition had apparently changed their traditional independent and warlike character; and the large annuity given them as a condition of their removal from Wisconsin added to their vices and accellerated their progress to laziness and worthlessness. And if it is true that they were originally warlike and fierce, as has been stated in these pages, they rapidly sunk in this respect until they won a memorable reputation among the early settlers of being not only cowardly, but craftily revengeful and treacherous. Of these Winnebagoes after their removal to Iowa, Spark's History of Winneshiek County says:

"The Winnebagoes were not brave and chivalrous, but vindictive and treacherous. Instead of facing a foe and braving danger, they would stealthily steal upon him, and in an unguarded moment, wreak their vengeance. But these were not the worst features in this tribe. They possessed vices of a meaner and more degrading nature. They united the art of stealing to that of lying. Anything belonging to another on which they could lay their pilfering fingers, they appropriated to their own use.

Their lying propensities were proverbial. They regarded the white man with envy, but stood in such fear of their Indian neighbors—the Sacs and Foxes—that they dare not oppose him, but made him their champion and protector against these warlike and powerful tribes. They were more opulent in their annuities than any other tribe of Indians. Besides about $100,000 in cash and goods paid them annually, large sums were expended in the vain attempts to educate and christianize them, A few among them could read and write; but in proportion as they improved in book lore, in the same, and even in a greater ratio, they deteriorated morally; and those who enjoyed the greatest advantages were the most worthless and degraded of their tribe. Every attempt that has been made to civiilze them, has sunk them lower in the scale of humanity. At least this is the evidence of those who are familiar with their history. It has been reduced to an axiom, by observation and experience, that the Indian is incapable of civilization, except in rare cases. They are gradually and surely fading away. The very approach of civilization is a poison to them, from the effects of which there is no escape. Its operation is slow but sure, and but a few years will have made their annual rounds before the race will be numbered with the things of the past, and only known in history."

The Winnebagoes being of such a character, or reputation, at least, it seemed all the more necessary that there should be an arm of the General Government extended toward their control,

and a garrison established in their midst. And so Fort Atkinson, situated on a hill overlooking the village of that name in our county, was established. Some remains of the old fort still exist. The fort was named after the famous and successful fighter of the Indians, General Atkinson, the hero of the Black Hawk war, and was commenced on the 2d of June, 1810, about fifty mechanics being employed in the work. It was intended to control the Indians and protect them from bands of their enemies, as well as to protect the settlers. Further particulars in regard to it, and the village which bears its name, as well as in relation to Old Mission and Indian farm and reservation, established in 1812 by Indian Agent Rev. D. Lowery, about five miles southwest of Atkinson, for educating and civilizing the Indians, will be found elsewhere in this volume.

9

WINNESHIEK AND DECORAH. Winneshiek, the ruling chief of the Winnebagoes, soon after their removal to the reservation or neutral ground, including what is now known as Winneshiek County, did not become chief through royal Indian blood, nor because of bravery or prowess in war. He was made chief by order of the United States War Department, on account of his ability and fitness for the position. Under him as head chief, there were several chiefs of respective bands into which the nation was divided. The village of the head chief, Winneshiek, extended along the Upper Iowa River for several miles, where Decorah is now located. He was an Indian of remarkable ability, intelligence and good sense, tall, straight, well developed, and fine looking, and confided in and trusted the whites, whom he seemed to thoroughly respect as they did him, and could speak the English language tolerably well. Judge Murdock and others, who were acquainted with him, and who have heard him deliver several speeches, were much impressed with his ability and oratorical genius. His face would light up with the fires of excitement; tone and gesture would add to the effect of his words; and the effect on his hearers was thrilling and powerful.

It is not known positively whether Winneshiek is still living. There was a rumor of his death some years ago, but it has not been authentically confirmed. Whether alive or not, his name is perpetuated in being given to our county, one of the finest and best in the State. In accordance with the polygamous custom of the Winnebagoes, Winneshiek had six wives; and that he was a connoisseur in female beauty is shown by the fact that he chose the finest looking women in the nation.

Decorah, our beautiful inland city, and county seat of Winneshiek County, was named after Waukon-Decorah, one of the prominent chiefs of the Winnebagoes. Our neighboring and thriving village of Waukon gained its name from the first half of the hyphenated name of the aforesaid chieftain. He had lost

an eye, and was familiarly known by the whites as “one-eyed Decorah." He, like Winneshiek, was an eloquent orator, and would sometimes boast of having white blood in his veins. He had two brothers, who, as well as he, were of prominence in their tribe.

The following quotation is from a speech of Decorah, made to the Government Commissioners after he had served with the Government forces in the Black Hawk war. He complained that his tribe had been firm friends of the whites, had aided them in the critical war against Black Hawk, and had not only received in return, but also because of helping their white brethren, had promoted the enmity of other Indians, who had been wreaking vengeance upon them. He said: “The Sacs hate the Winnebagoes for helping their Great Father, and when peace was made with the whites they struck at the Winnebagoes; first at the family of the speaker, when he was away from home they stole upon his lodge and killed his wife and children; and now he thought that his Great Father would give him some token of remembrance of his services."

What are said to be the remains of Decorah, having been twice re-interred, now repose in the Court House grounds, near the northeast corner. It has been claimed by some that Waukon Decorah is still living, but that is very doubtful, and he must have been a very old mam long before this time. The site of the grave of the alleged Decorah, above referred to, was, it is reported, often visited in early days by bands of Winnebago Indians, who came back to their old homes here for a brief visit.

The first grave of Decorah was on ground now occupied by Winnebago Street, just below Main, almost at their intersection, and therefore in front of the present St. Cloud Hotel. The opening of the street to travel, made it desirable that the remains be removed to another spot. This was done by a formal meeting of prominent citizens on Aug. 4, 1859. Below is the report of that meeting by the secretary thereof, as afterwards published:

"DECORAH, August 4, 1859. "The citizens of Decorah assembled at the grave of the Indian Chieftain, 'Decorah', marked by the decaying bark and wood that lay over it, and on motion of Rev. E. Adams, Dr. J. M. Green was chosen moderator and T. W. Burdick was appointed secretary.

"After the examination of the grave it was on motion resolved that the remains of the Chieftain be disinterred.

"The grave being at the intersection, and within the limits of Main and Winnebago streets, and if not removed must soon give place to the use of these streets for the travel and commerce of the white man.

"Thereupon those present proceeded to exhume the body. Only bones remained. On motion of Rev. Adams, a committee

consisting of D. B. Ellsworth, R. F. Gibson and Nathaniel Oiis, were appointed to provide a suitable receptacle for the remains, and hold the same subject to the order of the citizens meeting.

"On motion a committe was appointed to raise funds to obtain a suitable monument, and erect a fence to mark the grave.

"The committee appointed took charge of the remains, and on motion the meeting adjourned.

T. W. BURDICK, Secretary." In this new grave on the Court House grounds, the remains lay undisturbed for about seventeen years. But the grading and terracing of the grounds and the building of the new stone wall, a solid, substantial, structure, still comparatively new, compelled another resurrection and re-interment in the summer of 1876. The following in relation thereto is from the Decorah Bee, June 13, 1876:

"Decorah has been resurrected. We do not mean this beautifu little city, but the bones of the noble chieftain after whom it is named. On Tuesday morning the workmen engaged in grading and excavating for a new stone wall and sidewalk on the Main street side of the Court House grounds, came across the remains of an old coffin containing some human bones, rusty scalpingknife, and tomahawk and pipe. They were some three feet from the surface of the ground, just inside the old wall, on the northeast corner of the courtyard. That they are the bones of the old Indian chief, Decorah, we are assured by old residents, from whom we learn the following facts:

About seventeen years ago, Winnebago street being about to be opened, a grave, situated where now is about the middle of the street in front of the post-office and known as the grave of Decorah, was opened and the remains, consisting of human bones, a blanket, tomahawk, pipe, and a lot of beads taken out, buried in Ellsworth & Landers' store for about six months, till the stone wall in front of the Court House yard was completed, when they were buried where now found."

"It is held as conclusive proof of this being the remains of Decorah, that the Indians of his tribe frequently assembled about that early grave, whence the remains have since been removed, performed their mournful rites, and that they called it the grave of Decorah.

"Only a portion of the bones of the body were found to have survived the devastating hand of time, were taken out, and placed in a box to be burried again inside the new stone wall when built.

“Quite a crowd of people assembled to look at those poor remains of the proud chieftain whose spirit hath departed. Lo these many years.

The action of the old settlers noted above in the report of the secretary of the meeting of 1859, which exhumed the supposed re

.

« ForrigeFortsett »