Nineteenth Century America

Nineteenth Century America


Documenting the life of the country as it grew

The Wisconsin Winnebago People

  • Wisconsin
<div>THE WINNEBAGOS.</div>

Their History  The Winnebago Indians

of Wisconsin beg leave to submit for your earnest consideration the following statement of facts, together with such references to the Treaties, Statutes and official acts as well advise the people of Wisconsin of the wrongs under which your petitioners have, and still do, suffer, and the rights from them withheld, to the end that they may obtain at your hands such relief as to you may seem just, and equity and good conscience require.

In order to present their cause intelligently, a brief history of your memoralists is absolutey necessary, premising that they are a mixed race and naturally disposed to labor in agricultural pursuits, their ancestors having in the early history of our country freely intermarried with the French voyagers and other fur traders, with whose assistance as your memorialists are informed and believe they, more than 300  years ago, conquered from the Sacs and Foxes, a large portion of the then North West territory, including that portion of what is now the state of Wisconsin, and which is hereafter more particularly described, and thereafter occupied the same as by the right of conquest, and the several treaties thereafter   made between your petitioners, the said Sacs and Foxes, and the United States, reference being specially had to the treaty of 1825 will more fully appear. See U. S. S., at large, Vol. 1 page 272, upon which they lived by cultivating the soil, hunting and trapping. By reference to this and other treaties it will be noted, that your petitioners were conceded to be the owners of two large tracts of land in the now state of Wisconsin, one of which was on the east side of the Wisconsin river, comprising the coun­ties and parts of counties of Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac Green Lake, Green, Grant Iowa, Jefferson, La Fayette, Marquette, Rock and Winnebago and the other yet on the west side of the Wisconsin river, comprising the counties and parts of counties of Clark, Crawford, Jack­son, Juneau, La Crosse Monroe Richland Sauk Vernon and Wood.

Afterwards and in the year 1829 your petitioners, or their immediate progenitors, duly ceded to the United States Government the said first mentioned tract for a consideration of $1,500,000,00, to be paid in annual pay­ments of 50,000 for thirty years; (See Revised Treaties, 1001) and in the year 1837 the other of said tracts of land was was by treaty stipulations, ceded to the United States, for and in consideration of a perpetual annuity of $55,000 her annum which said treaty your petitioners claim should be the base from which their rights are deter­mined and their claims computed. See U. S. S., at large, Vol. 7 , page 545.

And your petitioners assert that if any of their rights accruing under said last mentioned treaty have been in any manner impaired the same has been produced by il­legal means; and is without any binding effect upon your memorialists

The subsequent history of the Winnebagos as it relates to the dealings of the government (through its agents) with them, lays been for the most part one of oppression, wrongs and fraud by the agents, and good will and obedi­ence under protest to those fraudulent - requirements on the part of the Indians ; while congress has appropriated for the use of the Winnebagos alone, millions of dollars, which has been used to injure, instead of benefiting them, as not more than one tenth of the same has ever reached these people in the manner contemplated by the acts of appropriation as will hereafter be made to appear.It will be observed that the ostensible object of the trea­ties made, was to promote the civilization of your petition­ers, by giving them a fixed habitation,'. and instructing them in agriculture and mechanical arts, while the course pursued has been the reverse of that intended, and has tended to make them more nomadic illiterate and lazy--­to degenerate instead of regenerate them.A brief outline of their treatment in this particular   since the year 1837 will illustrate this In the year 1837 they were removed from Wisconsin to Turkey River, Iowa; but little effort was there made by the government agents, to carry out that part of the treaty relating to civi­lization.  After remaining -a few years they were removed to Long Prairie, in the now state of Minnesota and which they were induced to believe was to be a permanent reservation. At this point farms were broken, mills and houses built and other valuable improvements made, but in the year 1855 by force and fraud, they were removed to Blue .Earth. Minnesota which locality was in the most solemn manner guaranteed to them as a permanent home. Here again farms were opened, buildings and very val­uable improvements made, and they stood as at other points as a barrier between the wild tribes of the plains, and the steady advancing settlements of the whites until their homes excited the cupidity of the white set­tlers. At the out-break of the rebellion in 1861, numbers of the Winnebagos enlisted in the army of the United States (out of a total number of 600 adult males, 100 have enlisted). In 1862, the Sioux Indians tried to induce the Winnebagos to. join them in their contemplated outbreak on the whites, but the Winnebagos purposely gained their confidence, and then betrayed it to the government, and it was through them, and by their assistance the. govern­ment prevented the Sioux out-break from being much more serious than it was.Notwithstanding the assistance furnished by your pe­titioners, the agitation caused by the Sioux out-break, was seized upon by interested parties to drive your petition­ers from their homes, and failing to induce any of them to give away their rights, or to obtain a quasi consent from them for a further removal, these parties obtained in 1863 Congressional sanction for the removal of your pe­titioners to the Missouri River in Dakota, where they were taken and left without proper supplies, or agent, or care. Hundreds died from want and exposure, and many were killed by the Sioux.See U. S. S. at large, Vol. 12, page 658, and Report of the Secretary of the Interior to the 2d Sess. of the 38 Con­gress, .864-5, page 538.  Do. 1st Sess. 39 Co ngress,1865-6, commencing on page 216. Do. Vol. 3, 1863-4, page 427to 441 et. seq. Do. Vol. 2,1866-7, page 213, marked No. 90.Finding themselves abandoned by the government, af­ter some months stay in Dakota, they formed substantially two bands, one of which returned to Wisconsin the other went to the Omaha reservation in Nebraska, and made a bargain with the Omahas for a -portion of their reservation, which bargain-, was afterwards ratified by Congress.

See page 1014, Revised Indian Treaties.

In the meantime Congress (to whom doubtless the in-justice of their removal to Dakota had been reported) by an act passed June 25th, 1864, (U. S. Statutes at Large, page 17'2,) provided among other things:

`'That the proportion of the   annuities to    which  the stray bands of Winnebago Indians would be entitled, if on their reservations, should be retained in the treasury to their credit from year to year, to be paid to them when they should reunite.with their tribe, or to be used by the Secretary of the Interior in settling and subsisting them on any other reservation which might hereafter be provid­ed for them.

By reference to the reports for the year 1864, it will be noticed that citizenship was proposed as a remedy for the wrongs under which these people then suffered.No attention was given in fact to these (so-called) stray bands of Winnebago Indians of Wisconsin, until the year 1871, when certain parties, unknown, sought to speculate upon their condition by inducing Congress to authorize their removal from Wisconsin, and a joint resolution was passed, authorizing the appropriation of $15,000 for their removal, at $15,00 per head.'No action wits taken under this appropriation, and sev­eral subsequent appropriations were made for the sarno purpose.See U. S. S. at Large,, Vol. 16, page 3i9. Vol. 17, pa 1.90.  lb. 461..In January, 1873, one C.A. Hunt, of Melvina Wiscon­sin, was appointed a special agent of the department for the purpose of removing your petitioners, and various devices were employed by him to induce them to consent to a removal to the Indian Territory, including bribes to leading men among them, and threats of driving them out of the state with troops, which devices was so far successful that about 6300 of your petitioners gathered togeth­er in camp near Sparta, Wisconsin, preparatory to remov­al. - In the meantime H. W. Lee, an attorney at hats', re­siding at Portage City, Wisconsin, had been employed to ascertain whether or not your petitioners would be compelled by force to remove from the state. He communi­cated with the Indian department at Washington en the subject, but failing to get a reply, wrote to President Grant, through whose prompt action he received on the 28th of June, 1373, from C. Delano,  Sec'y. of Interior, a communication, as follows: DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORSWASHINGTON, D. C., June 17, 1873. SIR :-I have received by reference from the President of the 13th inst., your letter without date, addressed to him from Portage City, Wisconsin, relative to the removal from that state of certain Winnebago  Indians.           In reply to your communication your attention is invited to the en­closed copy of a letter addressed to this department by the, Commissioner of Indian affairs, under date of the 13th inst., upon this subject, very respectfully, C. DELANOI Secretary.H. W. Lee, Esq., Atty. at Law, Portage City, Wis.DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR, Office of Indian Affairs.WASHINGTON. D. C., June 13, 1873. SIR :-I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter.of the 9th inst., transmitting a letter from Hon. C. C. Washburn, Governor of Wisconsin; urging the speedy' removal of certain Winnebago Indians from that state, also a communication from Q. G. Winters, remonstrating on behalf of the Indians against such removal, in regard to which subject you ask an expression of the views of this office.In compliance with such directions I have the honor to report as follows: By the 6th section of an act making appropriations for the Indian service for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1873, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to upend for the removal of the Winnebago Indian.,, from their present home in Wisconsin to the Winnebago reservation in Nebraska, or to such location as may be selected for them, and for their subsistence during such removal, and at their new home, the SUM of $36.000 originally appropriated by act of July 15th, 1870. The Winnebagos in Nebraska. declined to receive their brethren from Wisconsin and the department therefore determined to locate them in Indian Territory. With this end in view, C. A. Hunt, of Melvina, Wisconsin, was ap­pointed a special agent of the department on the 9th of January last, and instructions given him to collect the In­dians at some suitable point and make the necessary ar­rangements for their subsistance at such point until they could be shipped to their destination.On the 15th of March, 1873, the department appointed: F. A. Moore, of Sparta, a special agent to accompany a delegation of the most influential of said Indians to the In­dian Territory, for the purpose of selecting a location for their permanent home, and he was instructed accordingly.Special agent Moore has not vet submitted a report of his operations under these instructions, and the only in­formation this office has, relative to the result of his visit to the Indian Territory with the Indian delegation is af­forded by the letter of Gov. Washburn first above referred to. Intelligent action concerning the future location of these Indians can only be had after the re­port of special agent Moore shall have been received, and although it is highly desirable that they should be located upon a permanent reservation, in some suitable locality without the boundaries of the state of Wisconsin.   Yet I am decidedly of the opinion that influences of a pursua­sive character will be much more effectual in securing their removal than measures of a forcible nature. Uponthis point I beg leave to state that    under  date of Au­gust 7th, 1872, this office replied to a letter from Governor Washburn of July 30th, previous, as follows:"In reply to that portion of your communication in "which you express the opinion that these Indians will not "leave willingly, and that some force may be necessary to "effect their removal, I desire to stay that in the view of "this office no authority is given in any of the acts of Con­gress, providing funds for the removal of said Indians to "employ force against the will of said Indians, to effect that "object, and herein lies all the difficulty of the case.        The "acts referred to simply appropriate money to defray the "expenses of the removal, and to subsist the Indians' after "their arrival at their new home. They Do NOT PROVIDE "THAT THE INDIANS SHALL REMOVE OR BE,, REMOVED."With this view- of the situation this office does     not "feel authorized to initiate any steps to remove the Indians "referred to, which would require force to carry them out "and that might possibly result in bloodshed.' Moreover, "were the removal effected by force, force would be requir­"ed to keep them at the place selected for their new home, "and continued trouble and difficulty- would be the result.

Very- Resp'y, your obedient servant,

•           FD. P. SMITH, Com. 'ro the Hon. Secretary of the Interior.

On the receipt of this communication from the depart­ment, its contents were made known to your petitioners and they immediately left their camp near Sparta and went about their usual avocations, such as harvesting, picking berries and hops, cutting wood, &c., &c. Special agent Hunt, finding himself without Indians for removal, sought and obtained the consent of the Indian department to import U. S. troops into Wisconsin for the purpose of over-aweing your petitioners. And a portion of the 20th Regiment of U. S. Infantry were brought from Fort Snell­ing, Minnesota,, and stationed near Sparta, Wisconsin. On the 23d day of December, 1573, in the depth of a Wis­consin winter, when about 80 of your petitioners had as­sembled near Portage City, Wisconsin, peaceably together for the purpose of celebrating their annual religious festival (many of them having left nursing children at their homes they were in the night time surrounded by said troops, Lieut. Stafford commanding, who with fixed bay­onets, supported by P. P. Pool, then sheriff of Columbia Co., who made a display of several pairs of hand-cuffs, de­manded their consent -to a removal from the state.  Fail­ing to secure which, and refusing them leave to commun­icate with their said attorney. they were charged upon. Big Hawk, a leading man among there, was by two of said troops taken into custody and hand-cuffed,   and the whole marched-between said troops to the railroad depot at Portage City, and pressed with the bayonet aboard the cars waiting for them at that place. On the same day their said attorney made two applications to the civil au­thorities of the state for a writ of Habeas Corpus for your said memorialists, but the same were refused because the :acts complained of were done under color of the United States, but as your petitioners are informed and believe, several of their number so arrested were at the intercess­ion of J. J. Guppey then County Judge of said Columbia County, and who had refused said 'writ of habeas corpus and on production of deeds showing title to real estate in Wisconsin, released' and allowed to go to their homes. but the rest and others were taken to Nebraska and left with out shelter and adequate food, so that of the whole num­ber removed, seven or eight hundred, 240 died and the survivors, with very few, if any exception, returned to Wisconsin in the spring of 1874. All their property was either burned, stolen or lost in the removal.

Of the numerous special instances of their hardships encountered, or deaths ensuing, would occupy too much space; but your attention is invited to the case of one Blue Wing and family, one who for years had been a land­owner near Reedsburg, in Sauk county, Wisconsin, and whose children at the time of said removal were attending the public schools at that place. He and his family were` arrested by said Hunt, accompanied by some of said sol­diers, and with about $300 worth of property were being removed, but the civil authorities of Sank comity issued a writ of Habeas Corpus in their behalf and they wore re­leased thereunder, said Hunt making no return to the said writ, but carried off the $300 worth of property, leaving said Indians destitute in the hands of the civil officers, who discharged them in default of cause having shown for their detention

And your memorialist further show that after their re­turn to Wisconsin they caused a petitions to be forwarded to Congress in their behalf, ' briefly setting forth the wrongs which had been done them by forcing them out of the state, which petition was introduced ill the       II. S. senate by the Hon. Allan G. Thurman, and referred to the senate committee on Indian Affairs. -See Cong. Record, Vol. 2, part 1, 43 Cong., 1 Sess., page 743.That afterwards their said attorney appeared before said committee, but ailed to secure any action on the part of said committee; that he also appealed to Hon. C. Delano, then secretary of the Interior, for an investigation and the subject was by said secretary referred to the solicitor Gen­eral of the Indian Department, and said cause was by their said attorney argued and :submitted to said Solicitor General, but your memoralist are informed and believe that at the request of the then acting Indian commission­er, no report was ever made thereon or action taken of said petition by said senate committee, but instead thereof the said committee reported a bill in favor of extending the Homestead Act to Indians, and your memorialists, acting under the advice of their said attorney, availed themselves of the provisions of the said homestead laws (See U. S. S. at large, vol. 18, part 3, page 420), and a great many have become actual settlers on the public lands, mainly in the counties of 'Marathon, Portage and Jackson, in Wisconsin, and have opened up farms in severity thereon; but that their progress in this direction is necessarily slow as they have a great many aged, in­firm, feeble and sick, both adults and children, to care for, without laws of their own to punish those who refuse to bear their just share of this burden, and owing to the claims of the Indian department upon them heretofore, and the anomalous condition of the whole Indian ques­tion, and the neglect; of the Indian department to act upon their applications which has been made to them relating to their annuities, they have to contend against an ad­verse opinion among many of the people of Wisconsin as to their rights in the premises, but they are anxious to localize themselves and improve their condition, and ed­ucate their children.And your petitioners further show that by the terms of said treaty of November 1st, 1837, a fund of $1,100,000 was provided, upon which sum interest at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum was to be paid, but as your petition­ers are informed and believe, said funds have been very largely illegally diminished so that interest upon the sum of $883,249,58 only is now allowed.And your petitioners further show on information and belief that prior to and since the passage of the act of June 25th, 1864 (13 Statutes, page 172) the Winnebago Indians have been, as near as may be, divided into two equal parts, one part residing on the Winnebago reservation in  Nebraska and the other scattered throughout Wiscon­sin; that no definate or proper action has ever been ta­ken to ascertain the proportion of annuities to which your petitioners would have been entitled to under the provision of the said act of 1864, and,, that prior to the year 1876 no portion of said annuities had been retained in the treasury, as provided by that act and as justice (in the absence of the same being paid to your petitioners in Wisconsin) required.  That on the 6th day of January, 1876, a resolution of enquiry requiring information from the department of the Interior upon this subject was adopted, and in response thereto the following report was submitted.   See Record, 44 Cong. 1 Session, ex. Doc. No. 85.DEPARTME.T OF THE INTERIOR, WASHINGTON, January 17, 1876. SIR: In accordance with a resolution of the House of Representatives, uner date of 6th instant, requiring infor­mation from this Department relative to the disposition of certain funds appropriated for the Pottawatomie and Winnebago, Indians in Wisconsin, I transmit herewith, for your information, a copy of a report, dated the 14th instant, from the commissioner of Indian affairs, together with the statement therein referred to.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,  Z. CHANDLER, Secretary. The Speaker House of Representatives.

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, Washington, D. C.,, January 14, 18 7 6.

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt, by reference from the War Department, of the House of Representatives of the 6th instant, referring to the provisions of the act approved June 25, 184 (13, Stat., 172.) wherein it was provided that the proportion of the annuities to which certain stray bands of the Winnebago and Pottawatomie Indians, then residing in the State of Wisconsin, would be entitled if they were settled upon their reservations with their respective tribes should be retained in the treasury to their credit from year to year to be paid to them when they shall unite with their said tribes, or bto be used by the Secretary in defraying the expenses of their removal, or in settling and sustaining them on any other reservation which may hereafter be provided for them; also referring to the appropriation of funds to enable the Secretary of the Interior to take charge of said stray bands, and to the decision of the said Secretary that under the laws of the United States, the said stray bands of Indians were entitled to their just proportion of the tribal funds, and the same should be paid to them;  also that under the provision of the act of March 3, 875, which provides that any Indian may abandon his tribal relations, take up ha homestead, and yet be entitled to a share in tribal funds, a large number of stray bands of Indians have renounced their tribal relations, made and filed in the proper court declaration of intentions to become citizens of the United States, and taken up and settled upon homesteads on the public lands in the State of Wisconsin, and are greatly in need of any funds remaining in the treasury to which they are, or ma be, entitled; and calling upon the Secretary of the Interior to report to said House of Representatives—First. What amounts of annuities or tribal funds said stray bands of Winnebago Indians would have been entitled to if they had been living with their tribe, and what sum or sums of said annuities or tribal funds have been retained in the Treasury from year to year and placed to their credit.Second. If any part thereof has been expended, under what authority and for what purpose, and the amount thereof, giving the same in detail, the amount expended in taking care of said stray bands of Indians in Wisconsin since the passage of said act, and prior to the year 1871, how expended, to whom paid, giving details thereof.In reply to that portion of said resolution calling for information as to what amount of annuities said stray bands of Winnebago in Wisconsin would have been entitled to if they had been living with their tribe, I have the honor to make the folliwng statement, viz: Annuities appropriated in 1865…………………………………$54,250Annuities appropriated in 1866…………………………………$54,250Annuities appropriated in 1867…………………………………$54,250Annuities appropriated in 1868…………………………………$54,250Annuities appropriated in 1869…………………………………$54,250Annuities appropriated in 1870…………………………………$54,250.43Annuities appropriated in 1871…………………………………$57,555.84Annuities appropriated in 1872…………………………………52, 631.34Annuities appropriated in 1873…………………………………47,631.84Annuities appropriated in 1874………………………………….57, 651.34Annuities appropriated in 1875………………………………….47, 981.83Total annuities appropriated since act June 25, 1864…………….641,312.78The Winnebagos in Minnesota numbered, according to the last census of said tribe, fifteen hundred and thirty-one persons, and it is estimated that there were about one thousand of said Indins in the State of Wisconsin making the total of the tribe twnty-five hundred and thirty one. On this basis the stray bands of said Indians in Wisconsin would be entitled to 1000-2531 of the annuities apppriated for the benefit of the tribe, since the act of 1864, viz, $641,312.78, as before stated, = $253,383.12No portion of this amount has been retained in the treasury to the credit of the stray bands, it not appearing that any action with that view was ever taken by either the Indian Office or the department to carry out the provisions of the act of 1864 in that respect.I transmit herewith, in compliance with the sid resolution a statement of the amount expended in taking care of said stray bands of Indians in Wisconsin since the passage of the act of 184 and prior to 1871. In the latter part of 1873 and early in 1874, about eight undred and sixty of the Wisconsin Winnebagoes were removed to the reservation of the tribe in Nebraska. Of the Indians thus removed, only two hundred and four remained at the agency, the remainder having left the reservation, and it is supposed, gone back to Wisconsin.These latter persons were, during their stay on the reservation, cared for and subsisted out of the Winnebago funds arising under treaty, and those of the number removed and who remained at the agency have received their proportion of the tribal funds, either in goods or otherwise.The amount of funds expended in the care and support of those of the Wisconsin Winnebagoes who removed to Nebraska and remained, as well as those who were there for a short period and then returned to Wisconsin, cannot now be stated, but investigation of the case will be made through Superintendent Barclay White, and upon the receipt of his report in the matter, the same will be made the subject of further communication of information of Congress.Although the act of 1864 which requires the retention of the proportion of the Winnebago tribal annuities belonging to those members of the tribe in Wisconsin has been overlooked or disregarded, the provision thereof are considered obligatory, and the proportion due to the said Indians of the appropriation of the present fiscal year wil be retained in the Treasury, subject to the will of Congress.                                                                        J.Q. Smith                                                                        CommissionerThe Hon. The Secretary of the InteriorAnd your petitioners further show on information and belief that there is now in the treasury to the credit of the tribe of Winnebagoes accrueing under treaty appropriations for the fiscal year 1873 and prior years  the sum of $40,406.42, and the further sum of $48,249.17 reserved under said act of June 25, 1864 for the past three years, together with the further reservation upon the basis set forth in the foregoing report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1880, (See report No. 147, 45 Cong.3 Sess. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs), which said several sums are justly due to the Winnebago Indians of Wisconsin, and should be paid to them share and share alike, and your petitioners further show that they real policy of the Indian Department heretofore, whatever may have been its ostensible object, has been to keep and maintain the Indians in a state of serfdom and hence they neglect and refuse to take any steps which would result in distributing the annuities and arreages to your petitioners in cash per capita, share and share alike, and to which their condition, needs, law and justice require, all of which and much more of evil and wrongs suffered and endured.                                    Signed in behalf of your petitioners                                    KarojosephatakaH.W. Lee, Attorney, Stevens Point, Wisconsin

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