Transcribed and submitted by Paula Vaughan

From the Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Edited
by Lyman Copeland Draper, LL. D., Secretary of the Society Volume III

Being a page-for-page reprint of the Original Issue 1857

Under the Editorial Direction of Reuben Gold Thwaites, LL. D., Sec. and Superintendent

Madison, Published by the Society 1904

Indian Tribes of Wisconsin – by Jon Gilmary Shea


All that relates to the Indian Tribes of Wisconsin, their antiquities, their ethnology, their history, is deeply interesting from the fact that it is the area of the first meeting of the Algio and Dakota tribes. Here clans of both these widespread families, met and mingled at a very early period; here they first met in battle, and mutually checked each other’s advance. The Algonquin race covered all the territory now embraced in Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as the Eastern, Middle and Western States of our own confederacy, encircling the tribes of the Huron-Iroquois, who lay in the line from Lake Huron to Albermarle Sound. Every tribe in this vast limit, spoke dialects either of the Algonquin or of the Huron.

The French, on the settlement of Canada, turned their attention to the Indian tribes, and discovered the fact of the existence of these two great families; their missionaries and traders son learned enough of these two, to pass from tribe to tribe, or acquire from one, accounts, more or less accurate, of the nations whose distance prevented a personal visit.

In five years after the founding of Quebec, the French gazed upon the waters of Lake Huron; and, as early as 1618, Champlain and Sagard were able to record the fact, that on the shores of a Lake connection with the Lake Huron, lay a people from the distant seacoast, the representatives of a third great family of tribes, distinct from the Huron and Algonquin. Thus early was this great ethnological point established by the French. Nor was this knowledge vague. By 1639, the names of localities, as well as the race and language, of the Wisconsin tribes, were known by actual observations, and the succeedingly century but developed this knowledge, and gave the annuals of the State, for in no part did the tribes undergo less alterations or loss.

In the present paper, it is not proposed to give a history of the Wisconsin tribes and of their relations to the whites, but simply to give the origin, names and early history of each tribe as emigrating to or from the territory, so far as we can trace it from authentic tradition, or from the French statements, from the visit of Nicolet to Green Bay, in 1739, to the conquest of Canada by the English.

List of tribes mentioned as at any time residing in Wisconsin.

1-Ainoves                                    14-Menomonees

2-Atchatchakangouen                  15-Miamis

3-Foxes                                       16-Mikissioua

4-Hurons                                     17-Nautoue

5-Illinois                                       18-Noquets

6-Keinouches                               19-Oharaouatenon

7-Kickapoos                                20-Ottawa Sinagos

8-Kiskakons                                21-Ottawas

9-Kitchigamick                             22-Onagoussak

10-Makoua                                  23-Oneidas

11-Makoueoue                             24-Pottaqottomies

12-Mascoutens                             25-Sacs

13-Marameg                                 26-Winnebagoes

Ainoves – This tribe is mentioned by the Recollect Father Membre, as lying on the western side of Lake Dauphin (Michigan), having two villages (Le Clercq, de la Foi, ii; Shea’s Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi, p. 150). It is not improbable that this is a misprint for aio8ais, the old French spelling to express the sound Iowa. Membre wrote from report, and might this err in locating the tribe. The Iowas are called by the Decotahs Pa-u-tet, or Duatynones, and a tribe of the name appears on Marquette’s map. Their first abode was at the junction of Rock River and the Mississippi.

Atchatchakangouen – (pronounced At-sha-sha-kan-gwen). This tribe is mentions in the manuscript Relation for 1672-73, p. 72, which has not yet been printed, where the name is once written Atihatehakangouen, but effaced. They are represented as being then near the Mascoutens, No allusion to the tribe appears elsewhere, and we cannot speak positively as to them.

Foxes – They call themselves Musquakies (from moskwah-red and aki, land). The neighboring Algonquin tribes called them Outagamis, or Foxes, which the French translated Les Renards. This powerful and restless tribe play a conspicuous part in history, being the only Algonquin tribe on whom the French ever made war. In the Relation of 1666-67, their force was estimated at 1000; but the Relation of 1669-70, from actual observation, puts them down at 400 warriors. In 1712, the Foxes under Pemoussa, with the Maskoutens and Kickapoos, attacked Detroit, but were defeated by Du Buisson, who called to his aid the Pottawottamies and other friendly tribes. In 1714, a French expedition under De Louigny, invaded the Fox territory, but without producing any result. Their subsequent history is well known. A mission was established among them by the Jesuit Father Alloues; but of all the tribes they seemed most averse to the gospel.

Hurons – They call themselves Wendats or Wyandots; but were styled Hurons by the French. Their original residences was near Georgian Bay, and their exact territory is laid down on the map in the Historia Canadensis of Duereux, which Father Martin has reproduced in his French edition of Bressani, (Montreal, 1853). They were entirely over-thrown by the Iroquois in 1649 and 1650, and abandoned their country, their allies, the Tionontaties or Petuns, (ie. Tobacco Indians) joined in their flight. After a short stay on Charity Island, a part descended to Quebec, and there formed a village, which still subsists; another part, with the surviving Tionontaties fled to Wisconsin, and struck south-east to the Mississippi, where they were met by the Sioux, and driven back. They were found, in 1659-60, by some French traders six days’ journey south-west of Lake Superior. After this, they came back to the Noquet Islands at the mouth of Green Bay, where they were, about 1660, when Father Menard set out to visit them. Soon after they removed in a body to La Pointe, where the Jesuits had established a mission. Here they remained till a war with the Sioux, in 1670, forced them once more to emigrate, and they passed to Michilimackinac with Farther Marquette. Their next removal was to Detroit, from when they passed to Sandusky, and became known to the English Colonists as the Denondadies, (Tionontaties). They were removed to the West, early in the present century. The period of their wandering in Wisconsin was probably from about 1652 to 1670. They were all Christians at the time of their arrival there, having been converted in their own country by the zealous missionaries, Brebeuf, Daniel, Jogues and others, many of whom perished amid their labors; but their wandering life, and intercourse with Pagan tribes, tended to revive superstition among them.

Illinois – Called Eriniouai (Ois was pronounced like our way, so that ouai, ais, wek, ouek, were almost identical in pronunciation) in the Jesuit Relation, 1639-40; Liniwek, in that of 1655-56; AbimiSek, Rel. 1659-60; Ilimouek, (Rel. 1666-67); Ilinois and Illinoues, (Rel. 1669-70); Illinois by Allouez and Marguette. They originally lay beyond the Mississippi, covering, also, Wisconsin and Illinois with their bands and temporary villages. They comprised a number of tribes, viz,: The Peorias, Moingwenas, Kaskaskias, Cahokias, and Tamaroas; and subsequently incorporated the Metchigameas, a tribe of different origin, whom Marquette found on the Mississippi. The Illinois were first visited by Father Marquette on the western bank of Mississippi and in Illinois; and he subsequently founded a mission among them. Previous to this, bands of them were temporarily at La Pointe, and in the Fox and Mascoutin towns. After La Salle’s establishment in Illinois, they seem to have centered permanently in the limits of the State that now preserves their name.

Keinouches – evidently in Algonquin tribe, are mentioned by Father Marquette in Rel. 1669-70, p. 40, as forming part of his mission at Chegoimegon. Their name I have not met elsewhere.

Kickapoos – (written als, Kikibou, Kikpou, Quicapou). This tribe, which still survivies, and has been so long prominent in the wars and negotiations of the North-West, is scarcely mentioned in the earlier French accounts. In the Relation de la Nouvelle Frances, for 1639-40, is the first list of Western tribes, made up from the statements of Nicolet, an earlier voyageur, and in that 1641-42, an account of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, given by Father Isaac Jogues and Charles Raymbaut, who had just visited Sault St. Mary’s, but in neither does the name Kickpoo appear. Menard, who next explored that section, and perished in the wilderness on his way from Lae Superior to Green Bay, makes no mention of them in his letters, not does Father Allouez allude to them before the Relation for 1669-70 when, in his narrative of his visit to Green Bay, he mentions them as lying on the Wisconsin river, four leagues from the town of the Maskoutench. They formed a village with the Kitchiqmich, and both spoke the Maskoutench language. About the same time Perrot, in his manuscipt, entitled Moeurs Coutumes et Religion des Sauuages dans l’Amerique Septentrionale, mentions them with the Foxes and Maskoutens, as absent from the council of tribes held at Saut St. Mary’s on the 5th of May, 1669. In the unpublished Relation for 1672-73, it is stated that Kikabous were at the Maskoutench town, in the proportion of 30 Kikabou families to 50 Maskoutench. Marquette , in his Journal, and the unpublished Relation 1673-79, mentioned them as in this locality, always near or united to the Mascoutins. The Recollect missionaries who attended La Salle, next give their accounts. Hennepin, in his Relation de la Lousiane, and Membre, in his Journal published by Le Clecq, in his Eablissement de la Foi, also mentioned them as near the Mascoutins, and one of their number, the aged Father Gabriel de la Ribourde, was actually cut off by a prowling band of Kickapous, while all accounts attest the hostility of the Mascoutins to La Salle.

At a later period, De La Potherie, in his Histoire de l’Amerique Septentrinale, vol. Ii, p 48, alludes to them as Allouez had done in connection with the Miamis and Maskoutench. Charlevoix, in his Histori de la Nouvelle France, vol v, 277, (which is, in fact, his Journal) speaks of the Kickapous and Mascoutins as lying together, between the Fox and Illinois rivers, and mentions them as being reduced in number, (tres peu nombreuses).

As we have elsewhere stated, the name Mascoutin soon after disappeared, while tat of Kickpoo maintains its prominence; and we find them arrayed with the Sacs and Foxes, in every war againest the whites, whether French, English or American. This leaves little room to doubt the probability of a supposition, first advanced, we believe, by Mr. Schoolcraft, that the Kickapoos and Mascoutins were bands of one tribe, known first to the French by the latter name, but subsequently to the English and to us by that of Kickpoos, under which alone they figure in out annals.

Kisakons – First mentioned in the Relation of 166-67, by the name of Kiskakoumac; in 1669-70, Kiskakonk, subsequently Kiskakons. They are sometimes called Queuescoupees, and even Culs-coupes. They are almost invariably mentioned in connection with the Ottawas and Outaoua-Sinagos. Their stay at Chegoimegon was not of long duration. They fled from Manitouline, to escape the Iroquois, about 1653, but were compelled by the Sioux to leave Wisconsin about 1667. The Ottawas in Michigan, now represent them. Were not the existence of the Kiskakons, as a tribe, demonstrated, we might suspect Kiskakons, a misprint for Kickapous, and Queques-coupess for Quicapous (Reference is also made to the Kiskakons in Mr. Shea’s Exploration and Discovery of the Mississippi Valley, p.1, 61.

Kitchigamick or Ketchigamins, - are mentioned in Relation of 1669-70, as lying four leagues from the Mascoutins, and speaking the same language, and by Marquette in last year, as lying S. S. W. of Chegoimegon. In the manuscript Relation of 1672-73, they are mentioned as west of the Foxes.

Makoua – are mentioned in the Relation of 1672-73, as a tribe near the Foxes.

Makoueoue – are mentioned in the Relation 1672-73, as a tribe near the Foxes; may be the same as the Mantoueouec of the map attached to the Relation of 1670-71, or the Nantone mentioned in the body of that Relation, as being neat the Foxes. The Mantoue are mentioned as early as 1639, (Rel. 1639-40) as a tribe near Lake Superior; and as this information evidently came from the explorer Nicolet they were probably then a powerful tribe.

Marameg - are mentioned in the Relations 1672-73, as being near the Mascoutins.

Mascoutins – Machkouten, (rel. 1669-70); Machkoutens, (Rel. 1670-71); Maskoutens; Mascoutins, (Charlevoix) were called by the Hurons Assistagueronous, and Assistaectaronons, which means the Fire Nation, (Sagard, Chanplain). The etymology of Mashkoutenec is disputed. Allouez and Marquetter translate it as the Hurons did, Fire-Nation,; deriving it from Skoote or Ashkotte, with the article M’ and the termination enk. Dablon, Charlevoix and Schoolcraft, with other recent writers, treat this as a mistake, and derive if from Muskortenee, a prairie, (O’Callaghan, in N. Y. Colonial Decuments)

The tradition of the Chippeways, as recorded by Schoolcraft, is, that in early times the Mushkodains were the original people at and around Mackinac. (History, &c., of the Indian Tribes, i. 307). The earliest French accounts, represent this Fire-Nation as the dominant tribe, waging war on the Andatahouats or Ottawa, who dwelt in Manitouline, and who in this war were aided by the tribes of the Huron-Iroquois stock-known as the Attiwandaronk or Neuters. (Champlain, Sagard, Bressani, and Brebeuf in Rel. 1640-41, p. 48)

Their position, at the period, of the French settlement of Canada, cannot be precisely stated. Champlain, in his map of 1632, which Sanson follows in 1667, seems to place Green Bay above Lake Superior, and omitting Lake Michigan, places the Assistagueronons south Lake Huron. Sagar, however, in his History, (p. 201), puts them beyond the Winnebagoes, whose position was undoubtedly on Green Bay; and this is the position in which they were found forty years afterward (Du Creux’s map, dated 1660, omits them, but places a P. Assistoins in Michigan). For the Jesuits, on visiting Wisconsin, found them on Wolf River, a stream emptying into Lake Winnebago. Marquette makes their town nine miles from the Wisconsin, at Portage. (Discovery of the Mississippi, p. 15). Hennepin, some years after, places them also near Fox River, (ii., p.42), and Membre, in stating that they dwelt near the Mellecki or Milwaukee river, was evidently in error.

The Kickapoos were found occupying the same town, and Charlevoix well observes: "The Kickapoos are neighbors of the Mascoutens, and it seems that these two tribes have always been united in interest." (Charlevoix, Histoire de la Nouvelle France, ii., 252)

Towards the beginning of the eighteenth century, they seem to have moved eastward. In 1712, a party settled on the Ohio Joseph’s river, were attacked by the Ottawas under Saguima, and 150 men and women cut to pieces. A third band, with the Foxes and Kickapoos, were beleaguering the French post, Detroit.

Six years later, 1718, a document puts the Kickapoos and Mascoutins on Rock river, near Chicago, the two tribes not having over 200, (N.Y. Colonial Documents, ix., 889). In 1736, they were said to number 60 on Fox River; though in 1764, Bouquet put down the Maskoutens on Lake Michigan, at 500, (Doct. Hist. I); but a list, in 1763, mentions them on the Wabash. See the History, &c. by Schoolcraft, iv., 244; Jefferson’s Notes, 173, N. Y. Colonial Documents, vii, 582-x, 780; Western Annals, 205; Dillion’s Indians, 144).

The part in Wisconsin is mentioned by Imlay, correct or not, in his travels in 1792, and the part of the Wabash, still later. These last were then, as in Marquette’s time, in the same village as Kickapoos and Miamis. (In 1763, the village contained 180 Kickapoos, 100 Plankeshaws, 200 Weas, and only 90 Maskoutins.

Gallatin thought that they never were a distinct tribe, but they are clearly traced; and seem to have left Wisconsin almost entirely, about 1720, as Bouquet and Imlay are not support in their statements. Their totems are said to be the Wolf and Stag. The Foxes now call themselves Musquakies, which is interpreted, red land; may this not be M’ashkooteaki, remnant, and bear the name, of the Mascoutins? The Kickapoos certainly comprise a second branch. (See note, p. 13, Discovery of the Mississippi, for a further notice of the Mascoutins.)

Menomoness – Oumalouminek, (Rel. 1669-70); Maroumine, (Rel. 1639-40); Malhominies.

The name is the Algonquin term for the grain Zizania Aquatica-in English, Wild Rice. The French called both the grain and tribe Fol Avoine-Wild Oats.

Their language is a very corrupt from of the Algonquin. According to Schoolcraft, (History , &c., i. 204), they were long at war with the Chippeways; but from the time of French accounts, they were almost uniformly peaceful. In 1718, they numbered only from 80-100 men-N.Y. Colonial Documents, ix., 889.

Miamies – Oumiamiwek, (Marquette); Ouamis, (LaHontan, and Rel, 1669-70). They comprised, accordingly to De La Potherie, ii. 245, the following tribes-Ouistenons, or Weas, Pepikokias, Pouankikias or Piankeshaws, Mangakekias, Kilataks and Tehiduakouongues. Charlevoix says, (vi. 143), that they came from the Pacific; and in another place, (v. 277), that they were originally near Chicago, where indeed Perrot found their king Tetinchous, in 1671, (manuscript memoir). The Jesuits found some tribes living with the Mascoutins on Fox River, in 1669. A part seems have lain at the south of Lake Michigan, and in La Salle’s time, 1680, were on the St. Joseph’s river. By 1721, they seem to have removed entirely from Wisconsin, dwelling on St. Joseph’s river, the Maumee and Wabash-(Charlevoix v. 277). They were known to the English colonists as the Twightwees. Little Turtle’s account (Banecroft, iii.) is at variance with the French historians.

Mikissioua – are mentioned in the Relation of 1670-71, as a tribe near the Foxes. See Makoueoue.

Noquets – According to Nicolet, (rel. 1639-40), the Noquest were, at the time of his visit, in 1639, on the shores of Lake Superior. The map in Ducreux’s History of Canada, (Crexius Historia Canadensis), which is dated 1660, places them, under the Latin name of Noukeeii, in the upper peninsula of Michigan. They subsequently came down into Wisconsin, but continued to hunt in Michigan., (Relation, 1669-70, ch. X). A bay, and islands, at the mouth of Green Bay, bear their name, and show the place of their residence. (Charlevoix, v. 277; N.Y. Colonial Documents, ix. 182) They are represented as being at all times closely united to the Outchiboues or Ojibways, and apparently became eventually confounded with them.

Otiara8atenon (transcriber note: the 8 is not a typing error) – are mentioned in the Relation of 1676-77, p. 88, as a tribe on Green Bay; but in the manuscript Relation of 1673-79, they are called O8iata8tenon. The name is sufficiently near Siatenon to induce the supposition that is was a band of Miamis of the Wea clan. The prefix O is given or omitted by French writers, at random; and the residue, Siat (a8a) tenon, approached Ouaouiatenonoukok, (Rel. 1672-73), Wawiaghtenon and Wiatenon.

Ottawas – They were early known to the French by the name of Andatahouats, and by the nickname Cheveux releves. They dwelt on the Manitouline islands; and visiting the Huron country were evangelized by the missionaries there. There is no trace in the early French writers of any opinion then entertained, that they had ever been in the valley of the Ottawa river. After the fall of the Hurons, when trade was re-opened with the West, all tribes there were called Ottawas, and the river, as leading to the Ottawa country, got the name. The tribe properly called Ottawa, together with the Outaoua-Sinagos and Kiskakons, were at Chegoimegon, with the Hurons, and removed with them to Mackinaw, near which they have remained. Their present location is at Grand and Little Traverse Bay.

Outaoua-Sinagos – (rel. 166-67) Sinagoux, Cynagos, were with the Kiskakons and Ottawans at Chegoimegon, and seem to have been branches of one tribe, as they are never mentioned apart. (Rel. 166-67, p. 80) See Ottawas.

Ouagoussac – are mentioned in the manuscript Relations of 1672-73, as a tribe near the Foxes. It may be, however, a form of Ousaki, with a prefix.

Oneidas – This tribe has emigrated to Wisconsin in the present century. As coming from the East, they are called by the Algie tribes Abnakis, the name applied to the most eastern of their own clans.

Pottawottamies - This tribe, whose traditions, as first recorded by Father De Smet, (Oregon Missions, p. 343), gave Longfellow the matter of his Hiawatha, are mentioned in Franch writers from 1639, by their present name, Poutouatamis, or Pouteouatamis – sometimes called, for brevity’s sake, Poux. This contraction led La Hontan, or his wretched editor, to confound them with the Puants, or the Winnebagos. In 1641, they were at Sault St. Mary’s fleeing before the face of the Sioux. (N. Y. Colonial Documents, ix. 153, 161, 887)

In 1668, they were all on the Pottawottami islands, in Green Bay, (Charlevioux, I, 172; N. Y. Colonial Documents, ix. 161) In 1721, a part were there; and there were two other bands, one on the St. Joseph’s river, the other near Detriot. Those on the St. Joseph’s, remained till 1830.

Sacs – Ousakis, Sayks, Sacs. Their original country, according to the Jesuit Relations, 1676-77, p. 49, and 1673-79, was apparently the district in the east, between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. O’Callaghan (N.Y. Colonial Documents, ix, pp. 161, 293, 387) places them on the other side of Detroit river, and explains Saginaw to mean Sac country. La Hontan, no very good authority indeed, also gives Michigan. The Sacs were always closely united with the Foxes and had probably a common origin, as they have a common history. Schoolcraft represents the Foxes as originally from Toronto, but I find nothing in early French writers to support the assertion. The Sacs certainly were never much to the eastward of, Lake St. Clair.

Winnebagoes – Ouinibegone; Ouinipegouec, (Rel, 1659-60;) Onenibegoutx, (Rel. 1669-70). They are a Dakota tribe, and this name is that given by the Algonquins, and means "Fetid." The French translated it by the word "Puants," giving it as a name to the tribe and to Green Bay, (Sagrad.) The early missionaries, (Rel. 1639-40, Rel. 1647-48, p. 64; Rel 1653-54, p. 43; Rel. 1655-60; Bressani, p. 64 and Marquette) all state that they were so called by the Algonquins as coming from the Ocean or Salt-water, which the Indians style "Fetid water." Nicolet called them more properly "Gens de mer," and "Gens des Eaux de mer."

The Hurons called the tribe Aweatsiwaenr-rhonons, (rel. 1636); and the Sioux, Otonka (Schollcraft); but they call themselves Otchagras, (Charlevoix), Hochungara or Ochungarand-that is, the Trout nation, (Schoolcraft, ii. 277; iv. 227); or Horoji, (Fisheaters).

The Algonquin tradition makes them, as we have seen emigrants from the Pacific shore, and their approach to the Lakes seems to have been resoluetly opposed, especially by the Illinois, the dominant Algonquin Confederacy in the West. Accordingly to Father Claude Allouez, (Rel. 1669-70), the ware lasted till about 1639, or thereabouts, when the Winnebagoes were all killed or taken, except one man, who though badly wounded, escaped. Charlevoix, (v. 431), says, that they were driven from the shores of Green Bay to Fox River, and a party of 600 setting out on the lake to attack the Illinois, perished in a storm. The victors took compassion, according to the account of Allouez, and creating the survivor chief of the nation, gave up to him all the captive Winnebagoes. If this strange event took place at all, we must ascribe it to an earlier date than 1639, for Nicolet visited the Winnebagoes in that year, and found them prosperous, and we can hardly suppose a tribe almost annihilated, and then restored to its former numbers in 30 years.

They were the original occupants of Wisconsin, and were often troublesome and hostile. They were allies of pontiac in 1763, were defeated by Wayne in 1794, adhered to England in 1812. (O’Callaghan, Colonial Documents, iii. 283). In 1710, they numbered 80 to 100 men; and in 1848, they numbered 2531 souls. (For additional notices of the Winnebagoes, see Shea’s Discovery of the Mississippis, p. xxi, and notes 10, 11)


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