Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America,
in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768
Captain Jonathan Carver
A Map of Captain Carver’s Travels
(29) On the 25th [of September, 1766,] I left the Green Bay, and proceeded up Fox River, ſtill in company with the traders and ſome Indians. On the 25th I arrived at the great town of the Winnebagoes, ſituated on a ſmall iſland juſt as you enter the eaſt end of Lake Winnebago. Here the queen who preſided over this tribe inſtead of a Sachem, received me with great civility, and entertained me in a very diſtinguiſhed manner, during the four days I continued with her.
The day after my arrival I held a council with the chiefs, of whom I aſked permiſſion to paſs through their country, in my way to more remote nations on buſineſs of importance. This was readily granted me, the requeſt being eſteemed by them as a great compliment paid to their tribe. The Queen ſat in the council, but only aſked a few queſtions, or gave ſome trifling directions in matters relative to the ſtate; for women are never allowed to ſit in their councils, except they happen to be inveſted with the ſupreme authority, and then it is not cuſtomary for them (30) to make any formal ſpeeches as the chiefs do. She was a very ancient woman, ſmall in ſtature, and not much diſtinguiſhed by her dreſs from ſeveral young women that attended her. Theſe her attendants ſeemed greatly pleaſed whenever I ſhowed any tokens of reſpect to their queen, particularly when I ſaluted her, which I frequently did to acquire her favour. On theſe occaſions the good old lady endeavoured to aſſume a juvenile gaiety, and by her ſmiles ſhowed ſhe was equally pleaſed with the attention I paid her.
The time I tarried here, I employed in making the beſt obſervations poſſible on the country, and in collecting the moſt certain intelligence I could of the origin, language, and cuſtoms of this people. From theſe enquiries I have reaſon to conclude, that the Winnebagoes originally reſided in ſome of the provinces belonging to New Mexico; and being driven from their native country, either by inteſtine diviſions, or by the extenſion of the Spaniſh conqueſts, they took refuge in theſe more northern parts about a century ago.
(31) My reaſons for adopting this ſuppoſition, are, firſt from their unalienable attachment to the Naudoweſſie [Sioux] Indians (who, they ſay, gave them the earlieſt ſuccour during their emigration) notwithſtanding their preſent reſidence is more than ſix hundred miles diſtant from that people.
Secondly, that their dialect totally differs from every other Indian nation yet diſcovered; it being a very uncouth guttural jargon, which none of their neighbours will attempt to learn. They converſe with other nations in the Chipeway tongue, which is the prevailing language throughout all the bribes, from the Mohawks of Canada to thoſe who inhabit the borders of the Miſſiſſippi, and from the Hurons and Illinois to ſuch as dwell near Hudſon’s Bay.
Thirdly from their inveterate hatred to the Spaniards. Some of them informed me that they had made many excurſions to the ſouth-weſt, which took up ſeveral moons. An elderly chief more particularly acquainted me, that about forty-ſix winters ago , he marched, at the head of fifty warriors, towards the ſouth-weſt, for three moons. That during this expedition, whilſt they were croſſing a plain, (32) they diſcovered a body of men on horſeback, who belonged to the Black People; for ſo they call the Spaniards. As ſoon as they perceived them, they proceeded with caution, and concealed themſelves till night came on; when they drew ſo near as to be able to diſcern the number and ſituation of their enemies. Finding they were not able to cope with ſo great a ſuperiority by daylight they waited till they had retired to reſt; when they ruſhed upon them, and after having killed the greateſt part of the men, took eighty horſes loaded with what they termed white ſtone. This I ſuppoſe to have been ſilver, as he told me the horſes were ſhod with it, and that their bridles were ornamented with the ſame. When they had ſatiated their revenge, they carried off their ſpoil, and being got ſo far as to be out of the reach of the Spaniards that had eſcaped their fury, they left the uſeleſs and ponderous burthen, with which the horſes were loaded, in the woods, and mounting themſelves, in this manner returned to their friends. The party they had thus defeated, I conclude to be the caravan that annually conveys to Mexico, the ſilver which the Spaniards find in great quantities (33) on the mountains lying near the heads of the Coloredo River: and the plains where the attack was made, probably, ſome they were obliged to paſs over in their way to the heads of the River St. Fee, or Rio del Nord, which falls into the gulph of Mexico to the weſt of the Miſſiſſippi.1
The Winnebagoes can raiſe about two hundred warriors. Their town contains about fifty houſes, which are ſtrongly built with paliſadoes, and the iſland on which it is ſituated nearly fifty acres. It lies thirty-five miles, reckoning according to the courſe of the river, from Green Bay.
The River, for about four or five miles from the Bay, has a gentle current; after that ſpace, till you arrive at the Winnebago Lake, it is full of rocks and very rapid. At many places we were obliged to land our canoes, and carry them a conſiderable way. Its breadth, in general, from the Green Bay to the Winnebago Lake, is between ſeventy and a hundred yards: the land on its borders very good, and thinly wooded with hickery, oak, and hazel.
The Winnebago Lake is about fifteen miles long from eaſt to weſt, and six miles wide. (34) At its south-eaſt corner, a river falls into it that takes its rise near ſome of the northern branches of the Illinois River. This I called the Crocodile River, in conſequence of a ſtory that prevails among the Indians, of their having deſtroyed, in ſome part of it, an animal, which from their deſcription muſt be a crocodile or an alligator.
The land adjacent to the Lake is very fertile, abounding with grapes, plumbs, and other fruits, which grow ſpontaneouſly. The Winnebagoes raiſe on it a great quantity of Indian corn, beans, pumpkins, ſquaſh, and water melons, with ſome tobacco. The Lake itſelf abounds with fiſh, and in the fall of the year, with geeſe, ducks, and teal. The latter, which reſort to it in great numbers, are remarkably good and extremely fat, and are much better flavoured than thoſe that are found near the ſea, as they acquire their exceſſive fatneſs by feeding on the wild rice, which grow ſo plentifully in theſe parts.
Having made ſome acceptable preſents to the good old queen, and received her bleſſing, I left the town of the Winnebagoes on the 29th of September, and about twelve miles form it arrived a the place where the Fox River (35) enters the Lake on the north ſide of it. We proceeded up this river, and on the 7th of October reached the great Carrying Place, which divides it from the Ouiſconſin.
The Fox River, from the Green Bay to the Carrying Place, is about one hundred and eighty miles. From the Winnebago Lake to the Carrying Place the current is gentle, and the depth of it conſiderable; notwithſtanding which, in ſome places it is with difficulty that canoes can paſs, through the obſtructions they meet with from the rice ſtalks, which are very large and thick, and grow here in great abundance. The country around it is very fertile and proper in the higheſt degree for cultivation, excepting in ſome places near the River, where it is rather too low. It is in no part very woody, and yet can ſupply ſufficient to anſwer the demands of any number of inhabitants. This river is the greateſt reſort for wild fowl of every kind that I met with in the whole courſe of my travels; frequently the ſun would be obſcured by them for ſome minutes together.
About forty miles up this river, from the great town of the Winnebagoes, ſtands a ſmaller town belonging to that nation. (36) Deer and bears are very numerous in theſe parts, and a great many beavers and other furs area taken on the ſtreams that empty themſelves into this river. ...
(60) Ten miles below the Falls of St. Anthony the River St. Pierre, called by the natives the Wadapawmeneſotor, falls into the Miſſiſſipi from the weſt. ... (61) Nearly over-againſt this river I was obliged to leave my canoe, on account of the ice, and travel by land to the Falls of St. Anthony, where I arrived on the 17th of November . The Miſſiſſippi from the St. Pierre to this place is rather more rapid than I had hitherto found it, and without iſlands of any conſideration.
Before I left my canoe I overtook a young prince of the Winnebago Indians, who was going on an embaſſy to ſome of the bands of the Nadoweſſies. Finding that I intended to take a view of the Falls, he agreed to accompany me, his curioſity having been often excited by the accounts he had received from ſome of his chiefs: he accordingly left his family (for the Indians never travel without their houſholds) at this place, under the care of my Mohawk ſervant, and we proceeded together by land, attended only by my Frenchman, to this celebrated place.
We could diſtinctly hear the noiſe of the water full fifteen miles before we reached the falls; and I was greatly pleaſed and ſurprized when I approached this aſtoniſhing work of nature: (62) but I was not long at liberty to indulge theſe emotions, my attention being called off by the behaviour of my companion.
The prince had no ſooner gained the point that overlooks this wonderful caſcade, than he began with an audible voice to addreſs the Great Spirit, one of whoſe places of reſidence he imagined this to be. He told him that he had come a long way to pay his adoration to him, and now would make him the beſt offerings in his power. He accordingly firſt threw his pipe into the ſtream; then the roll that contained his tobacco; after theſe, the bracelets he wore on his arms and wriſts; next an ornament that encircled his neck, compoſed of beads and wires; and at laſt the ear-rings from his ears; in ſhort, he preſented to his god every part of his dreſs that was valuable; during this he frequently ſmote his breaſt with great violence, threw his arms about, and appeared to be much agitated.
All this while he continued his adorations, and at length concluded them with fervent petitions that the Great Spirit would conſtantly afford us his protection on our travels, giving us a bright ſun, a blue ſky, and untroubled (63) waters; nor would he leave the place till we had ſmoaked together with my pipe in honour of the Great Spirit.
I was greatly ſurprized at beholding an inſtance of ſuch elevated devotion in ſo young an Indian, and inſtead of ridiculing the ceremonies attending it, as I obſerved my catholic ſervant tacitly did, I looked on the prince with a greater degree of reſpect for theſe ſincere proofs he gave of his piety; and I doubt not but that his offerings and prayers were as acceptable to the univerſal Parent of mankind, as if they had been made with greater pomp, or in a conſecrated place.
Indeed the whole conduct of this young prince at once amazed and charmed me. During the few days we were together his attention ſeemed totally to be employed in yielding me every aſſiſtance in his power; and even in ſo ſhort a time he gave me innumerable proofs of the moſt generous and diſintereſted friendſhip; ſo that on our return I parted from him with great reluctance. Whilſt I beheld the artleſs, yet engaging manners of this unpoliſhed ſavage, I could not help drawing a compariſon between him and ſome of the more refined inhabitants of civilized (65) countries, not much, I own, in favour of the latter. ...
(66) Having ſatisfied my curioſity, as far as the eye of man can be ſatisfied, I proceeded on, ſtill accompanied by my young friend, till I had reached the River St. Francis, near ſixty miles above the Falls. ... (69) On the 25th I returned to my canoe, which I had left at the mouth of the River St. Pierre; and here I parted with regret from my young friend the prince of the Winnebagoes. ...
(113) The Winnebagoes, dwelling on the Fox River (whom I have already treated of) are likewiſe ſupppoſed to be ſome ſtrolling band from the Mexican countries. But they are able to give only an imperfect account of their original reſidence. They ſay they formerly came a great way from the weſtward, and were driven by wars to take refuge among the Naudoweſſies; but as they are entirely ignorant of the arts, or of the value of gold, it is rather to be ſuppoſed, that they were driven from their ancient ſettlements by the above-mentioned emigrants, as they paſſed on towards their preſent habitation.
Theſe ſuppoſitions, however, may want confirmation; for the smaller tribes of Indians are ſubject to ſuch various alterations in their places of abode, from the wars they are continually engaged in, that it is almoſt impoſſible to aſcertain, after half a century, the original ſituation of any of them. ...
(368) Soon after I ſet out on my travels, one of the traders whom I accompanied, complained of a violent gonorrhœa with all its alarming ſymptoms: this increaſed to ſuch a degree, that by the time we had reached the town of the Winnebagoes, he was unable to travel, having made his complaint known to one of (369) the chiefs of that tribe, he told him not to be uneaſy, for he would engage that by following his advice, he ſhould be able in a few days to purſue his journey, and in a little longer time be entirely free from his diſorder.
The chief had no ſooner ſaid this than he prepared for him a decoction of the bark of the roots of the prickly aſh, a tree ſcarcely known in England, but which grows in great plenty throughout North America; by the uſe of which, in a few days he was greatly recovered, and having received directions how to prepare it, in a fortnight after his departure from this place perceived that he was radically cured.
If from exceſſive exerciſe, or the extremes of heat or cold, they are affected with pains in their limbs or joints, they ſearify the parts affected. Thoſe nations who have no commerce with Europeans do this with a ſharp flint, and it is ſurprizing to ſee to how fine a point they have the dexterity to bring them; a lancet can ſcarcely exceed in ſharpneſs the inſtruments they make of this unmalleable ſubſtance.
They never can be convinced a perſon is ill, whilſt he has an appetite; but when he rejects all kind of nouriſhment, they consider (370) the diſeaſe a dangerous, and pay great attention to it. And during the continuance of the diſorder, the phyſician refuſes his patient no ſort of food that he is deſirous of.
Their doctors are not only ſuppoſed to be ſkilled in the phyſical treatment of diſeaſes, but the common people believe that by the ceremony of the chichicoué uſually made uſe of, as before deſcribed, they are able to gain intelligence from the ſpirits of the cauſe of the complaints with which they are afflicted, and are thereby the better enabled to find remedies for them. They diſcover ſomething ſupernatural in all their diſeaſes, and the phyſician or juggler is conſulted, who after the uſual preparations gives his opinion on the ſtate of the diſeaſe, and frequently finds ſome means for his cure. But notwithſtanding the Indian phyſicians always annex theſe ſuperſtitious ceremonies to their preſcriptions, it is very certain, as I have already obſerved, that they exerciſe their art by principles which are founded on the knowledge of ſimples, and on experience which (371) they acquire by an indefatigable attention to their operations. ...
(389) [Concerning languages,] I am however of opinion that the barbarous and uncouth dialect of the Winnebagoes, the Menomonies, and many other tribes will become in time totally extinct, and this [Anishinaabe] be adopted in its ſtead. ...
Commentary. "a small island" — this is Doty Island, a site long inhabited by the Hočąk nation.
Two Views of Doty Island
"the queen" — this is Glory of the Morning. Her biography is dealt with in some detail here.
"the Black People" — in Hočąk this would be Wągesebera, which is otherwise unattested, the only known word for Spaniard being Spanioraga. However, the name for Christians generally is Waisép’įra, "Black Robes," after the attire of the Jesuits. These two words could be confused; but the problem is that they seem to have been speaking in Anishinaabe. Since the only survivor of the actual ambush whose personal articles survived to be viewed by Charlevoix was a chaplain, it becomes much more plausible that "Black People" refers specifically to this Spanish cleric who would have also been identified as a "Black Robe."
"white stone" — this would be ini-sga in Hočąk. The word for silver as money is žura, which is undoubtedly a loan word from Anishinaabe zhooniya, "sliver." The term for the substance silver is mąsgá, which is mąs, "metal," and sga, "white." However, if the word is analyzed incorrectly, it becomes mą-sga, "white earth."
"River St. Fee" — this is the Santa Fe River, a tributary of the Rio Grande.
"Rio del Nord" — for Río del Norte, the name used for the Rio Grande by the Antonio de Espejo expedition to New Mexico in 1582-1583.1
"palisadoes" — strongly built houses with a surrounding palisade are not known among the Hočągara from the XIXth century on.
"Winnebago Lake" — the lake is actually 8 miles wide (east-west) and about 28 miles long (north-south). The image below was taken from a satellite.
"a story" — neither crocodiles nor alligators are native to this region. The animal to which they refer is the mythical Waterspirit (Wakčexi), who occasionally allows himself to be sacrificed for the benefit of a human devotee. However, see the story of the Great Fish.
"Carrying Place" — the town at this site in Wisconsin (above) still carries its French name, "Portage."
"Wadapawmenesotor" — this seems to be for the Dakota watóha, "portage"; and míni-sota, "whitish water," whence the name of the state of Minnesota. The St. Peters River is now known (as it was formerly) as the Minnesota River.2
"River St. Francis" — this is still known by the same name. A view of the river can be seen above.
"prickly ash" — the Aralia spinosa (above), although contrary to what Carver says here, the species is rare outside the southern states. It takes its name primarily from the spines on its trunk.
"chichicoué" — this obscure word is well explained by A. F. Chamberlain,3
Chichicoué, a musical instrument of the Algonkin Indians, a gourd or calabash filled with pebbles and shaken. “Qui charmera ton oreille comme le ton du chichicoué.”4 The word is found in this form in the old writers. Charlevoix tells how the Mississaguas in 1721 danced and sang to the sound of this rude instrument. La Hontan5 has “Danſe des Sauvages, au ſon des calebaſſes, Chichikoue.” M. Taché uses the form chichikois:
“Poursuivant devant eux des ombres ennemies [...]
Au rauque et morne son des chichikois sacrés.”6
In another work of the same writer7 the same form of the word is used and a note (p. 194) states that the proper Indian word is chichigouane, which the author derives from chichigoué (rattlesnake) and gane, (a suffix denoting an utensil). According to Cuoq the Algonquin form of the word is cicikwan; this he defines as “a kind of rattle which imitates the sound made by the rattlesnake (cicikwe).” The Otchipwe [Anishinaabe] term for rattle is jishigwan, and the Cree word is sisikwan.8 Compare also the word sacakoua (sasaqua).
1 Diego Pérez de Luxán, Expedition into New Mexico Made by Antonio de Espejo, 1582-1583: As Revealed in the Journal of Diego Pérez de Luxán, a Member of the Party. Volume 1 of Quivira Society Publications (New York: Arno Press, 1967) 59, 64.
2 Stephen R. Riggs, A Dakota-English Dictionary (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1992 ) 539b, s. v. wa-tó-ha; 316a, s. v. Mí-ni-so-ta.
3 A. F. Chamberlain, "Indian-Canadian Words," American Notes and Queries, 1, #19-23 (September 8 - October 6, 1888): 220-221, 232-233, 258-259, 270-271 [270-271].
4 Philippe Aubert de Gaspé, Les Soirées canadiennes, 6 (1866): 544.
5 Baron Louis Armand de Lom d’Arce La Hontan, Nouveaux Voyages de Mr. Le Baron de Lahontan dans l’Amérique Septentrionale, Qui contiennent une Relation des différens Peuples qui y habitent; la nature de leur Gouvernement; leur Commerce leurs Coutumes, leur Religion, & leur manière de faire la Guerre. 2 vols. (The Hague: Frères l’Honoré, 1703) 2:203.
6 Joseph-Charles Taché, “Le braillard de la montagne,” Les Soirées canadiennes, 4 (1864): 99, 100.
7 Joseph-Charles Taché, Forestiers et voyageurs. Mœurs et légendes canadiennes, Volume 3 of Collection du nénuphar (Montreal: Librairie Saint-Joseph, Cadieux & Derome, 1884) 193-194.
8 See Père Albert Lacombe, Dictionnaire de la langue des Cris (Montreal, C. O. Beauchemin et Valois, 1874) 596, s. v. SISIKWAN. Elliott, 340.
Captain Jonathan Carver, Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 (Dublin: Printed for S. Price, 1779) 30-33.