The Winnebago Fort

Version 1."The O-chung-o-raw [Hocągara] have no very definite traditions of their condition before the whites came among them except that they were much more prosperous, and that they had wars and built a fort constructed of logs or pickets set in the ground. This fort is supposed to have been built at the Red Banks."1

Version 2."[A siege story is] set at a Native American fort built near the primeval site of Hocąk origins at Red Banks. This fort is now known as the "Winnebago Fort," since it is widely believed to have been built by the Hocągara when they were masters of this region."2

Version 3. "Their traditions also say that the Winnebagoes made leagues of friendship with the Menomonies, and the Sacs and Foxes; and that the Sacs and Foxes broke the league by making war upon them, and that the Winnebagoes built a fort — that it was constructed of logs or pickets set in the ground."3

"The earliest Winnebago traditions relate to their residence at Bed Banks, on the east shore of Green Bay, where they traded with the French. They have a tradition that they once built a fort, an event which appears to have made a general impression on the tribe, and which may without improbability be connected with the archaeological remains of an ancient work at Aztalan, Wisconsin, on Rock River."4

Version 4. "While the nation resided on the borders of the bay, they had but one village, which extended from the Banks to the river rouge, a distance of nine miles; and these indians assert that the remains of their villages are still visible. The chief of the Thunder tribe [clan] exercised an immediate and complete control over that village and his government was so strict that a single family could not leave the village for a hunting excursion without his permission."5

Commentary. "a fort constructed of logs or pickets" — forts of this description were known from Mississippian times and a few were found in Wisconsin as northern outposts of Cahokia. However, in later times the Iroquois also built forts of this kind, so we cannot be certain that the Hocąk counterpart is of such a cultural lineage.

"Red Banks" — the narrative of George Gage continues as a commentary on Red Banks: "These 'Red Banks', which figure so conspicuously in O-chunk-o-raw [Hocągara] tradition, have always been called by the French "Le Cap des Puants"; and area situated on the east side of Green Bay about twelve miles north of the town of that name. The water side is of red clay and rises abruptly nearly perpendicular, about 50 feet from the water of the Bay, and it exhibits signs of having once a passage way or steps cut in the clay to descend to the water. The south and east for several hundred acres is now covered with forest. The country is nearly level and has every appearance of having once been cultivated. Upon this Bank are earth works in the N., S., and east, with a mound in front indicating that the promontory was once an earth fort of its ancient occupants."6

"a siege story" — this story is related in Annihilation of the Hocągara II.

"Aztalan" — Shown below is one of the mounds in Aztalan with a reconstructed palisade. See Carver's remarks on Hocąk palisades.

Links: The Creation Council.

Stories: set at Red Banks (Mógašúc): The Creation Council, Annihilation of the Hocągara II, The Great Lodge, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3, 5), Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2a, 3, 8, 11, 12), The Beginning of the Winnebago, Blue Bear, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Arrival Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 10), Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins (fr. 1), Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Šųgepaga, Gatschet's Hocank hit’e ("St. Peet," "Hocąk Origins"), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), The Seven Maidens, First Contact, Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath.

Themes: ...


1 "The Creation Narrative of the Ho-Chunk Indians" from the papers of George Gale (1816-1868) at the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives (Wis. Mss GJ, box 1, folder 2) V-VI.

2 Charles D. Robinson, "Legend of the Red Banks," Wisconsin Historical Collections 2 (1855): Appendix 16: 491.

3 Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, 4 vols. (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Company, 1856) 4:231.

4 Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, The Indian Tribes of the United States: Their History, Antiquities, Customs, Religion, Arts, Language, Traditions, Oral Legends, and Myths. Ed. by Francis S. Drake. 2 vols. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Co., 1884).

5 Charles C. Trowbridge, "Manners, Customs, and International Laws of the Win-nee-baa-goa Nation," (1823), Winnebago Manuscripts, in MS/I4ME, Charles Christopher Trowbridge Collection (02611), Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library, 89.

6 Gale, "The Creation Narrative of the Ho-Chunk Indians," VI.