A Report to the Secretary of War of the United States, on Indian Affairs

by Rev. Jedidiah Morse

(15) We found the Winebagoes and Menominees, who live on Winebago Lake, Fox River, and near Green Bay, in a state of considerable agitation; the former in consequence of the recent murder of two of our men, at Fort Armstrong, by two of their young warriors [see note below]; the latter, on account of an unauthorized treaty, professedly in behalf of the Government of the United States, which the Indian agent had just concluded with the Menominees, for the purchase of a large tract of their most valued land, on both sides of Fox River.1* ...

(21) No standard of spelling and pronouncing Indian names, has yet been agreed on, though we have several learned and able dissertations on this subject.2 The same tribes are called by different names, by the French, English, and Spaniards, and even by the Indians themselves. The Winebago Tribe, for example, is called by the French, Puant; by the Sioux, Ho-tonka — among themselves their name is O-shun-gu-lap [Hocągara]. The Fox Tribe is called by the Chip-pa-was, Ot-tah-gah-mie; by the Sauks, or Sacs, Mus-quah-kie; by the Sioux, Mich-en-dick-er; by the Winebagoes, O-sher-a-ca [Wašĕrĕkĕ́]; and by the French, Renard; and so of others. Our acquaintance with many tribes is but commencing, and with many (22) more, contained in our Table, we have only the uncertain information of travellers, who have barely passed through, or only near, their villages. ...

(25) The spot which has been lately selected, and purchased of the Winebago and Menomine Indians, on Fox river, in the N. W. Territory, by a delegation from the Stockbridge, Oneida, St. Regis, and some other tribes, at the head of which was Mr. Eleazer Williams, I consider as judiciously chosen for this purpose [which is to place them "on some sequestered spot, ... in circumstances for improvement"]. ...

(69) They are fleet in their movements. (70) Indian runners are prodigies in respect to their long continued rapidity in conveying messages to distant tribes. Their journies far exceed in length, what a white man could perform in the same time, and with less weariness. With wonderful quickness interesting information is circulated among the tribes friendly to each other.3* ...

Major Irwin’s Communication.

(App. 46) The following miscellaneous information concerning the Menomines, Winebagoes, and the neighboring tribes their territories, &c. was obligingly communicated in writing by Major Irwin, Indian Factor at Green Bay. I give it in his own words. ...


(App. 48) “The Winebagoes come to this place several times during the summer. It is said by respectable Traders, who have had some intercourse with them, that they consist of about seven hundred warriors. Their permanent villages are at the entrance of Winebago Lake, and on Rock river of the Mississippi. Little information has been obtained respecting this tribe, owing to the difficulty of acquiring any knowledge of their language. No other tribe seems to possess so much jealousy of the whites, and such reluctance to have intercourse with them, as this.

They will suffer no encroachment upon their soil; nor any persons to pass through it, without giving a satisfactory explanation of their motives and intentions. In failing to comply with this preliminary step, their lives would be in danger. They cultivate corn, potatoes, pumpkins, squashes, and beans, and are remarkably provident. They possess some horses. The Winebagoes are industrious, frugal and temperate; the Menominees are quite the reverse. There existed in time past, a mutual and ancient hatred between these tribes; but it is now happily subsiding.

It is difficult to ascertain the definite boundaries of different Indian tribes, living within a few miles of each other. The Indians themselves give vague and unsatisfactory accounts of their own boundaries, and so do some intelligent traders; who have been, (App. 49) from twenty to thirty years, trading with them. This remark will apply to the population of the several tribes. For example, Mr. James A[i]rd says the Winebagoes consist of about five hundred warriors; while Col. Robert Dickson estimates them at seven hundred. They both, however, agree, as to the number of the Menominees. Col. Dickson estimates the Chippawas, residing about the lakes, at ten thousand; others, including from Quebec, at from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand, and the total number at thirty thousand. ...

With respect to the boundaries of the Winebagoes, Mr. Ard states them thus: Rock River and two rivers, and embracing the Ouisconsin from Winebago Lake. Col. Dickson says they claim from Winebago Lake, including the lands adjacent, as well as the east bank of the Fox and Ouisconsin rivers.” ...


(App. 58) The following account of the Winebagoes, and description of their country were verbally given by Mr. Law[e], and the other gentlemen Indian Traders, who gave me the account of the Menominees.

(App. 59) “Eight years ago, (1812,) the Winebagoes were numbered, and amounted to seven hundred warriors, one thousand women, and about two thousand eight hundred children — whole number three thousand five hundred souls. Their present number, (1820,) is estimated at nine hundred warriors, one thousand three hundred women, three thousand six hundred children. Total, five thousand eight hundred souls; an increase in eight years of two thousand three hundred souls, a remarkable fact in the history of Indian population. The Territory of the Winebagoes embraces what is called the Rock river country, and commences at the south-east end of the Rapids, in Fox river, at the entrance of Winebago Lake. Here they have a large village, and two other villages at the S. end, where they raise considerable quantities of corn. On other parts of the Lake, they have two other villages, five in all. On Rock river and its branches they have fourteen villages, one of which, the largest the lowest down Rock river, three hundred miles by water from its mouth, is called Kus-kou-o-nog. This village is the resort of Renegadoes from the other villages and from other tribes, and the inhabitants have a corresponding character. Their village is on the west side of a Lake of the name of their village, six miles long by three wide, abounding with fine flavoured firm fish, suckers, pickons, and catfish. On this Lake are three other Winebago villages. On Green Lake, about the size of the one above named, with few fish, pure water; rocky and high banks, is another village twenty five miles west of Winebago Lake, four or five miles south of Fox river, fifty south-east of the Portage.

The Rock river country, extending south one hundred miles, to Illinois river; on the north-west side about sixty miles; thence north to Ouisconsin river, is Prairie land, without trees, except here and there an island, if it may be so called. This country has abundance of springs, small lakes, ponds and rivers; a rich soil, producing corn and all sorts of grain.”

[The remainder of the account of this interesting tribe of Indians, of their country character and dispositions as to civilization, &c. was to have been committed to writing by the gentlemen, and forwarded to the Secretary of War, or to me, but has not yet been received. It is still expected.] ...

(App. 312) In the summer of 1821, the “Six Nations, St. Regis, Stockbridge and Munsee Nations,” by permission of the government of the United States, purchased of their brethren, the Menominee and Winnebago nations of Indians, lands comprehended within, and described by, the following boundaries, viz. “Beginning at the foot of the rapids on the Fox river, usually called the Grand Kockalaw, thence up the said river, to the rapids at the Winnebago lake, from thence extending back in this width on each side, to the north-west and the south-east, equidistant with the lands (313) claimed by the said Menominee and Winnebago nations of Indians.” ...

(App. 375) The average proportion of Warriors to the whole number of souls, is about 1 to 5. In some tribes it is more, in others less. In the tribes dwelling among white people, the proportion is about 1 to 3. The number of men and women in the Cherokee nation is nearly equal. In the Menominee and Winnebago tribes, the women are a third more than the men. The number of children is much greater in proportion to the whole number of souls, in the two tribes last named, than in tribes mingled with white people.

In Indian countries where fish constitute an article of food, the number in each family is about six; in other tribes, where this article is wanting the average number in a family is ahout five.

In eight years the Winnebagoes increased, according to the account given by respectable Traders among them, from 3,500 to 5,800.

Estimate of the proportion between men and women, (from respectable authority.)

            Men.   Women.
Cherokees, -   -   -   Equal.  
Winnebagoes,   -   -   900   1,300
Menominees, -   -   - 600   900

Proportion of Warriors to the whole number.

              Warriors.   Whole No. Proportion.
Indians S. of Red River.   -   -    13,229     43,370     about  
Winnebagoes,   -   -   -     900     5,800            
Menominees,     -   -   -   600     3,900            
Indians in Ohio,   -   -   -     753     2,257           3  
Missouri, -   -   -   -   7,560     30,000           4  
On the W. side of the Rocky Mountains,    -   -    -    -   6  


(App. 362)

Tribe   No. of souls.   Places of Residence and Remarks.
Winnebagoes   5,300   In the River country, on Winnebago L. and S. W. of it to the Mississippi.



1 Since the above was penned, I am informed, that Mr. Williams, and the Delegation that accompanied him, with the countenance of the Government, has made a purchase of the Menominees and Winebagoes, of a tract 20 by 40 miles in extent, on both sides of Fox river, 40 miles from its mouth. The principal part of the Stockbridge Indians, some of the Oneidas, and other of the Six Nations, and many of those mentioned by Mr. Sergeant as desirous of removing to White river, it is expected will shortly remove to this new country. This will form a hopeful commencement of the colonizing plan. These may form the nucleus of a numerous colony, possibly, in due time, of a STATE.
2 By P[eter] S[tephen] Duponceau, Esq. Rev. John Heckewelder, Hon. John Pickering, Esq. Rev. Dr. Jarvis, and others. [Here are some details of the works of these authors available at the time. J. Heckewelder, "Correspondence between Mr. Heckewelder and Mr. Duponceau on the Languages of the American Indians," Publications of the American Philosophical Society, 1, #2 (1819): 431. John Heckewelder, Narrative of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians from its Commencement in 1740 to 1808 (Philadelphia 1820). John Pickering, Memoirs of the American Academy (Cambridge: 1818). Rev. Samuel Farmar Jarvis, "Discourse on the Religion of the Indian Tribes of North America," New York Historical Society, December 20, 1819 (New York: 1820).]
3 In the summer of 1820, I received my first intelligence, and this shortly after the event, of the capture of the two Winnebago murderers, who have since been executed, from a solitary chief, on a solitary island, in Lake Michigan.

Commentary. "Rev. Jedediah Morse" (1761-1826) — his development of textbooks in geography for school children in the United States earned him the title, "father of American geography." In 1820, he was sent out to scout out the Northwest frontier to determine the disposition and strength of the Indians of that area. He was eclipsed in fame by his son, Samuel Morse, who was the author of his father's portrait above, and the inventor of the telegraph.

"Mr. Eleazer Williams" (1788-1858) — born on the Caughnawaga reserve among the St. Régis Indians, to which band his mother belonged. In 1800 he was sent to Massachusetts to be educated. He worked for the Americans during the War of 1812. After settling with a band of the St. Régis Indians at Green Bay, he married a Menominee woman, Madeleine Jourdain (1823). Beginning in 1839, he promulgated the crackpot idea that he was the "Lost Dauphin," and therefore heir to the French throne. This was thoroughly refuted not too long before his death.1

"Major Irwin" — Col. Childs, in his recollections, tells us,

About this period, Robert Irwin was appointed the first Justice of the Peace and the first Clerk of the Court, under Michigan Authority west of Lake Michigan; and near the same time, in 1821 or ’22, he was appointed the first Postmaster in what is now Wisconsin. ... Robert Irwin married a lady at Erie, Pennsylvania, and brought her to Green Bay, and their eldest daughter, now Mrs. Mary C. Mitchell, of Green Bay, was the first American child born in what is now Wisconsin. ... The mail was then carried from Green Bay to Detroit and back in the winter season by the soldiers; if we received the mail twice in the course of six months we thought it a great treat. In the summer the mail was transmitted by schooner to and from Detroit some four or five times during the period of navigation. Robert Irwin was the first member elected from the west side of Lake Michigan to the Michigan Territorial legislature, and, I think, served two sessions. He was subsequently appointed Indian Agent for the Winnebagoes, and stationed at Fort Winnebago, after its erection in 1828, and died there; his remains were brought to Green Bay for internment.2

"Mr. James Ard" — a Scottish fur trader. As a young man in 1778, James Aird was at Michilimackinac, and in Montreal in 1784. In 1786, he established himself as a fur trader at Prairie du Chien. In 1804 he entered into a partnership with Col. Dickson (below). He married Mar-pi-ya-ro-to-win, the daughter of the Mdewakanton Dakota chief Wabasha. He died in 1819, so Morse must have gotten his information from him second hand, or perhaps by correspondence before he left on his tour.3

"Col. Robert Dickson" — a Canadian fur trader who set up his operations near the Falls of St. Anthony in what is now Minnesota. He married To-to-win, the daughter of a chief of the Wahpeton Dakota. During the War of 1812, he was the main force behind organizing and recruiting the Indians of the Northwest to enter the war on the British side. However, after the war he remained in the United States, where he died in 1823.4

"Mr. Law" — this is John Lawe, a fur trader principally with the Menominee tribe around Green Bay. He was born in Montreal of English parents in 1778. He took up the fur trade with the Hocągara in 1797 with Louis Beaupré near Fond du Lac. In 1805, Lawe became a clerk for James Aird (above). During his tenure, Lawe had acquired a great deal of land. In 1826, he platted out the town of Munnomonee or "Shantytown," as it was called. It is now part of Green Bay. Having reached the rank of Judge, he died in 1845.5

"Kus-kou-o-nog" — Lake Koshkonong is a large, shallow lake that was once surrounded with a cattail marsh. In 1932, it was dammed, creating one of the largest lakes in Wisconsin, although its average depth is a mere six feet. Earlier spellings have been Goosh ke-Hawn, Cos ca hó e nah, Kushkawenong, Kishkanon, Kuskonong, Koskonong, Coshconong. Some of these are without doubt Algonkian. Vide Ojibwe Kushkawenong, which means, "Where there is heavy fog," or "Where it is closed in by fog."6 However, the village is said to have been Hocąk. In that language, the name appears to be Gųšgónąk, which means "Skunk Run," from gųšge, "skunk," and honą́k, "to run along, to take a path." Gųšgónąk was also the name given to Chicago. Therefore, the matter may be complicated, with folk etymology coming into play. Since it seems to have been a mixed village of freebooters, such a result is possible. The Hocągara called Grand Rapids, for instance, Wascįk, "Rabbits," because the word "rapids" was not heard or understood properly. An Algonkian form such as Kushka’nong could easily have been mistaken for the Hocąk name Gųšgónąk, a name, as we have noted, which was used elsewhere.

Notes to the Commentary

1 Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume VIII (1851-1860), s. nom., "Williams, Éléazar."
2 Col. Ebenezer Childs, "Recollections of Wisconsin Since 1820," Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, for the Years 1857 and 1858, 4 (1859): 153-195 [165].
3 Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume V (1801-1820), s. nom., "Aird, James."
4 Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume VI (1821-1835), s. nom., "Dickson, Robert."
5 Jeanne Kay, "John Lawe, Green Bay Trader" Wisconsin Magazine of History 64 (Autumn 1980): 2-27.
6 Frederic G. Cassidy, Dane County Place-Names (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, Oct 29, 2009) 87, s. nom. "Lake Koshkonong."


Rev. Jedidiah Morse, A Report to the Secretary of War of the United States, on Indian Affairs: Comprising a Narrative of a Tour Performed in the Summer of 1820, under a Commission from the President of the United States, for the Purpose of Ascertaining, for the Use of the Government, the Actual State of the Indian Tribes in Our Country (New Haven: S. Converse, 1822) 48.