Remembering the Ho-Chunk Nation | News, Sports, Jobs


Muir Library Director Nicole Krienke, left, and Winnebago Area Museum Board Chair, Hazel McCrury, right, will soon welcome Colin Mustful as a guest speaker.

Nicole Krienke moved to Winnebago in 2019 and began her role as director of the Muir Library soon after.

Three years later, she admits one thing about the city still puzzles her.

“I’m very interested in why we call ourselves ‘Winnebago'” Krienke said.

An upcoming presentation by renowned author and historian Colin Mustful will shed some light on the subject on June 16 at 7 p.m.

With funds provided by a Traverse Library Cooperative grant from the Sioux, Mustful will visit the Winnebago Area Museum to share his knowledge of the Ho-Chunk.

The Ho-Chunk are a Native American people whose history is deeply tied to that of the Faribault County region and who indirectly gave their name to Winnebago.

Mustful’s presentation, titled “Moved and Deleted: Linking the Town of Winnebago to the Ho-Chunk Story”,will describe the history of forced displacement of the Ho-Chunk people and explain how this history led to their brief residence in the area.

As Mustful explains on its website, colinmustful.com, the Ho-Chunk originally resided in what is now Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. Later, they expanded their territory to areas surrounding Lake Winnebago and stretching toward the Mississippi River.

However, a period of turmoil eventually led to treaty negotiations with the U.S. government in 1832, after which the Ho-Chunks ceded their lands in southeastern Wisconsin in exchange for lands in eastern Wisconsin. ‘Iowa.

According to Mustful, the Ho-Chunks endured several additional bouts of displacement, which pushed their people steadily across the Midwest. In 1855, they finally traded 897,900 acres of the Long Prairie Reservation in Minnesota for 200,000 acres along the Blue Earth River just south of Mankato.

It was this move that solidified the Ho-Chunk’s connection to the Faribault County region, Mustful notes.

They remained in the area for several years, until a bloody conflict known as the Dakota War resulted in the forced expulsion of the Ho-Chunks from the area, along with the Dakota people, in 1863.

Mustful points out that the sudden move was enacted despite the Ho-Chunk’s lack of involvement in the conflict, which was primarily between a contingent of the Dakotah people and the US government.

The Ho-Chunks endured years of turmoil after the Dakota War, as they were moved to inhospitable lands from which it was difficult to earn a living.

It took the Ho-Chunks 100 years to finally gain federal recognition of their heritage and rightful territory in 1963. This is also when the Ho-Chunks reclaimed their rightful name.

For over 100 years, their people were commonly referred to as the “Winnebago”. Mustful explains that the name was invented by the French neighbors of the Ho-Chunks, who called them the “Ouinepegi”. The name roughly translates to “People of the Stinky Waters”.

The term was further misrepresented by US officials, who interpreted its pronunciation as “Winnebago”.

However, Mustful clarifies that the Ho-Chunks refer to themselves as “Hochungra” or “The Loud-Voiced People”, even though their former title may be retained via the name of a certain town in Faribault County.

On June 16, Mustful will highlight the tragic, but ultimately triumphant story of the Ho-Chunk people along with the great collection of Native American artifacts from that same city.

The artifacts, housed in the Winnebago Area Museum, are tangible reminders of the area’s deep connection to Native American culture and history.

“I’ve heard, but I don’t know for sure, that this is the second largest exhibit of (Native American) artifacts in the state,”says Hazel McCrury, Chair of the Winnebago Area Museum Board of Trustees.

On a guided tour of the exhibit, McCrury shows case after case of Native American beads, grinding stones, arrowheads, pottery shards and even bison bones.

McCrury notes that a well-preserved bison skull was found in the Blue Earth River by Jeremiah Maine and Andrew Urban in 2000.

It also shows a set of perfectly round stones – rare game stones that have been dodged and thrown around by participants.

A large grizzly bear, shot by former Winnebago resident Ed Habeger in 1976, stands guard in the foreground of the display of Native American artifacts.

“Everything beyond the bear was found locally”,said McCurry.

She explains that most of the objects were unearthed on the banks of the Blue Earth River. There, many spring rains would cause locals to pull out their plows and overturn valuable artifacts in the freshly dug ground.

Artifacts now live a quiet existence behind protective glass.

However, their numbers are a valuable reminder of the indigenous people who once resided in the Faribault County area.

Krienke and McCrury both agree that it’s important to learn the history of those who first called this land “home.”

“(Native American history) looms large in our region,”Krienke said.

McCrury agrees, considering, “We are just a drop in the bucket of history.”

The Winnebago Area Museum illustrates the vast expanse of human history. The museum’s exhibits range from Mississippian artifacts dated between 900 and 1600 AD to kitchen appliances from the 1950s to class portraits of Winnebago High School’s last class in the early 2000s.

For those who have never visited the museum before, Mustful’s presentation will be an opportunity to begin their exploration of Winnebago’s history with some of the area’s earliest occupants.

“If you are passionate about history, I think you will find this very interesting”,Krienke said.

She adds that the program, like most others offered by the Muir Library and the Winnebago Area Museum, is free to the public.

“We want people to be able to come”Krienke explains.

Admission to the museum, in fact, is always free. McCrury and his fellow board members hope to see many people, both locals and travelers, pushing through the front doors for a visit from time to time.


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