This article was last modified on October 2, 2018.

Local History Class: Indians of NE Wisconsin

The following are my notes from a September 2018 class for elementary school kids on Indians in northeast Wisconsin. There was also a PowerPoint.



Name means “People of the Wild Rice”. Wild rice is a plant that grows in the river, and is ready to harvest in September. As the birch bark canoes go through the water, the rice shakes loose from the plant, filling the canoe. The rice that misses puts seeds back in the river for next year.

Many Menominee words are now place names throughout the state. Even Kaukauna means “gathering place of the pike”. Suamico, Ashwaubenon, Oconto are all Menominee words.

July 1812: 40 warriors overtook Fort Michilimackinac. One of these was Oshkosh, who then joined the Bear Clan, the group that was trained for leadership positions. He was later made chief. Oshkosh was a strong leader and when the Americans tried to get the tribe to move to Minnesota, he stood firm. A reservation in Wisconsin was created, and is one of the rare examples where reservations are the same as original land.

September 1836, Chief Oshkosh met with the governor and agreed to sell 4 million acres to the government, which became the cities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Stevens Point and more. This was called the Treaty of the Cedars and took place in Little Chute.

Philetus Sawyer (1816-1900) tried to get Menominee trees; while in Congress, he tried to get laws passed forcing the Menominee to sell their lumber at low prices. Ironically, he was from the city of Oshkosh and served as its mayor for a while. Fighting for the Menominee was Senator Robert LaFollette. (A park in town is named for him.)
Many struggles over who owned the sawmill and who owned the trees, which may be why the government targeted them for termination. Between termination and restoration in 1972, over 2,000 home sites were sold. Many of these are on Legend Lake, and the tribe has tried ever since to buy them back.

Tribal logging and conservation: Every tree is numbered and measured; as of last count, there were 58,000 trees. Because of the tribe’s stewardship, there is now more standing timber today than there was in 1854, even with 2.25 billion board feet harvested from the forest over the last 140 years.

On August 1, 1953, Congress issued a statement, House Concurrent Resolution 108, which was the formal policy presentation announcing the official federal policy of Indian termination. The resolution called for the immediate termination of the Menominee. The reservation was erased from the map, being replaced by Menominee County. After legal challenges, the reservation was restored in 1973. Because the reservation and county have the same border, they have no city or county police – laws are enforced by tribal police and the FBI.

Ever since the casino opened, the tribe has put its profits back into the community. There is free public transportation, free health care and a free 2-year college. Today, they actively try to regain their language and push for stronger environmental controls. 2010 population: 8,720

Bear: Speakers, regulated civil affairs
Eagle: Warriors, planning military strategy
Wolf: Harvesters, hunting and fishing
Crane: Builders
Moose: Farmers, gathered the wild rice


Mohican = “People of the Waters That Are Never Still” (The Hudson River in New York)

We usually think of Indians living in teepees, but the Stockbridge lived in wigwams. In fact, no Indians in Wisconsin ever lived in teepees.

Between 1822 and 1829, groups of Stockbridge left New York and settled in Kaukauna. They were lead by Joseph Quinney and John Metoxen. Today, in their honor, we have streets named for them near Horseshoe Park. Some controversy over land rights caused many Stockbridge to move in the 1830s to the east side of Lake Winnebago (in what is today Stockbridge).

Hendrick Aupaumut (1757-1830) was a soldier at the time of the American Revolutionary War, in which he served on the American side as a captain of Stockbridge warriors. He wrote a history of the Mohican people, and defended them to President Thomas Jefferson in a letter. He worked with the United States in its exchanges with tribes further west, hoping to negotiate peace, but was, ultimately, unsuccessful, because of powerful settler interests. He moved west with the tribe and is today buried in Kaukauna. Hendricks Avenue in Kaukauna is named for him. Another Stockbridge soldier, Jacob Konkapot, served as a scout in the war. He later moved to Kaukauna and operated a sawmill. His son lived on Dixon Street. Konkapot Creek is named for him.

Electa Quinney relocated west around 1827 and by 1828 had established a school at Statesburg (now roughly where Kaukauna and Combined Locks meet). Her salary was paid by the tribe, and classes were free. Quinney taught between forty and fifty students at her school, which was the first public school in Wisconsin. She taught 4 classes in a log school house, which was connected with a Christian mission. Though most of her students were Indian, they studied in English and she used standard texts to teach arithmetic, geography, penmanship and spelling.

The Brothertown tribe is separate from the Mohican, or at least its origins are separate. The tribe is believed to be descended from the earlier Pequot tribe. However, due to moving from New York to Kaukauna, and again moving to Calumet County, there has been great inter-marriage between the Brothertown and Mohican tribes. This has blurred the lines. Unlike the Mohicans, Menominee and Oneida, the federal government does not recognize the Brothertown group as its own tribe, and therefore it does not have the sovereign rights of other tribes.

Important note: While the Stockbridge, Mohican, Munsee and Brothertown tribes are all inter-related, they are NOT related to the tribe in the book Last of the Mohicans. That tribe is actually the Mohegan tribe, which is distinct (despite a very similar name).
2010 population: 4,565


Oneida are one of the tribes of the Five Nation Confederacy in upstate New York, particularly near the Great Lakes. The motto was that, like five fingers, individually they are weak, but together they are strong. Oneida means “People of the Standing Stone”. This name is based on the ancient legend: The Oneida were being pursued on foot by an enemy tribe. As their enemies chased the Oneida into a clearing within the woodlands, they suddenly disappeared. The enemy could not find them, and so it was said that the Oneida had shapeshifted into the stones that stood in the clearing. As a result, they became known as the People of the Standing Stone.

Because of problems with the French (see next week), the Oneida were friendly with the British and later the Americans. Being from New York, they had to take a side in the American Revolution. Originally, they tried to stay neutral, but ended up siding with George Washington. Stories exist of the Oneida helping Washington and his men through the harsh winter by teaching them to cook the 600 bushels of maize (corn) they donated.

Following the war, Oneida land continued to decrease from 6 million acres all the way down to 32 acres as developers moved in. This included the Ogden Land Company, known for building the Erie Canal. The head of the local mission (Sam Kirkland) encouraged the Oneida to lease their land, believing this would help them assimilate. But the developers were not as honest as the missionary and tricked the Oneida into 999-year leases. In the 1820s and 1830s many of the Oneida remaining in New York relocated to Wisconsin alongside the Stockbridge, where they were allowed to buy land. In 1838 Chief Daniel Bread (1800-1873) helped negotiate a treaty for the Oneida in Wisconsin by which they asserted their intention to hold their piece of land communally. The federal government granted the Oneida a distinct 65,420-acre tract, cut out from Menominee territory (something the Menominee did not agree to). Although the Americans saw both tribes as Indians, the Oneida and Menominee were different – they spoke different languages and practiced different religions. Oneida land has decreased as more outsiders bought up plots, and today only around 10,000 Oneida live on the reservation.

A January 1954 memo by the Department of the Interior advised that a bill for termination was being prepared including about 3,600 members of the Oneida Tribe residing in Wisconsin.

In 1988, the Oneida sold the first “modern” lottery tickets in the state at their reservation. The state had authorized a state lottery, but it did not begin operations until 1991. The main game offered by the Oneida was Big Green, which began as a pick-6-of-36 jackpot game.

Since that time, the Nation has developed the Ashwaubenon Casino on the reservation for gaming, entertainment, etc. It generates revenues for reinvestment in economic development and welfare. The complex includes a hotel, conference center, restaurant, gas station, its own bank and other facilities. They also have a 36-hole golf course (Thornberry Creek). Since developing the casino in 1988, the Oneida tribe has, in a matter of a few decades, gone from being a destitute people to enjoying a fair amount of social prosperity. They have invested a large portion of their profits back into their community, including a sponsorship of the Green Bay Packers, which were an outgrowth of an earlier Oneida team.

2010 population: 16,567

Also try another article under Historical / Biographical
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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