Menomonie, Wisconsin History/loganfulton

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The Lakeland Indian burial mounds in Menomonie are now under water in the northeast section of Lake Menomin.

The Dunn County area has a storied tradition of Native Americans, with tribes having been present in the area from the last Ice Age until the late 19th century. Nomadic hunters following herds of large game, are the first known people to have inhabited what is now modern Wisconsin. Other tribes, such as the Woodland Era tribes, are believed to have evolved from these Ice Age era tribes. Scarce archaeological evidence can support this though. It wasn't until about the late 15th century, that Native Americans began leaving behind artifacts that archaeologists could use to place tribes in this area. The most notable tribes being the Santee Dakota (Sioux) and the Ojibwe (Chippewa). Both have rich histories in this area and have proved to be the most prominent tribes, archaeologically. Through research and personal accounts the history of the two tribes throughout the 16th through 19th century proved to complicated. With many battles and raids taking place in southwest Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. Their long standing conflict is one of the bloodiest Native American conflicts in the historic era.

The First Inhabitants[edit | edit source]

Land Bridge Nomads[edit | edit source]

The Native Americans of this area can be traced back about eleven thousand years. Long before the more commonly known tribes like the Sioux, Chippewa, or Ho-Chunk, there were the Paleo Indians. These nomadic tribes following Siberian game herds, seemed to have crossed over on the Beringia land bridge (The modern day Bering Strait in Alaska) during the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000 B.C. They continued to move south and have been archaeologically traced to have reached as far as modern day South America.[1] By 9500 B.C. the Paleo-Indian Clovis people began leaving artifacts in numerous sites across North America. In particular, their distinctive spear points with “fluted” areas at the bases, for attaching spear shafts.[2] The Early Paleo Indian culture ended around the same time as the demise of the Ice Age animals that they hunted, which included mammoths, mastodons, giant bison, giant sloth, sabertooth tigers, and caribou. After the end of the Ice Age, which was approximately around 8000 B.C., tribes began migrating north and some moved into Wisconsin. These tribes, colliding with other tribes from the south, began to form their own culture in the Red Cedar Valley area. This era, known as the Archaic Era, would persist and evolve into the Woodland Era. Over this time, tribes had begun to find the benefit of agricultural production, they had started hunting smaller game, began building effigy mounds for the dead, and had introduced the bow and arrow to their equipment. The Woodland Era era persisted well into about 1600 A.D.

The Emergence of the Santee Dakota[edit | edit source]

The Dakota (Sioux) are believed to be descendants of the Woodland Era Indians of the Red Cedar area. Their long standing tenure in the Menomonie area and areas well into eastern Minnesota, and their culmination of tribes along the Mississippi over thousands of years, made them a powerful tribe in the Midwest. The Dakota were one of the few tribes to inhabit Wisconsin at the time of the early French explorers and are one the first to be recorded into the Historic Era, due to their strong oral and written traditions. When Jean Nicolet, the first European to explore Wisconsin, landed in Green Bay in the summer of 1634, there were only three tribes present in the state: the Menominee, the Ho-Chunk, and the Santee Dakota.[3] The Dakota were the dominant tribe in southwestern Wisconsin, with not much competition for land in the 15th and 16th century. The Dakota began to interact the French settlers, trading with them regularly and becoming heavily involved in the North American fur trade.

The Origins of the Ojibwe[edit | edit source]

Tribe Origins[edit | edit source]

The Ojibwe, later known as the Chippewa as well, are a historic Native American tribe and are believed to be descendants of Ice Age era land bridge hunters. Elders of the tribe have passed on through oral traditions that the tribes origins reside on the Atlantic coast.[4] The Ojibwe tribes experienced a religious revival, described as a displeasing of the "Great Spirit." This caused a migration off of the Atlantic coast and towards the eastern Great Lakes region in northern Michigan and western New York in the early 15th century.

Migration into Wisconsin[edit | edit source]

During the early 17th century, the Iroquois Confederacy, a band of six powerful tribes of the eastern Great Lakes region, began sending war parties westward to extend their already powerful reach. The Ojibwes’ efforts to make a stand against the Iroquois were futile, and they were driven westward towards the modern day Apostle Islands where they set up a new establishment.

A misconception is that the Iroquois were the sole reason the Ojibwe were driven all the way into Wisconsin. But, in fact, the Ojibwe themselves moved southwest because of a particularly dark era in their history. William Warren, a member of the tribe himself, explains in his compilation of oral traditions, “Evil practices became in vogue.—Horrid feasts on human flesh became a custom. It is said by my informants, that the medicine men of this period had come to a knowledge of the most subtle poisons, and they revenged the least affront with certain death. Such a taste did they at last acquire for human flesh, that parents dared not refuse their children if demanded by the fearful medicine man for sacrifice."[5] It seems as though a lack of food,certain cannibalistic practices, and ongoing pressure from the Iroquois, led to the sudden disbursement of the Ojibwe from the islands into Wisconsin. Unfortunately for the Ojibwe, they would not receive a warm reception from tribes in their new territory.

The Conflict[edit | edit source]

The Battle of the Brule took place in October, 1842

The migration of the Ojibwe into Dakota territory was doomed from the beginning. What was a small scuffle for trespassing on hunting and fishing lands, soon turned bloody, with small bands attacking each other; soon, it turned into a full scale war. Some of the gruesome tales between the tribes included: destruction of entire villages, the killing of women and children, torture of prisoners of war, and the practice of mass removal of scalps as trophies. Resentment for one another was instilled into the minds of every member of both tribes from an early age. As soon as children were old enough to handle bow and arrow, representations of the enemy were made. They were taught to shoot at them for exercise and practice. The struggle, which began around the late 17th century, persisted well into the mid-19th century. The Ojibwe, who had attained firearms from French fur traders, began to push the Dakota further back. Some major battles were fought, including the Battle of the Brule. The battle ended up being a rout in favor of the Ojibwes, after they outflanked them on the banks of the Brule River. The Dakota suffered 101 casualties, while the Ojibwes suffered just 13.[6]

The Dunn County area was the site of some terrible battle scenes as well. With bands of hunting parties being attacked spontaneously. The Red Cedar River, a wonderful source of production for the tribes, was the site of many such assaults. These ongoing battles would soon decrease due to the increasing amount of white settlers in the area. Especially in the Dunn County area, with the first settlement of Menomonie being established in 1830. White officials were quite unhappy with the behavior of the two tribes and in order to persuade settlers moving westward to come to this area, they forced the Ojibwe and the Dakota to make peace. The treaty of Prairie du Chien was signed August 19th, 1825 and stated that “There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between the Sioux and Chippewas."[7] Although the treaty was signed and the large battles that once took place ceased, small attacks on hunting bands may still have been common up until about the 1870s. There was a reported attack in Menomonie in 1855, The Chippewa had been hunting deer along the Red Cedar River and approached too closely to the haunts of the Dakotas. A large party stealthily surrounded and attacked them.[8] This shows that even thirty years after the treaty, resentment for each other was still at an alarmingly high level.

Relocation[edit | edit source]

In the late 1840s the United States began to move the two tribes, forcing them to cease their lands to the federal government. There was a struggle to move them out, but eventually both sides complied. Reservations were set aside for both tribes. The Dakota received reservations in western Minnesota and South Dakota. The Ojibwe were placed in reservations in eastern Minnestoa and western Wisconsin.

External Links[edit | edit source]

History of the Ojibway People

George Copway's, The Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation.

Benjamin Armstrong's, Early Life Among the Indians

Where the Wild Rice Grows

Dunn County News article about Indian Assault in Menomonie

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lynch, L. & Russel, J. (1996). Where the wild rice grows: A sesquicentennial portrait of menomonie, 1896-1996. Menomonie Sesquicentennial Commission.
  2. Lynch, L & Russel, J. (1996). Where the wild rice grows: A sesquicentennial portrait of menomonie, 1896-1996. Menomonie Sesquicentennial Commission.
  3. Mason, C. (1988). Introduction to wisconsin indians: Prehistory to statehood. Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Company
  4. Warren, W. (1885). History of the ojibways, based upon traditions and oral statements. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society.
  5. Warren, W. (1885). History of the ojibways, based upon traditions and oral statements. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society.
  6. Armstrong, B. (1892). Early life among the indians. Haravard Univerisity.
  7. Kappler, C. (1825). Treaty with the sioux etc. [treaty].
  8. Knapp, H.E. (1925, April 2). Moore farm scene of indian battle. The Dunn County News. p. 2B.