Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin

Last updated

Ho-Chunk Nation
Flag Ho-chunk.png
Total population
6,563 in 2010 [1]
Regions with significant populations
Flag of the United States.svg  United States (Flag of Wisconsin.svg  Wisconsin)
English, Ho-Chunk [2]
Waaksik Wosga, Native American Church [3]
Related ethnic groups
other Ho-Chunk, Otoe, Iowa people, and Missouria [3]

The Ho-Chunk Nation (Ho-Chunk language: Hocąk) is a federally recognized tribe of the Ho-Chunk with traditional territory across five states in the United States: Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri. The other federally recognized tribe of Ho-Chunk people is the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. The tribe separated when its members were forcibly relocated first to an eastern part of Iowa known as the Neutral Ground, then to Minnesota, South Dakota and later to the current reservation in Nebraska. [4]


Historically, the surrounding Algonquin tribes referred to them by a term that evolved to Winnebago, which was later used as well as by the French and English. The Ho-Chunk Nation have always called themselves Ho-Chunk. The name Ho-Chunk comes from the word Hocaagra (Ho meaning "voice", cąk meaning "sacred", ra being a definitive article) meaning "People of the Sacred Voice". [3]


The Ho-Chunk Nation is headquartered in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. [5] With the adoption of its most recent constitution in 1994, which restored the tribe's name for itself, the Ho-Chunk Nation, the modern tribal government structured itself after the federal and state governments, with executive, legislative and judicial branches. Executive and legislative members are elected. All of the tribe's members make up the fourth branch of government, the general council.

Ho-Chunk nation president Marlon WhiteEagle (right) and US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (left) meet in 2021 Marty Walsh and Marlon WhiteEagle (51203548127) (cropped).jpg
Ho-Chunk nation president Marlon WhiteEagle (right) and US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (left) meet in 2021

The nation's current president is Marlon WhiteEagle. [6] The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is Todd R. Matha, alongside two Associate Justices: Tricia Zunker and David J.W. Klauser. [7] The legislature currently consists of: [8]

Land base

The Ho-Chunk Nation is considered a "non-reservation" tribe. Many tribal members privately own their own land. The tribe oversees and maintains parcels of land placed in Trust as Indian Trust Land as designated by the federal government, Secretary of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), spread over Adams, Clark, Crawford, Dane, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Marathon, Monroe, Rock, Sauk, Shawano, Vernon, and Wood counties, Wisconsin. [9] In 1990, the land designated as trust land was 4,200 acres (17 km2) in size. [10]


The Ho-Chunk cultivated a variety of agricultural products for subsistence, including corn, squash, beans, and other products. They stored these in fiber bags and pits dug in the ground for winter use. They traveled up the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to hunt both small and large game, crossed the Mississippi to reach the prairies to hunt buffalo, and also fished in nearby rivers and lakes. [11]

The Ho-Chunk held many ceremonies. The major summer ceremonial was the Medicine Dance, which included a secret ceremony for members of the Medicine Dance Society, a religious society open to both men and women, as well as public rituals. The winter feast was a clan ceremony intended to increase war and hunting powers; the spring Buffalo Dance was a magical ceremonial for calling the bison herds. [12]

Ho-Chunk women were responsible for growing, gathering and processing food for their families, including agricultural products and a wide variety of roots, nuts and berries, as well as sap from maple trees. In addition, women learned to recognize and use a wide range of roots and leaves for medicinal and herbal purposes. Women also cooked game and prepared food and meals for the hunters to sustain them while traveling. They also tanned the hides to make clothing and storage bags. [13]

Ho-Chunk men were hunters as well as warriors in times of conflict. As hunters, they would catch fish by spearing them and clubbing the fish to death. The men would also hunt game such as muskrat, mink, otter, beaver, and deer. [14] Leaders among the men acted in political relations with other tribes. Some men created jewelry out of silver and copper that both men and women would wear. To become men, boys would go through a rite of passage at puberty, fasting for a period, in hopes of acquiring a guardian spirit. [15]


The Ho-Chunk Nation speaks Ho-Chunk language (Hocąk), which is a Chiwere-Winnebago language, part of the Siouan-Catawban language family. [2] With Hocąk speakers increasingly limited to a declining number of elders, the tribe has created a Language Division within the Heritage Preservation Department aimed at documenting and teaching the language. The division has developed a community outreach program for language revitalization, a Language Apprenticeship Program, and "EeCoonį". This program is operated at Christmas Mountain in Wisconsin Dells; it immerses young children in the language with the help of language instructors, eminent speakers, and language apprentices, among other efforts. [16]


The Ho-Chunk Wazijahaci have an extensive oral history and tradition that dates back thousands of years. Some of their stories refer to their people living through three ages.

Oral history suggests some of the tribe may have been forcibly relocated up to 13 times by the US federal government to steal land through forced treaty cession, losses estimated at 30 million acres in Wisconsin alone. In the 1870s, a majority of the tribe returned to their homelands in Wisconsin. Under the Homestead Act, some tribal members gained title to 40-acre (16 ha) parcels of land. [3]

The nation's flag was adopted in 1992. Its five colors (red, white, green, blue, and black) all represent animals of particular clans and have corresponding meanings in the tribe's oral history. The flag features the nation's seal and is surrounded by ornate designs in a field of white, all surrounded by a blue border. [17]

Today, the Ho-Chunk Nation owns and operates several casinos, Ho-Chunk Gaming, in Black River Falls, Baraboo, Madison, Nekoosa, Tomah, and Wittenberg, Wisconsin. [18] They also own numerous restaurants and hotels connected to the casinos, as well as numerous gas stations. The Ho-Chunk Nation is the largest employer in Jackson and Sauk counties, employing roughly 3,100 people. [9]

Notable tribal members

Mitchell Red Cloud Jr., tribal member and decorated Marine who was killed in combat in Korea Mitchell Red Cloud.jpg
Mitchell Red Cloud Jr., tribal member and decorated Marine who was killed in combat in Korea

See also

Related Research Articles

Sauk people Group of federally-recognized Native American tribes of the Eastern Woodlands

The Sauk or Sac are a group of Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands culture group, who lived primarily in the region of what is now Green Bay, Wisconsin, when first encountered by the French in 1667. Their autonym is oθaakiiwaki, and their exonym is Ozaagii(-wag) in Ojibwe. The latter name was transliterated into French and English by colonists of those cultures. Today they have three federally recognized tribes, together with the Meskwaki (Fox), located in Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Black Hawk War 1832 conflict between the United States and Native Americans

The Black Hawk War was a conflict between the United States and Native Americans led by Black Hawk, a Sauk leader. The war erupted after Black Hawk and a group of Sauks, Meskwakis (Fox), and Kickapoos, known as the "British Band", crossed the Mississippi River, into the U.S. state of Illinois, from Iowa Indian Territory in April 1832. Black Hawk's motives were ambiguous, but he was apparently hoping to reclaim land sold to the United States in the disputed 1804 Treaty of St. Louis.

The Hocągara (Ho-Chungara) or Hocąks (Ho-Chunks) are a Siouan-speaking Indian Nation originally from Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Due to forced emigration in the 19th century, they now constitute two individual tribes; the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. They are most closely related to the Chiwere peoples, and more distantly to the Dhegiha.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin City in Wisconsin, United States

Wisconsin Dells is a city in south-central Wisconsin, with a population of 2,678 people as of the 2010 census. It straddles four counties: Adams, Columbia, Juneau, and Sauk. The city takes its name from the Dells of the Wisconsin River, a scenic, glacially formed gorge that features striking sandstone formations along the banks of the Wisconsin River. Together with the nearby village of Lake Delton, the city forms an area known as "The Dells", a popular Midwestern tourist destination.

Iowa people Ethnic group

The Iowa or Ioway, known as the Bah-Kho-Je or Báxoje in their language, Chiwere, are a Native American Siouan people. Today, they are enrolled in either of two federally recognized tribes, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

Ho-Chunk Siouan-speaking Native American people

The Ho-Chunk, also known as Hoocągra or Winnebago, are a Siouan-speaking Native American people whose historic territory includes parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. Today, Ho-Chunk people are enrolled in two federally recognized tribes, the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.


The Menominee are a federally recognized nation of Native Americans, with a 353.894 sq mi (916.581 km2) reservation in Wisconsin. Their historic territory originally included an estimated 10 million acres (40,000 km2) in present-day Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The tribe currently has about 8,700 members.

Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma

The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma is one of two Federally recognized tribes for the Iowa people. The other is the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. Traditionally Iowas spoke the Chiwere language, part of the Souian language family. Their own name for their tribe is Bahkhoje, meaning, "grey snow," a term inspired by the tribe's traditional winter lodges covered with snow, stained grey from hearth fires.

Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska

The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska is one of two federally recognized tribes of Iowa people. The other is the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma.

Meskwaki Indigenous people of North America

The Meskwaki are a Native American people often known by Western society as the Fox tribe. They have been closely linked to the Sauk people of the same language family. In the Meskwaki language, the Meskwaki call themselves Meshkwahkihaki, which means "the Red-Earths", related to their creation story. Historically their homelands were in the Great Lakes region. The tribe coalesced in the St. Lawrence River Valley in present-day Ontario, Canada. Under French colonial pressures, it migrated to the southern side of the Great Lakes to territory that much later was organized by European Americans as the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.

Battle of Bad Axe Battle between Sauk and Fox Indians and United States Army

The Battle of Bad Axe, also known as the Bad Axe Massacre, was a battle between Sauk (Sac) and Fox Indians and United States Army regulars and militia that occurred on August 1–2, 1832. This final battle of the Black Hawk War took place near present-day Victory, Wisconsin in the United States. It marked the end of the war between white settlers and militia in Illinois and Michigan Territory, and the Sauk and Fox tribes under warrior Black Hawk.

Waukon Decorah 19th-century Ho-Chunk leader

Waukon Decorah, also known as Wakąhaga (Wau-kon-haw-kaw) or "Snake-Skin", was a prominent Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) warrior and orator during the Winnebago War of 1827 and the Black Hawk War of 1832. Although not a hereditary chief, he emerged as a diplomatic leader in Ho-Chunk relations with the United States.

Yellow Thunder, was a chief of the Ho-Chunk tribe. He signed two treaties with the United States in which his Ho-Chunk name was given as Wa-kun-cha-koo-kah and Waun-kaun-tshaw-zee-kau.

Red Bird

Red Bird was a leader of the Winnebago Native American tribe. He was a leader in the Winnebago War of 1827 against Americans in the United States making intrusions into tribal lands for mining. He was for many years one of the most friendly and trusted of the Wisconsin Native Americans. In the late 1820s Red Bird and his followers began to grow uneasy over the encroachments of lead miners on Ho-Chunk land. The tribe had an uneasy relationship with the dominant culture's legal concepts and often continued to follow tribal practices of justice. This tension resulted in several incidents, including confrontations with Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun. One incident involved the mistaken information channeled to the tribe that two Ho-Chunk executions were conducted at Fort Snelling in 1826 for a murder they did not commit. As white miners continued to extract resources near Winnebago villages on the Rock River, the War Department sought to keep tribes from mining the same minerals, in fear that the land would become contentious. Near Prairie du Chien on June 28, 1827, Red Bird had become increasingly angered by treatment of the tribe. Encroachment on native lands, unfair incarceration, and increasing violence led to escalating tensions. Under pressure from the tribe to defend their interests, Red Bird set off with two others, Chickhonsic and Wekau ; eventually meeting a trader, John Lockwood and a former British soldier, Duncan Graham, who advised against violence. Upon arriving at the cabin of Registre Gagnier, the party was met with a friendly welcome and invited in for refreshment. Gagnier, feeling suspicious about the nature of the visit, reached for his rifle, thus setting off the following events. Chickhonsic shot Solomon Lipcap. Wekau attempted to shoot Mrs. Gagnier, but she and her son escaped and gave the alarm in Prairie du Chien.

Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska Native American tribe

The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is one of two federally recognized tribes of Ho-Chunk Native Americans. The other is the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin. Tribe members often refer to themselves as Hochungra - "People of the Parent Speech". Their historic language is part of the Siouan family.


Wabokieshiek was a Native American army commander of the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) and Sauk tribes in 19th century Illinois, playing a key role in the Black Hawk War of 1832. Known as a medicine man and prophet, he is sometimes called the Winnebago Prophet.

Native American tribes in Nebraska

Native American tribes in the U.S. state of Nebraska have been Plains Indians, descendants of succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples who have occupied the area for thousands of years. More than 15 historic tribes have been identified as having lived in, hunted in, or otherwise occupied territory within the current state boundaries.

The Winnebago Reservation of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is located in Thurston County, Nebraska, United States. The tribal council offices are located in the town of Winnebago. The villages of Emerson, south of First Street, as well as Thurston, are also located on the reservation. The reservation occupies northern Thurston County, Nebraska, as well as southeastern Dixon County and Woodbury County, Iowa, and a small plot of off-reservation land of southern Craig Township in Burt County, Nebraska. The other federally recognized Winnebago tribe is the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin.

Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa

The Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa is one of three federally recognized Native American tribes of Sac and Meskwaki (Fox) peoples in the United States. The Fox call themselves Meskwaki and because they are the dominant people in this tribe, it is also simply called Meskwaki Nation, the Sauk people call themselves Êshkwîha or Yochikwîka, both with the meaning "Northern Sauk". They are Algonquian peoples, historically developed in the Eastern Woodland culture.

The Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians of Washington, formerly known as the Stillaguamish Tribe of Washington, is a federally recognized tribe of Stillaguamish people. They are a tribe of Southern Coast Salish indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest located in Washington.



  1. Division of Intergovernmental Relations (July 2016). Tribes of Wisconsin (PDF). Madison: Wisconsin Department of Administration. p. 44. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Ho-Chunk". Ethnologue. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Pritzker (2000) , p. 475.
  4. https://www.wpm.edu/index.php/plan-visit/educators/wirp/nations/ho-chunk .
  5. "Tribal Directory". National Congress of American Indians . Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  6. "The Office of the President". Ho-Chunk Nation. Archived from the original on July 7, 2016. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  7. "Judicial Branch". Ho-Chunk Nation. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  8. "Legislative Branch". Ho-Chunk Nation. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  9. 1 2 "Ho-Chunk Nation" . Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  10. Pritzker (2000) , p. 477.
  11. "Ho-Chunk". Milwaukee Public Museum . Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  12. "Ho-Chunk: Overview, Culture, History, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica . Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  13. Kindscher, Kelly; Hurlburt, Dana P. (October 1998). "Huron Smith's ethnobotany of the Hocąk (Winnebago)". Economic Botany. 52 (4): 352–372. doi:10.1007/bf02862065. ISSN   0013-0001. S2CID   20652394.
  14. Radin, Paul. "The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian," American Archaeology and Ethnology 16.7 (1920): 381-473
  15. "Winnebago History and Culture". Native American Nations. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  16. "Our Mission". Hoocąk Waaziija Haci Language Division.
  17. Crawley, Katie (November 25, 2020). "City to Fly Ho-Chunk Nation Flag at Madison Municipal Building". City of Madison . Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  18. "Wisconsin Indian Casinos by Tribe". 500 Nations. Retrieved September 5, 2013.

Works cited

Further reading