3" by 2.25"
Ho-Chunk Tribe, Garlic Island
Garlic Island; Winter of Starvation; Wild-Cat [Pesheu]
James Peterson, 2019
Our previous Artifact Ambassador left the Kinzies and their Native acquaintances in a serious situation. Circumstances did not immediately improve. Starvation continued to ravage the ill-prepared Ho-Chunk families gathered at the Fort Winnebago sub-agency. With shipments of corn waiting at Green Bay, blocked by the Fox River’s frozen surface, all that could be done was to wait until the spring thaw.
Finally, as spring approached, their fortitude was rewarded as barges of corn were spotted rounding one of the Fox River’s many bends near the fort. This visual confirmation of such long-held hope stirred and revitalized both young and old. As the Kinzies watched by the river bank, Ho-Chunk men and women stood ready with their hatchets, poised to attack the wooden crates containing food. The young children were armed with kettles, baskets, and containers, ready to “haste[n] to the fires that were blazing around to parch and cook that which they had seized.”
Juliette recorded the “thrilling and joyful” moment when she realized that the hard winter had come to an end. She was also, however, seemingly relieved that the gathered Natives had at last departed from the Agency after the arrival of the corn, taking the daily spectacle of suffering with them. She described the feelings of the Ho-Chunk, as well: “As the first boat touched the ban, we, who were gazing on the scene with anxiety and impatience only equaled by that of the sufferers, could scarcely refrain from laughing, to see old Wild-Cat, who had somewhat fallen off in his huge amount of flesh, seize 'the Washington Woman' [A Ho-Chunk lady who was known for her visit to Washington, D.C. as the only woman in a delegation to see the President] in his arms, and hug and dance with her in the ecstasy of his delight.”
Today’s Artifact Ambassador is a special artifact from Wild-Cat’s own village. Wild-Cat [Pesheu—a Menominee word meaning Lynx] was born into the Lake Winnebago sub-group of the Ho-Chunk Tribe. In adulthood, he became a tribal leader and established a village on Garlic Island on the western side of Lake Winnebago. There was a village on the mainland opposite, but the lodges—clearly described by contemporary travelers—were at various times of the year located on the island proper. The artifact is a bone choker inscribed with circles and lines. Found in an archaeological dig conducted by James Petersen of Berlin, Wisconsin, in 1980, it could have been owned by the chief, himself, or members of his family.
Wild-Cat had a long history of fighting for the British, earning a George III peace medal (now at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh). At the time of our Ambassador’s story, however, he and his village were fighting for their lives against a more daunting foe. The courage and resilience of the Ho-Chunk people are commemorated by this Artifact Ambassador.