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Ho-Chunk Beaded Bandolier
Object Name:
Ho-Chunk Beaded Bandolier
29.25" by 3.75"
Woven fiber, glass beads

Owned by Chief Albert Yellow Thunder

1829 Treaty; Yellow Thunder; Lead Miners
Mid-Late Nineteenth Century
Credit Line:
Mrs. John A. Butler, 1932
Object ID:

In response to Red Bird’s stirrings, a consensus spread among government officials that the issues which caused the uprising needed to be solved in order to move forward.  The primary matter at hand was that of lead miners’ encroachment upon Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) land.  Government agents and the Winnebago tribe concurred that the key to regional stability would be a treaty convention.  The tribe was so eager to hold a council to address the miners’ intrusion that local officials became concerned that delaying the treaty would lead to a renewed outbreak of hostilities.

After a significant delay, a council was finally convened in the summer of 1829.  The Prairie du Chien treaty grounds hosted a convention of delegates much different from the treaties of previous years, however.   Whereas in earlier times the Native delegates represented powerful, remote tribes of the vast Northwest, the social map had changed.  By 1829, Illinois had been a full-fledged state for over a decade.  The lower Northwestern tribes had been reduced dramatically as they were replaced by homesteaders.  The Winnebago had retained their sovereignty longer, but the tribal delegates who met in 1829 now represented a tribe which had been defeated in spirit in the recent uprising.  The position of the government delegates was likewise different.  While previously the concern had been keeping the peace with the tribes, the government agents now had a new constituency to address.  Spirited lead miners and settlers constituted an ever-expanding influence.  Their demands and concerns were paramount to retaining solidarity between the government and expanding populace.

The result—devastating as it was for a tribe which had called south-central Wisconsin its home for centuries—was likely foreseen by delegates of both sides.  On August 1, the treaty was finalized.  The Tribe’s rights to the land south and east of the Wisconsin River had been bartered away in return for $18,000 annually for 30 years along with an assortment of gifts and services for the same period.  Government officials saw no other alternative.  The needs of the new settlers was a strong impetus for acquiring the lucrative lead district.  Additionally, leaving the lead district in Ho-Chunk hands would inevitably cause a renewal of conflict between unscrupulous settlers and the Tribe.  The results of a Native war would hurt the tribe even more than the loss of their land.  As the ink dried on the treaty, a new chapter commenced in Winnebago history.

One of the signatories was a Ho-Chunk leader named Yellow Thunder.  Juliette Kinzie’s memoirs attest to the fact that she and John knew this man and his wife well.  Yellow Thunder stood as an eyewitness to the treaty for almost half a century following its ratification.  While not one of the chosen speakers within the Winnebago delegation, he represented a tribal band in the Portage and Fox River regions.  Today’s artifact ambassador is a beaded bandolier owned by Yellow Thunder’s grandson, Chief Albert Yellow Thunder, who doubtless heard many a story from his aged grandfather about the convention of 1829 and its ramifications.

John H. Kinzie was a noted “special commissary” at the council of 1829.  His work impressed officials enough that he was appointed to fill the Indian sub-agent position which was created during the convention.  This would require the establishment of an Indian Agency at Fort Winnebago—in the very house you are still able to tour on our museum property today.

Miners, a Treaty, and Yellow Thunder

June 1, 2019

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