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Ho-Chunk History

The Ho-Chunk (Hoocąk, Ho-Chungra, or Winnebago) people appear very early in the annals of the known history of Wisconsin's indigenous inhabitants. Unlike other Wisconsin tribes which migrated here from other parts of the continent, the Ho-Chunk never remember being anywhere else. Originally recorded by French explorers to be clustered around Red Banks (Green Bay) between 1600 and 1800, this people group eventually spread across much of central and southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. By the early 19th century, Ho-Chunks inhabited the prairies and hills in an area from Lake Winnebago south to the Kishwaukee and west to the Mississippi.

The introduction of United States occupation brought hard times to the Ho-Chunk Nation. No longer were their secluded villages a haven against the influence and encroachments of ambitions settlers. Wars, disease, and unscrupulous treaties took their toll. Strong and respected leaders saw their clans and villages through, but the times did not get better. 

Ho-Chunk families were sequentially removed by the United States government to Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and finally (of their own accord as they fled the horrors of the Crow Creek Reservation) to Nebraska, away from their traditional homeland. Today, however, the Ho-Chunk Nation is a sovereign nation in Wisconsin with their seat of government in Black River Falls. It is a testimony to extraordinary resilience in the face of crushing adversity.


A Landscape of Families: Outdoor Exhibit + Website

The Historic Indian Agency House and the Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center have come together to educate through the powerful material encapsulated in the Ho-Chunk annuity register penned by sub-agent John H. Kinzie in 1832. The result is an outdoor exhibit entitled, "A Landscape of Families," which now stands on the site where the census was taken nearly two hundred years ago. A special website has also been created to enhance the exhibit with in-depth, interactive content. It is our joint hope that you will enjoy your engagement with this material, but even more, that you will come away changed by the insights gained.  

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On Location: The 1832 Landscape

Explore the historic landscape of 190 years ago—the homeland of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Present-day footage features several locations related to the people and places of the region's 1832 landscape.

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On Location: The Ho-Chunk Treaty Trail

The Ho-Chunk Trail of Tears extended hundreds of miles beyond the borders of Wisconsin. It was marked by a succession of treaty-mandated reservations where families were forced to relocate, adapt, and carry on their lives in the midst of intense suffering.

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Walking Wawa’ąįja: Outdoor Exhibit

On this ground, a devastating journey commenced for a Nation who has called this place home for centuries. "Walking Wawa’ąįja" (Pronounced Wau-wau-on-een-jau) guides visitors chronologically through the Fox-Wisconsin portage's Trail of Tears, keeping Ho-Chunk voices at the fore. A big picture emerges of both the harsh realities and the Indigenous responses. Walking Wawa’ąįja focuses on the experiences of  those who remained or returned during the era of forced expulsion. Their Trail of Tears took place right here in their own homeland. Take time to explore and reflect on this important story.

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Ho-Chunk Nation

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