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Winnebago Tribe

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: [unknown]
Surnames/tags: Native_American Tribes
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For a grouping of profiles of members of this tribe, see Category:Ho-Chunk.


Winnebago Tribe

The Winnebago tribe is today split into two groups: those living in Wisconsin (Black River Falls, etc.), and those living on the Winnebago Reservation in Winnebago, Thurston County, Nebraska.


The name is said to be in origin the Ojibwe Winnibígog, Winebégok, "Polluted Waters People." This derives from winipig, "polluted water" < win, wini, wi'nat, "dirty, impure," (Dorsey and Radin, 2:958-961) and nipi, "water." When the plural suffix -ak is added, the latter becomes by contraction, nipig, "waters." To this is added a terminal -o, indicating a person (plural, -o-ag), thus Winnipigo(a)g and its variants. (Foster) The closest version to that extant in English, and the presumed true original, is from the neighbors and allies of the Hočągara, the Menominee, who call them Winnibégo. (Hoffman, 14:205; Dorsey, 2:958) However, since Ojibwe was a lingua franca of the day, the name probably spread through the medium of that language — compare the Sauk and Fox name Winipyägohagi (Tanner, 316), and the Ottawa Winnebagoag. (Potawatomi dictionary) The French misunderstood this name, and called the tribe Puants, "Stinkards."'

The name that the Winnebago call themselves is Hočąk, Hočągara, which means "Great Voice." This name is variously transliterated into English as, Hochunk, HoChunk, Hocak, etc., and is now the preferred name of the tribe.

Genealogy of the Tribe

The Hočąk language belongs to the Siouan family, which includes Crow, Hidatsa, Mandan, Assiniboine (Stoney), Sioux, Quapah, Kansa, Osage, Omaha, Ponca, Ofo, Biloxi, Catawba, Tutelo, Assegun (?), and Chiwere. Hočąk is most closely allied to the Chiwere dialect group, which contains Oto, Ioway, and Missouria. (Springer and Witkowski; Radin)

The Hočągara apparently entered Wisconsin from the southeast. When this took place has not been established. They established themselves at Red Banks on Green Bay in Wisconsin, and there found themselves surrounded by Central Algonkian peoples (Ojibwe, Menomini, Pottawatomi, Kickapoo, and later Sauk and Fox). As a consequence, there has been a great deal of intermarriage among these tribes, giving the genetics of the Hočągara a strong Algonkian element.

The French sent explorers and voyageurs west, eventually making contact with the tribe beginning in 1636. The fur trade boomed in this region, and many French trading posts were set up in Hočąk territory. The first notable person to actually marry into the tribe was the French officer Sabrevoir de Carrie, who set up a trading post, then married the singular female chief of the tribe probably in the year 1728. Subsequently, many French traders married into the tribe, leaving a great deal of French blood in today's Hočągara. In more recent times, intermarriage with white Americans has also left its genealogical imprint.


  • James Owen Dorsey and Paul Radin, "Winnebago," Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 30 (Totowa, N. J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1979) 2:958-961 (958, 961); from the manuscript of Chippewa (Ojibwe) words submitted by Gatschet to the Bureau of American Ethnology. Foster's Indian Record, vol. 1, #1, p. 2, col. 1.
  • Foster's Indian Record, vol. 1, #1, p. 2, col. 1.
  • Walter James Hoffman, The Menominee Indians, in the Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1892-1893 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896) 14:205.
  • Dorsey and Radin, "Winnebago," 2:958.
  • John Tanner (1780?-1847), A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner during Thirty Years Residence among the Indians in the Interior of North America (New York: G. & C. & H. Carvill, 1830) 316.
  • English-Potawatomi dictionary: online at http://www.ukans.edu/~kansite/pbp/books/dicto/dicto_en.html#e_w. Given as Winbiégųg in a manuscript of Potawatomi words submitted by Gatschet to the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  • James W. Springer and Stanley R. Witkowski, "Siouan Historical Linguistics and Oneota Archaeology," in Oneota Studies, ed. Guy Gibbon (1982).
  • Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 2-3.

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Categories: Ho-Chunk