Hononegah (Xųnųnįka) was born in 1814. Her mother was a full Winnebago named lnoquer. Her father was probably also Winnebago or part Winnebago and part Potawatomi. He was only known as “Blacksmith”.
The argument for Hononegah being part Potawatomi is that in 1833 Mack received money for his two eldest daughters under the terms of a treaty with the Potawatomi, an indication his children were part Potawatomi.
After Hononegah‘s parents died she moved with her uncles to a Winnebago village near what is now Grand Detour, Illinois. This is where she met fur trader Stephen Mack.
It is not clear when or how the relationship between Hononegah and Mack began. There is a story of Hononegah nursing him through a serious illness. The family tradition holds that they were married at his trading post near Grand Detour in 1829. Two of their children died in infancy. Their oldest surviving daughter, Rosa, was born in 1830. In 1840, like the parents of many métis, Hononegah and Steven Mack decided to get married officially, probably to insure the legitimacy of their children.
In 1829 Hononegah and Mack were supposedly forced to leave Grand Detour because of hostility towards Mack because he refused to sell alcohol to Indians and had not married someone from their tribe. There are varying stories of Hononegah saving his life.
In 1835, after the Black Hawk War, Mack founded the town of Pecatonica where the Pecatonica River flows into the Rock River in Winnebago County. It came to be known as Macktown.
Hononegah was known for her expertise in herbal medicine and the beautiful clothing with beading she created. She was well regarded in the community.
In 1847, she died of "bilious fever," an archaic term for diseases producing jaundice, and ranging from malaria to hepatitis and typhoid fever. Stephen Mack eulogized his wife:
In her the hungry and naked have lost a benefactor, the sick
a nurse, and I have lost a friend who ... taught me to reverence
God by doing good to his creatures. Her funeral proved that I
am not the only sufferer by her loss. My house is large but it was
filled to overflowing by mourning friends who assembled to pay
the last sad duties to her who had set them the example how to
Years later William C. Blinn related that after Hononegah's funeral, "a little knot of neighbors were speaking of the loss. George Stevens, the postmaster, one of the parties, said most impressively, 'The best woman in Winnebago County died last night', the neighbors all nodding in agreement."
↑ The name Hononegah is a corruption of Xųnųnįka, from xųnų, "young"; nįk, "little"; and -ka, a definite article suffix used in personal names. So the name means, "Little Young One." However, Narcisse Levaque, who lived in their household for a time, called her, "Honowegah" which is for Xųnųwįga (where -wį is a feminine gender suffix), meaning, "Young Lady." (Waggoner, 28a) However, the matter turns out to be rather more complicated. Mack himself in a deposition, refers to his wife as "Inoquer Hononegah" twice. (Waggoner, 29a) Inoquer is a corruption of a birth order name, Hīnū́gā, which by itself would mean, "First Daughter." That this is the meaning of Inoquer is confirmed by "John Blackhawk, an intelligent and well-educated Winnebago (who) says that Ho-no-ne-gah is a Winnebago word meaning "dear little one," and is the name given the first girl born in a Winnebago family." (Barge, 29) This name is more an affectionate nickname, the automatically instituted first daughter's birth order name is Hīnūgā, hence we have Mack call her formally (for a deposition) "Inoquer Hononegah," which is a transcription distortion of Hīnūgā Xųnųnika.
↑ "The Report made by the Secretary of War in January, 1825, shows that on October 20, 1823, Wolcott gave a license to Stephen Mack, Jr., to trade on "Rock river," with a capital of two thousand dollars. (18th Cong.; 2d Sess.; Ho. Doc. 54.) While this does not show the particular place Mack was authorized to trade, it would seem but fair to say he was at Grand Detour, because he was there other years and his family bible says he bought the cabin in which La Sallier had lived in 1822." (Barge, 37).
↑ Narcisse Levaque, an engagé of Mack's made a deposition in 1838: "In the Winter of the year aforesaid  the said Mack was married to Ho, no, we, gah a Winnebago woman of full blood, at his trading post on rock river: deponent was present on the occassion." (Waggoner, 28a). Farmily tradition has it that in the same year, they moved to Bird's Grove in Winnebago County, Illinois. (Barge, 17) Marriage among the Hochunks (Winnebagos) consisted of mutually agreed cohabitation. The groom is then obliged to perform "son-in-law service," which consists of hunting for the family up to about the age when his first born begins to walk. At that time he is expected to return to his native village with his new family. However, Xųnųnika was an orphan, so such additional expectations were obviated.
↑ Carr (11) says, "Mack had eleven children by his Indian wife, two of whom died in infancy." Barge (29) repeats this verbatim.
↑ William M. Adams testified in 1839 that “Mr. Mack has five children, the names and ages of which according to a family Record kept in his family Bible, of which the following is an exact copy are as follows:
Several deponents in 1838 and 39 affirmed that they lived as man and wife, and thereafter were recognized as such by the court — "Deponent (Oliver Armel) is acquainted with Mrs. Mack, the Wife of said Stephen, and knows her to be a Winnebago Woman of full blood … He knew Mrs. Mack before her marriage; ... She was united to Mr. Mack about nine years and they have since lived together as man and wife, been reputed and acknowledged as such." (Waggoner, 30a)
↑ On 5 June 1838 a marriage license was granted to Stephen Mack and Xųnųnįka that reads, "To any authorized Minister of the Gospel or Justice of the Peace in Winnebago County[,] You are hereby authorized to unite in marriage Stephen Mack and [Illegible] Hou.ne.gok. and for so doing this shall be your Warrant." ("Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1940," database, FamilySearch (17 October 2017), citing Winnebago, Illinois, United States, county offices, Illinois; FHL microfilm 1,914,066). This was a marriage license, but the marriage itself did not take place for over two years afterwards. The Illinois Statewide Marriage Index from the Illinois State Archives records the following line: "Groom: MACK, STEPHEN, Bride: HOUNEGOK, NANCY, Date: 1840-09-14, Vol. I , County: WINNEBAGO." This is fleshed out by Bishop & Campbell (35b): “As a result of his wish to assure his children that they would be legal heirs to his property, Mack and Hononegah had another marriage ceremony performed on September 14, 1840, by Justice of the Peace William Hulin.”
Find A Grave: Memorial #43473572: accessed 26 May 2019), memorial page for Hononegah Mack (1814–5 Sep 1847), citing Macktown Forest Preserve, Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Dean McMakin (contributor 46804161) .
Norton William Jipson, Story of the Winnebagoes (Chicago: The Chicago Historical Society, 1923), 260. This is an unpublished typescript.