The Winnebago are a Siouan-speaking tribe which historically occupied eastern and southern Wisconsin. This thesis uses their culture and history as a background for telling the story of the removal of the Wisconsin remnant in 1873-74. This non-treaty-abiding faction of the tribe was forcibly taken to Nebraska where the treaty-abiding faction had a reservation.
The Wisconsin Winnebago had four reasons for resisting removal. 1) Based on their experience with prior removals, they knew that many of their children and elderly would die. 2) They feared attack by the western Sioux. 3) As woodland Indians, the Winnebago considered Wisconsin to be superior to Nebraska as a place to live. 4) They had religious reasons for not wishing to leave the home of their ancestors.
The whites pushed for removal because: 1) Many settlers feared a repeat of the massacre of whites such as occurred in Minnesota in 1862. 2) Politically influential owners of Wisconsin cranberry marshes did not want unauthorized picking of cranberries by the Winnebago. 3) The general prejudice against the Indians was also a factor.
Because the removal legislation was passed during the time when governmental policy was not to use troops, the Winnebago were not to be removed forcibly. Instead, efforts were made to coerce them through the use of persuasion, bribery and threats. The Winnebago were successful in passive resistance for about ten months. The frustrated proponents of removal finally obtained the use of troops and removed four-fifths of the Winnebago during December, 1873 and January, 1874. Public outcry stopped the use of troops and they were withdrawn.
In Nebraska, the Wisconsin Winnebago were not well-treated and they returned to Wisconsin in the spring. In March, 1875, Congress extended the benefits of the homestead act to any Indian who was a head of family, twenty-one years old, and had abandoned tribal regulations. This gave the Winnebago the opportunity to obtain legal status in Wisconsin. In 1881, a separate census was made of the Wisconsin Winnebago, and they became, in effect, a separate tribe from the Nebraska Winnebago.
The removal agents were the beneficiaries of the removal effort. Money that should have gone to the Wisconsin Winnebago went into their pockets.
Wilfred J. Airey
Frederick G. Hoyt
John W. Elick
Master of Arts (MA)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Indians; Treatment of -- Wisconsin; Indians of North America -- Government relations -- 1869-1934; Indians of North America -- Wisconsin; Winnebago Indians -- Land transfers
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Onsager, Lawrence W., "The Removal of the Winnebago Indians from Wisconsin in 1873-74" (1985). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 1066.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives