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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Puan, Puans, Puants


early French variations of a name applied to the Ho-Chunk by their adversaries. The French "puan" literally means stinking or bad-smelling, and was applied to Green Bay ("Baye des Puants"), according to Fr. Jacques Marquette in 1673, "on account of the quantity of mire and mud which is seen there, whence noisome vapors constantly arise."

In 1718, Marquette's derivation was supported in the Relation of Sieur de Lamothe Cadillac:

"The Puans derive this name from their river, which is very muddy. It is so full of fish of all kinds that it is difficult to understand how it can hold so many. Consequently during the heat of summer on account of either the quality of the water or the too great quantity of fish, the water is entirely covered with them and as it immediately becomes foul and putrid, it is hardly possible to approach the bank on account of the stench and the water is consequently very disgusting. It is for this reason that the nation is called that of the puans, for both in their persons and their habits they are the cleanest among the savages; and their women are the least dirty and are exceedingly careful to keep their cabins very clean and tidy, not a very common quality among other savage women." [Wisconsin Historical Collections 16: 360]

The French used it for an Algonkin word they transliterated phonetically as "Ouinipegou" which has survived in the names Winnebago and Winnipeg. Versions of "Puan" were applied to both the bay and the Ho-Chunk, whose ancestral home was on the shores of it, until the 19th century; its Algonkin equivalent, "Winnebago," has survived until modern times. View more information elsewhere at

View pictures relating to Ho-Chunk Indians at Wisconsin Historical Images.

[Source: Wisconsin Historical Collections, vol. XVI, XXI]

115 records found

Packing-the-rigging (logging)
Packs (logging)
paczki (food)
pad (farming)
paddock (farming)
Pail and Shovel Party
Paleoindian culture (archaeology)
panary (farming)
Panic of 1837
pantograph (railroads)
paper industry in Wisconsin
Paramount records
parfleche (Fr.)
Parkman Club
parole (military)
parterre (farming)
pastern (farming)
pasteurization (dairy)
pays d'en haut (Fr.)
Pearl Fishing
Pearl-diver (logging)
Peavey (logging)
peavey (logging)
Peckatonica River
pelleterie (Fr.)
per diem (railroads)
perche (Fr.)
period revival (architecture)
Perryville, Battle of
Peshtigo Fire
Petersburg, Siege of
Petrified Man Hoax
Pewit's Nest
Phoenix (shipwreck, 1847)
piastre (Fr.)
Piastre (Fr.)
Picture(d) Rocks, Michigan
Pie-fork (logging)
piece (Fr.)
pied (Fr.)
Pike Creek
Pike-pole (logging)
pillage (Civil War)
pilothouse (maritime)
Pine Bend
pinte (Fr.)
pirogue (Fr.)
pistole (Fr.)
piston (railroads)
plank road
plants, native
plate (maritime)
Platoon (Civil War)
pledget (farming)
plomb (Fr.)
Plumb Plan
plunder (Civil War)
plus (Fr.)
Pokelogan (logging)
Pole-ax (logging)
Political Equality League
pollard (farming)
pontoon (Civil War)
pony boiler (maritime)
Poor-box (logging)
population of Wisconsin, 1820-1990
port (maritime)
Port Gibson, Battle of
Port Hudson, Siege of
Portage City Guards (Civil War)
pot (Fr.)
Potosi Badgers (Civil War)
Potter Law (1874)
pottery and earthenware industry in Wisconsin
pouce (Fr.)
Prairie du Chien, Battle of (1814)
Prairie Grove, Battle of
Prairie School (architecture)
Pre-exemption Law (1841)
Presidential Visits to Madison
primary elections in Wisconsin
primary rocks (mining)
prisons in Wisconsin
private (Civil War)
Prize-logs (logging)
probang (farming)
Progressive Movement
Project Sanguine
Puan, Puans, Puants
puddingstone (mining)
Punk (logging)
put about (maritime)
pyrites (mining)

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