Odd Wisconsin Archive
Glory-of-the-Morning (Ho-po-ko-e-naw) is the first woman described in the textual record of Wisconsin history. She was an 18th-c. female chief who, according to oral tradition (recorded in tribal historian David Lee Smithís book, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe) was chosen to lead the Ho-Chunk Nation about the year 1737, at age 18. The following year she married Sabrevoir Decorah, a French military officer who had resigned his commission to become a fur trader.
At the time, both the French and their Indian trading partners were much harassed by the Meskwaki, or Fox, Indians, who commanded strategic points on the Fox River and exacted tribute from everyone who passed. Under the leadership of Glory-of-the-Morning, the Ho-Chunk sided with the French against the Meskwaki during the 1730s and 1740s. Several battles between the two tribes are described in stories that have come down the generations and are given in our Turning Points online collection, in English and Ho-Chunk. Others are recorded in David Lee Smithís book, linked above.
After several years of marriage and three children, Glory-of-the-Morning was abandoned by her French husband. The start of hostilities between the French and the English prompted Sabrevoir Decorah to re-enlist, and he died of wounds suffered in battle at Quebec in 1760. Meanwhile, Glory-of-the-Morning continued to lead her people. English traveler Jonathan Carver visited her in 1766 at modern Neenah-Menasha, and left a long account of her on pages 32-38 of his book. She may also be the woman warrior whose exploits several decades earlier he described on pages 40-41. Carverís report of the days he spent in her village is the earliest text that survives about any Wisconsin woman.
According to tribal tradition, Glory-of-the-Morning died not long after Carver must have visited her. Her two sons, Spoon Decorah (1730s-1816) and Old Decorah (1746?-1836) became important Ho-Chunk leaders in their own right. You can find out more about them in our online Dictionary of Wisconsin History. The story of the family is told in this 1912 newspaper article by Louise Phelps Kellogg, who was familiar with all the printed and manuscript sources but not with tribal oral tradition. For more information on Ho-Chunk history, visit the tribeís Web site. For more stories about Wisconsin women, check back at Odd Wisconsin throughout Womenís History Month.
:: Posted in Odd Lives on March 3, 2005