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Odd Wisconsin Archive

White Culture through Ho-Chunk Eyes


As large numbers of white settlers streamed into Wisconsin for the first time during the 1820s, the original inhabitants were puzzled by the exotic newcomers. One day in 1828, Ho-Chunk chief Dandy (1793-1870) was at Galena with some companions. Later that year they were going to Washington to meet with U.S. officials, and may have been familiarizing themselves with the ways of white people.

Such Bizarre Behavior

Gen. Randolph B. Marcy recorded that "while strolling about the town one day, they came upon a Methodist church where a revival service was in progress. They approached the windows and were amazed at the sight within, the house crowded with people, some clapping their hands, others jumping about and shouting at the top of their voices, all of which was perfectly incomprehensible to the Indians, who looked on the spectacle with wonder and amazement, and made various random conjectures as to the meaning of these unusual proceedings."

One of the chiefs thought that the preacher might be trying to drive out evil spirits that had possessed the congregation. Another speculated that it was a war-dance, and the third concluded that the whites had simply gone crazy.

Finally chief Dandy, "who had been watching intently for some time, exclaimed with an important air, 'I have it! I have it!' Then pointing his finger to his head, he added, 'Whiskey too much! Whisky too much!' and the party walked off in disgust, convinced that the disciples of Wesley were enjoying a grand spree."

New York and Washington

That summer the Ho-Chunk signed a treaty in Green Bay giving southwestern Wisconsin to the U.S. and pledging not to "molest or interfere with any of the white miners in the region." In September, fifteen Ho-Chunk chiefs, one woman companion, and three interpreters journeyed east to meet with top U.S. officials. Dandy earned the name Mau-nah-pay-ho-nik, or Little Soldier, for the stoicism with which he met the discomforts of the journey. In New York, at the end of October, the chiefs were unimpressed by a hot-air balloon ascension over New York harbor. "What good does it do," one of them asked. "Americans foolish," commented another.

In Washington they presented some traditional dances on the mall behind the White House. In early December they met with President John Quincy Adams and promised that their nation would not go to war with the United States.

Details about their trip are given in Louise P. Kellogg's 1935 article, "The Winnebago Visit to Washington in 1828."

Hundreds of historical images of the Ho-Chunk are available at Wisconsin Historical Images.


:: Posted in on September 12, 2013
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