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Colonialism Transforms Indian Life

European microbes probably reached Wisconsin's Indians before European explorers. In the fifty years following Hernando de Soto's invasion of the lower Mississippi in 1539-1540, disease wiped out 90 percent of Indian villages in the middle Mississippi Valley - villages with whom Wisconsin's Oneota culture had traded for centuries. Some archaeologists therefore think it likely that epidemics of measles or smallpox may have swept through native communities here decades before Nicolet stepped ashore at Red Banks.

When the French arrived and began living in Indian villages, diseases once again broke out. "Maladies wrought among them more devastation than even war did,"... more...

Original Documents and Other Primary Sources

Link to article: Menominee Vocabulary, 1893  Menominee Vocabulary, 1893
Link to article: An 1818 War Department report describes early U.S. fur trade policies.  An 1818 War Department report describes early U.S. fur trade policies.
Link to article: The Ho-Chunk recall 18th-century battles with the Meskwaki (Fox).  The Ho-Chunk recall 18th-century battles with the Meskwaki (Fox).
Link to article: A French official summarizes Wisconsin tribes in 1736  A French official summarizes Wisconsin tribes in 1736
Link to article: The Meskwaki (Fox) and Mascouten resist the French in 1712.  The Meskwaki (Fox) and Mascouten resist the French in 1712.
Link to article: The governor of New France surrenders to the English in 1760.  The governor of New France surrenders to the English in 1760.
Link to article: Speeches of Pontiac (1763) and Souligny (1848) against white incursions.  Speeches of Pontiac (1763) and Souligny (1848) against white incursions.
Link to article: Indian Versions of Some Early Wisconsin Events  Indian Versions of Some Early Wisconsin Events
Link to article: The diary of the British commander in Wisconsin during Pontiac's war in 1763.  The diary of the British commander in Wisconsin during Pontiac's war in 1763.
Link to book: Smallpox decimates the Ojibwe in the 1770's  Smallpox decimates the Ojibwe in the 1770's
Link to book: Sex, drinking, and moral corruption on the Wisconsin frontier in 1702.  Sex, drinking, and moral corruption on the Wisconsin frontier in 1702.
Link to book: A French priest writes home in 1721 about Indians, beavers, and fur.  A French priest writes home in 1721 about Indians, beavers, and fur.
Link to book: Report on the Menominee at Termination, 1958  Report on the Menominee at Termination, 1958
Link to book: Fr. Baraga's 1853 Ojibwe Dictionary  Fr. Baraga's 1853 Ojibwe Dictionary
Link to book: Memoirs of an Interpreter among the Ojibwe, 1840-1900  Memoirs of an Interpreter among the Ojibwe, 1840-1900
Link to images: View of Charles de Langlade's warriors at Braddock's defeat in 1755.  View of Charles de Langlade's warriors at Braddock's defeat in 1755.
Link to manuscript: Brief Potawatomi Language Vocabularies, 1920-1932.  Brief Potawatomi Language Vocabularies, 1920-1932.
Link to manuscript: Alfred Bridgman's English-Menominee word list from the 1870s  Alfred Bridgman's English-Menominee word list from the 1870s
Link to manuscript: A Long Ho-Chunk Vocabulary, 1880  A Long Ho-Chunk Vocabulary, 1880
Link to map: A popular French map of the Great Lakes in 1757.  A popular French map of the Great Lakes in 1757.
Link to map: An English view of No. America in 1754  An English view of No. America in 1754
Link to places: Madeline Island Historical Museum  Madeline Island Historical Museum

Primary Sources Available Elsewhere

Link to book: A historical, documentary, and descriptive history of Wisconsin to 1854  A historical, documentary, and descriptive history of Wisconsin to 1854
Link to book: Baron Lahontan describes his visit to Wisconsin in 1688.  Baron Lahontan describes his visit to Wisconsin in 1688.
Link to book: Jonathan Carver crosses Wisconsin in the 1760's  Jonathan Carver crosses Wisconsin in the 1760's
Link to book: Collected historical documents from the Wisconsin Historical Society  Collected historical documents from the Wisconsin Historical Society
Link to book: An electronic text of the complete Jesuit Relations, at Creighton University.  An electronic text of the complete Jesuit Relations, at Creighton University.
Link to book: All of Charlevoix's letters from North America, 1721-1722.  All of Charlevoix's letters from North America, 1721-1722.

Related Links

Visit our archaeology Web pages
Visit the Web site of the Menominee Indian Tribe
Visit the Web site of the Ho-chunk Nation
Visit the Web site of the Sac and Fox Nation
Discover the standard book about Wisconsin Indians, by Patty Loew
Discover classroom resources available from our Office of School Services
View a Menominee timeline of epidemics
Search our catalogs for materials on this topic that aren't yet available online.
Borrow books about this topic through our interlibrary loan service
Borrow manuscripts about this topic through our Area Research Center network.
Learn about other topics from our new book, Wisconsin History Highlights

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