Juliette Magill Kinzie Poster Text
In 1830, a well-educated young woman from Connecticut named Juliette Magill Kinzie journeyed by steamer across the Great Lakes, then by a flat-bottomed mackinaw boat up the Fox River to the Wisconsin wilderness. She had recently married John Kinzie. He worked for the U.S. government as an Indian agent to the Ho-Chunk people. The Indian Agency was located near present-day Portage. Fort Winnebago was also nearby.
As Indian Agent, John Kinzie was responsible for protecting the interests of the Ho-Chunk Indians, some of whom lived in the area. At the end of the Black Hawk War, people from the southern and eastern U.S. and Europe began moving to the region. The large number of settlers forever changed the lives of the various tribal people already here. Juliette Kinzie often observed the increasing difficulties in the Ho-Chunk way of life. For example, one extremely cold winter, Juliette and John Kinzie struggled to prevent tribal people from starving.
The great land rush of the 1830s also transformed Wisconsin's natural landscape, including its forests, prairies, wetlands, and rivers. Having arrived before most settlers, Juliette and John Kinzie observed a changing Wisconsin that few other newcomers had the opportunity to see. Juliette Kinzie noted her observations in her diary and in letters.
In 1833 Juliette and John Kinzie moved to Chicago. Twelve years after leaving the Indian Agency, Juliette Kinzie collected her old letters and diaries and wrote one of the most valuable records of early Wisconsin history. She named the book Wau-Bun, an Ojibwa word meaning Early Day. In Wau-Bun, she described her life in Wisconsin, including a winter journey to Chicago that she made on horseback. Juliette Kinzie was the only writer in Wisconsin at the time who included important parts of frontier life such as food, homes, and the experiences of women that other writers often overlooked.