Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Ho-poe-kaw (Glory of the Morning)

Last Known Female Ho-Chunk Chief

Ho-poe-kaw (Glory of the Morning) | Wisconsin Historical Society

Ho-poe-kaw, or Glory of the Morning, was the first woman described in the textual record of Wisconsin.

The last known Ho-Chunk female chief, Ho-poe-kaw was chosen to lead her people around 1727, when she was 18.

The following year she married Sabrevoir Descaris, a French officer who resigned his commission to become a fur trader. At the time, the French and their Indian trading partners were harassed by the Meskwaki, or Fox, Indians, who commanded strategic points on the Fox River, demanding tribute from everyone who passed. Under Ho-poe-kaw's leadership, the Ho-Chunk sided with the French against the Meskwaki in several battles during the 1730s and 1740s.

After seven years of marriage and three children, Ho-poe-kaw and her sons were abandoned by her French husband. He left Wisconsin to re-enlist and took their only daughter. In 1760 he died of wounds suffered in battle at Quebec.

While Descaris himself became but a footnote to family history, other family members became famous bearing an alternate form of his name, Decorah.

Ho-poe-kaw continued to lead her people, though how long is unknown. English traveler Jonathan Carver visited her in 1766 at modern-day Neenah-Menasha and left an account of her in his book.

She was never reunited with her daughter, who lived among whites in Quebec and eventually married a trader in Montreal. Ho-poe-kaw's two sons succeeded her as chiefs of a Ho-Chunk village near Portage that later became a town called Dekorra. One son signed the first peace treaty with the U.S. in 1816, shortly before he died.

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