Shu'nuni'u (Souligny), 1783-1867 | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Shu'nuni'u (Souligny), 1783-1867

Menominee War Chief

Shu'nuni'u (Souligny), 1783-1867 | Wisconsin Historical Society
Enlarge Chief Souligny, WHI 1868.

Chief Souligny

Painted portrait of Souligny, a chief of the Menominees. He is depicted wearing a James Madison Peace Medal. View the original source document: WHI 1868

Menominee war Chief Shu'nuni'u, better known by his French name, Souligny, was born in 1783. He was a descendant of an early French trader of the same name who first settled at Green Bay in 1745 with Charles de Langlade.

When hostilities broke out between England and the U.S. in 1812, Souligny fought for his British trading partners. He helped capture the U.S. fort at Mackinac in 1812, and the next spring led about 50 warriors who joined Tecumseh in the battle of Fort Meigs. This siege on the Maumee River in Ohio lasted most of the summer and ended in the retreat of the British and Indian forces. Other Menominee warriors who fought for the British included Tomah, Grizzly Bear, I-om-e-tah and Oshkosh. At some point in his military career, Souligny lost an eye due to an arrow said to have been shot by Sauk chief Black Hawk. He fought briefly for the U.S. in the Black Hawk War of 1832.

In 1842 Souligny was the leader of a Menominee community consisting of 51 families located on the Wolf River, and in October 1848 he attended the Treaty of Lake Poygan, where Henry Baird was secretary. The U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs attempted to get the Menominee to move west of the Mississippi, but Souligny walked out of the negotiations, leaving Oshkosh to argue on the tribe's behalf. Souligny summarized the American negotiator's position this way to his warriors: "He comes here simply to get the balance of our country! Not being satisfied with what he has already obtained, he proposes to remove us across the Mississippi, which country he represents to be far better than ours; he says there is an abundance of all kinds of game there; that the lakes and the rivers are full of fish and wild rice." One of those listening remarked, "Why don't he go himself and live in such a fine country, where there is an abundance of everything?" The Menominee refused to move, the treaty was later invalidated, and in 1854 a reservation was established for them near Keshena.

In 1852 Souligny settled on the west side of the Wolf River at Keshena Falls and was chosen principal war chief of the nation in 1855. When the Civil War broke out, more than 200 of his warriors volunteered to form a unit in the Union Army but were rejected by government officials; 125 of them later enlisted individually in various Wisconsin regiments. Soon after the war, in 1867, Souligny died, having served his people for more than half a century as a military and political leader.