Winnebagoes, a tribe of the Dakota family of North American Indians, calling themselves Hochungara, but styled by the Sioux Hotanke or Sturgeon; by the Hurons and Iroquois, Awentsiwaen; and by the Algonquins, Wennibegouk. The last term, meaning men from the fetid or salt water, was translated by the French Puants. With the Quappas and Tuteloes they apparently formed the van of the eastward Dakota migration, and were forced back to Green bay. They were then numerous and formidable, and ruled by terror over the neighboring Algonquin tribes. Soon after the French began to trade with the west, in the early part of the 17th century, a general alliance of tribes attacked the Winnebagoes. They were driven into one town, where want and disease reduced them greatly, and 500 warriors perished. The Illinois, wishing to relieve them, were treated with cruelty, and in retaliation nearly exterminated them, but the women and children were spared; and the Winnebagoes became a small tribe, but still haughty and turbulent. They were faithful to the French, and served them in war, receiving protection in return.
They sided with the English during the revolution, and were active in the Miami war, taking part in the attack on Fort Recovery in 1793. They made peace after being defeated by Wayne. They adhered to Tecumseh, and during the war of 1812 sided with England, aiding to reduce Prairie du Chien in 1814. They were then estimated at 4,500. In 1820 they had 5 villages on Winnebago lake and 14 on Rock river. They made a treaty of peace and friendship, June 3, 1816, but levied tribute on all whites who passed up Fox river; and English annuities kept up a bad feeling. Treaties in 1826 and 1827 fixed their boundaries, but their land contained rich mines, which some of the Indians began to work and refused to sell. White intrusion led to murders, for which Red Bird and others were seized, tried, and convicted. In 1829, for $30,000 in goods and a 30-year annuity of $18,000, they under Heretshonsarp ceded land from the Wisconsin to Rock river. The Winnebago prophet supported the Sacs in their hostility, and projects were formed for their removal.
The treaty of Fort Armstrong (September, 1832) ceded all their land south of the Wisconsin and Fox river, 2,530,000 acres, the United States agreeing to give them a reservation on the Mississippi above the upper Iowa, pay $10,000 for 27 years, maintain schools, etc. They became unsettled and wasteful, and in 1837 made provision for a debt of $150,000 by ceding more land. In 1842 there were 756 at Turkey river, Iowa, their new home, with as many in Wisconsin, and smaller bands elsewhere. All had become lawless and roving. By the treaty of Washington in 1846, they surrendered their former reservation for 800,000 acres north of the St. Peters and $195,000. The site to which they were removed, above the Wataub west of the upper Mississippi, was not that promised, and was utterly unfit. They lost by disease and want, but were kept there by force. In 1853 they were removed to Crow river. Here schools were revived and attempts made to improve them; but by the treaty of Feb. 27, 1856, they were again moved to Blue Earth, Minnesota. Here they began to cultivate, houses were built, a school was well attended, and by a treaty in 1859 the land was to be allotted, 80 acres to a family, 40 to a single man.
Several had taken up plots when the Sioux war broke out, and the people of Minnesota demanded the removal of the Winnebagoes. They were disarmed in April, 1863, and removed to Crow creek, Dakota, on the Missouri above Fort Randall. The place was utterly unsuited to them, affording no means of livelihood and surrounded by wild Indians. Although troops tried to keep them there, deaths were so numerous from hostile Indians, famine, and disease, that 1,222 out of 1,985 who had been removed succeeded in reaching the Omaha reservation, where they appealed for shelter. In May, 1866, they were removed to Winnebago, Nebraska, where all had to be begun again. In 1869 they were assigned to the care of the Friends. The next year the agent deposed their chiefs and installed 12 of his own selection. Chiefs are now elected. Lands were again allotted to such as wished to take up farms, and in 1874 they numbered in Nebraska 1,445, with farms, cottages, and stock, dressed like whites, and had three schools. On their removal from Minnesota 160, chiefly half-breeds, who had taken up land, remained, and these received each as his share of tribal funds $800; but many have lost this and the land and joined the tribe in Nebraska. The Winnebagoes left in Juneau, Adams, and Wood counties, Wisconsin, were self-supporting. They numbered nearly 1,000. In the winter of 1873-'4 most of these were removed to Nebraska, a smaller tract near the Winnebago reservation of 128,000 acres being purchased for them; but most of them left almost as soon as they reached it.
Besides the early Catholic missions, later attempts were made by Catholics and Presbyterians, with very little permanent result.