The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is one of two federally recognized tribes of Ho-Chunk (formerly called Winnebago Indians) Native Americans. Ho-Chunk, Inc. is the tribe’s corporation that provides construction services, professional services, and business and consumer products.
Official Tribal Name: Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska
Address: 100 Bluff Street – PO Box 687 Winnebago, NE 68071
Phone: (402) 878-2272
Fax: (402) 878-2963
Email: [email protected]
Official Website: www.winnebagotribe.com
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning: Bāwa’tigōwininiwŭg, means ‘people of the big voice’
Common Name / Meaning of Common Name: Winnebago comes from a Sauk and Fox word, Ouinepegi, meaning “People of the Stinky Waters” or “People of the Bad Water” or “People of the Filthy Water,” depending on the source of the translation.
Alternate names / Alternate spellings: Ho Chunk, Ho-Chunk, Ho-Chungara, Hocągara, Hocąks
Name in other languages:
State(s) Today: Nebraska, Iowa
For as long as anyone can remember, the Winnebago lived in the vicinity of Green Bay in northeastern Wisconsin. The most powerful tribe in the region, they dominated the western shore of Lake Michigan from Upper Michigan to southern Wisconsin.
As part of major climatic change in North America sometime around 1400, three closely related tribes – Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Ottawa – began moving west along the shore of Lake Huron towards the point where Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan meet. The Ottawa stopped at Manitoulin Island, but the Ojibwe occupied the north shore of Lake Huron including Upper Michigan near Sault Ste. Marie.
About 1500 the Potawatomi crossed over the Strait at Mackinac into northern part of the Lower Michigan peninsula. The invasion drove the original tribes of the region south and west. Among the victims were the Menominee and possibly the Cheyenne, Sutai, and Arapaho. The Menominee were forced south where they became tributary and allies of the Winnebago. The Cheyenne and Arapaho, however, were set adrift to the west until they reached the Great Plains.
The Winnebago were obviously powerful enough for the moment to prevent the Ojibwe from moving further south, but the loss of territory and and a growing population must have stressed the resources available to them. From subsequent events, it appears that the Winnebago tried to solve this by moving into southern Wisconsin creating confrontations with the tribes of the Illinois Confederation.
With no place to expand, the Winnebago began to separate. Sometime around 1570, the Iowa, Missouri, and Otoe left the Winnebago near Green Bay and moved west. Passing down the Wisconsin River, they crossed the Mississippi and settled in Iowa before separating into individual tribes. Weakened by this defection, the remaining Winnebago concentrated into large villages near Green Bay to defend their homeland against the Ojibwe from the north or Illinois in the south.
The Winnebago Tribe lived near the Missouri River in present day Nebraska in the days prior to diplomatic relations with the United States government.
The Winnebago Tribe was originally designated reservation lands along the Missouri River recognized in treaties with the United States signed on March 8, 1865 and June 22, 1874.
Reservation: Winnebago Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land
Winnebago Reservation – The Winnebago Tribal homelands are located in the northeast corner of Nebraska, overlapping into a small portion of western Iowa. The Winnebago Reservation is located 26 miles southeast of Sioux City, Iowa and seventy miles north of Omaha, Nebraska on state highways 75 and 77. The Winnebago Reservation, established in 1863, is located in Thurston and Dixon Counties, Nebraska and Woodbury County, Iowa.
The Missouri River is the eastern boundary of the reservation. The Omaha Reservation borders the southern side of the reservation. The terrain consists of low rolling hills marked by creeks and undergrowth, leveling off into agricultural land. There are some wooded areas consisting of cottonwood, various brushes, and shrubs along the Missouri River which borders the eastern side of the reservation.
The Winnebago Indian Reservation lies in the northern half of Thurston County in northeastern Nebraska. The largest community on the Reservation is the Village of Winnebago. Located on the eastern side of the Reservation, Winnebago is home to most Winnebago tribal members and accounts for almost thirty percent of the Reservation’s resident population. The closest large urban centers are Sioux City, Iowa, about 20 miles north of the Reservation, and Omaha, Nebraska, approximately 80 miles to the south.
Over ninety per cent of the lands within the reservation boundaries are owned by the Tribe and Tribal members.
Land Area: 30,647 acres, with 8,679 acres tribally owned and 20,368 acres individually allotted
Tribal Headquarters: Winnebago, Nebraska
Population at Contact:
Registered Population Today:
Around 4,100 enrolled members. About 1,200 of those live on the reservation.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
Previously, the tribe required at least one-quarter Winnebago blood relationship to qualify as an enrolled member. Now, those who have a parent or grandparent that belongs to the tribe can count blood relationship with other federally recognized tribes to meet the one-fourth “blood quantum” criteria.
Charter: The Winnebago Tribe operates under a constitution consistent with the Indian Reorganization Act of June 18, 1934.
Name of Governing Body: General Council
Number of Council members: 9, plus executive officers
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers: The Tribal Council consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and nine additional Councilmen all of whom are elected by the tribal membership.
The Tribal Council Chairman serves as the administrative head of the Tribe. The Tribal Chairman and Officers are elected from within the Council and serve a one year term as officers. The elected leadership on the Council serve a term of three years at-large without regard to residence in a particular district of the reservation.
Language Classification: Souian => Western Siouan => Mississippi Valley => Chiwere-Winnebago =>Winnebago
Number of fluent Speakers:
Bands, Gens, and Clans
They are most closely related to the Chiwere peoples (the Ioway, Oto, and Missouria), and more distantly to the Dhegiha (Quapaw, Kansa, Omaha, Ponca, and Osage).
Menominee, Fox, Sauk, and Potawatomi
Ceremonies / Dances:
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
The Winnebago 147th annual homecoming Veteran’s Pow-Wow the third weekend in July is the oldest continuous powwow in Indian country today and is open to the public. The celebration commemorates the return of Chief Little Priest and the Fort Omaha Scouts, Company A, Nebraska Volunteers of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
The tribe operates the Winna Vegas Casino and Hotel 20 min. south of Sioux City, Iowa, the Iron Horse Casino in Emerson, Nebraska, and the Native Star Casino in Winnebago, Nebraska.
The Winnebago Tribe is involved in restoring bison to our native grasslands on the reservation. The Tribe maintains a herd just across the highway from Ho-Chunk Village.
The Winnebago Tribe operates the Angel Decora Memorial Museum/Research Center on the Little Priest Tribal College campus.
Winnebago Legends / Oral Stories
Art & Crafts:
The Winnebago people have been noted for their basket weaving skills.
The Winnebago Tribe’s major economic occupations are Tribal and Federal government administration, farming including both tribal and non-tribal operators, or staff positions relative to the tribal casino operation. The majority of employment is provided by the Winnebago Tribe, the Casino, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Health Service.
Commercial business by private operators includes a gas station, two grocery stores, baitshop, arts and
handcrafts. The major commercial center for service area residents is Sioux City, IA, 26 miles north.
The Winnebago Tribe has some of finest hunting and fishing around with local guides and baitshops available. Water sports are enjoyed by many also. The reservation has several beach areas and boat ramps for fishing and water sports.
Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
The Bear Clan is strongly associated with the kaǧi, a term that denotes the raven and northern crow. It is also the name by which the Hocągara know the Menominee.
On account of his vision, a great Menominee (Kaǧi) chief commanded that all manner of supplies be assembled at a white sand beach on Lake Michigan. And when all this had been done and set in order, as the sun reached its zenith the vision came to life: in the pure blue sky of the eastern horizon a single dark cloud began to form and move irresistibly towards them. It was a great flock of ravens (kaǧi), spirit birds with rainbow plumage of iridescent colors. The instant that the first of these landed, he materialized into a naked, kneeling man. The Menominee chief said to his people, “Give this man clothing, for he is a chief.” And the others landed in like fashion, and were given great hospitality. They were the Hocąk nation, and that is how they came to Red Banks (now known as Green Bay, Wisconsin).
Red Horn (also known as ‘He Who Wears (Human) Faces on His Ears’) is found in the oral traditions of the Ioway, and Hocągara (Winnebago) (whose ethnology was recorded by anthropologist Paul Radin, 1908–1912). The Red Horn Cycle depicts his adventures with Turtle, the thunderbird Storms-as-He-Walks (Mą’e-manįga) and others who contest a race of giants, the Wąge-rucge or “Man-Eaters”, who have been killing human beings whom Red Horn has pledged to help. Red Horn eventually took a red haired giant woman as a wife. Archaeologists have speculated that Red Horn is a mythic figure in Mississippian art, represented on a number of Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC) artifacts.
The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska chartered Little Priest Tribal College in May of 1996. The major focus of LPTC is to provide two-year associate degrees, and to prepare students to transfer and successfully complete a major at a four-year institution. Equally as important, and included in the college’s mission statement, is the commitment to offer language and culture classes. These classes provide students with the opportunity to improve their knowledge of Ho-Chunk language and culture and also help build self esteem. The college is named after Chief Little Priest, the last true war chief of the Winnebago Tribe.
Nebraska Indian Community College located on the Omaha Reservation at Macy, on the Santee Sioux Reservation at Santee, and in South Sioux City, was a group project of all the Indian tribes of Nebraska.
The Beaver Wars
One out of four Winnebago died during a smallpox epidemic in 1836.
In the News: