In 1634, when the French explorer Jean Nicolet waded ashore at Red Banks, people of the Ho-Chunk Nation welcomed him. For some 360 years, this nation was labeled as the Winnebago Tribe by the French. In November 1994, the official results of the Ho-Chunk Nation secretarial election were published, approving the revised constitution and the proper name of the nation reverting to the Ho-Chunk (People of the Big Voice) which they have always called themselves, thus establishing the Ho-Chunk Nation. The exact size of the Ho-Chunk Nation was not historically documented at the time.
However, their territory extended from Green Bay, beyond Lake Winnebago to the Wisconsin River and to the Rock River in Illinois. Tribal territory was, by the Treaty of 1825, 8.5 million acres. While most people think of Native Americans as hunters or gatherers, the Ho-Chunk were also farmers. Their history tells of corn fields south of Wisconsin Dells, “that were as large as the distance covered when you shoot an arrow three times.” They appreciated the bounty of the land we now call Wisconsin. Their story is the story of a people who loved the land of Wisconsin. In the last 170 years, they faced tremendous hardship and overcame long odds to live here.
The Wisconsin Ho-Chunk do not have a reservation in Wisconsin, but portions of land that hold “reservation” status. Today, all Wisconsin Ho-Chunk tribal lands are lands they once owned, but have had to repurchase.
Tribal Labor Contact: Tracy Thundercloud, Department of Labor, Executive Director (715) 284-5877