Native American Communities in Wisconsin, 1600-1960: A Study by Robert E. Bieder

By Robert E. Bieder

A background of local American tribes in Wisconsin, this account follows Wisconsin's Indian groups from the 1600s via 1960. It covers the ways in which local groups have striven to form and keep their traditions within the face of huge exterior pressures.

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Here were great meadows. "I found excellent good land and very pleasant country. One might travel all day and only see now and then a small pleasant groves [sic] of oak and walnut. This country is covered with grass which affords excellent pasturage for the buffeloe which are very plenty [sic]. " Carver found the region also populated with elk so tame that a hunter could approach them quite closely before they would move. 9 In this mixed coniferous-decidous forest of sugar maple, basswood, beech, hemlock, and yellow birch were vast areas of open savannas where prairie grass, as Carver noted along the Fox River, grew as high as a man's head and so thick that it was difficult to walk through.

Into this oil was placed some of the fire-dried meat, where it would be preserved until spring. Similar camps were made at about 20-mile intervals until the group reached its final destination. That spot would not be an arbitrary one, for the band had claimed use of the area for a number of years. Here in Decem ber, or "the Little Spirits Moon," they would erect their winter lodges of birch bark on which they piled cedar boughs and snow. With the mats laid out inside and a fire started, they were ready for winter.

The area still struck travelers as dismal in 1834, as when Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and Douglass Houghton, two Americans returning down the Bois Brule River from an exploring expedition to the source of the Mississippi River, recorded seeing from the riverbank immense tamarack swamps, scanty deciduous undergrowth, and beyond them the river hills covered with pine. S The Central Plain that sweeps southward like a giant crescent from the St. Croix River in the west to Green Bay in the east and extends below the Northern Highland appealed more to the browsing needs of the white-tailed deer.

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