History | Friends of Nolen Waterfront
The Ho-Chunk-gra and Four Lakes
The Ho-Chunk-gra (People of the Parent Speech, People of the Sacred Language, or People of the Big Voice) have been in Dejopera (de-jop-a-ra or the four) since time immemorial. The Ho-Chunk-gra claim thirteen Millennia and the last ice age of residency in what is now called Wisconsin and its surrounding states. The Ho-Chunk-gra are descendants of the mound builders and they have the ancient oral history prior to formation of the territories and states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The Ho-Chunk-gra traditionally controlled the waterways and lakes along the Mississippi and the Great Lakes throughout the area, along with all the tributaries before the colonial settlers arrived in the Americas. The Ho-Chunk-gra allowed many tribes into their territory to trade and harvest, when these tribes came they would pay tributes to the local chiefs of the villages.
The tribe is an ancient one and well known to the indigenous people of pre-Colonial America. The Ho-Chunk-gra are said to have had four major migrations from their aboriginal territories. These migrations spawned a variety of descendent tribes like the Mandan, Hidatsa, Crow, Iowa, Oto, Missouri, Omaha, Ponca, Osage, Kansa, Quapaw, Dakota, and Assiniboine. Today some of these tribes still call the Ho-Chunk-gra, “Choka” or grandfathers. The Ho-Chunk-gra have been known by many names and by many different people and nations. The some of the names have been recorded as Hochungobrah, Horoji, ochungraw, Ochungra, Otchagras, Otankah, Ouinipigou, Ovenibigoutz, Puan, Puant, Stinkard, Umbago, Wauchongra, Waynebaggo, Weanbaygo, Winnepegou, and Winnebago. Though the names vary, it is clear the Ho-Chunk-gra have always remained in their lands.
It was the French Colonial Jean Nicolet, which was the first European to meet the Ho-Chunk-gra on the shores of Red Banks in what is now Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1634. The Ho-Chunk-gra have had treaties and/or have fought against Spaniard explorers, for the French against the English, for the English against the Americans, and for the Americans in every conflict it has ever been involved in since its independence. The Ho-Chunk-gra are a warrior society, it has been said by Nicolas Perrot that, “ (they) …well built, and brave soldiers, who do not know what danger is; and they are subtle and crafty at war.” The Ho-Chunk-gra have eleven treaties with the United States of America starting with the 1816 Treaty of Friendship signed in St. Louis and ending with the Treaty of 1865 ceding its reservation in the Territory of Dakota and reestablishing a new reservation with the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska. These treaties never stopped the Ho-Chunk-gra from returning home to Wisconsin and Dejopra. Even during and after the removal periods the Ho-Chunk-gra remained. It was printed in October 1833 Gallenian paper that “When troops near Four Lakes (now Madison) observed Ho-Chunks gathering wild rice in September 1833, a frustrated white inhabitant complained: 'They have been removed in pursuance of their treaty, but they will not stay removed.'”
The Ho-Chunk-gra named the rivers and lakes in all of their territory and had villages across all the various states previously listed. The Madison lakes are fed by the Howį́ǧera (ho-wee-ge-ra), or translated to mean Catfish river or the Yaharra River, on the north side and the Mąą’į́į́ nį́į́ hąrą (Ma-ee-nee-harra) or translated to mean “my spring water,” flowing into the chain near Monona. Wingra Lake did not exist as it does today, it had marshy and swampy shores. Mąą’į́į́ nį́į́ hąrą or the area of Wingra Lake “…primarily took the form of surface springs and subsurface seepage, with drainage running through Wingra Creek.”
The first lake is “Wąąksic’ homį́į́kra (wonk-sheek-ho-mink-ra)“, which translated to mean “where the Indians lay,” or Lake Mendota. Mendota is a Dakota word, meaning the “confluence of rivers,” but the Dakota did not name it. The second lake is “ Čihoboxį́į́kera ” (chee-ha-bo-kee-kay-ta-la)” which translates to mean “where the Tipis are'' or Lake Monona. Monona is a Meskwaki word meaning “fairy,” but the Meskwaki did not name it. It appears in history that a Madison Surveyor suggested both the names for Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. Čihoboxį́į́kera is fed by both Mąą’į́į́ nį́į́ hąrą via Wingra Creek and Howį́ǧera . “ Sąhũcarera (Sa-Hoo-Cha-ray-ra),” translated to mean “where the rushes/reeds are,” or Lake Waubesa. Waubesa is an Anishinaabe word meaning “swan,” but the Anishinaabe did not name it. The last lake is “ Nąą’sakurera (na-sa-koo-ray-ra)” translated to mean “Hard Maple Grove” or Lake Kegonsa. Kegonsa is a Potawatomi word meaning “little fish,” but the Potawatomi did not name the lake. It appears in history that a librarian/historian provided the names for both Lake Waubesa and Lake Kegonsa.
Dejopra is what Madison was called before James Duane Doty bought the isthmus and lobbied to have it named the capital of the Wisconsin Territory in 1836. The Ho-Chunk removal was stipulated in the 1832 Rock Island Treaty, in which the U.S. federal government forced the Ho-Chunk-gra to cede its Rock River country, a territory stretching from Beloit to Lake Winnebago to the Four Lakes. Four years after the massive land cessions the Ho-Chunk-gra names were stripped from the places and substituted with other people's words. The Ho-Chunk-gra name associated with Wąąksic’ homį́į́kra (Lake Mendota) was the village of White Crow, Čihoboxį́į́kera (Lake Monona) was the village of Broken Arm, Sąhũcarera (Lake Waubesa) was the village of Spotted Arm, and Nąą’sakurera (Lake Kegonsa) was the village of Walking Smoke. How are these Ho-Chunk-gra names and places to be remembered when Madisonians only know the names John Nolen, Frank Lloyd Wright, and James Duane Doty?