Ho-Chunk Nation, the Original Driftless Region Inhabitants
The first group of people to occupy the region known as the Driftless area were the ancestors of what we know as the Ho-Chunk Nation. It is difficult to say just how far back their roots go in this region but, keepers of the nation’s history tell of their beginnings in the area around Green Bay called the Red Banks. Ultimately, they came to reside throughout Wisconsin and the Driftless region including Southwest Wisconsin and the northern portions of Illinois.
Their territory stretched to the western shores of Lake Winnebago where they received the name Winnebago derived from the word Oinepego (people of the stinky waters-a loose definition), that described the pungent odor of the waters during the hot summer months.
Most recently in 1995 they reclaimed their original name Hocak (Ho-Chunk), which means ‘People of the Big Voice’, to honor their ancestors. It is important to note that due to a succession of removals of the Ho-Chunk from their Wisconsin ancestral lands that ultimately led them to Winnebago Nebraska, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska continues its name as such.
Much information is written about these Native Americans we have mistakenly called Indians from Christopher Columbus’ first encounter with the inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands where they first came ashore.
Other Native American Nations that boarder the Ho-Chunk Nation are the Dakota to the northwest, the Ojibwa to the north, the Menominee to the north east the Potawatomi to the east and in Kansas.
These Nations cross over most state boundaries since they occupied these lands long before the Europeans and Americans divided Wisconsin Territory into politically convenient regions and called them states.