The Red Men of Iowa - 1882 - W

The Red Men of Iowa ... 
By A. R. Fulton. Des Moines: Mills & Company, 1882.


WAUKON-DECORAH submitted by Dick Barton

Another distinguished chief among the Winnebagoes who accompanied his tribe to the "Neutral Ground" in Iowa, was Waukon-Decorah. The name has been defined as meaning "White Snake." He was the great council chief of the tribe, and it is said that his wisdom and prudence prevented his people from going to war with the United States in 1825, at which time they occupied the country bordering on the Wisconsin River. A council was held at that time near Fort Winnebago for the purpose of considering the question of peace or war. There was a young chief known to the whites by the nick-name of "Dandy," who had aroused among the Indians an intense feeling of hostility toward the whites. Governor Cass, of the Territory of Michigan, became alarmed at the preparations for war, and invited the chiefs to accompany him to Washington. Waukon-Decorah and eleven others accepted the invitation, but "Dandy," whose Indian name was Waw-pa-no-dah, could not be induced to accompany the delegation. He was the recognized orator in all matters of policy in the tribe, but he seldom appeared among the whites. Upon the return of Waukon-Decorah and his associate delegates to their people, he was enabled through his representations of the military power of the United States, to subdue the warlike feeling of his nation and to allay the hostility which had been aroused by the eloquence of Waw-pa-no-dah.

After the removal of the Winnebagoes to Iowa, Waukon-Decorah and his band took up their residence on Upper Iowa River near the site of the present town of Decorah, which was named in his honor.

Waukon-Decorah was the patriarch of the tribe, and in 1842, was described as being much bent by reason of his age, and as walking with a feeble and tottering step. He was a man of small stature, being only about five feet in height. At the date last mentioned he was about eighty-one years old, and was then quite bald, having only a few long gray locks falling from the sides and back part of his head. When he visited Washington it was remarked that he bore a striking resemblance to Stephen Girard, the once great Philadelphia banker.

Waukon-Decorah, the venerable Nestor of the Winnebagoes, who, like the Pylian sage before the walls of Troy, had so often risen

"To calm their passions with the words of age, " bade a final adieu to his people on the banks of Upper Iowa River, not far from where the present town of Decorah stands. Since the settlement of the country by the whites his remains have been interred by the citizens in the public square of that town.