Were the Winnebago or Hochunk the first inhabitants of Maple Grove?

Minnesota has been the Dakota homeland for hundreds of years. The Ojibwe moved into Minnesota around the time of the French Explorers. The Winnebago came here by Federal Government treaty. In the 1832 and 1837 treaties, the Winnebago ceded their homeland in southern Wisconsin and moved to “neutral ground” west of the Mississippi River in Iowa and southern Minnesota.

In 1847, Chief Hole in the Day, the younger, signed a treaty with the Federal Government ceding the land contested between Ojibwe and the Dakota nations, to be a “neutral ground”  for a Long Prairie Reservation for the Winnebago, which was 800,000 acres west of the Mississippi River in central Minnesota.

The Winnebago did not like living in the pine woods, and by 1849, asked to be moved to a land more suitable and accessible to the Mississippi River and closer to travel back to Prairie du Chien to their ancestral home. They also liked hunting in the Crow River area.

Aug 6, 1853, the Watab Treaty was signed by Governor Willis Gorman and 32 Winnebago leaders. They would have 500,000 acres beginning at the mouth of the Crow River, up the Mississippi River to the head of the Clearwater River and then directly west until the line comes to Crow River, then down the Crow River to the place of “beginning”.

When the Territorial Legislature convened in 1854, the Hennepin County delegates argued that the land was too valuable to the European settlers, and the Dakota had recently ceded the Lake Minnetonka area in 1851. By the time the Watab Treaty was sent to Washington, D.C., under the new leaders, President Franklin Pierce and Indian Agent Manypenny, the Watab Treaty was drastically changed.

The Winnebago chiefs refused to sign it. So in the treaty of 1855, they were sent to the Blue Earth Reservation. In the Dakota uprising of 1862, the Winnebago, who some had served in the Civil War, were banished to South Dakota. The Winnebago were hardly given a chance to build a home in Maple Grove before they were removed.—Maple Grove Historical Preservation Society