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Monday is Indigenous Peoples Day in Decorah, which is why you should know the history of Chief Waukon Decorah

Posted: Sun, Oct 11, 2020 10:26 AM
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Decorah Mayor Lorraine Borowski has signed a proclamation designating Monday as "Indigenous Peoples Day" in Decorah.  The proclamation calls the day "an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the history, culture and contributions of indigenous peoples in our community."

One such person is Chief Waukon Decorah, who is said by many to have been the inspiration for the name of the community of Decorah.  In observance of "Indigenous Peoples Day," and with help from the Wikipedia entry at, here's a history of Decorah's most famous indigenous person:

Waukon Decorah was born around 1780 in what is now the state of Wisconsin.  He was the son of a prominent Ho-Chunk family.  While he was not a hereditary chief of the Ho-Chunk tribe, he emerged as a diplomatic leader.

In 1829, Waukon Decorah's daughter was killed in Iowa by Sauk and Meskwaki raiders.  When the Black Hawk War erupted in 1832, Waukon Decorah eagerly joined the American war against Black Hawk's band of Sauks and Meskwakis, hoping to finally avenge his daughter's death. In 1834, after the war ended, Meskwaki raiders killed ten women and children from Decorah's family, including his wife, in retaliation for his role in the Black Hawk War.

In 1837, Decorah was part of a Ho-Chunk delegation that signed a removal treaty giving Ho-Chunk land to the United States. Decorah's family moved across the Mississippi River into the "Neutral Ground" of northeast Iowa. Later he moved to Minnesota, then to Mauston, Wisconsin, where  he died on July 18, 1868 while living next to the Lemonweir River  

In 1859, citizens in Decorah exhumed the remains said to be of "Chief Decorah" and re-interred the body on the grounds of the county courthouse. However, Waukon Decorah was still living in 1859, so it is unclear who is actually buried there!