Ho-poe-kaw, which translates to "Glory of the Morning," was a Ho-Chunk chief in the 1700s.
The Ho-Chunk were some of the first people known to live in Wisconsin. Ho-poe-kaw was the first individual woman ever documented in a historical record — one written by an English traveler in 1766 — although previous travelers through the area had mentioned Native women generally in their accounts. According to oral history, Ho-poe-kaw was the daughter of a powerful Ho-Chunk chief. Around 1727, she was selected to succeed him and lead the largest Ho-Chunk village, which was east of Lake Winnebago near modern-day Neenah. A year later, she married a French officer named Sabrevoir Descaris, who was in Wisconsin fighting in the Fox War. He resigned his commission with the French army and lived as a fur trader.
Under Ho-poe-kaw's leadership, the Ho-Chunk sided with the French against the Meskwaki in several battles during the Fox War. Ho-poe-kaw's husband left with their daughter after several years and enlisted in the French army against the British over Canadian territory, and he died in battle. Ho-poe-kaw stayed in her tribal land with her two sons and led her people for about forty years. Although her daughter never returned, both of Ho-poe-kaw's sons succeeded her as chief during the turbulent times of the Ho-Chunk's forced relocation from Wisconsin by the U.S. government. Ho-poe-kaw's descendants, known as the Decorahs (an alternate spelling of their paternal last name), became one of the most prominent Ho-Chunk families and served as diplomats in treaty agreements with the U.S.
This story is being shared courtesy of Wisconsin Women Making History, a partnership of the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Media Lab, the University of Wisconsin Women's Studies Consortium and the UW Gender and Women's Studies Library.