MCKENNEY, Thomas L. (1785-1859) and James HALL (1793-1868)
Red-Bird A Winnebago
Philadelphia: Rice, Rutter & Co, circa 1870. Hand-coloured lithograph. Sheet size: 11 x 7 inches.
Red-Bird was born near Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin around 1788 and was a trusted leader of the Ho-Chunk (or Winnebago) Nation in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In the late 1820s, Red-Bird led the Ho-Chunk in the Winnebago War of 1827 which occurred after white land miners began increasingly encroaching on Native land near the Illinois-Wisconsin border. While the white miners extracted the land's resources, the United States government prevented the Ho-Chunk from mining and trading the lead themselves, fearful that they would not give up their land for the United States to exploit it. McKenney wrote: "All eyes were fixed on Red Bird ... of all the Indians I ever saw, he is, without exception, the most perfect in form, in face, and gesture. In height, he is about six feet; straight, but without restraint. His proportions are those of the most exact symmetry, and these embrace the entire man, from his head to his feet." McKenney goes on to describe his costume and actions in great detail and also discusses the fact that, leading up to the events in 1827, Red Bird and two others had killed a settler called Gagnier and an ex-soldier staying with him, a crime in the eyes of the United States government. In fact he had acted "according to Indian law" but had surrendered to the authorities to avoid retribution being visited on his people as a whole. In this image, Red Bird is seen surrendering, and was taken along with We-Kau (shown seated to Red Bird's right) to Prairie du Chien and put in prison, where he died in 1838.