Stockbridge-Munsee History

Beginnings of the Stockbrige-Munsee

The Stockbridge-Munsee are descended from Algonkian-speaking Indians, primarily Mohicans (also spelled Mahican or Mahikan, but not to be confused with the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut) and Munsee Delawares, who migrated from New York, Pennsylvania, and New England to Wisconsin in the 1820s and 1830s. The Stockbridge originally lived in western Massachusetts and moved to north-central New York between 1783 and 1786 to form a new Christian community near the Oneida. Pressures from incoming White settlers caused them to consider alternative places to live.

Hendrick Aupaumut, a Stockbridge sachem (leader), realized the tribe needed to leave New York to evade the negative influences of settlers, and he chose to relocate the Stockbridge to Indiana near the Miami tribe. This plan was delayed by the War of 1812, during which Aupaumut served as an intermediary between the United States and Midwestern Indian tribes, the majority of which were allied to the British. Like many Stockbridge, Aupaumut was Christian and believed his tribe's best chance for survival depended on accepting Euro-American culture rather than resisting it.

Based on his Christian beliefs, Aupaumut rejected the religion of Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (also known as the Shawnee Prophet), both of whom preached resistance to American expansion and culture. He fought alongside the Americans during the American Revolution, and during the War of 1812 he attempted to convince Midwestern tribes to make peace with the United States. Aupaumut failed in this mission, and the war ended with a United States victory, paving the way for the Stockbridge removal to Indiana.

Treaties in Wisconsin

The first two Stockbridge families left New York for Indiana in 1817. The next year, another 80 tribal members, led by John Metoxen, joined them. Much to their chagrin, they found that the land they had intended to settle had been ceded by the Miami tribe and was to be sold to White settlers. Aupaumut's son, Solomon Hendrick, led a delegation to Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1821 to try to find a new place for their people to settle. Representatives from the Stockbridge, Brothertown, and Oneida tribes negotiated with the Menominee and Ho-Chunk tribes for a tract of land of about 860,000 acres for all three tribes. Another tract of 6.72 million acres was purchased the following year.

The Stockbridge in Indiana and New York began moving to Wisconsin, settling along the Fox River near present-day Kaukauna. A Christian mission was established there in 1825. By 1831, 225 Stockbridge had migrated to Wisconsin along with 100 people from the Munsee Delaware, a culturally and linguistically similar group. Their joint community became known as the Stockbridge-Munsee. Aupaumut died in 1830, and John Metoxen took his place as the tribal sachem.

In the meantime, the Menominee and Ho-Chunk disputed the validity of the treaties of 1821 and 1822, arguing they had been led to believe the three tribes would only live on the land, but in actuality the tribes had purchased the land. The Menominee and Ho-Chunk protested the treaties so profusely the federal government refused to ratify either one. An eight-year debate followed with the Menominee and Ho-Chunk on one side, and the Stockbridge-Munsee, Oneida, and Brothertown on the other.

The federal government finally mediated the dispute in 1831 and 1832 with a series of three treaties. As part of this compromise, the Stockbridge-Munsee would leave their settlement on the Fox River for new lands on the east shore of Lake Winnebago in present-day Calumet County. As compensation, the federal government reimbursed the Stockbridge-Munsee $25,000 for the improvements they had made to the Fox River settlement.

Internal Tribal Conflicts

The Stockbridge-Munsee moved to their new home on Lake Winnebago between 1832 and 1834 but soon conflicts arose over internal politics. John W. Quinney, a tribal leader, wrote a tribal constitution in 1837, replacing hereditary sachems with elected tribal officials. Not all tribal members favored this innovation. Dissension increased when the federal government ordered the Stockbridge-Munsee to move west of the Mississippi River to provide land for hordes of incoming White settlers. In 1838, the tribe sold about half of its reservation on Lake Winnebago to the United States, and the following year those who wanted to remove westward. About 170 tribal members left for Missouri. Those who left feared that staying in Wisconsin would jeopardize their tribal identity. In leaving, they felt they would retain their Indian culture and political autonomy.

Conditions in Missouri were difficult, and many Stockbridge-Munsee returned to Wisconsin. In 1843, Congress passed an act making all Stockbridge-Munsee United States citizens. This divided up reservation lands on Lake Winnebago -- which had been held communally -- among individual tribal members. Many Stockbridge-Munsee consented to this plan and became known as the Citizen Party. The opposition formed the Indian Party, under the leadership of John W. Quinney, with the intent to retain the federal status, culture, and political sovereignty of the tribe.

The Indian Party became distressed when Whites began buying up land granted to individual tribal members. Quinney lobbied to have the 1843 Act repealed, and Congress did so in 1846, but members of the Citizen Party refused to give up their American citizenship and stayed on their allotted lands along Lake Winnebago. The Indian Party wanted to relocate to the Crow Wing River in Minnesota, but negotiations with the government for a tract of land did not succeed. The Indian Party finally gained about 44,000 acres of the Menominee reservation in 1856, all in Shawano County. Additionally, the tribe was reimbursed approximately $78,000 to cover expenses in moving to their new home.

John Quinney played a leading role in gaining this home for his people, but did not live to see it. He was elected grand sachem of the tribe in 1852, but died in 1856. The Indian Party approved a new constitution in 1856 which, like Quinney's earlier constitution, vested tribal authority in an elected sachem. However, members of the Citizen Party continued to oppose the Indian Party, particularly concerning the sale of the old reservation at Lake Winnebago. Citizen Party members argued that they were cheated out of proceeds from this sale. To placate the Citizen Party, Congress authorized the sale of part of the new reservation near Shawano in 1871. Three quarters of the new reservation lands were sold, primarily to lumber companies.

Government Policies

Stockbridge-Munsee lands became further divided by the 1887 Dawes Act, which mandated that communally owned reservation lands be divided and owned individually by tribal members, with excess lands sold to public. Congress passed legislation in 1904, 1906, and 1910 that divided remaining Stockbridge-Munsee lands. The 1910 act also terminated the Stockbridge-Munsee's status as a federally recognized Indian tribe. By 1934, only 100 acres of the reservation remained in Indian ownership. Many could not afford to pay taxes associated with land titles, and this forced them to sell their property to non-Indian buyers such as lumber companies.

The Indian Reorganization Act in 1934 encouraged the re-establishment of tribal governments by tribes across the nation. The tribe could adopt a new constitution provided by the U.S. government or draft their own. Within the boundaries of their old reservation, the Stockbridge-Munsee had maintained a town government, and in 1931 this body created the Stockbridge-Munsee Business Committee. In 1938, the Stockbridge-Munsee drafted and approved a new constitution.

Under the leadership of Carl Miller, the Stockbridge-Munsee reorganized their tribal government and regained federal recognition. Using federal funds secured through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribe managed to buy back over 15,000 acres of land within their old reservation boundaries. In 1972, the federal government placed about 13,000 acres of the land into federal trust for the tribe. Currently, the Stockbridge-Munsee have about 1,500 enrolled tribal members, 900 of whom live on the reservation.