You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

June 1: The Jew and the Winnebago

Lawrence Bush
June 1, 2010
133175-050-26A21B3DJohn M. Levy, a founder in 1845 of the town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, petitioned the U.S. government on this date in 1848 on behalf of the Winnebago Indians, urging that they not be compelled to move west of the Mississippi River. Levy was born in London in 1820 and arrived in the U.S. with cigar-making skills in 1837. In 1845 he opened a wagon trail from Prairie du Chien to La Crosse, where he and a business partner traded with Indians. The Winnebago had been depleted by smallpox and forcibly removed to reservations west of the Missisippi in 1832, 1837, 1840, and 1846; despite the petition filed by Levy as their agent, they were removed once again in 1848 to a reservation in Minnesota. When the Sioux war of 1862 broke out, the surviving Winnebago were marched to Nebraska and South Dakota. Levy went on to be a hotel-keeper, banker, and eventual mayor of La Crosse. “The Winnebago continue steadily on the march of improvement. . . . Wigwams are becoming as scarce as houses were two years ago. All Indians who had horses ploughed and farmed their own lands . . .” Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1860

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.