The Search for Ke-Chunk – 2012 Investigations in South Beloit, Winnebago County, Illinois
By William Green, Logan Museum of Anthropology, Beloit College, Beloit, WI (retired)
Read excerpt below: Dr. Green conducted archaeological research at The Confluence in the summer of 2012.
His entire research paper can be downloaded here.
Around 1830, a large Ho-Chunk village known as Ke-Chunk (Turtle Village) existed near the mouth of Turtle Creek close to the Illinois-Wisconsin state line in what is now Beloit, Wisconsin or South Beloit, Illinois. We attempted to detect physical traces of that village in the summer of 2012. Soil-geomorphic coring and archaeological testing were conducted in a small tract on the north bank of Turtle Creek in South Beloit. The cores and a series of 1-x-2-meter units revealed a sequence of recent deposits and cultural material, recorded as 11WO506. However, no early 19th-century features or material were found. Although no remnants of Turtle Village were discovered, the site may exist nearby and additional survey and testing are recommended elsewhere in the vicinity.
Finding traces of Ke-Chunk is important from historical and archaeological perspectives, as explained below. The work is also part of a larger effort to enhance the historical and educational values of the “Confluence,” as the parts of Beloit (Wisconsin) and South Beloit around the mouth of Turtle Creek are becoming known. Local officials and planners envision a series of marked trails and open-space recreational uses that would increase public awareness of the historical significance of this locale.
In the late 1820s and early 1830s, Ke-chunk was one of the major villages of the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) people. The word Ke-chunk (properly Kečąk), means “turtle” and was used to denote the Ho-Chunk village on Turtle Creek. In 1829, according to U.S. Indian agent John Kinzie, this village had 35 lodges with nearly 700 inhabitants. Notable Ho-Chunk leaders associated with the village include White Crow (Kau-ree-kau-say-kaw), Whirling Thunder (Wau-kaun-wee-kaw), Walking Turtle (Karramaunee), and Little Priest or Little Chief (Mor-ay-tshay-kaw). The early French-Canadian trader Joseph Thibault built a cabin near the village site in 1835 or perhaps earlier.
Below is the 1834 General Land Office Sketch showing the Ke-Chunk Turtle Village at the Confluence, but the surveyor incorrectly placed the stateline. Note the confluence is shown incorrectly in Wisconsin.