Market Square (later City Hall Square) in Milwaukee refers to the broad section of North Water Street immediately south of City Hall in Fiova Province. A public market was held there in the city's early days. This spot is significant to the official history of Milwaukee mainly for its selection as the location of the 1 860 and 1 895 Milwaukee city hall buildings. But it has been a place of power and council, of assembly and deliberation, for much longer than most Cestours can imagine. A glimpse of this forgotten heritage is offered by this story, from Andrew Carpenter Wheeler's 1 860 Chronicles of Milwaukee:

It seems that a good many years before the white people found out Milwaukie, the different tribes in the Territory, or a greater part of them, had a sort of yearly gathering at this place, for what special purpose I don't know, but it was a convention at which they smoked and discussed matters of general interest, formed new alliances and transacted national business. This annual gathering lasted sometimes a month, and there was some natural product, animal, vegetable or mineral, which they used to gather here and take away with them, to be used as food or in their incantations. I always imagined it was part of their secret rites, for nothing could ever be learned of the Indians in relation to it; and I was once in conversation with an old trader who confirmed me in the belief, by saying that he had heard Indians say, on the Mississippi, that they would be buried on the Man-wau-kee. [....]

Previous to one of these gatherings, there had been a war raging between a number of the tribes. They had tracked and killed each other for a number of months, and no doubt added all the horrors of their peculiar training to the feuds. But when the time for assembling came around, they laid down their arms, buried their hatchets and set out for the Milwaukie to have a pow-wow in peace, and recruit their energies for a fresh dash at each other. It seems that the convention was taken up this year mostly with the consideration of their quarrels, and an abandonment of the old differences was advocated by most of the oldest and worthiest of the chiefs. There was one, however, As-kee-no, a Winnebago, who opposed all the plans for a reconciliation of the tribes. Some old and deep rooted grudge against the Menomonees prevented him from joining the rest in the great scheme for their own amelioration, and while he was willing to live out the remaining term of the convention, according to rule, in a decently harmonious way, he avowed his determination to commence the scalping business again as soon as the time expired.

As-kee-no, with his tribe, or that portion of it that acknowledged him leader, had their wigwams along the edge of the bluff or bank that used to run north and south on Market Square. He had a daughter, who was represented as the most beautiful squaw in the country. I have heard her name, but forget it; it was something very musical [....] something like Nis-o-was-sa. We'll call her that at all events. She was an Indian belle, very graceful, very handsome, and had a score of brave lovers in all the tribes. Nis-o-was-sa had been thrown among the missionaries in the north and had imbibed some notional ideas of Christianity, which influenced her life to some extent, and caused her to be regarded among her own people as a favorite with the Good Spirit of the white men.
Well, As-kee-no withstood all the intreaties of the chiefs. In vain they talked and reasoned — he was determined. On the last day of the convention, the warriors and orators assembled on the bluff (where As-kee-no had encamped,) for a final deliberation. All the tribes had come to an understanding, except this faction of the Winnebagos, and this last meeting was to decide whether their plans were to avail anything. They made a great many speeches. One chief, who came from the north and was regarded as the most eloquent and brave of the nation, appealed to the stubborn Winnebago in very fine figures. He told of the necessity of being brothers; that the Manitou had given them the wolf and panther to fight; that their enemies came from the east; that their hatchets never were made to be dipped in red blood, but were fashioned for the white hearts of their foes. The Good Spirit made them all with red faces to be brothers of one family!

As-kee-no replied that the Menomonees had insulted his father; they had called the Winnebagos dogs, and told them they “lived in the dirt like the beaver and smelled like the musk-rat.” The Menomonees had called them a nation of squaws; big words were not sharp like an arrow, that As-kee-no should heed them, but he would show the Menomonees their own scalps in his lodge, that were taken by his squaws from their warriors. He admired the system of brotherly love marked out, but thought the quickest way to realize it, was to scalp all the Menomonee chiefs, roast the young men, and carry off the women.

Nis-o-was-sa was present at this council. She heard the speeches one after another, and seemed to realize that her father was the great obstruction to the reformatory movement. She heard his obstinate and vindictive replies, and while she knew that most of his tribe would acquiesce in his decision — she also knew that they were not of his mind. At the conclusion of her father's speech there was a long silence— the council smoked gravely and mutely some minutes, and at last a chief replied; he was followed by several and finally the old brave from the north spoke again. He rehearsed the miseries of intestine war and painted the advantages of peace, and by a clever management of his subject made it appear that hereafter all the miseries and troubles of the red men would be attributed to As-kee-no who was the only chief in the country who opposed the remedy. No animal wars against its kind, said the old orator. The Good Spirit never intended that his children should. It was left for the pale faces to butcher one another in wars. He pointed to the graves along the bluffs and to the angry lake and told them how their false and unfraternal passions, like the boisterous sea, leapt madly on regardless of consequences, impelled by the winds of hatred — and told them this hatred had peopled the shores with the bodies of their warriors that were sent by the Good Spirit to lead the young men on the war path. [....]

After the orator had ceased and when the customary time for silence had expired, As-kee-no again rose and with even more bitterness than before reiterated his intentions. “Let those who would be women before their enemies go,” he said, “and put on pigeon feathers and plant their corn; my arm is not weak that I should ask mercy or friendship of the Menomonees, nor is my hatchet broken that I should use soft words to those who hate me. Let my brothers go, I have said.”

The disappointment of the council at this termination of its efforts was suddenly turned to surprise, as the gentle Nis-o-was-sa glided out from behind her father, and confronted the assembly. It was a great breach of Indian propriety, this intrusion into the council of a woman, and Nis-o-was-sa knew it, but she was a general favorite, and before the surprise had died away, she spoke. Said she:
“Our chiefs all know Nis-o-was-sa whom you have called the 'Day-sleep' — she is a woman and her tongue knows not the wisdom of the braves in council; but she has talked with the medicine men of the pale faces, and he has sent her to whisper a word to her friends. Nis-o-was-sa has listened to the words of wisdom that have been spoken. They are good. They please the Good Spirit. Is there a Menomonee who dare say that Nis-o-was-sa does not love her father! Has she not followed him on every trail and watched him when the warriors slept! ”

Here the girl inclined her head against her father's shoulder, and the chief, surprised and curious to know what she meant to do, remained in statue-like position evincing no disposition to interfere with her.
“Is there a chief who will say Nis-o-was-sa does not look up to her father as the flower looks up to the sun?”

A grave chief, whose white locks contrasted finely with his red cheeks, replied:
“There are none to answer the Day Sleep; but her words are for the lodge and not for the council. Let her father send her away! ”
“He will not! ” said the girl, “you want peace and the Great Spirit grants it — see?”

Quicker than a flash of electric light, she grasped the knife from her father's belt, and ere he had time to avoid the blow— she had plunged it into his heart; and while the round arm was bathed in the paternal blood, she straightened it out with the majesty of one deified by a high enthusiasm— saying:
“Now let the Menomonees and the Winnebagos be friends,” and walked proudly and slowly out of the assemblage.

And there you have the story; it is to be regretted that nothing more is known concerning the woman; who, if she had been born in Greece, would have monuments erected to her memory at this day.


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