Fort Atkinson and the Neutral Ground, 1840-1849

Fort Atkinson Trunk Contents

The Fort Atkinson military post was established to help deal with some of the problems that resulted from the U.S. government’s Indian policy. It was the idea of Brigadier General Henry Atkinson who had promised to protect the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Nation from their enemies if they agreed to move from their traditional homeland in Wisconsin to the Neutral Ground in northeastern Iowa. Although no fighting ever took place at Fort Atkinson, General Atkinson carefully selected a site on a bluff overlooking Rogers Creek, a tributary to the Turkey River, that provided a good defensible position. Construction began in 1840. Fort Atkinson was manned until 1849 when the last Ho-Chunk were removed from Iowa to Minnesota. Archaeological research has been conducted at the site beginning as early as 1939. This work has recovered many artifacts associated with the occupation of the fort that provide a picture of what life was like there.  

Resources in this Discovery Trunk highlight the culture and interaction of the groups associated with the occupation of Fort Atkinson and the Neutral Ground in northeastern Iowa in the 1840s: the soldiers, the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Indians, and the pioneer settlers. Contents include a sampling of artifacts used by each of these groups, lessons and activities, books, period images, and a DVD about archaeological excavations at the fort. Of special interest are a journal written by a pioneer girl who lived in the area and a book detailing the childhood of a Ho-Chunk girl of about the same time period. The lessons and activities are designed to be compatible with social studies and history units on Iowa’s Peoples, Native People of Iowa, and the Westward Movement which are taught in the elementary grades in Iowa schools. The lessons also have strong science, language arts, and technology components. 

Reserve this trunk!

Note: There is a $25 service fee for all trunks borrowed from the Office of the State Archaeologist. This service fees covers staff time to maintain the traveling trunk program, including processing requests, preparing trunks for shipping, inventorying and replacing items, and making upgrades to trunk contents and lessons. We cover shipping to the trunk's destination, but it is the responsibility of the borrower to return the trunk to OSA via shipping or drop-off.

Close-up of Fort Atkinson Trunk Contents