In The Silver Man: The Life and Times of John Kinzie, readers witness the dramatic changes that swept the Wisconsin frontier in the early and mid-1800s, through the life of Indian agent John Harris Kinzie. From the War of 1812 and the monopoly of the American Fur Company, to the Black Hawk War and the forced removal of thousands of Ho-Chunk people from their native lands—John Kinzie’s experience gives us a front-row seat to a pivotal time in the history of the American Midwest.
As an Indian agent at Fort Winnebago—in what is now Portage, Wisconsin—John Kinzie served the Ho-Chunk people during a time of turbulent change, as the tribe faced increasing attacks on its cultural existence and very sovereignty, and struggled to come to terms with American advancement into the upper Midwest. The story of the Ho-Chunk Nation continues today, as the tribe continues to rebuild its cultural presence in its native homeland.
Through John Kinzie’s story, we gain a broader view of the world in which he lived—a world that, in no small part, forms a foundation for the world in which we live today.
About the Author
Peter Shrake holds a masters degree from UW-Eau Claire focusing on Indian/White relations in Wisconsin. The subject of his thesis was the Menominee Treaty of 1831. He also earned a masters of library and information studies from the University of Wisconsin. Shrake has worked in the museum field in one form or another for over 14 years. He was the executive director of the Sauk County Historical Museum for eight years. For three years he worked for the Library/Archives Division of the Wisconsin Historical Society as a reference archivist. Currently he is the archivist at Circus World Museum. Shrake has spent nearly 20 years studying early 19th century Indian affairs and Indian agents in Wisconsin. He as published three articles relating to the early 19th century Wisconsin. His first article 'Justice or Revenge' was published in Voyageur: Northeast Wisconsin's Historical Review and related the history of the Menominee Indians in the Black Hawk War. His second article, 'Chasing and Elusive War' about the Illinois Militia in the Winnebago War of 1827 was published in the Journal of Illinois History. Most recently Shrake wrote 'The Silver Man' an article on the life of John H. Kinzie published in the Wisconsin Magazine of History.
American-Indian interaction did not begin with John Wayne at Fort Apache or a struggle over gold. Before that the cultures had met thousands of times in hundreds of places. "The Silver Man: The Life and Times of Indian Agent John Kinzie" is a look into the saga that played out in Southern and Central Wisconsin in the early Nineteenth Century. Though billed as a biography, this work is really the chronicle of the meeting of cultures during a period of great change...History is not all presidents and generals. It includes the men and women who settled the land, negotiated the peace and paved the way for change. John Kinzie was one such man. Meet him on the pages of "The Silver Man: The Life and Times of Indian Agent John Kinzie." (Jim Gallen, Reviewer, June 2016)