There is little evidence today of the earliest Native American communities in the area. Prior to the European exploration it is likely the Mississippian culture tribe, the Oneota, lived in the area. The Oneota are believed to be the ancestors of the Winnebago or Ho-chunk tribe; this has yet to be conclusively demonstrated. Regardless, the Ho-Chuck dominated the area just as the French were first appearing in the St Lawrence area far to the east. The Illinois tribe was generally far to the south; the Menominee tribe was just to the north. The Ho-Chuck maintained reasonably good relations with both tribes, although there were several battles with the Illinois. While the French had yet to settle in the area, their presence to the east started a chain reaction of tribal migration. The Huron, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and other eastern tribes all had encounters with the Ho-Chunk. The Sauk and Fox tribes, originally in the St Lawrence Valley, migrated first to southeastern Michigan. The Fox (Renard in French) also called themselves the Meshkwahkihaki and were also known as the Outigamie by the French. The Sac and Fox were uprooted again by eastern tribes and began to arrive in the Fox River Valley in the late 17th century. The Sac and Fox eventually drove most of the Ho-Chunk from the area. When the first French settlers appeared, they named the river after the Fox. The county which today includes Little Chute was to be named Outagamie.
The series of rapids along the Fox River near Little Chute necessitated canoe portages. By the time the French settlement started in the early 18th century, the Sac had essentially set up toll stations along the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway, including the rapids at Little Chute. The French, outraged at the impact on trade, launched a series of attacks on the Sac, culminating in the Fox Wars, which drove them out of the area by 1742. The power vacuum created by the departure of most of the Ho-Chunk, the Sac and the Fox allowed the Menominee to briefly dominate the area. The Menominee set up a village, Ookicitiming (“causeway” in Menominee) near present-day Little Chute.
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