During the middle of Woodland times, some Wisconsin residents interacted with groups in Ohio and Illinois. Most of the people in Wisconsin followed the Woodland tradition, however, some people adapted some of the ideas of the people in Ohio and Illinois. The resulting culture is called Hopewell. The Hopewell culture has its roots in the trade systems and social complexity of the Red Ocher people. Hopewell was a specialized kind of Woodland lifeway, something like a "fancy" or high-status Woodland.

There are only a few sites in Wisconsin where people followed this unique lifeway. These sites are mainly in the southwestern part of the state along the Mississippi River. The Hopewell culture was more evident in Illinois and southern Ohio. Rivers provide an avenue for travel, trade and communication, a perfect means to bring Hopewell culture to Wisconsin. The people in Wisconsin who were involved in Hopewell culture only adopted a limited number of the Hopewell traits from all those used by the people in Illinois and Ohio. A characteristic of the Hopewell cultures is their large conical mounds. Some contained burial tombs.

Hopewell people were also involved in elaborate trade networks. Some objects placed with the burials were made from materials found outside Wisconsin. Some of these items were traded from great distances. A black shiny glass-like stone called obsidian, used to make projectile points, was traded from Wyoming. Marine shells, used for decorations, came from the Gulf Coast. Some of the items made from exotic materials that were used for rituals or placed in burials included large knives, pipes and copper axes, beads and earspools.