Wapello was born about 1787 at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. In 1838 Chief Wapello moved his village from Muscatine to the Des Moines River just south of what is now Ottumwa. An Indian agency was being built near what was to become known as Agency City, and General Joseph Street arrived with his family in April 1839 to oversee it.
Chief Wapello died March 15, 1842 near the forks of the Skunk River while on a hunting trip. He so admired General Joseph Street that Chief Wapello asked to be buried beside him upon his death. Both are buried near Agency, Iowa in Chief Wapello Memorial Park.