The Ho-Chunk Nation’s flag was raised atop Bascom Hill Friday morning for the first time in the University of Wisconsin’s history at a public ceremony.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank, UW Director of Tribal Relations Aaron Bird Bear, Traditional Chief of the Ho-Chunk Nation Clayton Winneshiek and Vice President of the Ho-Chunk Nation Karena Thundercloud shared their remarks about the raising of the flag. The ceremony also featured traditional flag songs sung by the Wisconsin Dells Singers and members of Sanford WhiteEagle Legion Post 556.
UW occupies ancestral Ho-Chunk land. UW’s campus is home to many monumental art burial sites that were created thousands of years ago by the Ho-Chunk Nation. Bascom Hill is a significant landmark for the Ho-Chunk Nation as burial mounds once existed there before an 1832 treaty forced the Ho-Chunk to cede the territory.
During the ceremony, Blank acknowledged this by mentioning the placement of the Our Shared Future heritage marker on Bascom Hill as a means to commemorate the Ho-Chunk Nation’s land. She emphasized the importance of the heritage marker as a means to start a conversation about the history of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
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“No plaque, no monument could adequately convey a complicated and very difficult history, but it would start a conversation, an intentional effort to teach that history here on our campus,” Blank said. “We have continued that commitment in many ways since then.”
Blank then recognized the efforts the university has taken in order to acknowledge this history, like hiring the first UW Director of Tribal Relations Bird Bear and hosting events to inform and educate the campus community about UW’s relationships with native nations.
The raising of this flag was a part of the university’s ongoing efforts to educate the UW community about the history of the Ho-Chunk Nation which UW resides on, according to a UW press release.
Thundercloud mentioned the ways the raising of this flag will transform the UW campus community as well as the university’s understanding and appreciation for the Ho-Chunk Nation’s historical roots.
“This occasion you are witnessing today is not only acknowledgement of all that is history, but a testimony that our community is intertwined,” Thundercloud said. “This flag will enhance the conversation, as Chancellor Blank has said, while dedicating the heritage marker 2019 that moves us from ignorance to awareness.”
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Winneshiek stressed that the raising of this flag is just a start to UW’s acknowledgement of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s history.
“I was saddened that this wasn’t an everyday deal where you see this Ho-Chunk Nation flag flying on Ho-Chunk land,” Winneshiek said. “We are finally being recognized for living on this land that was taken away from us some years ago, but to acknowledge the Ho-Chunk people … It’s just a start.”
Bird Bear also mentioned the importance of this ceremony and the Ho-Chunk people’s involvement in this ceremony as it continues this concept of spreading awareness about this history, rather than continuing to be ignorant. Bird Bear highlighted the efforts being made over the past 18 months to educate the UW community through Our Shared Future initiatives.
Another ceremony open to the public will be held at 4 p.m. today on Bascom Hill to observe the lowering of the Ho-Chunk flag. During this ceremony, Bird Bear will share more remarks and the Wisconsin Dells Singers will perform their flag song again.