Onlookers could see the green and blue patterns of the Ho-Chunk flag waving on top of Bascom Hall last Friday. This was part of a flag-raising ceremony designed to “move from ignorance to awareness” regarding Wisconsin’s indigenous history.
Flying concurrently with the state flag and US flag for the rest of the day, it was the first time in UW-Madison’s history that the flag of another nation was flown on the campus hill. The effort is led by Aaron Bird Bear, tribal relations director at UW-Madison – a recent role implemented in 2019.
Bird Bear stressed the importance of acknowledging Ho-Chunk history within the campus grounds.
“This place was so significant as a cultural center for many thousands of years. We’re really special to learn and grow from the transformative power of the abundance and energy of this space,” Bird Bear states.
Ho-Chunk ancestors lived in what is now the UW-Madison campus area for about 12,000 years. A treaty signed in 1832 forced them to give up territory that became the UW-Madison campus; the Ho-Chunk ceded more land in 1837, faced with the government’s threat to withhold payments from the 1832 treaty.
In 2019, UW-Madison dedicated a plaque on Bascom Hill to recognize the campus as the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk. Titled “Our Shared Future”, the plaque acknowledges that the university occupies ancestral land, a place the Ho-Chunk Nation has called Teejop (DAY-jope) since time immemorial.
Speaking at the flag-raising ceremony, Chancellor Rebecca Blank emphasized that this work is long overdue.
“For many years, UW Madison was not mindful of its history, and we paid little attention to our relationship with the descendants of those who were here long before us. But we are working to change that. A little over two years ago we gathered over there on Bascom Hill to dedicate a heritage marker that recognizes this land as the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk people, recognizes forcible attempts to remove them, and honors their history of resilience and resistance,” said Blank.
Members and dignitaries of the Ho-Chunk Nation participated in the ceremony, including Traditional Chief Clayton Winneshiek, Vice President Karena Thundercloud, the Wisconsin Dells Singers, and members of Sanford WhiteEagle Legion Post 556 Color Guard.
Vice President Karena Thundercloud urged that understanding history is a joint effort.
“This occasion that you are witnessing today, is not only an acknowledgement of all that is history, but a testimony that our community is intertwined. This flag will enhance the conversation, as Chancellor Blank has said when dedicating the heritage marker in 2019. This moves us from ignorance to awareness, and is the greater indication of the international effort to teach our shared history,” Thundercloud said.
Photos by Chali Pittman / WORT News.