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Ho-Chunk Nation flag-raising symbolizes a shared future

September 15, 2022 By Doug Erickson

As a crowd of about 250 people looked on, Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle raised the flag of the Ho-Chunk Nation at Bascom Hall Thursday morning, Sept. 15, ushering in an extended period this fall when the flag will again fly over the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus.

The campus inhabits land that was the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk people, land they call Teejop (Dejope, or Four Lakes). The flying of the Ho-Chunk Nation flag at Bascom Hall, the university’s central administration building, is part of the university’s ongoing commitment to educate the campus community about Ho-Chunk culture and First Nations history.

“These efforts here are very thoughtful and very inclusive to not only the Ho-Chunk people, but it’s a real opportunity to learn about the people who lived here,” WhiteEagle said. “Some of it brings out some emotion, some brings out a pain inside, but we’re working through that to want to become a part of the community and share our culture with you.”

UW–Madison will fly the flag of the Ho-Chunk Nation at Bascom Hall for more than six weeks this fall, including Indigenous Peoples Day in October and the entirety of National Native American Heritage Month in November. The Ho-Chunk Nation flag is first flying for a week this month, beginning with the flag-raising ceremony today.

While acknowledging that Ho-Chunk students have at times struggled to feel included on campus, WhiteEagle said: “Events like this today help to break down barriers that we have within ourselves, as well as other individuals may have within themselves.”

Elliott Funmaker Sr. and the Wisconsin Dells Singers performed songs at the ceremony.

In 2019, UW–Madison dedicated the Our Shared Future heritage marker on Bascom Hill to recognize a shared history with the Ho-Chunk Nation and to pledge a shared future of collaboration and innovation. The UW–Madison campus is home to many conical, linear, and effigy burial mounds that were created between approximately 2,500 and 1,000 years ago. The Ho-Chunk serve as caretakers of the mounds that remain.

“I am deeply honored to reaffirm UW–Madison’s commitments to strengthening the relationships between the university and the Ho-Chunk Nation and acknowledge that the university is built upon the ancestral lands of the Ho-Chunk people,” Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin told the crowd. “I’ve learned that UW–Madison hasn’t always acknowledged the ways that its history is entwined with Native Nations, but I also do know that we are working to change that and to tell broader, fuller, more honest stories of this place.”

Mnookin added that there is a focus on incorporating more learning about Native Nations in the UW–Madison curriculum, as well as enrolling more Native students at UW–Madison, a priority she also spoke about last week with leaders from the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council.

Among those attending the ceremony were 23 fourth- through sixth- grade students from Madison Community Montessori School in Middleton. Teachers Kate Vestlie and Baylen Wagner said they viewed the ceremony as an opportunity for the students to learn more about Wisconsin history.

This is the second time the Ho-Chunk Nation flag has flown at Bascom Hall. Last November, in a historic first, the Ho-Chunk Nation flag flew for one day atop Bascom Hall along with the U.S. flag and the Wisconsin state flag.

In addition to flying the Ho-Chunk Nation flag for one week in September, the university will fly the flag for one week beginning Oct. 10, which is Indigenous Peoples Day, and then for the month of November, celebrated on campus as Native November.

The flying of the Ho-Chunk Nation flag is expected to become a regular part of campus life at UW–Madison.

Greg Bump of University Communications also contributed to this story.