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Ho-Chunk Nation flag to fly on campus multiple weeks this fall, beginning with Sept. 15 ceremony

September 7, 2022 By Doug Erickson

In collaboration with the Ho-Chunk Nation, the University of Wisconsin–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 will first fly for one week in September, beginning with a public flag-raising ceremony on Sept. 15.

The UW–Madison campus inhabits land that is the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk people — land they call Teejop (Dejope, or Four Lakes) in Hoocąk, the Ho-Chunk language. In 2019, UW–Madison dedicated the Our Shared Future heritage marker on Bascom Hill to recognize this history and to pledge a shared future of collaboration and innovation with the Ho-Chunk Nation.

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. 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.

“The UW–Madison campus and Bascom Hill are on land the Ho-Chunk have used for the purpose of education long before any modern building was erected,” says Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle. “The numerous mounds throughout the Teejop area not only show the importance and power of this place but are tools to teach about significant topics such as history, navigation and culture. These collaborative initiatives between the Ho-Chunk Nation and UW–Madison continue this long tradition of Teejop as a place of intellectual and cultural exchange for the benefit of our community.”

The Sept. 15 flag-raising ceremony will be at 10 a.m. in front of Bascom Hall. President WhiteEagle and UW–Madison Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin are scheduled to give remarks, and Elliott Funmaker Sr. and the Wisconsin Dells Singers are scheduled to provide songs. (In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in Room 260 of Bascom Hall.)

“We are honored to collaborate with the Ho-Chunk Nation on this important event and look forward to flying the Ho-Chunk flag this fall,” says Chancellor Mnookin. “Coming near the start of the academic year, the flag-raising ceremony will highlight our foundational relationship with the Ho-Chunk people and the importance of learning and teaching about the history of the land upon which UW–Madison sits. It will also provide an opportunity for everyone in the campus community to consider our personal and institutional commitments to our shared future with the Ho-Chunk Nation.”

Flag raisings are part of contemporary Ho-Chunk culture and honor veterans who served in the military. Native American people historically have the highest per-capita involvement of any population to serve in the U.S. military, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Members of the Ho-Chunk Nation regularly participate in flag-raising ceremonies with local governments and educational institutions to share their culture and to strengthen ties across communities.

“It’s wonderful when the university, as a place of teaching and learning, models cultural humility, quieting our own culture to learn from the cultures of others,” says Aaron Bird Bear, the university’s director of tribal relations. “Our direct learning goals for our new students include helping them understand themselves as members of the socially diverse campus community and helping them become aware of their own values and how they are similar or different from other people’s values. With events like the flag-raising ceremony, the university is demonstrating to students that we’re learning in these same ways as an institution.”

This will be 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. All three flags flew together on one central flagpole.

This year, to better reflect U.S. flag protocol, two new flagpoles have been installed at Bascom Hall, one on each side of the front entrance. During the times when the Ho-Chunk Nation flag is flown, it will fly alone on one flagpole. The U.S. flag and the Wisconsin state flag will share the other flagpole.

The Sept. 15 flag-raising ceremony is open to the public. There will be limited seating for invited guests; others are welcome to view the ceremony from public spaces on Bascom Hill. The Ho-Chunk Nation requests that certain ceremonial elements of the program not be photographed or filmed, such as prayers and honor songs.

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, 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.