Walking up the cement path of Bascom Hill, students may not know they are stepping over remnants of Native American life.Image By: Morgan Winston
Native American landmarks brought to the surface by preservation efforts
Walking up the cement path of Bascom Hill, students may not know they are stepping over remnants of Native American life.
The effigy mounds were buried there centuries ago, as well as in several other locations around UW-Madison’s campus. Only recently have markers surfaced and education about UW-Madison’s Native American history gained prominence.
Daniel Einstein, historical and cultural manager at UW-Madison, gave The Daily Cardinal staff members a tour of some of these landmarks.
Before UW-Madison was founded in 1848, the land was occupied by the Ho-Chunk tribe. Today one of the only pieces of evidence that remains is the effigy mounds, which are sacred burial sites in the shape of animals and water spirits. Einstein said the Madison region used to shelter 20,000 burial mounds, but ever since the European settlement in the late 1700s 80 percent of them have been excavated.
Einstein explained that since the construction of UW-Madison, the school has damaged or built over several effigy mounds. Bascom Hall, as well as Agriculture Hall, Kronshage Hall and North Hall, sit on top of where Native American remains once lay. Einstein said in the 1940s a few mounds were dug up and disrupted in order for archaeologists to learn about the campus’s history and uncover early artifacts.
There are more burial mounds on the UW–Madison campus than any other campus nationwide, according to Amy Rosebrough, a Wisconsin assistant state archaeologist, and there are certainly more effigy mounds. She said UW-Madison’s campus is the only college campus in the world where people created large structures in the shape of animals for burial.
The buildings were erected before Wisconsin State Statute 157.70 was implemented. The law protects burial sites in a mapped buffer zone throughout the entire state. Gary Brown, director of campus planning and landscape architecture at UW-Madison, said this construction occurred when mound history and importance was less understood.