Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle raised the flag of Ho-Chunk Nation early Thursday morning for the second time in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s history. The flag will fly for a total of six weeks above Bascom Hill over scheduled intermittent periods.
“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 at the ceremony.
In addition to staying up for one week in September, the flag will be raised on Indigenous Peoples Day and for the entire month of November, which is National Native American Heritage Month.
“The flag is a symbol of something much larger,” Ho-Chunk Public Relations Officer Casey Brown told the Cardinal. “It may look like just a flag and a piece of fabric, but what it means to us to have it flying above Bascom Hill is incredibly meaningful.”
This year’s flag ceremony is also another step in UW-Madison’s execution of the “Our Shared Future” commitment. This initiative was a process planned by the university in 2019 to further the act of moving together to rid ignorance and embrace educational awareness about the history of the Ho-Chunk Nation and the other Wisconsin First Nations.
“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,” said Chancellor Mnookin at Thursday’s event.
UW-Madison inhabits the ancestral native land of the Ho-Chunk Nation. The UW-Madison campus is famously home to many of the Nation’s burial grounds, which can be found scattered around Lakeshore Path.
“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 continued.
UW-Madison tribal relations director Aaron Bird Bear also told the Cardinal that it would be helpful for the university to “deeply consider how it can interrupt and arrest settler colonialism, which remains an ongoing process in the U.S.”
“If every student who attended UW-Madison was (a) aware of the full human story of this place, (b) what has made it such a significant cultural site for thousands of years, (c) the Indigenous language place names for the lakes, rivers, villages and regions of the what is now known as Madison, Wisconsin and (d) lastly was aware of the history of the Ho-Chunk people, it would fulfill the mission statement of UW-Madison,” he continued.
Looking ahead, Mnookin indicated in her speech that UW-Madison will do a better job of implementing education about Wisconsin’s native nations into the curriculum, as well as trying to make it a priority to enroll more native students into the university.
“What we’ve said about the future is that we expect the flying of the Ho-Chunk Nation flag to be a regular part of campus life,” university communications specialist Doug Erickson told the Cardinal.
Ultimately, Brown would also like to see the university permanently fly the Ho-Chunk Nation flag atop Bascom Hill.
“Because UW-Madison is a public university, a part of a larger university system change can be very hard to achieve, especially quickly,” he said. “There is a lot of bureaucracy. It takes baby steps. This is certainly a good start. We really appreciate how open the UW administration and staff has been towards us and achieving that eventual goal.”