Highlighting Ho-Chunk Language Learners: John Stacy

By Kaili Berg

     Language is history, language is life, and language is the cultural health of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Fewer than 30 first language or eminent speakers are left. 

     John Stacy (44) (Coonake Huuk), Executive Administrative Officer, is from Black River Falls where he grew up on the Indian Mission with his parents Waldo and Lee Stacy. He is bear clan and began learning Ho-Chunk in his pre to early teenage years through the Cooka Orville Greendeer’s language camps at the Greendeer homestead.

     “This happened for two or three summers growing up. Some of Cooka Orville’s language philosophies have stayed with me on my path to learning the language. He would always say that the Hoocak language is the sacred language that we aren’t learning, we’re simply waking it up within ourselves because it is already within us as Hoocaks,” said Stacy.

     Stacy said he continues his passion to learn because if he is not keeping up on it, it will disappear just as fast as it can be picked up.

     “Striving for continuous improvement is just the same as with anything else. If you want to learn a skill or to become proficient at anything it takes practice. Sometimes a lot of practice.”

     Throughout his time working for the Ho-Chunk Nation he has had a lot of good teachers offering their time and effort into helping him learn.

     “I know they take their work seriously and I want to show them that their efforts are not in vain. I plan to continue to do what I can to be available when learning opportunities present themselves.”

     Stacy said he remembered a time when our current President Joe Biden was giving a campaign speech when he was Vice President. He talked about priorities and what his father told him.

     “He said show me your budget and that will tell me what your priorities are. I feel the same way about learning the language. If you prioritize learning you have to make a commitment to invest the most valuable thing we have, and that’s time.”

     Stacy hopes he can encourage others with a place to start.

     “Make a commitment to prioritize it and invest your time into it, and before you know it you’ll be happy you did. Wa’iniginapsana.”