Ho-Chunk Honored with Official “Ho-Chunk Day” in the City of Madison

By Missy Tracy, Municipal Relations Coordinator

Mayor Paul Soglin and the Madison Common Council voted unanimously and affirmed and proclaimed a day in honor of the Ho-Chunk people.  Now through perpetuity, the fourth Friday in November is officially “Ho-Chunk Day” in the City of Madison.  This day will be concurrent to “Ho-Chunk Day” in the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Alder Denise DeMarb, District 16, worked with the city and Ho-Chunk representatives in Madison over the past couple of months to bring this good thought to a realization.

The Ho-Chunk people are descendants of the effigy mound builders, ca AD 700 – 1100 and are the aboriginal inhabitants of the Madison region, known to the Ho-Chunk as “Te Jop e ja” (The Four Lakes).  The heart of the effigy mound region is around the present-day City of Madison, in the Four Lakes Mound District which covers the four principal lakes of Mendota, Monona, Waubesa and Kegonsa.  Oral tradition and historic documents describe the Ho-Chunk as a large and populous tribe of 10,000 that occupied more than 10 million acres of land in much of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

On December 2, 1829, President John Quincy Adams, presented the Ho-Chunk with the first treaty for ceding vast amounts of mineral-rich land wanted by white settlement.  Beginning in 1849, the federal government began a series of attempts of forcible removals.  The Ho-Chunk were rounded up and put into boxcars to move them from their Wisconsin territory to Iowa, then, Minnesota, still later to South Dakota and finally in Nebraska, leading to mistrust and conflict with a dominant government society.  The Ho-Chunk increasingly returned on foot numerous times to Wisconsin to live as refugees on their former homelands.  In 1875, those in Wisconsin were allowed to settle on lands that were not wanted and are the only tribe in Wisconsin for whom no reservation was ever formally established.

Alder DeMarb felt it was time to acknowledge Ho-Chunk history in Madison and recognize the historical trauma and how it still reverberates today, so that healing can take place and progress can be made.  Ho-Chunk recognizes the importance of collaboration and maintaining meaningful relationships with the City of Madison.  Today began the path to healing.

Accepting the honor at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting was Wilfrid Cleveland, President of the Ho-Chunk Nation.  “Today is a historic day for the City of Madison and the Ho-Chunk Nation,” Cleveland stated, “This recognition only strengthens our relationship and commitment to being a great community partner.”  Also in attendance was Daniel Brown, Executive Manager, Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison, Missy Tracy, Municipal Relations Coordinator, Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison and a delegation of tribal members from the Ho-Chunk Nation.

The first official Ho-Chunk Day will be on November 25th this year.