Ho-Chunk Museum hosts yarn belt weaving class

By Gary Garvin

The Ho-Chunk Museum opened its doors to the public for the very first time on Saturday, March 9, to host a cultural class. The building is located on 1108 Superior Avenue downtown Tomah, Wisconsin. Community members stopped in throughout the day for a sneak preview of the space and participated in a yarn belt weaving class.

Museum Director Josephine G. Lee has been working on introducing the Ho-Chunk Museum and looks forward to continuing to expand the project.

“I wanted to host some classes because that’s really what heritage and preservation has been working towards is creating open learning environments, and we have the space,” Lee said.
“I’m hoping to do a (deer) hide class here, paaxge, some wood carving, spoons, and bowls. A little bit of everything.”

Bonnie Bird was asked to help teach the yarn belt weaving class.

“I’m always more than happy to share what I know. I love teaching others because I know that weaving is kind of a lost art, and not very many people know how to do it,” Bird said.

Bonnie Bird went on to explain, “When I was growing up, and when I wanted to know something, it wasn’t a big secret. It was always like ‘yes come learn, someone needs to know this’ and so when it comes to our cultural arts and helping other people retain that knowledge, I’m always going to share that information. I enjoy it!”

According to Josie Lee, sharing knowledge and helping Ho-Chunk people learn how to weave a yarn belt goes beyond preserving the craft.

“It is really helping to have people to connect with their identity. And some ways that people do that is learning something new and something tangible - they can say that makes them Ho-Chunk and they can pass that on,” Lee said.

Josephine Lee requested ideas, “I’m trying to find ways to explain who we are as Ho-Chunk people to not just other tribal members, but to the community at large. And if people have ideas of what they want to see, what is core to being Ho-Chunk throughout our story, I’d love ideas - what they want to see, what they don’t want to see.”