Ho-Chunk Traditional Feast Ceremony Classes Available

By Kaili Berg

     Rock Greendeer, member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, is teaching a Ho-Chunk traditional feast ways class located in Tomah, Wisconsin Dells, and Black River Falls.

     “I am worried about our Ho-Chunk way of life dying out from under us,” said Greendeer.

     Greendeer says there are only a few people that still attend feast ceremonies. Out of the few that attend, not everyone knows what is being said at the feasts.

     “Richard Mann, a medicine man, came to my place and talked to me. He said he was tired of people being on their phones and having side conversations while he was talking. It’s really frustrating for him,” Greendeer said.

     Greendeer said after the conversation he went home and fasted so he could find answers. The late Kenny Funmaker, a medicine man, came to him in a dream and encouraged him to start a feast class.

     Greendeer holds classes that teach about the ceremonies held at feasts. Anyone is able to attend, male or female. Rock has put together visuals, created an instruction book with Hoocak, English, and phonetic Hoocak of what is being said in a feast ceremony.

     Greendeer says the people who have attended have already learned a lot. His students are now able to understand what is being said, and what is happening.

     “I’ve said that when I retire I would like to learn the Ho-Chunk language and our way of life. The class that Rock Greendeer is teaching fulfills my needs. The laid back approach is not stressful but has made it very enjoyable to learn. In the four classes that I have attended, I have been very patient and will go through proper enunciation and tell us the meaning of what we are learning. It’s an enjoyable experience,” read a testimony from a student.

     Greendeer has visited area meetings, Legislative meetings, Traditional Court, and the Language Department Program staffing and told them about these classes. Everyone is encouraging him and the Legislature even provided funding for food.

     Greendeer said he is worried about the future of feast ceremonies for future generations, and encourages people who want to learn to attend his classes.

     “I just don't want it to die in front of me. My father and mother were both very traditional and they always took me to feast. Eventually I realized that this is what makes me Ho-Chunk,” said Greendeer.