Summer Culture Camp brings people back to the former days of Ho-Chunk life

By Ken Luchterhand

The Summer Culture Camp was a way for people to connect with the art and skills of the past, something that can carry on into the future.
The event was held Saturday, August 5, at Nine Eagles Resort Camp, north of Lyndon Station.
More than 100 people attended the event.
“We’ve been planning this event since the Spring Camp,” said Ho-Chunk Nation Museum Director and camp organizer Josephine Lee
“We had the idea to focus on activities to make the camp look like traditional Ho-Chunk life,” Lee said.
She made sure to include many fun things, such as the moccasin walk, the log pounding,  the basket making, the reed mat making, and the kids’ games.
The program was designed to teach children how to do some of the skills and crafts that dates back to generations ago so those abilities aren’t lost to future generations.
Also, it’s so that people in the communities can connect with the artists so that they and their work can be known.
“We tried to get artists from each Ho-Chunk community,” Lee said. “They do amazing art work. It can be intimidating to learn if you don’t have someone to ask.”
They teach both children and adults how to make many of the items that were finely crafted generations ago.
Kimberly Crowley displayed many hand-woven black ash baskets, the material to make them, and demonstrated the procedure to pound a black ash log, strip the wood from the log, scrape them smooth, dry them, dye them and then to weave the strips to form a basket.
Kimberly learned how to make baskets from her parents, Sidney and Christine Hall, and now passed that knowledge on to her children and grandchildren.
She remembers her father pounding ash logs and stripping them most of the day while her mother dyes and dries the strips, then weaves the baskets. Many of the baskets were taken to the Winnebago Museum in Wisconsin Dells to be sold, but also people came to their house to buy the baskets.
Kimberly would massage her mother’s back at night because she would be so sore from weaving baskets all day.
Levi and Verna Blackdeer had a display of tanned hides and demonstrated how to properly scrape and flesh out hides.
Levi said he learned the process from his grandparents and parents. He took the skill a little more seriously when he returned from serving in the US Navy and began preparing and selling hides. Now he and Verna own and operate Blackdeer Enterprises, a business of making and selling naturally tanned animal hides.
He got the inspiration of making designs in the hides by accident. One time that he smoked the hides, Levi patched a hole in the hide with tape. After the hide was smoked, he removed the tape and discovered that the hide was light colored – that the hide under the tape hadn’t been turned brown by the smoke. He then took that inspiration further by intentionally masking off parts of the hides to make designs, symbols and impressions of animals.   
Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Bill Quackenbush provided instruction of how to make a reed mat. He enlisted the help from many of the youth, and a few adults, too. Reeds were collected and cords were tied between two trees. The reeds were hung from those strings with the reeds interwoven to create the mat.
In a ciiporike, several young ladies sat on blankets in a circle to play a game of kaasu. The game is played by tossing a bowl of polished flat stones and points scored by deriving a certain arrangement of stones with the correct number of light or dark sides upturned.
Children’s games of softball and a foot race of inflatable characters provided entertainment for the younger crowd.