Supporters rally to save the mounds at the Capitol

By AJ Cloud

Hundreds gathered on the west side steps of the capitol Tuesday, January 12 to rally against Assembly Bill 620 (AB 620). Introduced and referred to the Committee on Environment and Forestry on December 29, AB 620 would allow property owners to challenge the existence of human remains at burial sites on their lands. Effigy mounds throughout the state that have been catalogued and hold the protection of the Wisconsin Historical Society would also be at stake with the new legislation.
Administrative leave for Ho-Chunk employees was granted by presidential Executive Order 1-12-16 and bus transit was coordinated to and from the Save the Mounds event. The Office of the President coordinated bus transit for not only Ho-Chunk tribal members and employees but also included members from other tribes from areas such as St. Paul, Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and northern Wisconsin.
One of many tribal members that opted to be shuttled in by bus was Jarrod Greengrass. Greengrass came to the rally on Lamers’ Milwaukee route with a busload of twenty people.
“I thought it was a great way to get our voices heard about the assembly bill and I was glad to see the turn out,” said Greengrass.
Destina Warner, a student at Baraboo High School, rode the bus from Wisconsin Dells with her Native American Student Association group and her advisor.
“I thought it was a good experience, especially for my age and generation. I thought it was really amazing how multiple nations came together as one. How people came as far as Nebraska to join in and contribute to something so important. It was super cold but I’m proud that I was there to support the right thing,” said Warner.
While there were lots of Ho-Chunk tribal members participating in the rally there were also non-tribal members like Karen Brock, a Madison resident.
“I live one mile from this rally gathering spot. I attended to represent myself and anyone who wanted to come but could not physically be on site. Not everything is for sale. We draw the line here. A small group of profiteers has no right to destroy people’s history and sacred grounds, they have no right to rob future generations of their birthright,” said Brock.
Tribal flags and eagle staffs were at the forefront of a sea of signs and supporters which filled the west side vista of the capitol steps. Tribal traditional and government leadership, tribal members and employees, grassroots advocates, state legislators, students, and other citizenry against AB 620 stood in solidarity on a crisp afternoon listening to words delivered by tribal and state leaders.
Various leaders on the speakers list were, District 2 Representative Henning Garvin, District 2 Representative David Greendeer, Associate Judge and former President JoAnn Jones, Chief Clayton Winneshiek, former President Jon Greendeer and Representative Robb Kahl (D-Monona).
“Today was incredibly important. Thousands of supporters braved the cold temperatures today to stand united to protect those things we consider sacred. People from different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs all stood as one and raised one loud and powerful voice to let our state legislators and the public know that we will take a stand to protect those things we hold most dear. A rally such as today serves to educate, advocate, and will also invigorate everyone, and now that we have the momentum we can move forward to do what we can to put stronger protections into place,” said District 2 Representative Henning Garvin.
The rally ended inside the capitol and rally goers filled the main floor and second floor balcony. The Woki Xete, Love One Another, song and rallying calls filled the capitol rotunda in support for the stoppage of AB 620.
In the midst of the rally’s end, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) told reporters that AB 620 is unlikely to come up for a vote this spring.
“We’re pleased Speaker Vos has decided not to pursue AB 620 during this session. However, we know our work is not done. We’re looking forward to working with lawmakers to strengthen the current law so we don’t have to continue facing attacks on Wisconsin’s mounds,” said Public Relations Officer Collin Price.