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Curriculum and Instruction News

$65,000 Madison Community Foundation grant to create Native American heritage sites

October 30, 2017
The UW-Madison School of Education's Office of American Indian Curriculum Services (AICS) has been awarded a $65,000 grant from the Madison Community Foundation to establish new educational Native American heritage sites across Madison, a place the Ho-Chunk have lived for time immemorial.

This initiative will place educational, interpretive signage and displays that highlight the First Nations history and culture of Dejope (day-JOPE), the four-lakes region that is now Madison. These project sites will be located within a 15-minute walk of five different Madison elementary schools. 

The project will be a collaboration between the AICS consultant, the Ho-Chunk Nation, a Madison Metropolitan School District staff, a Madison-area effigy mound specialist, and a Wisconsin Historical Society education consultant. 

Heritage Tour
Pictured from left: Bob Sorge, president, Madison
Community Foundation; Aaron Bird Bear, assistant dean,
student diversity programs, UW-Madison School of
Education; Dan Brown, executive manager, Ho-Chunk
Gaming Madison; and Robert Birmingham, mound specialist
and co-author, "Indian Mounds of Wisconsin."
People have lived in the Madison area for at least 12,000 years, marked by many distinct archeological sites in the region. These sites often include linear, conical, and effigy mounds, which are burial mounds or large earthworks. Before any European contact and the colonization of the area, there were an estimated 1,203 mounds in the greater Madison area, more than any other city in the United States.

This project will hopefully address the shortage of accessible educational resources about this 12,000-year human story of Dejope, especially at the elementary level, said Aaron Bird Bear, assistant dean of Student Diversity Programs with UW-Madison's School of Education.

Omar Poler, the interim American Indian Curriculum Services coordinator for 2017-2018, will lead a collaborative community based process for sharing the story of this place with the people who have been here for thousands of years.  Importantly, adhering to decolonizing methodologies, the process by which sign content is developed must allow time for Native American communities to name and express grievances inflicted over centuries.  Additionally, the process must also set apart time for healing and model a relationship of ongoing negotiation.

Not too long ago, when the first formal summary of the scattered research on these ancient earthworks was published in 2000, "Indian Mounds of Wisconsin," no websites on effigy mounds existed.  

“This project will encourage learning and awareness of the First Nations of Wisconsin— and in particular the Ho-Chunk Nation and their relationship to the treaty-ceded lands of Madison — as well as work to improve multicultural understanding and acceptance in the Madison community," Bird Bear said.

Poler, the interim AICS consultant, is enrolled member of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community in northeastern Wisconsin. Since 2010, Poler has served as an outreach specialist at the School of Library and Information Studies (the Information School) at UW-Madison, where he works closely with tribal librarians, archivists and museum curators in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

This grant is the sixth major award from the Madison Community Foundation's 75th Anniversary Year of Giving. 

“When we embarked on our 75th anniversary journey earlier this year, we wanted to make a difference for the many entities that steward the unique natural and cultural treasures that make Madison so special,” said Bob Sorge, Madison Community Foundation president. “Our community is home to extraordinary Native American effigy mounds and we’re honored to help tell their story with educational materials that will enlighten current and future generations.”

To learn more about the project, check out this report from Madison's local CBS affiliate, WISC-TV/Ch. 3.

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