Ho-Chunk Nation Flag Raising

Ho-Chunk Nation Flag Raising

Nov. 5, 2021

10:00 a.m.

Bascom Hill



Thank you, Aaron, for that kind introduction, and for all of the great work you’re doing as our Director of Tribal Relations.


And thank you, Chief Winneshiek, for that beautiful invocation.


Welcome, everyone, and thank you for joining us today.  This is an historic moment – the first official raising of another nation’s flag over Bascom Hall.


It seems especially appropriate that we are raising the flag of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin.


I’d like to acknowledge some of the people who’ve made this gathering possible:


  • Vice President Karena Thundercloud of the Ho-Chunk Nation
  • Traditional Chief Clayton Winneshiek of the Ho-Chunk Nation
  • Buffalo Clan Lead Brian Decorah
  • Elliott Funmaker and the Wisconsin Dells Singers
  • Joseph WhiteEagle and the color guard of Sanford WhiteEagle Legion Post 556
  • And Molli Pauliot, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology who serves as graduate assistant in the Our Shared Future initiative here at UW–Madison


Today’s ceremony affirms the special relationship between UW–Madison and the Ho-Chunk Nation that grows from the location of the campus on the ancestral Ho-Chunk land known as DeJope.


Thousands of years before Europeans arrived here, the place we now call Bascom Hill was a sacred place for the Ho-Chunk people.  They had made this their home from time immemorial.  This hill was the site of several mounds, including a water spirit mound that was destroyed when Bascom Hall was built.


For many years, UW–Madison was not mindful of this history, and we paid little attention to our relationship with the descendants of those who were here long before us.


But we are working to change that.


A little over two years ago, we gathered on Bascom Hill to dedicate a heritage marker that recognizes this land as the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk people, acknowledges the forcible attempts to remove them, and honors their history of resistance and resilience.


At that time, I acknowledged that no plaque or monument could adequately convey a complicated and difficult history.  But it could start a conversation – an intentional effort to teach our shared history.


We have continued that conversation in many ways since then:


  • We hired our first Director of Tribal Relations, Aaron Bird Bear, to work full-time on strengthening our relationships with the First Nations of Wisconsin.


  • We are hosting events to inform and educate our campus and community about our relationship with Native Nations. Most recently, we had a Treaty Day panel discussion with top legal experts from the Ho-Chunk Nation.


  • Our Law School is raising the profile of its Indian Law program.


    • We’ve graduated more Native American attorneys than any other law school in the country, and our Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center serves as a resource for Native Nations and their citizens.


  • And we continue to expand the ways in which we incorporate teaching and learning about Native Nations into our curriculum.


I am proud of the progress we have made in moving the university from ignorance to awareness – and I also know that there is much more work to do.


You might have heard that I will be leaving UW–Madison at the end of this academic year.  I want to assure you that although the university’s leadership will change, the commitment to building and strengthening relationships with Native Nations will remain strong.


Today’s historic flag-raising signifies the strength of that commitment and an interest in learning about and participating in Ho-Chunk culture and ways of being (flag raisings are part of Ho Chunk culture).  Flying the flags of different nations together is a powerful symbol.  It shows how much we value this nation-to-nation relationship, and how dedicated we are to affirming it, improving it, and communicating its importance to the community.


The Ho-Chunk Nation flag, the flag of Wisconsin, and the flag of the United States will rise together, and will fly together today – moving in unison with the wind – as a symbol of our determination to rise together in a spirit of collaboration and innovation.


I will close as I began, by thanking all of you for being here with us today.  I want to express my deep gratitude to the Ho-Chunk people who have been willing to collaborate with us to make this historic event possible.


Pinagigi.  Thank you.