University of Wisconsin: Flag of Ho-Chunk Nation to fly atop Bascom Hall for first time in university’s history

On Nov. 5, the University of Wisconsin–Madison will fly the flag of the Ho-Chunk Nation atop Bascom Hall, part of an ongoing commitment to educate the campus community about First Nations history and to recognize the land as the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk. Flag raisings are part of contemporary Ho-Chunk culture.

This will be the first time in the university’s history that the Ho-Chunk Nation’s flag will fly above Bascom Hall. It also will be the first time the university will show respect to another nation by flying that nation’s flag for a day along with the U.S. flag and the Wisconsin state flag.

The flag will be raised during a public ceremony — “Ho-Chunk Nation Flag-Raising on Bascom Hill: Honor, Respect, and Sacrifice” — at 10 a.m. Nov. 5 in front of Bascom Hall.

“It is appropriate that the Ho-Chunk Nation flag be the first to be honored in this way,” says Aaron Bird Bear, the university’s director of tribal relations. “This land was ceded under duress to the United States through a violence-backed 1832 treaty, which is how UW–Madison came to occupy ancestral Ho-Chunk land. Events like this help us understand Ho-Chunk culture, tribal sovereignty, and why this place is so sacred to the Ho-Chunk — how Teejop nourished, sustained and transformed humans for thousands of years with its energy and abundance.”

The Ho-Chunk call the land Teejop (Dejope, or Four Lakes) in Hoocąk, the Ho-Chunk language. The campus is home to many conical, linear, and effigy burial mounds — the monumental art burial sites created between approximately 2,500 and 1,000 years ago. Burial mounds once topped Bascom Hill. The Ho-Chunk serve as caretakers of the mounds that remain. The Our Shared Future heritage marker on Bascom Hill recognizes the land as the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk and pledges a shared future of collaboration and innovation with the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank will welcome several members of the Ho-Chunk Nation to campus. Invited dignitaries include Traditional Chief Clayton Winneshiek, Vice President Karena Thundercloud, the Wisconsin Dells Singers and members of Sanford WhiteEagle Legion Post 556.

“This is a historic day that has been needed for a long time,” says Thundercloud. “I want to thank all of the people that have brought this day to reality.”

The event is open to the public. There will be limited seating for invited guests; others are welcome to view the ceremony from public spaces on Bascom Hill. Ho-Chunk Nation requests that certain ceremonial elements of the program not be photographed or filmed, such as prayers and honor songs. More instructions will be offered during the program. The public also is welcome to observe the lowering of the flags at 4 p.m. Brief comments will be offered at both ceremonies.

Members of the Ho-Chunk Nation regularly participate in flag-raising ceremonies with local governments and educational institutions to share their culture and to strengthen ties across communities. In November 2020, the city of Madison participated in a flag raising with the Ho-Chunk Nation. The Ho-Chunk flag flies daily in front of the Madison Municipal Building along with the U.S. flag and the city flag.

“This ceremony is novel for the university but not for the Ho-Chunk,” Bird Bear says. “It definitely is a moment of learning and growth for us as a university community — an opportunity to understand relationship-building through the culture of the Ho-Chunk and to raise awareness of tribal sovereignty and tribal governance. We hope the campus community will join us for this historic event.”

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