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    Ho-Chunk historian shares tribal stories with Fort McCoy

    National Native American Heritage Month

    Photo By Aimee Malone | William Quackenbush (center) points out a date on a rope representing a visual...... read more read more



    Story by Aimee Malone 

    Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office           

    Fort McCoy community members gathered to learn about Ho-Chunk history in honor of National Native American Heritage Month.

    The Ho-Chunk area Siouan-speaking Native American people whose traditional lands include sections of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois, including the land that Fort McCoy occupies. The people are part of two federally recognized tribes: the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

    “Please understand our oral tradition states ‘we have always been here; and more than likely, we always be here,” states the Ho-Chunk Nation’s website at “Our history is not told in history books, but spans back beyond possibly three ice ages.”

    William Quackenbush, tribal historic preservation officer and Cultural Resources Division manager for the Ho-Chunk Nation, shared some of his people’s history and spoke about the different ways that history can be remembered.

    “A lot of people wonder, ‘Well, they didn’t right anything down. How do they know?’” Quackenbush said. “Throughout the years, the Ho-Chunk have created art forms — petroglyphs, earthworks. There are different ways of ‘writing’ your history. It doesn’t have to be in written form.”

    The Ho-Chunk use oral traditions to keep their history. Quackenbush spoke about how the Ho-Chunk were once spread throughout the southern half of modern-day Wisconsin and into Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. Their history stretches back to the times when the region was covered by glaciers. Quackenbush shared the story of how one of the Ho-Chunk stories matches with a scientific discovery.

    The story tells how an ice dam forced the water of the Wisconsin River to flow back upstream, eventually forming a large lake. Scientists were conducting soil studies and trying to figure out the reason behind a unique soil series and asked the Ho-Chunk if they had any stories that might help them find the reason, Quackenbush said.

    Soil analysis showed the soil was a mixture of soil found in the St. Croix area and Mississippi headwaters, corroborating the Ho-Chunk story. The soil series was named “Nuxmaruhanixete,” which means “ice-land-moving river” in the Ho-Chunk language.

    The U.S. government moved the Ho-Chunk to several different reservations in the mid-1800s, but the Ho-Chunk kept returning to their ancestral lands. Some elected to stay at one reservation in Nebraska; this group is known today as the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

    The Ho-Chunk Nation were called the Winnebago when they became federally recognized in the 1960s in order to match what was written on old treaties, but they changed to the Ho-Chunk Nation in the 1990s to reclaim their ancestral name for themselves, Quackenbush said. The name means “people of the sacred language.”

    National Native American Heritage Month is each November. The observance started in 1915 with the Congress of the American Indian Association issuing a proclamation declaring the second Saturday in May as American Indian Day and appealing for recognition of Native Americans as citizens.

    The first federal National American Indian Heritage Month was in November 1990 under President George H.W. Bush. Proclamations have been issued each year since 1994 under variants of the name, including Native American Heritage Month and National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. For more information about the observance, visit

    For more information about the Ho-Chunk Nation, visit



    Date Taken: 11.24.2021
    Date Posted: 11.24.2021 13:45
    Story ID: 410021
    Location: FORT MCCOY, WI, US 

    Web Views: 59
    Downloads: 0