On May 10th, the Ho-Chunk Nation and Fort McCoy conducted a signing ceremony of a cultural resources memorandum of understanding at the Tribal Office Building in Black River Falls. The memorandum documents the procedures in handling and the protection of Native American cultural resources and artifacts found on Fort McCoy. Tribal President Marlon WhiteEagle remarked that, “he was pleased that the Ho-Chunk people were included in the process of handling cultural resources.” This document is an updated version of the 1999 memorandum signifying the consistent cooperation between the Federal Government and the Ho-Chunk Nation.
President WhiteEagle further praised Fort McCoy “for the respectful relationship that the Federal Government displays on the Native American ancestral lands. The Cultural and environments sections of the Department of Public Works (DPW) are the “boots on the ground” when it comes to environmental and cultural issues.” DPW Cultural Resources Program Manager, Ryan Howell said that there have been over 500 cultural sites discovered on Fort McCoy, dating back to the Interstate construction beginning in 1960. These “finds” are categorized and, if appropriate, moved to local museums or the Ho-Chunk facilities where they can be held under climate controlled conditions to preserve their quality. One such item was an intact clay jar, over 2000 years old. Only three of these have ever been discovered in the United States. It is housed in the La Crosse museum.
The Ho-Chunk Nation is known as “The People of the Big Voice” or “Sacred Language.” They once covered over 10 million acres of land, mostly in present day Wisconsin, plus west into Minnesota and south into Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. President WhiteEagle described the region as Green Bay to Minneapolis-St. Paul to St. Louis to Chicago. Today, the Nation has over 7,000 enrolled tribal members still living in these areas but rather than a reservation, they live in communities or areas designated as allotments.
Colonel Michael Poss, Garrison Commander said that he was “proud and humbled to represent Fort McCoy and the U.S. Army in today’s signing ceremony. U.S. relationships with the Ho-Chunk Nation date back to 1778, during the Revolutionary War, when Army Colonel Clark worked with the Ho-Chunk people along the Rock River in the fight against the British. Many with Ho-Chunk ancestry have served in the military to include Corporal Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr.” CPL Red Cloud served in the Marine Corps during World War 2 and in the Army during the Korean War. On November 5, 1950, he was credited with single-handedly holding off a Chinese attack before he was killed in action. For his actions, he was awarded the country’s highest decoration, The Medal of Honor. A building on Fort McCoy is named in his honor.
Of particular note, the water bodies located next to Pine View Campground on Fort McCoy's North Post were renamed to Suukjak Sep Lake and Suukjak Sep Creek to honor the Ho-Chunk Nation. The new name, Suukjak Sep, translates to “black wolf” in the Ho-Chunk language. The water bodies were formerly known as Squaw Lake and Squaw Creek, named in the mid-1800s. The old name of the creek and lake were a product of a very different time in American history and was seen as offensive by the Ho-Chunk Nation. In 2016, Fort McCoy took steps to change the name to a more respectful designation.
Following remarks, President WhiteEagle and COL Poss signed the formal memorandum of understanding signifying, “to use wisdom and participation in protecting Native American culture and natural resources on the traditional homelands of the Ho-Chunk Nation.” Also present for the signing ceremony were the Chief of the Ho-Chunck Nation, Chief Clayton Winneshiek, Executive Administration Officer Nathaniel Longtail, Jr, Command Sergeant Major Raquel DiDomenico, representatives from the Fort McCoy DPW and several members of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Traditional Native American music was provided by Little Thunder Drum. Little did not describe them, but thunder certainly did.
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