A new bill threatens the state’s most cherished historical sites.
Tens of thousands of effigy mounds
The effigy mounds that remain are some of the only surviving physical evidence of human activity in the region during what archaeologists term the Early to Late Woodland Era (800 BC-1200 AD), and the only evidence of burial rites by these people, who are believed to be the ancestors of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Surviving mounds exist on the UW-Madison campus at the Arboretum, Picnic Point and on Observatory Hill, in the Edna Taylor Conservation Park, Aztalan State Park, Governor Nelson State Park, Cherokee Park, and elsewhere around Dane County (and throughout the Midwest).
These mounds are a vital link to human history on this continent, considered to be an enduring art form whose value is acknowledged by tribal and non-tribal peoples. According to Ho-Chunk Nation spokesperson Collin Price, archaeologists have not been able to determine the exact meaning of the mounds, but the Ho-Chunk people “understand their significance through stories and oral tradition.”
Currently, the remaining burial mounds in the state of Wisconsin are registered and protected from destruction or excavation by the Wisconsin Historical Society under the Wisconsin Burial Site Protection Act. State Representative Robert Brooks (R-Saukville)
On his Facebook page, Brooks posted that the amendment
If the first part of that statement seems absurd—the idea that it’s “common sense” to excavate and destroy effigy mounds based on “private property” rights when the Ho-Chunk were forcibly removed from the region 11 times
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that
In response to the bill, the Ho-Chunk nation is organizing a protest on Tuesday, January 12 from noon to 2 p.m. outside the State Capitol building. Information about the bill, the Ho-Chunk’s perspective on the mounds, and transportation to the protest can be found at their Save the Mounds website
Bob Shea, president of Wingra Stone and Redi-Mix, claims that the company could make $10-15 million from destroying the burial mound within their quarry and accessing the aggregate beneath. But setting the precedent that it’s acceptable to destroy these mounds when financially beneficial wrongfully cheapens their immense value.
Burial mounds represent a connection to our human past akin to Stonehenge and the portal tombs of Ireland; they are chronologically aligned with the construction of the Temple of Baal at Palmyra, the Great Wall of China, and other sites that have been cherished worldwide. “These mounds are extremely significant because they play a spiritual role in our culture and history,” says Price. “They’re not just burial sites. They’re sacred to us, so destroying them is something that can’t be undone. They’ve been here for a thousand years, and they hold a strong cultural and spiritual significance to the Ho-Chunk. Excavation [to determine presence of human remains] defeats the entire purpose of the preservation. Why would you open them up or remove them just to see?”