First declared a month of recognition in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, Native American Heritage month celebrates Indigenous Peoples in the United States. According to the Wisconsin Historical society, Paleo-Indians, the earliest ancestors of Native Americans, arrived in what is now Wisconsin during or after the retreat of the last continental glacier, about 12,000 years ago. They built effigy mounds, of which at least twenty remain in the Madison area. When the first European explorers reached the Wisconsin region in the 1600s, several Native American groups were living there. These included the Ojibwe, Menominee, Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Sauk, Fox, Illinois, Miami, Mascouten, Huron, Ottawa, and Santee Sioux.
Today, only four of these groups remain—the Ojibwe, Menominee, Ho-Chunk, and Potawatomi—plus four others who migrated from the East in the 1820s—the Stockbridge and Munsee bands of Mohicans, the Brotherton, and the Oneida. Native culture is indelibly expressed throughout our state. From natural attractions to museums, businesses to events, Native culture permeates the landscape in Wisconsin, and opportunities to engage with it are abundant. During this month, I encourage all Wisconsinites to do the following things to learn more about tribal culture within our state.
1. Visit Tribal Cultural Centers
The Tribes in Wisconsin are committed to preserving their unique histories and traditions, and they have established expansive museums and cultural centers to house their wealth of knowledge. According to Travel Wisconsin, the Oneida Nation Museum in DePere is one place where you can view original Iroquois artwork, engage in hands-on exhibits, get a personal tour around the museum about the history of the Oneida Nation, and enjoy accessible facilities. This cultural center offers engaging displays, rare artifacts, immersive exhibits and full-scale replicas for hands on learning experiences.
2. Experience a Powwow
Many tribes invite the public to attend their annual powwows, where tribal members meet to honor and celebrate their culture through music, dance, and traditional clothing and regalia. Powwows typically take place over the summer months, and feature traditional Native food as well as handmade art and crafts. One of the largest powwows takes place during the Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee, WI, each summer. For more information contact Indian Summer Festival at (414) 514-6017 or online at https://www.indiansummer.org/
3. Golf & Gaming
If gaming suits your fancy–high stakes bingo, video poker, slot machines and blackjack tables, I suggest visiting one of Wisconsin’s fifteen Native American casinos. Potawatomi Bingo & Casino located in Milwaukee, Oneida Resort in Green Bay, and Ho-Chunk Casino in Wisconsin Dells are the largest of the tribal casinos in Wisconsin. These gaming centers and resorts offer quality entertainment and hospitality for weddings and events.
During the month of November, I encourage you to explore Wisconsin and the rich, diverse, cultural heritage of Wisconsin’s Native Americans.