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 November 26, 2010


Native American Month speakers highlight Fort McCoy information

By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Wisconsin’s long history includes that of Native Americans in the Fort McCoy area and surrounding communities, said two representatives of the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison, Wis.

PHOTO: Kelly Hamilton, director of the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum Archaeology Program, discusses Native American lands in Wisconsin. Photo by Val Hyde
Kelly Hamilton, director of the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum Archaeology Program, discusses Native American lands in Wisconsin. (Photo by Val Hyde)

Kelly Hamilton, director of the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum Archaeology Program for the Wisconsin Historical Museum, and Beth Lemke, the Wisconsin Historical Museum museum educator, were the guest speakers at Fort McCoy’s Native American Month observance Nov. 15.

Hamilton said lands at Fort McCoy and in the surrounding communities are much like those found anywhere else.

“If the land was appealing for someone to live on 12,000 years ago, it probably still is appealing to live on today for the same reasons, (such as location, bodies of water, etc.),” she said. “So you have many settlements on top of each other throughout history.”

One example is the location of the Wisconsin State Patrol Emergency Vehicle Operator Course. Hamilton said she was called into Fort McCoy about 15 years ago to survey the location. Although the site was historical, there was too much cross-history contamination from several time periods to make it eligible for formal historical designation, Hamilton said.

Native American lands are located throughout the Midwest, Hamilton said. Some Tribes/Nations have specific land set aside, such as reservations, through federal treaties. The Menominee Reservation in the Northeast part of Wisconsin is an example of this. Some Wisconsin reservations have been described as checkerboard because so many parcels of land no longer are under tribal ownership.

Other Tribes/Nations, such as the local Ho-Chunk, also were given lands as reparation for lands taken from them through federal treaties in parcels or allotments, she said. Ho-Chunk Nation residents, as do other Tribes/Nations, have the incentive to get back their original lands so they may purchase additional lands to supplement/complement the lands they originally were given, she said.

Native American history is part of American history, and Hamilton said archaeology finds can help determine that history.

“History tells about human beings living and dying, how they supported and protected their Families, and how they lived,” she said. “We can tell what they did in the past (through) simple objects. The farther back in history you go, the more difficult it is because nature degrades much of the physical evidence.”

In addition to archaeological information, much information about Native Americans is available through cultural/preservation offices/representatives of the various Tribes/Nations. The amount of assistance depends upon the personnel and resources available in the various offices, she said.

Hamilton said she also enjoyed the opportunity to give something back to the U.S. servicemembers and civilians who serve today. Her Family has many connections to the military, including her parents serving in World War II — her father in the Navy and Merchant Marine and her mother in the Army. One of Hamilton’s sisters served in the Navy, and another sister serves as a civilian to support the U.S. Air Force.

Lemke said people throughout the state also play an important role in providing information to the Wisconsin Historical Museum.

“We find out a lot about the places we go to from people we talk to and what questions they ask us at presentations like this one,” Lemke said. “It it interesting to talk to a military group, because you know you have experienced people who have the perspective of traveling to other places.”

The event was sponsored by the Fort McCoy Equal Opportunity (EO) Office. The next ethnic event will be the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance in January. For more information, call the EO adviser at 608-388-3246.

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