Ho-Chunk Nation, Treaty Day, and UW’s ‘Our Shared Future’ commitment

Editor’s Note: On the anniversary of Treaty Day (September 15th, 1832), when the Ho-Chunk Nation ceded Teejop to the United States, Maeleigh Tidd presents her final contribution to the Points Pharmaceutical Inequalities feature. In this post she explains the historical connection between the Ho-Chunk tribe and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and proceeds to discuss how UW are commemorating their shared past and future through specific initiatives, particularly within the School of Pharmacy and the education it provides.

Ho-Chunk (meaning “Sacred Voice” or “People of the Big Voice”), also referred to as Winnebago, is an indigenous tribe that was established in 1634, occupying land near Green Bay (the red banks), expanding from Lake Winnebago to the Wisconsin River, and down to Rock River in Illinois. However, this land was ceded by the U.S. government following a series of treaties, and then the tribe was forcibly removed after the Black Hawk War in 1832. They first relocated in Iowa (1832-1846), then Minnesota (1846-1863), South Dakota (1863-1865), and finally Nebraska (1865-1930s), where the Winnebago Indian Reservation was established by treaties of 1865 and 1874. Following the Homestead Act of 1875, half of the Ho-Chunk Nation returned to Wisconsin. Today, the Ho-Chunk People are part of two, federally recognized tribes (1934): the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin headquarters is located in Black River Falls, and they own land in 14 counties in the state. The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska resides on their reservation, located in Thurston and Dixon County and parts of Woodbury County, in Iowa.

Interesting fact: The Ho-Chunk tribe owns and operates six casinos throughout Wisconsin, Ho-Chunk Gaming. These casinos were developed to generate revenue to support economic development, infrastructure healthcare, and preserving cultural heritage. Importantly, the gaming operations of the tribe has created jobs for tribal members and is the largest employer in Sauk and Jackson County. In addition to supporting their tribe with the gaming revenue, they also value their role in giving back to the communities surrounding them.

Of the 14 counties in Wisconsin occupying ancestral Ho-Chunk land, Dane County is one – particularly the land that the University of Wisconsin-Madison resides on, a place the Nation calls Teejop (day-JOPE). Specifically, the famous Bascom Hill was sacred to the Ho-Chunk People, which held a water spirit effigy mound before it was destroyed in the building of Bascom Hall. The land the campus sits on used to consist of many burial mounds, however only four groups of mounds remain and are cared for by the Ho-Chunk people. A special group of mounds remains visible on Observatory Hill, which are nationally registered as a historic place.

Treaty Day

September 15th, 1832, the Ho-Chunk Nation ceded Teejop to the United States. The treaty is what allows non-Ho-Chunk people to live in Madison, WI today. The University of Wisconsin-Madison started recognizing this day in 2019, in conjunction with their ‘Our Shared Future’ commitment.

Our Shared Future

UW-Madison’s Heritage Marker. Image courtesy of UW-Madison.

In 2019, the university created ‘Our Shared Future’, “a commitment to respect the inherent sovereignty of the Ho-Chunk Nation” and bring about awareness and education to the university and its community about the history of the Ho-Chunk People. This commitment has included the placement of a heritage marker on Bascom Hill, flying the Ho-Chunk Nation flag alongside the U.S. and Wisconsin state flag atop Bascom Hall, and marker grants to support academic colleges/departments on campus to incorporate the markers message in teaching/learning. One of the first colleges/departments to receive a grant was the School of Pharmacy (SOP).

I had the opportunity to sit down with Lisa Imhoff, the Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the SOP, to discuss how the SOP has utilized the marker grant and how the SOP continues to foster the ‘Our Shared Future’ commitment. I have shared some of the interview below:

How did UW-Madison SOP use the marker grant?

The SOP put on five different learning experiences throughout the year-long duration of the grant funds:

  1. First-year pharmacy students enrolled in the mandatory course, Social and Behavioral Aspects of Pharmacy Practice, were divided into small groups and met with a guest speaker from an Indigenous background, recruited through the Native American Center for Health Professions (NACHP). During these meetings, guest speakers shared their cultural beliefs that affect how they engage with health care professionals and the health care system, while also providing recommendations for fostering positive interactions in healthcare settings and building trust in the community.
  2. Dr. Christine Athmann, a tribal affiliate of the Anishinaabe Tribe of the White Earth Nation in Minnesota – and a family physician – provided a stand-alone presentation to the SOP faculty, staff, and students. Her presentation covered the Indian Health Service (history, structure, and policies), population demographics, health disparities, and social determinants of health and historical trauma.
  3. Third-year pharmacy students, Taylor Hauser (a tribal affiliate of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community/Mole Lake Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe)) and Jenny Van Order (a tribal affiliate of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe)) hosted a poster presentation to the public on their project of the Ho-Chunk House of Wellness Clinic (HOW). Their project was focused on health insurance disparities in the patient population at HOW and launching a public campaign to increase the number of patients enrolled in a billable health insurance. Read about their project in full, here.
  4. Third-year pharmacy student Jenny Van Order hosted a stand-alone presentation to educate the SOP faculty, staff, and students on how to provide culturally sensitive care to American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) patients. The presentation was focused on how historical and intergenerational trauma and adverse childhood experiences affect the health of AI/AN patients.
  5. The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, housed in the UW SOP, created, and displayed an online exhibit that underlined ways in which Native American imagery and iconography have been used in pharmacy and pharmaceutical spaces. Check out the exhibit here.

In what ways does the SOP continue to foster the ‘Our Shared Future’ commitment?

  • The Social and Behavioral Aspects of Pharmacy Practice Course (mentioned above) continues to incorporate a cultural lens on the experiences of Indigenous people through their guest speaker discussion groups
  • The SOP offers two different scholarships to Indigenous, first-generation, and/or underrepresented students that fully funds them throughout pharmacy school – to assist in overcoming any financial barriers they face in pursuing their passion and further education in pharmacy
  • The SOP offers an experimental program that allows pharmacy students to do their clinical rotations in the tribal sites, both through the Indian Health Services locations in the state and other individually own clinics/pharmacies.
  • The School of Medicine and Public Health houses NACHP, which fosters a community, resource, and support center for native students in the health professions; while also “improving the health and wellness of American Indian people”
  • The university has a Native American Cultural Center, open to all Native American students on campus to foster an on-campus community and provide support and resources

How is UW-Madison and the SOP addressing the disparity/inequity in Native representation in pharmacy and other healthcare fields?

As of 2021, there were less than 1% of American Indian and Alaska Native individuals as practicing pharmacists in the United States. Additionally, only 0.2% of UW-Madison’s student population is Native American.

  • UW-Madison, as well as the SOP, offer various scholarships to Native Americans (and other historically underrepresented individuals)
    • Badger/tuition promise
    • Ronald Taylor Scholarship Fund
    • Navitus Scholarship for Underrepresented Students
  • At the university level there are Native recruiters that have built trust with the communities and reservations to encourage them to apply to UW
  • The SOP partners with NACHP to engage with potential students

The SOP’s learning experiences outlined and performed under the maker grant were great first steps in meeting the university’s ‘Our Shared Future’ commitment. However, the SOP should not end there with learning experiences. This is, and should be, an ongoing commitment to bringing about awareness and education on the history of Ho-Chunk, university-wide. It’s positive that the University has put forth this commitment, but how is it being maintained and sustained throughout the years? The anniversary of Ho-Chunk Treaty Day is today – what is the University, SOP, and/or the community/city of Madison doing to recognize this? Thus far, as a student of UW, I haven’t heard or seen any events or statements released.

The University has affirmatively stated the long-term nature of the commitment:

“Our Shared Future is a process, not a land acknowledgement or something to recite. It is a collective act of moving together from ignorance to awareness; an educational framework for posing questions; and an opportunity to celebrate Ho-Chunk people, as well as learn about the hard truths of our histories with them. It is a challenge to educate ourselves and each other, and create a better future together”.

Yet how can we all, here in Madison and at the University, continue this process and collective act to educate ourselves while celebrating the Ho-Chunk people and their land that we are living on?


Feature Image:  Members of the Ho-Chunk Nation in front of Warner Drugstore in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, ca. 1915. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Maeleigh Tidd
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Maeleigh Tidd is a PhD Student within the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Maeleigh’s research interests focus on LGBTQ+ health and health communication in pharmacy spaces and wider medical spheres. She studies the promotion of health information (between physician and patient, health education, and public health campaigns), health activism, and community/stakeholder engagement.

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