Today I wanted to share a short post concerning new proposed legislation in the US State of Wisconsin that could prove disastrous for the Native American heritage in the state.
Wisconsin is home to a great amount of Native American burial and effigy mounds, manmade landscape features that either contain burials or are made to resemble animals, which in some cases align with certain astronomical features. These mounds are sacred to the indigenous peoples of Wisconsin and are a link to their ancestors.
Two Wisconsin state representatives have now proposed a piece of legislation that, if enacted, would force the Wisconsin Historical Society, which is a caretaker of these archaeological features, to allow property owners to investigate completely on their own whether burial mound on their property actually contains human remains. If there are no human remains, then the property owner can just do what he wants with this mound, as opposed to now where these mounds are all protected.
This is problematic for several reasons. First, archaeology is destruction. By excavating you are destroying the original context for good. This is why careful records are so vital in archaeological excavations. Second, these property owners would not be obliged to actually follow archaeological procedures and could just dig to see if anything is there. This would be even more destructive than an archaeological dig as they would not be making proper records and following proper archaeological protocols for excavations. They could just haphazardly dig and destroy the whole mound “looking for human remains”, and they might not even recognise them if they found them as they might have seriously decayed over time. Third, these mounds are sacred to very real and very much alive people, like the Ho-Chunk Nation, and haphazardly destroying these surviving mounds – as many have already been destroyed in the past before legislation protected them – would be sacrilegious and
Third, these mounds are sacred to very real and very alive people, like the Ho-Chunk Nation, and haphazardly destroying these surviving mounds – as many have already been destroyed in the past before legislation protected them – would be sacrilegious and further erase their connection to their ancestral lands and their ancestors, either deliberately or by sheer inconsiderateness.
For this reason, the Ho-Chunk nation has made a website to campaign against this proposed legislation at savethemounds.com, where you can also sign a petition to support them. You can find this petition here. Please consider signing the petition to help support the Ho-Chunk Nation’s efforts to fight this legislation, and help them save their mounds.
Source: Emily Mills, “Legislation could desecrate state’s Native American heritage“, Journal Sentinel, read 9 January 2016.