Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, Wisconsin Veterans Museum and Ho-Chunk Nation Create Joint Oral History Program Documenting the Lives of Ho-Chunk Veterans
Madison, Wis. (May 19, 2023) On Wednesday, May 17, 2023 at the Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center in Tomah, WDVA Secretary-designee James Bond and Ho-Chunk Nation Vice President Karena Thundercloud signed an historic agreement that ensures documentation of the lives of Ho-Chunk veterans will be preserved with the Ho-Chunk Nation and the state of Wisconsin.
The Ho-Chunk Nation and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum staff will collaboratively gather oral histories from Ho-Chunk Nation veterans to be preserved by the Ho-Chunk Nation. A master copy of each interview will be included in the oral history collection of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
Origin of Ho-Chunk Nation Agreement with WVM
Josie Lee, Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center Director and Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral Historian Luke Sprague have worked together to push this project forward. Inspiration for the program came when Lee’s husband, Brandon Winneshiek, heard his grandfather’s oral history recording from the museum's collection. Brandon’s grandfather, Benjamin Winneshiek, served during World War II in the Pacific Theater with the U.S. Army, 32nd Infantry Division. Brandon had not heard his grandfather’s voice in more than 20 years. That experience had such a profound effect on him that within a few weeks, he sat with Sprague and gave his oral history about his time in Iraq with the U.S. Marines.
“It’s really important for us to be able to take care of our veterans in honoring them though their stories, but also being able to share that with their families,” Lee said.
The agreement ensures the stories of Ho-Chunk Nation veterans are treated with cultural sensitivity and respect as led by the Ho-Chunk Nation and that the Ho-Chunk Nation is represented in the military history of Wisconsin.
“The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is committed to the idea that every Wisconsin-connected veteran deserves to have their story preserved and respected. We also work with partners around the state to document and share what Wisconsin veterans have done. This historic agreement with the Ho-Chunk Nation is a major step in this direction, and we are proud to work with them to keep these memories alive,” said Wisconsin Veterans Museum Director, Christopher Kolakowski.