Exterior of Nancy Nicholas Hall in the evening, with lamps and windows glowing.
News & Events

Mapping Dejope: Indigenous Histories and Presence in Madison

A bronze statue, titled The Badger, created by late Ho-Chunk artist Harry Whitehorse sits across from Camp Randall Stadium and the UW Field House

Kasey Keeler, Assistant Professor of Civil Society & Community Studies and American Indian Studies, is leading an interdisciplinary community-engaged project, “Mapping Dejope: Indigenous Histories and Presence in Madison,” which will collect histories from UW and Dejope community members — past and present — to reveal the Indigenous histories and presence of this shared environment.

“As a faculty member and Native woman, I have seen the need for more accessible Indigenous histories. Perhaps more importantly, not only what Native people have done in the past, but a way to share the work and lives of Native people today.”

The University of Wisconsin–Madison was designated as a land-grant institution in 1866, nearly twenty years after its founding. Today, we are beginning to understand the implications of being a land-grant institution. For tribal nations across the US, forced land cessions throughout the nineteenth century resulted in land loss, separation from homeland, and the creation of the reservation system. Here, in Madison, or Dejope, the Ho-Chunk experienced a similar story. Despite the history of loss, American Indian community members, students, and faculty are coming together to tell and share a more accurate and representative history of place, to take responsibility for the past and to create a better future for all.

The project will lead to the creation of a digital story map, allowing users to explore important Ho-Chunk sites and Indigenous places of UW and Madison on a self-guided and self-paced tour or by selecting specific sites and stories. Project members will identify key places to highlight on the story map, such as the mounds of Observatory Hill, the bronze badger sculpture at Camp Randall (pictured) created by Ho-Chunk artist Harry Whitehorse, the Abraham Lincoln statue and Lincoln’s role in the US-Dakota War, the American Indian Student Cultural Center, and the Ho-Chunk Nation Community Center.

The Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment awarded a seed project grant to this endeavor in 2022. The project also received funding from the School of Human Ecology’s Indigenous EcoWell Initiative, which strengthens relationships with Wisconsin First Nations, First Nations across the United States, and global Indigenous communities through collaborations that focus on the well-being of children, youth, families, and communities.

Collaboration is a central component of this project, bringing together Native graduate students, Native faculty, and Native (specifically Ho-Chunk) community members to collect, document, and share important Indigenous-centered stories of UW and Dejope. As the current occupants and stewards of Dejope, this digital project and learning tool reminds us of the shared environment we all live and work in and is one way the University of Wisconsin can create a better shared future for all.

Also underway with Dr. Keeler, “American Indian Housing in Wisconsin: Bridging Culture, Community, and Needs”

This survey-based project will advance American Indian housing needs by bringing together tribal nations to collect key micro and macro data and to collectively problem solve for future generations. As distinct and sovereign entities, individual tribal members have diverse housing needs, on and off reservation. This project is driven by extremely high rates of American Indian homelessness, low rates of American Indian homeownership, and broad lack of affordable housing across the US.

Funding provided by Office of Vice Chancellor for Graduate Research and Education, December 2021