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UW-Stevens Point looking for artists for its Native American memorial project

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 8:07 AM CST
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - A project that’s been in the works at UW-Stevens Point for a few years will finally recognize who’s buried beneath the campus grounds.

A temporary marker was placed on UWSP’s campus in 2020. Now, the university is looking for artists, particularly those with Native American roots, to replace the temporary marker with a permanent piece of work that encapsulates the mass Native American burial site on its campus.

One Native American woman from the Oneida Nation said this project has been a long-time coming. “I’ve been talking to the university about this issue for several years,” Karen Ann Hoffman said.

People from the Ho-Chunk, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Menominee tribes lived and later passed away from Scarlet Fever in the 1860s, on what would now be known as UWSP’s campus. Later, the city used it as a garbage site, which later the Stevens Point Normal School was built on and opened in 1894.

“Perhaps there was no institutional memory of the graveyard,” Hoffman said.

In 2016, more than a century and a half later, the state of Wisconsin recognized the land as a burial ground.

“What’s important to me as a woman of the Oneida Nation, is that my ancestors who are buried here are weekly, daily, and monthly walked on by people who have no idea that they are stepping on the bones of my ancestors. It is critically important to me, that their voices be lifted,” Hoffman explained.

As for the memorial project, UWSP is hoping it will educate those of its Native American roots. “The idea here is that we show students, you know, and educate them as to what has happened on this campus, to learn the history of our community,” Chief of Staff for the Chancellor’s office at UWSP, Rob Manzke said.

An initiative Hoffman explained as one step forward. “I feel that it’s uncomfortable for institutions, very often, to admit that there are difficulties in their history, and I applaud the university for taking the first step and making that admission.”

Although Hoffman believes the artwork should be created by a native artist, applications and proposals are open to anyone with a deep understanding of Native history. The submissions will then go to a panel made up of the same members of the tribes of those buried under UWSP. Then their recommendation will be forwarded to UWSP’s Chancellor, Thomas Gibson.

“What we’re looking at through the university is not only establishing this as a memorial but also establishing a cultural resources management plan which is a way for our campus and other campuses within the UW System, to designate the sites already designated as reservation sites, how do we treat the land within those sites,” Manzke said.

That initiative is something that will be implemented into the whole UW System, which a draft was sent to tribal leaders last week to review.

Submissions for the permanent marker will be taken until Feb. 14. The selected artist will get a $5,000 honorarium. Fabrication and installation work can total up to $25,000. A grant from the UW System will pay for the project.

Installation of the project is expected to start in June. For more information about submissions, and a timeline, click here.

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