Undergraduate students create installations throughout Monona to commemorate Ho-Chunk history

Professor Jennifer Conaway and Bill Quackenbush guide UW-Madison students towards the development of numerous community projects which shed a light on the Ho-Chunk Nation’s influence on Monona culture, community, and local history


Devin R. Larsen


Shelly Strom, Marshall Curry


City of Monona, WI, United States
Community Size
8,045 (2018 Census Estimation)
University of Wisconsin - Madison
UniverCity Year
Case Type
Project Stories
EPA Region 5, USA

The City of Monona is a small community that was incorporated as a village in 1938 and experienced notable growth in the 1950s. The oldest community in Wisconsin’s Dane County, the city has a rich history, but it has a cultural influence many citizens are unaware of. 

The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin are a Native American tribe that have occupied the Teejop (Four Lakes) area for thousands of years. Their culture is deeply embedded into the Monona area, with the presence of Ho-Chunk Moš’ok (Mounds)—burial mounds placed near reliable food and water resources as a reminder of the tribe’s spiritual connection and reliance on natural environments—located in Woodland Park being just one example.     

While many Americans think of Native tribes as part of the country’s past, the Ho-Chunk Nation and City of Monona were interested in collaborating to create informational programs to showcase the tribe’s continuing influence on the local community.  

The UniverCity Year program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an EPIC-Network member, was created to help local government and community partners with identified sustainability and livability projects. Participating University faculty incorporate community-identified projects into classes, and provide students with on-the-ground experience in support of a more sustainable and livable future for the partnered community. 

During the 2016 to 2017 academic year, the City of Monona was chosen to partner with the UniverCity Year program due to its proximity to the university and for strong support from Mayor Bob Miller. 

Professor Conaway’s students begin working with the Ho-Chunk tribe 

The UniverCity Year program partnered UW-Madison’s Environmental Studies 600: Culture and Conservation: Living Ho-Chunk History in Monona Parks with the City of Monona and the Ho-Chunk Nation to assist with cultural resource management preservation and education in Monona.

With the guidance of Professor Jessica Conaway and in collaboration with Bill Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk tribal historic preservation officer, students embarked on a collective project to “produce cultural outreach projects to increase recognition of the Ho-Chunk Nation, their history, and the importance of their continued presence in the Monona community” (UniverCity Year year-end guide). Students were able to achieve this through research conducted with the tribe, through historical documents, and more. 

Students create and install Ho-Chunk historical markers 

UW-Madison students implemented numerous solutions to enhance communal understanding of and visibility for the Ho-Chunk tribe and the cultural significance they have imbued to the City of Monona. Student projects carried out involved some of the following:

Developing educational plans 

  • Crafted four lesson plans for K-5 teachers which would instruct students on Native American history, art, culture, geography, and sovereignty
  • Provided recommendations for future cultural management plans

Interactive and recreational tours of Ho-Chunk history

  • Developed, designed and placed installed park signage with Ho-Chunk representation throughout Ahuska, Winnequah, and Woodland parks
  • Created a brochure, map, and website content depicting the Ho-Chunk’s impact on Dane County

Since this project was wrapped up, Monona’s MG21 Charter School has continued to work with Bill Quackenbush to create a website dedicated to Ho-Chunk history in Monona as recommended by Environmental Studies 600 students.  

The goal of this project was to “educate visitors of the parks about Ho-Chunk language, history, and culture” (Preserving Ho-Chunk History and Culture in Parks). Thanks to the direction provided by Professor Jessica Conaway and Bill Quackenbush, UW-Madison students were able to implement actionable solutions which educate citizens and park visitors that the Ho-Chunk people are not just a part of the city’s past—their history and culture is still alive, growing, and evolving with the City of Monona.  

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

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