The following interviews were conducted by Kassia Krzus-Shaw and filmed and edited by Daryl Lonetree. This film was made possible thanks to funding from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate Public Humanities Exchange (HEX) Grant.
Connie Lonetree: Melanie called me up one day and she said,” I have a project that I'm doing down at Badger Ordinance. Would you be interested? I'm going to be doing a mural. And would you be willing to participate in doing some artwork on that?” And I said, “Yes, yes, yes,” because it gave us something to do.
Lenore Sweet: I was not aware of the extent that it was it was going to be recognized. And I felt we were just working on an art project. And when we got there to do the project, it was a lot of fun. And just kind of learned how to work with clay a little bit better. I've worked with clay before.
Angie Lowe: Melanie had put out a request for some of the local families to participate in this mural project. Melanie is family to us. I'm been in awe of her since I was a small girl. Her and her family are great storytellers, and they're widely known for that, for preserving the history of our area and of our people.
Daryl Lonetree: I didn't really know anything about it. I was just going to drive my mother down there, and next thing, you know, I got recruited on the spot. We got down there. So I start working on the project right away.
Connie Lonetree: [Laughing] To me it was something new. They said, “We're going to use clay.” Myself, I've never done that kind of work. I'm sure somebody else could tell better about that
Angie Lowe: I didn't get her vision right away. She's like, “Well, we're going to do these clay panels. It's going to come together. And we want different families to share their vision of the earth, the water and the sky.” And so it was like, I couldn't quite picture it. When we arrived that day she shared with us the panels that the other families had done.”
Connie Lonetree: On my section I put muskrats in there because muskrats are in the water. And I know about muskrats because we were brought up eating muskrats. And fish, that has something to do with water. So, I used to like fish, and I still like fish. You know, we go out to fish fry.
Angie Lowe: My mother and my aunts, they taught us how to forage for things like mąhįc, which is milkweed. So that is a part of my interpretive panel. The other thing that we always did as kids, there was a lot of us kids, and they used to gather us up and we would dry Indian corn. Those are fond memories that I have. And those are the elements that are part of my panel.
Daryl Lonetree: The earth because our clan is Bear Clan, and that's one of the Earth Clans. So I decided to work a bear, little animals, and so forth, and corn.
Connie Lonetree: A man from Milwaukee [Muneer Bauhauddeen with Urban Rural Flow], came and showed us what this process goes, and the kids knew better how to do this mural and this clade clay stuff that they did it with. Well, I think it's educational for us to come into these three sections that we were earth and water and the sky. It almost ties in very well with our culture, because we have the 12 clans in our tribe. So that all kind of ties together and it's kind of explanatory in that mural.
Lenore Sweet: Our people have so much in common because of the way we were raised, I guess. We have different lifestyles, but we still believe in pretty much the same things just by being brought up a Ho-Chunk.
Daryl Lonetree: When we got together that day it was a lot of fun because we hadn't seen each other for several weeks [due to Covid-related restrictions during the summer of 2020], and so we're all coming together for the summer. And it was just a nice to get together with family, like we used to do. So during the middle of the pandemic, we came together.
Angie Lowe: It was a real leap of faith for Melanie to put this project in the hands of... And maybe it wasn't a leap of faith, maybe she knew that people were going to have a similar vision. Maybe I just was unsure of what what she was expecting from us. When you see the mural and you see how similar our ideas are, it's not too surprising how it all came together because we have similar backgrounds as a Ho-Chunk people. And these are the traditions and the values that we were taught.
Lenore Sweet: We worked separately. And it was just amazing when the whole thing came together how beautiful it was. The designs came out with all these individuals with their ideas, and when it came together, it was just a unified expression of creativity. I was just amazed.
Angie Lowe: When they did the dedication and we actually got to see the panel for the first time it was just awe inspiring how it all came together. Just like my mom was saying, it was four different families with similar experiences from the way that we were raised and the things that we were taught.
Connie Lonetree: I would like to see a huge mural because this was small. To me, I thought we could do better work if we could make these things bigger.
Daryl Lonetree: We’re sharing our history and our culture with those who come by and see it so they'll get a little bit better appreciation of this area.
Angie Lowe: I want to teach my kids about the history of places like my Mąą Wakącąk, and the people that visit here to understand the people that came before. You know, our people have been here for millennia and it's important to tell their story.