Native Americans originally settled the land where our house sits. The HoChunk Indian Nation was the primary tribe. Our neighbor Frank grew up here and farmed the land with his family. Some years ago he sold the farmland behind our road to the HoChunk and retired.
Our understanding is that this was the culmination of many years of friendship between Frank and the HoChunk. As time went on Frank became involved with them and others and a curiosity grew regarding the effigy mounds that are located around the area.
About 10 years ago Frank bought a small parcel of land that’s about 5 minutes away from here. It’s a pair of hills right off of highway 60 to the west. One of the reasons he bought it was to preserve a group of 1,000 year old effigy mounds that sit atop both hills that are important to Native Americans and to history.
An “Effigy Mound” American Indian culture developed over 1,000 years ago placing thousands of earthen mounds across the landscape of what (today) includes parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.
Many mounds are effigies in the shape of bears and birds – commemorating the passing of loved ones and the sacred beliefs of these ancient peoples.
Many Americans, especially the 12 affiliated American Indian tribes, consider the mounds ceremonial and sacred sites.
Twice a year Frank hosts a small gathering atop one of the hills to welcome the spring and fall solstice. A few weeks back Frank invited us up to the top to celebrate with him and others.
The mounds on top of Frank’s Hill are in the form of a buffalo, the Corn-Woman and a beaver just to name a few.
The really cool part of the mounds is that they line up perfectly with the sun on the day of the solstice. If you stand at the head of the corn woman mound and look toward the rising sun, it looks as if she is giving birth to the sun on the solstice.
Similarly, other mounds line up perfectly for the Spring Solstice. The coiled snake mound on the hill to the north points directly west into a saddle of the mountains on the other side of the Wisconsin River that just so happens to be on a lunar sight line.
So up we went for the setting of the sun. Unfortunately for us it was cloudy that evening and the following morning when we went for sunrise, but it was still beautiful. Frank talked about the history of the place, an archeologist from the University talked about the precision with which they had been built and a member of the HoChunk tribe spoke about the significance of them and what they might mean.
All told there were probably 20 or 30 people there.
Every once in a while Melissa and I will hike the dog over there. It’s close, beautiful and it feels pretty cool to be welcome there by our neighbor whenever we want to go. It makes you curious about what this area was like 1,000 years ago and the energy is pretty remarkable up there.
What a great way to spend an evening and a sunrise!
For more photos click on THIS LINK.