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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 26, 2003 - Issue 92


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UW-M, Ho-Chunk Establish Bonds

by Matt Conn Marshfield News-Herald

The University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County's Reach Out program is forging links to Ho-Chunk students, who are historically underserved by higher education.

"We really want to expand the diversity base," said Jeff Meece, UW-Marshfield student services director. "We've been looking at what group of Wisconsin residents we haven't been properly serving, and we looked at the Native American population."

Last fall, the Marshfield campus had 625 white students, six Hispanics, three Asians, two American Indians and one black.

Through field research of Ho-Chunk sites, the Ho-Chunks would both learn and share their culture with other students and staff who are not American Indians, said Woodrow White, director of the Ho-Chunk nation education department.

This classroom diversity also could benefit students beyond the understanding of course material, said Julie Tharp, UW-Marshfield associate professor of English.

"All too often, diversity gets silenced because people are afraid to speak up if they're different from the main group," Tharp said. "If everyone is speaking their mind, a broad range of world views and belief systems and thought processes enriches everyone's experience."

Because of their proximity and the group's desire for help in higher education enrollment, the campus began working with the Ho-Chunk Nation in Black River Falls, Meece said.

"Initially, the conversation came from the Ho-Chunk nation to UW College System saying, 'We have some needs here, how could you help us?,'" he said. "We happened to be in the right place in the right time."

For the Ho-Chunk Nation, an American Indian tribe of 6,100 members, this recruitment combines with an already active internal education department.

"We work with each and every member throughout high school," White said. "We're now even tracking people through middle school. We're saying, 'Hey, start thinking about a career and about the type of work you want to do."

Over the past six months, Ho-Chunk members have met with top administrators at UW-Marshfield and other university representatives who work with minorities to discuss recruitment ideas, White said.

"We're exploring summer programs and programs that would be ongoing throughout the year," White said. "In the summer, students could take a precollege program to prepare in writing areas and research areas. They could do some class shadowing throughout the year to hook up with those already going."

The lack of diversity in the classroom reflects the percentage of minorities in the general population, but a problem still exists, said Tharp.

"We have a lot fewer minority students that are moving on to college and who are adequately prepared for it," she said.

Tharp said the cause might be inadequate funding, large class sizes that allow little individual attention, or infrastructure problems. To increase diversity, the entire UW System has become involved.

"The UW System is currently involved in similar recruiting efforts, whether targeting Native American, African-American, Latino, or Asian-American students," Meece said.

More Ho-Chunk high schoolers continue to seek higher education, though it might be their parents who come to Marshfield.

"At Marshfield, we're going after nontraditional students," White said.

"A lot of parents are enrolling. They don't see why they shouldn't be going nowadays. The doors are open, and I think that this type of student enrollment will grow over the next two to five years." Meece said.

"There's a huge population of adult students who have not been offered an opportunity, and that's another group we're really looking at," he said.

About the Ho-Chunk

  • The Ho-Chunk are also called the People of the Big Voice or People of the Sacred Language.
  • The French explorers named the Ho-Chunks the Winnebago Tribe.
  • There are about 6,100 tribal members, a majority of whom live in west central Wisconsin, where the tribe owns 5,400 acres of land.
  • The Ho-Chunks valued tobacco so highly legend has the Creator bestowing tobacco on man to offer when making requests.

Source: Native Wisconsin

Marshfield, WI Map

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